Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Holiday Baking

Introducing most of the holiday cookie assortment for 2014 (minus the five doughs that were prepared and unbaked but will be baked off at some point in the next few days). From the top, rainbow cookies, lime thumbprints with Meyer lemon curd, sprinkle cookies, chocolate macaroons, chocolate garam masala gingerbread, peanut blossoms, pistachio butter cookies, and linzer cookies. In the center, it's brownie-blondie double deckers and, under them, coffee toffee dream bars. Still to be baked off: ginger-white chocolate cookies, roasted almond thumbprints, ribbon cookies, lemon-rosemary sugar cookies, and butter cookies (cut out with a figure-skate-shaped cookie cutter).

TWD: Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Lucky for us, the debut of Baking Chez Moi happened close to the holiday season, which provided the perfect excuse to choose Gingerbread Buche de Noel as one of our first recipes from the new book. This roulade involves several components, but is relatively easy to put together in stages. I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with a dessert that had a huge wow factor, both with its appearance and with its flavor. The lightly spiced cake is filled with an essentially unsweetened cinnamon cream cheese filling, then coated with billows of marshmallowy meringue. Chunks of candied pecan finish the cake off, giving it a rustic appearance. Such a great collection of contrasts and flavors: the spiced cake, the tangy cream cheese, the sweet meringue, the crunchy candied nuts.

The only issue I had with this cake was not getting quite the amount of volume I wanted from the egg whites as I was whipping them. I think the problem involved using the stand mixer; its whisk just doesn't get quite deep enough into the bowl to generate volume for a small amount of egg whites. (Actually, I will confess that there were two issues with this cake, but the second one involved securing a serving plate for it, an endeavor that required stops at three stores. On the other hand, I now have a perfect dish for presenting and serving a roulade.)

All in all, though, I really love everything about this cake: It's a project but so worthwhile to undertake.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TWD: The Rugelach That Won Over France

This week, for our third visit with Baking Chez Moi, we made the cookie that apparently caused a culinary coup: The Rugelach That Won Over France. They are indeed lovely. The dough is dreamy to work with, even when rolled out fairly thin, and it bakes up with crispy, flaky layers.

After reading a few comments at the rugelach P&Q thread, I decided that the filling needed to be really non-chunky, so I used mini semisweet chocolate chips, I chopped up the cherries, and I zapped the coconut and toasted pecans in the food processor. It was a little bit of extra work, but I think it was worth it as I had no trouble rolling up the filling in the dough, nor did I have any problems slicing the dough once it was chilled.

I am trying to make it a point to follow each recipe to the letter the first time through, but I opted not to freeze this cookie dough prior to baking it. I did put the unsliced rolls of dough on a cookie sheet on my enclosed back porch to chill (nature's refrigerator!) and felt that that did the trick, plus left the dough perfectly sliceable.

While these cookies are a bit of a production to pull together, I think they are worth it. The only real problem with them is that they are distressingly bite-size. It's far too easy to start eating them and then lose track of how many have been consumed (as I lapse into passive voice in an effort to not acknowledge the embarrassing reality of how many rugelach I have eaten today -- for research purposes, of course).

Full disclosure: This book won me over at the get-go!