Saturday, January 9, 2016

Christmas 2015

I'm going to go on record here and say that Christmas 2015 is not going to make my lifetime Top 10 list of Christmases. What with the sinus infection beforehand, DP leaving on the 27th for a 10-day work trip that got rescheduled at the last minute, and the emergency dental work, it wasn't quite the relaxing family interlude I had been planning on all year. I rounded off the holiday week with having the one book I found in the library confiscated at the desk because someone else had reserved it, and ruining a batch of strawberry jam. So there was some fairly epic self-pity going least until I had a conversation at the end of it that reminded me forcefully of how truly fortunate I am. And that there was some good stuff mixed in there too:

As usual, I made up goody bags for friends, neighbors, teachers, and DP's team. These ones include strawberry jam and chocolava cookies - Miss B requests these first every year when Christmas baking starts.

I finally broke out my mini-loaf pan to make some cranberry bread (like this but without the walnuts and with a dollop of maple syrup in place of some of the brown sugar).

Sugar cookies - for ease of preparation I made the dough in the food processor, formed into logs, rolled in colored sugar, and chilled overnight. Slice and bake in the morning and then all you have to do is assemble the bags. (As a side note, I finally found some cellophane goodie bags and I felt like they changed everything in terms of providing simple but elegant packaging. Highly recommended.)

Calabrian Christmas doughnuts - make the dough the night of the 23rd (a basic yeast dough, almost 1:1 flour and water with a teaspoon of yeast and a half-teaspoon of salt for every pound/half kilo); on the morning of Christmas Eve, fry in olive oil (the tradition is to try to make rings, but I usually just give up and fry blobs) and serve up hot with honey. I gave DP a box of these hot out of the frying pan to share with his Calabrian barbers - always nice to spread Christmas cheer to people you know will appreciate it!

Only the second year and it's already a tradition - the bûche de Noël. I didn't love the way the cake came out this year (I was rushing and I think I used the wrong recipe) but no one else seemed to care. Extremely decadent but in my opinion not as difficult as it looks - you can cover up your mistakes with chocolate buttercream icing or powdered sugar and it just looks more rustic and festive.

I didn't make this, but I have to share it because I thought it was so flawlessly beautiful and minimalist. It's a traditional Christmas fruitcake, made by one of DP's admin team. Since none of us are big Christmas cake fans (and neither were our two Christmas lunch guests), I left it pristine and brought it to my friend L's Boxing Day lunch to share, where it was devoured and raved over by a crowd - the proper fate for a lovingly made Christmas cake, I feel.

My lovely sisters always send care packages of goodies from the US - here's this year's haul from one of them. Note the Moscow mule mugs - specially designed just for my new favorite cocktail.

And of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without cookbooks - although when this arrived, I did wonder if it was some kind of cosmic sign that it was time to stop (despite the fact that I picked it out). Either that or living in the Midwest made more of an impression than I realized.

And that pretty much wraps up 2015 and kicks off 2016 - planning for which is under way, fuelled by coffee. Hope it is good to us all.

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