Happy New Year!

Bowling ball return system,

And many happy returns!

Here’s wishing you and yours all the best for 2016!

Christmas Bakes!

Chocolate cheesecake, Pulla, canalés, rum cake, Christmas cookies

I was in charge of desserts for our family gathering, and I had a lot of fun this year. I made a chocolate cheesecake (inspired by this one from TheRobbylicious blog), two loaves of braided cardamom bread (this recipe is for Pulla from the Saveur website), canalés from the blog mamangerie, rum cake (from the King Arthur Flour site), and some cookies (sugar, oatmeal, and snickerdoodles).

It was my first time making canalés, and I was very happy with the result. The recipe is clear and easy to follow (thanks, Sabine!), and the silicone pan was well worth the $9 investment. I didn’t do beeswax, and I got this tip from the baker at a nearby coffee shop: do two coats of melted butter before baking, putting the pan in the fridge in between.

This sugary smorgasbord was partly inspired by my discovery of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix last week (the name was changed from The Great British Bake Off for American TV, for some reason). I fell in love with the show, its focus on the technical aspects of baking, and the overall niceness of the contestants, judges, setting, etc. I found it much more enjoyable to watch than most shows on the Food Network, with their emphasis on drama between contestants and swearwords being beeped every few seconds. It’s not that I have a problem with swearing–I’m from New Jersey, after all–it’s just that it can be (BEEP)ing distracting when I’m trying to (BEEP)ing learn something.

The show inspired me to try some fun decorations for the cheesecake–the idea to pipe the whipped cream and the chocolate shapes came from things I’d seen.

I’m happy that I came across the show when I did. It was just right right time to explore new desserts and learn new things. Watching something that is so dedicated to the techniques and joy of baking made my holiday baking a very enjoyable experience this year.

Photo Challenge: Now

A rainy December night with Christmas lights

It’s raining right now, and unseasonably warm. We’re expected to break a record tomorrow for the warmest Christmas Eve. Strange to be wearing T-shirts this time of year.

Paper snowflakes hanging

But it’s OK, because I have snowflakes inside.

Braided cardamom bread

And my place smells like warm braided cardamom bread.

Christmas ornaments, gingerbread man, Darth Vader
If you only knew the power of the Gingerbread Side.

And I can watch the drama unfold on the Christmas tree.

I’m trying to focus less on all the ways that Christmas is different this year. That approach quickly gets me dwelling on the negative and the sad.

Instead I’ll try to think more about the reasons why this Christmas is fun, and delicious, and joyous, and new.

In response to the photo challenge Now.