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.

Nutella Brioche Snowflake Bread

Nutella Brioche Flower bread, snowflake shape
It’s a Christmas miracle!

This bread is soooo good that it’s simply impossible to take a good photo of it. Or, possibly, I had made this for Christmas brunch and was in a hurry and did an extra-poor job snapping a pic. So imagine this bread sprinkled with powdered sugar and given a proper photo shoot.

I mentioned in my post about challah that my new hero is Titli Nihaan of The Bread Kitchen site and videos. After learning about braiding techniques in October, I saw her recipe for a Nutella Brioche Flower and decided to try to make it at Christmas. She calls hers a “flower” but I went with “snowflake” to be a little more festive.

It’s delicious, and like she says, similar to a cinnamon roll in texture. The flavor and aroma of the nutella and the lemon zest are out of this world.

It looks impressive but isn’t very difficult. The hardest part for me was rolling out each of the four layers. I discovered two little glitches. One, that people with a lot of experience, such as Titli, can roll out a perfect circle if they desire, and I cannot. I ended up with wonky shapes, but figured I could trim them to make a circle at the end, so no big deal.

The only thing that seemed to be a problem was that my circles started to shrink a bit as they waited around for me to finish the flower/snowflake. I noticed when I was layering them that the bottom circle was getting smaller. I tried to roll out the remaining layers as quickly as possible, but I’m not that good with the rolling pin. So when it was time to make the 16 cuts and twist the pieces together, I struggled a little and tried to stretch the bottom layer to get it to do what I needed.

I don’t know why that happened. Perhaps I was taking too long to roll out the remaining layers. Or maybe the dough wasn’t quite ready to be worked with yet. I’ll do some research and hopefully won’t have that problem next time.

Because I will definitely make this again!