Monday, December 26, 2016


In years past while working at Sarabeth's Kitchen and in Chelsea Market I would finally relax on Xmas eve and actually start to enjoy myself for the holidays (even though the holidays started at Thanksgiving I was usually so busy I had no time to enjoy myself).

Every year I look forward to making a couple of my favorite things and to eating others. One thing I look forward to every year after Christmas dinner is my Aunt Amy's Chocolate Roulade For me it's just perfect! She and my Uncle Walter always cook Christmas dinner for the family (anywhere from 12 and up). Some years guests also bring side dishes but whatever is made is always delicious, be it a roasted ham or a turkey. Last year they also made Jerusalem Artichokes instead of roasted potatoes, what a wonderful change! This year instead of a Ham, Amy made a Stuffed Pork Loin with roasted brussel sprouts, it doesn't get any better! Did I say Yummy!

As always my favorite thing to make for the holidays are Russian Tea Cakes.  When I started making them I had no idea they were a traditional Christmas cookie. They're so easy to make and freeze well, they can be formed in advance and baked as needed. I've seen some variations in the recipe but my favorite is made with ground pecans (although walnuts are traditional ground blanched almonds work too) and confectioners sugar (in a pinch you can use granulated white sugar- they will just be more crunchy, I'd recommend putting the measured granulated sugar into the blender or food processor for a couple minutes to create a finer grind~ the cookies will be equally tasty). Traditionally they're gently tossed in confectioners sugar twice. The first time is when they're hot out of the oven and then again when they cool. The first dipping forms a layer as the sugar gently melts in a way that sticks to the cookie. The second dip is because the first dip is a little sticky and the second dip keeps them looking like Snowballs which are made with walnuts. I like to use pecans and cool the cookies a little longer until they're barely slightly warm and give them only one dip in the confectionery sugar. This way they're not too sweet because they're so easy to eat they melt in your mouth (my brother calls them crack cookies and can't control his feeding frenzy!). I also prefer them a little less sweet so i can enjoy them with Hot Chocolate!

Okay now onto Brunch!!! Last year I decided to invite several friends over for a sort of open house. That way no one had to feel any pressure to leave the coziness of their PJ's but could also stop by if they felt like getting out. Only one person was coming for sure, then 3 people confirmed the night before and that morning and 2 others called 30 minutes before they came over. So it was very relaxed! How do I stay relaxed like that you ask? I know everyone wants to stop by and I usually make poached eggs to order served with a salad. The eggs will keep and I'll eat the salad all week if necessary. The pastries you ask? Well, I can always bring them into work as a treat, no one will mind, and it makes me happy to do it!

A couple days in advance I start a batch of sourdough bread, then freeze the dough for cherry lemon scones, made the dry mix for Buttermilk Biscuits, in my spare time I made the Russian Tea Cake cookie dough then formed & froze the balls, then while watching the New Years Eve festivities on TV, I finish the Schnecken Dough for my Cinnamon Buns which need to rise slowly to develop more flavor, and last but not least make my chocolate truffles.

Schnecken dough is a fabulous thing, so versatile you can make sticky buns, cinnamon buns, danish etc. I really liked this recipe because it doesn't taste dry like some dough texture can be even freshly made. A couple of times I opted for doughnut holes instead of cinnamon buns!

My favorite Chocolate Truffle recipe is by Pierre Herme. The one from the Green and Black website is similar. You can choose from many chocolate truffle recipes. Here is another, they must contain butter! But the real key to deliciousness is the chocolate you use. For the filling my favorite chocolate has been from Madagascar and the Dominican Republic or a combination of the two. I prefer my chocolate with a tangy taste. The addition of a little butter gives that velvety feel in your mouth everything else just enhances your taste bud experience. For the coating on the outside Valhrona Cocoa powder is great. If you're going to dip them in chocolate use at least a 65% I prefer a 72%. Green & Black, Callebaut, Valhrona, Scarfenberger, any high quality chocolate will do. Just use caution when melting the chocolate be gentle. The key is not to get the chocolate too warm so it will solidify again without coming out of temper.

This year I'm going to do a New Years Day Supper! It will give everyone time to recuperate and for those who didn't go out for New Years Eve it's a wonderful way to welcome in the New Year without the same level of pressure. I've never fancied going out for New Years Eve but I love to entertain and to celebrate with friends. January 1st seems ideal to me. I can stay in the night before, make phone calls all night and keep busy preparing just so I can stay up until midnight! Sounds kooky but it's really fun for me. Sometimes someone drops by to help out and that's even better (I don't have to clean up all by myself!). This year it will be at another friends house. I'm keeping it simple so I can just heat and serve everything without going crazy! What's on the menu you ask?

To Start:
Assorted Cheese & Crackers etc.
Goat Cheese filled Gougeres
Fennel, kale, Haricot Verts & Red Cabbage Salad with Asian Vinaigrette
Grilled Salmon with Fresh Thyme & Lemon
To Finish:
Russian Tea Cakes (Of Course!)
Rustic Apple Tart

Hopefully I don't misplace my phone and forget to document and take pictures as I go along so I can show you all how things turn out!

Stay Healthy, Have Fun & Enjoy!

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