Christmas Archive

Monday, December 23, 2013

gingerbread snacking cake

gingerbread snacking cake

I have a few things to tell you about this cake today, and none of them at the outset sound terribly upbeat, but bear with me, cheer is nigh.

The first is that if you put this out in small squares, dusted with powdered sugar and in proximity to a hand-whisked bowl of lightly sweetened schlag at a packed tree-trimming party, one by one, the handsome revelers will fall upon them, take a big delighted bite, and then you might out of the corner of your eye note that cheer melting from faces into a brief pang of surprise as they realize that no, that was not a brownie, but an extremely dark and intense square of gingerbread cake. Oopsies?

what you'll need, mostly
very black molasses

The second is that yes, I know, I already have a gingerbread cake recipe on this site — what I still consider the Greatest Gingerbread of Them All — and that is still the one I make for every Christmas dinner I’m invited to. However, if there could be one bad thing about it, it would be that on a rare occasion, usually because it sat in the pan longer than it was supposed to or the baking winds were not in our favor that day, it does not like to come out of the bundt pan in one piece. Sometimes it comes out in several. Sometimes it leaves half the cake in the pan. Sometimes you’re trying to get it out of the pan a single hour before you have to be at a Christmas Eve dinner an hour twenty minutes away and you… you cry.

so many spices

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Friday, December 13, 2013

linzer torte

linzer torte, cut into squares

I think if you were to rank foods in order of how intimidating they are to cook, at the bottom of the list would be stuff you throw together any night of the week without a recipe, the top would be basically anything Grant Achatz has ever made and then maybe, just barely a notch below would be a dish that someone you love and respect makes so perfectly that you consider it to be “their” recipe. It feels almost wrong to make someone else’s signature dish, to meddle. It’s their thing, not yours, thus there’s clearly no way you could do it justice. I mean, sure there’s something else you could contribute to the holiday baking curriculum, maybe one of your favorites instead?

one pound of walnuts + very little flour
cutting butter into flour and spices

And this has been my feeling about linzer torte for all of the years since we first met at this url in 2006. I am lucky enough to join a high school friend for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and her mom always includes squares of incredible linzer torte in her array of Holiday Baking Wonders. Her mother is an excellent cook and baker, and the one that introduced me to Maida Heatter, from whom you should buy every book, immediately, without questioning me because her recipes are detailed without being irritatingly so, charmingly written*, and will never lead you astray. Truly. I mean, remember when she showed us how easy Dobos Torte could be to make? Dobos Torte. Imagine what she could do with a black truffle explosion!

knead the dough right in the bowl

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

eggnog florentines

pecan florentines with eggnog filling

Today, because we don’t have enough bronzed and crisp, sugary, buttery thoughts already circling our heads, we’re going to talk about two recipes in one, a thin and lacy nut-caramel cookie known as a florentine and a filling that tastes exactly like eggnog, as if either of these things alone weren’t enough reason to gallop into the kitchen with your mask, cape and sense of urgency.

the high-low pecan florentine lineup
grinding the pecans with flour and spice

Florentines are essentially nuts, usually almonds or hazelnuts, coarsely or finely chopped, that have been baked into a buttery caramel disc. They hail, like so many delicious things, from Italy although I’ve seen versions from many other places, because once you try them, you’re going to want to make them your own too. Here, in a recipe that was published last year in the Tasting Table newsletter, someone did, a chef named Aaron Vandemark or Panciuto restaurant in Hillsborough, NC, a place I’d like to go immediately to applaud him in person for his creativity. Instead of almonds or hazelnuts, he uses pecans and a touch of cinnamon. He doesn’t stop there.

ground pecans, flour, spice

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

spicy gingerbread cookies

snowflake gingerbread

Exactly a year ago, I decided on a whim to make gingerbread cookies. I could do that back then; I had a little “baa”-ing baby trying to roll over in the living room and then he’d go no further! He’d be exactly where I left him! I mean, I still have a “baa”-ing baby but only if you prompt him with “And the sheep says?” and he is never, ever where last I left him. I digress.

mucho molasses
so much spicy

You see, I have a flawlessly executed candlelit dinner every Christmas Eve with one of my closest friends from high school and her family. This tradition is 15 years on now and I enjoy it as much as my own people’s Christmas Day tradition of Chinese and a movie. Last year, she told me that her brother and his wife had wanted to decorate gingerbread men but realized they’d have no time to bake them. I saw my window, searched MarthaStewart.com for a recipe and got moving.

making little men

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

gramercy tavern’s gingerbread

gramercy tavern's gingerbread

This is dark and sticky and chewy and heavy and spicy and a zillion other adjectives that end in y that are so overused, they border on hackneyed, but you know what? It is not this cake’s fault. It can’t help being awesome, and fragrant (our living room smells like Christmas), attention-grabbing (nobody puts it in the corner) and totally respecting of your busy schedule (because it tastes even better on days two and three than it did out of the oven).

guinnessmolassesspicesthicky, syrupy batter

It took me 32 years to make gingerbread but I got lucky on the first try with this one. It doesn’t hurt that this is from one of the only chefs I break my no-fawning-over-chefs-rule for: Claudia Fleming, back when she was at Gramercy Tavern, one of the only restaurants I break my no-restaurant-worshiping rule over. (These days, she’s at the North Fork Table & Inn, making delicious breakfast scones among other things.) Things just seem to taste better when she baked them first.

gingerbread

Continued after the jump »


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