December 10, 2019

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.  

It's not long before we circle back to...chocolate and peppermint!  These chocolate cookies with dark chocolate and peppermint chunks have become another of my son's favorites.  And since he's our favorite, I love to make them for him!  I take Ina Garten's chocolate cookie recipe and put a peppermint twist on them by adding peppermint chunks and a little peppermint extract to the dough.  
Switching course a little, I turned out a little jelly roll cake recently after seeing this recipe and unique technique from Stella Parks at Serious Eats.  What if I told you that you can make a jelly roll cake without dealing with the worse parts - the rolling it up in a confectioner sugar-coated towel and unrolling, then filling and re-rolling?  Stella explains her technique here and I had to try it!  I made half her recipe for a small version and I can tell you the technique worked!  No towels and no cracks in sight!  It was fascinating.
In terms of other Christmas classics, there have been chocolate crackles or crinkle cookies.  I went with classic chocolate, with a hint of almond extract, but I rotate between a few varieties - all good. 
A personal favorite, I kicked off the season with a loaf of chocolate-gingerbread cake.  I can't stress enough the deliciousness of gingerbread with chocolate!  This loaf cake is packed with gingerbread spices; it's moist and studded with chocolate chunks.  I had a blast savoring slices of this with my family.
Aside from all the cookies, sometimes we break for simple pleasures like a hot chocolate affogato!  Take some hot chocolate and plop in a scoop (or three) of ice cream.  We like mint chocolate chip (of course) but anything goes and it's a great treat during the winter holiday season.
Before holiday treat fatigue sets in, I'll pause here with some holiday chocolate chip cookies.  I basically just took chocolate chip cookies (I like many chocolate chip cookie recipes, including this olive oil chocolate chip cookies recipes I used here) and added some seasonal red & green M&M's and white chocolate chips, with the usual dark chocolate chips, for a little festive flare.  These looked quite merry in my cookie jar and I was very happy I made them.
It's mind-boggling how many wonderful treats there are to bake, eat, and share.  When I think about how many treats we make and devour, I think about all the things I didn't get a chance to make and had to "skip".  But never fear, there's still time for more treats.  I'm heading back to the kitchen now to continue the fun!

Happy Holidays!

To be continued...


  1. wow You have been busy baking, haven't you? I want to taste everything!
    Happy Baking, Monica!

    1. Yes, so much baking but yet doesn't feel like it. Happy holidays!



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