Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Baking

We had a family Christmas lunch, as well as a Christmas party with our co-op friends, all over the last couple of days, and even though it's so snowy here it's become incredibly awkward getting out to the usual far flung shops for strange and wonderful ingredients, I did manage a little baking and candy making. So, without further ado, here's a little sugary torment for your viewing pleasure:

Biscotti. This one is Cranberry Macadamia (thank goodness for people who go to Hawaii and don't know what else to bring me back, because here on the Wet Coast macadamias don't go cheap). It's a variation of one Dorie Greenspan uses, but it seemed a little, err, goopy after the first baking (sorry Dorie). If you've never made biscotti, this is what you do: mix the ingredients, pat into a long thin log, bake 15-25 minutes, let cool, slice into 1/2" slices and re-bake. It makes a toasty sweet biscuit, perfect for dunking into a latté. Heck, I've even dunked them into brandy, but the brandy doesn't last long this way, and despite what my friends say (I think you know who you are) I'm not one for drinking large glasses of brandy. Really.

I generally like to drizzle biscotti with white and milk chocolate. Turns an otherwise unremarkeable appearing cookie into something luscious.This time, however, I wasn't planning on drizzling, but when I pulled these out of the oven after their second baking, and I'd left them in slightly longer than usual because of the, err, goopy factor, I found the side they'd rested on while re-baking looking decidedly brown. This, Gentle Reader, was not my intention. One side was perfection; the other looked (but didn't taste) overbaked. And I'm picky enough to find this extremely irritating. After dithering anxiously for, say, 3 seconds, I decided to slather melted white chocolate over the brown side and Say Nothing. And what do you know but my Clever Trick worked so well everyone scarfed them down in seconds flat. I now have no more Cranberry Macadamia Biscotti left in my biscuit tin. Drats.

I also made some Chocolate Biscotti. These I DID drizzle with melted white and milk chocolate. Sorry this close-up is so blurry but the proximity of so much sweet smelling chocolate was more than I could reasonably deal with. I made two kinds this year: one from Dorie Greenspan's Baking, which looked like a complete mess but tasted nice, and another that I've made every year since 1998. And even though I have made it every year for the past ten years I somehow manage to lose the recipe each and every year, and either resort to calling my mother, who keeps it on hand for this very event (she's never once made them as far I can tell), or, too shamed to call her yet again, I scour the internet until I can find something that looks vaguely familiar and use that. After which my mum calls me and reminds me that she was waiting for me to call her and ask for the recipe.

Then I made truffles. I use Martha's recipe, which I'll post here. It's easy. I usually divide one batch into 3 bowls, then flavour each bowl with something different.
This year I made Coffee (using copious amounts of instant espresso). These are dipped in melted bittersweet chocolate then rolled in unsweetened cocoa.

Chili (althought the first tasting was SO hot even to my tastes I had to dilute them with more melted chocolate). Sorry, don't know where the picture went for these ones.

Scotch. I added - be still my beating heart - half a cup of single malt scotch to this batch, turning these into a sort of Icy Square for adults. If you haven't got a clue what I'm on about, imagine a meltingly silky inside, one that disappears as soon as your tongue finds it, flavoured heavily with McClelland's peatiest Speyside. But wait, don't forget the crunch of the outside coating: bittersweet chocolate rolled in pure chocolate sprinkles. Good quality pure chocolate sprinkles.

Mint. Mint flavouring inside and crumbled candy canes on the outside. These are lovely and fresh but the candy canes don't last long, so make them a few at a time.

Coconut. Coconut flavouring inside, dipped in either white chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, then rolled in toasted sweetened coconut.

I love these but it's only been in the past couple of years that I've made them. The combination of crispy sweet coconut and dark chocolate is amazing.

Now, off to shovel snow.


Nicola said...

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas, Sheila. You've made me start to crave those mince pies in my kitchen that I'm trying to resist until dinnertime!

sheila said...

And a very Merry Christmas to you too, Nicola! I hope Santa brings you everything you could wish for.

I'm also having a terrible time resisting all this stuff. Why I am now contemplating making shortbread I don't know!

shaun said...

Oh wow -- that is amazing. I have not gotten around to baking in a few years -- we are such a sickly family in the winter! -- but this makes me want to bake again. I made biscotti for everyone one year for Xmas -- Martha Stewart recipe, worked great!

sheila said...

Shaun, I really like Martha - she's always so reliable with her recipes. Her truffle recipe is fabulous.

Bummer you're all sick in the winter. We just had some relatives visit, and when they arrived they casually mentioned that they thought the youngest was getting pink eye! Ick! Now I'm on tenterhooks hoping no one here gets it. Merry Christmas to you!