Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday baking

Happy Boxing Day! I don't think I have quite managed Eight Days of Christmas Baking this year (although there is still scope for more to come during the 12 Days of Christmas), but there has been a fair amount of homemade food production around here of late:

This year's goodie bags, which went out to coworkers (DP's), teachers (Miss B's), friends (everyone's), and neighbors (ditto), were filled with jars of jam from the stash, bags of sweet and spicy mixed nuts, and something sweet. Since I produced a few of these per day over the course of a week, the baked item changed from day to day, depending upon time, inclination, and ingredients. Some selected items:

These chocolate-chip meringues were an inspiration motivated by desperation, after I used up the last block of butter I had in the house in a batch of caramel which I proceeded to burn. I made them following a standard meringue recipe (2 egg whites' worth), then stirred in a cup or so of bittersweet chocolate chips, dropping blobs on a baking sheet, and baking in the oven.

Once I got hold of some more butter, I made a couple of batches of these chocolava cookies, some for the goodie bags and a plateful to share at Miss B's end-of-year class party.

And finally, to finish off the goodie bags (and to share with my stitch group's pre-Christmas meeting), I baked up a batch of essential cookies, drizzled with chocolate ganache.

That takes us up to the morning of Christmas Eve, when I engaged in the traditional frying of Italian Christmas doughnuts. The dough is essentially a very basic, very wet bread dough - flour, yeast, and a sprinkle of salt, along with warm water at an almost 1:1 ratio with the flour. I made it up at bedtime on the 23rd and left it to rise overnight, then fried it up in olive oil until puffy and golden brown. Served warm with a puddle of honey alongside to dip into with each bite, this is the taste of Christmas for me. And my family - I made a relatively small batch of about 2 dozen doughnuts, and they're nearly gone already!

Christmas Eve dinner is as important as Christmas Day dinner in my Italian family's tradition, so I wanted to prepare a special dessert to round off the meal. Knowing that no other dessert makes my own family as happy as cupcakes, I baked a panful, and even managed to eke out a festive decoration - of sorts.

And finally - having not yet definitively answered the question, "What should our Christmas breakfast tradition be?", I decided this year to try out a popular favorite: cinnamon rolls. It was my first time ever making them, from a Nigella Lawson recipe. I generally followed the recipe, although I used only a fraction of the 3 packets of yeast called for, so that I could make them on Christmas Eve, then leave them to rise slowly in the fridge overnight and bake them on Christmas morning. They came out pretty well, although I have the following modifications in mind for my next attempt:

- need to add quite a bit more flour to make the dough roll out
- spread cinnamon filling over the base as well as on the rolled-up part (might need to make extra)
- make an icing glaze for the top

I haven't baked anything for more than 24 hours now, so I should start to feel the itch again at any moment. What to bake next?


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