12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Sweets

Whenever I fantasize about becoming the next Top Chef, (“Heather has no classical training or real kitchen experience aside from four semesters in the university dining hall, but by watching a lifetime’s worth of cooking shows she’s managed to become one of the most foremost experts on cooking for her niece,) I’m grounded by the reality that I really am a better baker than a chef.

Sure, I know my way around the kitchen but let’s face it – I’ve been baking since I left the womb.  And this time of year which brings cold and rainy weather, short days and big family gatherings inspire me to try things I wouldn’t ordinarilly try.  In short, I aim to bake at the top of my game.

Last year for Christmas, Joel gave me the best present of all: the opportunity to do little for the entire month of December except bring Christmas cheer (in the form of gourmet-y meals) to our home.

I made no fewer than six new dessert recipes (as well as countless main courses, side dishes and beverages.)   I was exhausted, but the family is still talking about how every meal was, “something we’d get at a five-star restaurant.”  Top Chef be-damned – I’ve got all the critical praise I need right here.

Here are the desserts I made:

Our dessert for last year’s Christmas Picnic was Martha’s Eggnog Cups.  Madison wasn’t so hip to the rum-flavored whipped cream, but just the other night she informed me that the sapote she was eating was good and “tasted like rum”.  Because, clearly – she is now an expert on all flavors of alcohol.

For breakfast one morning I made Martha’s Applesauce Cake.  It actually tastes better the next day, and like most baked goods tastes better with a strong cup of coffee.

I honestly can’t remember which dinner I made the dessert, Martha’s Pear Upside-Down Cake, for – but I do know that the brandied pears got a little too crispy for everyone’s taste.  And surprise, Madison gagged on the brandy.

I made Deborah Madison’s Persimmon Pudding on the afternoon we went to see “Avatar”.  However, not knowing how long the damn movie was, I committed the cardinal cooking sin and left the house with a pot simmering on ultra-low heat.  (We’d only be gone 2 hours right?  WRONG – try four-and-a-half.)  I enjoyed the movie, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t silently praying the entire time that my house was still standing when we got home.  Ironically, the long, slow cook left the pudding with a much thicker texture and richer flavor than when I made it according to the recipe this past Thanksgiving.

On Christmas Eve morning I made Ina’s Palmiers.  They are so easy, so elegant and so yummy (with a strong cup of coffee, of course.)  I now make these on random Sunday mornings when I want to surprise Madison with one of her favorite pastries.

Okay, so making a cheesecake wasn’t exactly new to me.  In fact, I’m kinda known as the cheesecake chef within the family.  But I decided to try a new technique I saw in Top Chef (who says you can’t learn new things watching reality TV?) – making a raspberry coulis.  It’s really just a fancy way of saying, “boil a pint of berries with water and then mash the mixture through a sieve”, but the resulting sauce was good and it topped our Christmas dinner dessert nicely.

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2 comments on “12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Sweets

  1. This Italian Family
    December 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    That applesauce cake looks faaaabulous! Soo tasty!

    And I’m glad that your house didn’t burn down! Haha! 🙂

  2. Auntie Roxann
    December 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    I love palmiers it’s the one french word I know how to say.

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