Friday, December 26, 2008

In which I get my baking groove on

Last weekend, despite the fact that I had work to do and Christmas travel to prepare for, I baked. A lot. I had been tired and stressed out for weeks, with no time to do much of anything Christmassy, and damn it, I wanted some Christmas spirit! So I put on some nostalgia-rich holiday music and donned my apron, and set about making goodies for everyone and no one in particular. The Suitor took it upon himself to document much of the baking with the camera on his phone, with the happy consequence that he spent more time in the kitchen and took more interest in my baking than he has, well, ever.

I started with mince pies (inspired by Bee), and the Linzer cookie cutter set that I'd purchased a few days earlier came in handy when cutting out the little fluted rounds of pastry for the crusts and the shapes of pastry for the tops. Like Bee, I did mine in a mini muffin tin. I used Bee's pastry recipe, but I branched out a bit with the mince itself and did a cooked version with apples instead of pears (since I had loads of apples to use up anyway), raisins, dried cranberries for enhanced seasonal goodness, minced dried apricots for some local flavor, minced crystallized ginger, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, butter, brown sugar, orange juice, and calvados. It's quite tasty. I have no idea if it tastes like what mince should taste like, as I've never actually had the stuff before, but people seem to like it.

Mince pies packed up and ready for gifting...

Next up: Linzer cookies. I used Cook's Illustrated's multi-purpose holiday cookie dough (subscription required), and they're delicious. I filled them with homemade raspberry jam.

Linzer cookie halves cooling as Dizzy investigates...

The Suitor felt he had to get an action shot of me filling the cookies...

Linzer cookies: filled and dusted with confectioner's sugar...

Finally, rugelach. I don't really associate them with the holidays, but they're delicious and they use things that seem suitable for this time of year: brown sugar, dried fruit, preserves, and nuts. And they're very tasty, so why not use the holidays as an excuse to make some? This is one of Ina Garten's recipes, which I saw her make on an episode of Barefoot Contessa:


They turned out a bit oozy and runny, but the brown sugar and apricot jam (homemade, natch) caramelized and turned into some gorgeously good nibblings.

And that was it--for my pre-Christmas baking, anyway. I have no doubt that I'll be back in the kitchen and back in my apron after we get back from our holiday travels... assuming that we don't get stuck here or in our connecting city on the return flight! I hope that everyone who's traveling this week does so delay-free and, if possible, hassle-free!


Bee said...

I love your baking groove -- complete with visuals!

Your mince pies looked great. I do think the nice thing about "mincemeat" (not that mine contains either meat or suet) is that it is such a flexible blueprint.

I think that your Xmas Linzer cookies are really inspired! I've made them for Valentine's before (duh, obvious), but they work so well with the Xmas cut-outs, too. The jammy red background is ideal.

As for the rugelach: in the tradition of mutual inspiration, I need to add this one to my to-do baking list. It sounds like the perfect project for a gray, dull January day. (Speaking of Ina Garten, I watched an episode of her show when I was in the Bahamas and she was making some really delicious looking fruitcake cookies. Have you come across these?)

I hope you had a wonderful Xmas, Anne. I'm glad that you (eventually) got a baking day.

Brave Sir Robin said...


Love the photos of you in the process!

The cookies look so good.

I hope your Christmas was smashing.

Anne said...

Thank you both! The photos are a little less than optimal, seeing as I'm wearing the frumpiest clothing I own, but so it goes.

Aren't the Christmas cutouts darling? The set was an impulse purchase at Crate and Barrel, and it's really pulled its weight so far this holiday season.

I hope you enjoy the rugelach, Bee. I'm about to throw together some of the remaining dough before a friend comes over for dinner. The dough is not as forgiving as your mince pastry dough, but the cream cheese gives it a wonderful richness.

Christmas was lovely. Different, given that it was the first I've spent away from my family, but lots of fun. And it was the first white Christmas I've had since I was... six? seven? something like that. The Suitor and I went for a run that morning through a wooded area by his parents' house, and it was very much the winter wonderland.