Holiday baking, 2019 (part 2)

It's almost time to hang up the oven mitts and get down to the business of properly relaxing (at least for a couple of days)!  I hope it's been a sweet holiday season despite the inevitable stress and time crunch that comes along with it.    
I've had a lot of fun cocooning myself up in the kitchen and baking up a storm this holiday season.  I think we'll be finding sparkling sugar and bits of nuts and chocolates around the kitchen for a while yet.  So while I continue the cleanup, I'd love to share the final (part 2) recap of my recent holiday baking whirlwind.  
First up - I finally gave "the" cookies a try.  If you're on social media and into baking, you'll likely have heard of Allison Roman's "Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies", which were so popular, they essentially went viral and became dubbed "the" cookies.  I saw these cookies on my Instagram feed repeatedly for ever so long and have kept them in the back of my mind.  Since Christmastime is a great time to make shortbread cookies, it was time I gave them a try.

I can tell you the salted chocolate shortbread cookies are mighty tasty and they were not as tricky to make as I feared.  In my mind, you can't go wrong with adding chocolate to most things and inserting them into salty, buttery shortbread certainly works.  The salt stands out here; don't forget to add the flaky sea salt on top before baking...the extra bite of salt intensifies the flavor.  The edge of crunchy turbinado sugar not only brings a touch of glamor, they add a lovely sweet crunch.  It's a great holiday shortbread to bring to the party.
In addition to Allison Roman's salted chocolate shortbread, I made the vanilla sablé cookies that I made last holiday season.  This is going to become a holiday tradition because my family and I really, really adore these simple vanilla recipe by Dorie Greenspan.  They are a beautiful balance of sweet and slightly-salty, crisp and sandy yet tender, with that extra skirt of crunchy, sparkly sugar that adds to their elegance (and deliciousness). 



Holiday baking, 2019 (part 1)

The holiday season is my favorite excuse to amp up on baking.  It's a year-round sport for me but come late November through the month of December, baking takes on a whole extra level of sweetness.  I'm savoring this time in the kitchen, and I thought it'd be fun to once again cobble together pics of some of the baking that's been going on in my kitchen.  We're baking plenty of family-favorites, with some new recipes mixed in.
Let's start with the peppermint-chocolate macarons shown above.  I'm no stranger to trying macaron recipes and even though it's always a high-wire act with uncertain results, I can't help myself.  Since it's the holidays, it's all about the peppermint - my son's favorite flavor this time of year - so I went with the chocolate and peppermint combo using Martha Stewart's recipe in her latest book, Cookie Perfection.  I wish I could say my macarons were perfection but I did have some cracked shells.  Overall, though, we ended up with a solid batch of macarons.  It was the first time I flavored the macaron shells with peppermint (as opposed to adding it in the chocolate ganache filing) and we really liked the result.
Did I mention it's all about the chocolate-peppermint right now?  I snuck in an early batch of my son's favorite peppermint brownies a few weeks ago.  By request, I'm actually making another batch today as I type this.  
For me, it's time to stock up on almond paste during the holidays.  A batch of pignoli cookies hit the table this season and I also made the cherry-almond macaroons just yesterday.  
They bake up, and disappear, very quickly.  I love having almond paste around and making some version of these chewy almond macaroons whenever I have extra egg whites on hand.
During this season of warm drinks, it's also nice to have simple cookies like hazelnut biscotti around for dipping.  I love a dry, crunchy biscotti filled with nuts!  It's also a great option when you want something a little less rich - that way, you have space for all the other chocolates and treats around us this time of year.  



Chestnut fondant

Holiday time is all about sugar, spice, and everything nice.  It  conjures up all sorts of cozy images and makes me crave many kinds of foods, like chestnuts.  It's one of my favorite things and this is the time of year when fresh chestnuts pop up at the grocery stores.  I love eating good fresh chestnuts, and I also adore chestnut flavored desserts.  My love of chestnut desserts has been pretty well documented here but I'm always on the lookout for more.
So I'm back with yet another chestnut dessert, a little treat I shared with my husband recently.  It was a very simple chestnut fondant - the French style of cake that is nearly flourless, usually quite rich and moist.  The recipe comes from Paris Chez Sharon; I have seen her post the chestnut fondants from the Parisian market, Marché Maubert, on her Instagram account and drooled over them for a long time so I was thrilled when she shared her recipe for it over at her blog.  
And chestnut cream (or chestnut spread) is again our direct path to a simple chestnut dessert.  Think of this mini fondant loaf cake as mostly chestnut cream, enhanced with a smidgen of dark chocolate, a dab of butter, some egg yolks, and held together with just a spoonful of flour.  This fondant is similar to a flourless chocolate-chestnut cream cake I've made before; I'd say this fondant really lets the chestnut dominate, and I love it all the more for it. 
Because there are lots of Christmas cookies and treats to be devoured this month, I made a "baby" loaf (half the original recipe) in a paper loaf pan about 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch in size.  The mini loaf is perfect for my husband and I to tuck into and share as an after-dinner treat for a couple of nights.  This way, I also have leftover chestnut cream to use for a host of other delicious purposes (like in financiers slated this weekend).  

With so much deep chestnut flavor, a small wedge (or two) is really satisfying.  I love the depth of sweet, nutty, chestnut flavor.  The fondant is super moist, a little chewy, and every little compact bite is a wonderful seasonal gift to the chestnut lover.  I am so happy to discover this recipe!


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