December 28, 2020

Wrapping up 2020 on a sweet note

While this holiday season is certainly different, I feel very lucky that it's still been a source of light and a cause for celebration.

Continuing from my last post about holiday baking, I managed a few more bakes including making a batch of these must-have tri-color cookies.  I think my husband and son would be sorely disappointed if I didn't make these cookies, and every time I make and taste them, I'm really thankful I did.  They are just incredible and something we look forward to every Christmas.  

Mixing in the familiar is a touch of the new.  I tried my hand at making a Buche de Noel, or Yule log!  

I've made a couple of basic roll cakes before but this was the first time I attempted the traditional, decorated, Christmas Yule log.  I mainly followed the recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction though I filled mine with cocoa whipped cream (instead of cocoa hazelnut) and simplified my decorations.  

It's a light chocolate sponge cake (I'd have loved an even deeper chocolate flavor, like this one), filled with cocoa whipped cream (here), and topped with chocolate ganache (I made it with 5 ounces of chocolate, melted with an equal amount of cream and I found that to be enough).  I saved a lot of time on the decorations by shaping a few simple marzipan mushrooms instead of making meringues.  Finished with a few candied cherries and decorative tree toppers, it was a festive start to our Christmas break!

It certainly succeeded in putting a smile on our faces.  Plus, we enjoyed slicing up our log and eating it, too! 

Circling back to cookies - as we inevitably must at this time of year - I snuck in a batch of Danish butter cookies.  At this time of year, I am into making all sorts of simple butter-shortbread type cookies and these taste just like the ones in that classic blue tin I grew up enjoying (in other words, delicious).  I really like this recipe from Martha Stewart (which I'll list at the end of the post) and I highly recommend sprinkling the top of the cookies with sanding sugar before baking for a lovely sweet crunch.

I also decorated a second batch of sugar cookies before Christmas arrived. These were packed up for my nephews.  Typically, we'd have a Christmas party at some point in December and cap off the night with hot chocolate and sugar cookies for the youngsters.  This year, the sugar cookies and treats were boxed up and delivered.  We're all doing things a little different this year but making the most of it and appreciating how lucky we are.

Before we knew it, Christmas morning arrived.  Somewhere along the way, we adapted the cinnamon-rolls-on-Christmas-morning tradition and it is a keeper!  After opening presents, we tore into our cinnamon rollsfilled with chocolate and orange zest, topped with a simple icing of confectioners' sugar, orange juice, and vanilla.

To wash it down, I make another Christmas morning tradition: Barcelona hot chocolate.  This is one of my favorite hot chocolates (maybe second only to Angelina's "African" hot chocolate) - made with a combination of chocolate, coffee, cocoa, milk, brown sugar, and orange zest.  It is an amazing cup!

While we sat around the table on Christmas morning with our sugar highs, we appreciated how lucky we are and gave thanks for family, friends, our health, and all the comforts we have.  As challenging and dark as 2020 was, I have been heartened by the humanity, too.  From healthcare workers to delivery people, grocery store workers to teachers, and many, many more - so many heroes showed up during these unprecedented times to keep us going and inspire us with their bravery.  It was also great to see social media being used in a positive way to connect with one another and provide much needed distraction; I truly appreciated people like David Lebovitz hosting daily Instagram lives as a way to connect.  On a more local level, touching base with friends, and smiles and waves from neighbors on the street as we went for our walks helped brighten and lighten the days.

Like everyone else, we are really looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020, as we look forward to 2021 with hope for a much better year.  Here's to good health and happiness in the New Year.  May 2021 be a year of light, filled with reunions, gatherings, laughter, and freedom!  Let it be peaceful, kind, and fair, too.  Cheers!


Danish Butter Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- Makes about 2 dozen cookies -

2 sticks high-quality salted butter (this is where I like to use a rich European butter), softened 
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (sometimes I like to use a combination of vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees with oven racks positioned in the upper and lower third of the oven.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter and confectioners' sugar together on medium-speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and egg, beating until combined.  Scrap the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed.  Gradually add flour, beating until evenly incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with 7/16 inch star tip (such as Ateco #825; I use Ateco #864, which is about a 1/2 inch wide; a wider tip will be easier to pipe).  Pipe 2 to 2 1/2 inch rounds on the baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle the top of the cookies with sanding sugar.  

Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until lightly golden around the edges but still light on top, about 20 minutes.  Transfer baking sheets to wire racks, let cool for a few minutes before removing the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

1 comment:

  1. Wrapping up the year on a sweet note is a great way to end and cheers to new beginnings! Hope you have a great year ahead! Cheers!



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