Holiday Baking

This time of year I do a lot of baking.  My grandmother was a great cook but not a wonderful baker- except for those magical cookies.  She always had sweet things around- pies from the farmer’s market, cakes from the Jewish bakery- but it wasn’t very often that she baked things herself.  I, on the other hand, went so far as to work as a professional baker for about nine months after I returned from my year in Israel.  So, I bake a lot.  And people will tell you that baking is more chemistry than cooking- you must be precise and careful.  I’ve not found this to be true and often play around with baking recipes.  Sometimes this backfires- I’ll be posting about the bread I made and the snafu I made with the measurements (hey, half of 7 is definitely not 5!)- but most of the time, it works out just fine.  This week was no exception.

One of my very best friends (I posted about her here) recently gave me a subscription to Cooks Illustrated which has quickly become my favorite magazine, followed by In Touch Weekly, a subscription bought for me by another wonderful friend.  One meets my need for celebrity gossip, the other meets my need for food knowledge.  Even better?  As a result of the CI magazine, I now have an amazing cookbook- they sent it to me at a “discount.”  (I think, in the end, it wasn’t that big a discount but whatever, I’m a sucker for a good cookbook!)

That thing is amazing.  A billion recipes, lots of detailed explanations, good illustrations, informative step-by-step instructions….simply wonderful.  I find myself flipping through it several times a day, fascinated by all the food information given.  It’s overwhelming but in a really good way.

I have a few team meetings this week and for once, no testing reports due so I thought I’d bring some treats.  I mean, it’s almost Christmas and if you can’t eat sweets now, when can you?

Aren’t the boxes pretty?  I assure you, what’s inside is also pretty….pretty tasty!  (go ahead, groan!)

I made some chocolate cookies (from the CI cookbook) and then made a peppermint buttercream based on the CI vanilla buttercream recipe.  The thing about really good buttercream?  It’s really buttery.  I had to play with it a bit just because I wasn’t feeling the butter-to-sweet flavor but it turned out well.  I feel a bit funny about printing the recipes here since they really aren’t mine so I won’t.  But I will tell you to check out the both the magazine and the cookbook.  Well worth it.  (I’ll link you over to them up there on the chocolate cookie link but it won’t show you the recipe.  Instead it will give you a little note about why they won’t just give away the recipe.  Kind of annoying but I can see their point.)

I knew I wanted to pair the buttercream with the cookies but I struggled with what would look good and taste better.  I couldn’t decide how to put them together.  Frost them?  Make pretty florets on them?  Make simple sandwiches? 

I decided on smaller cookies, with a bit of buttercream in between.  I think they’re really cute and tasty.  For whatever reason, the larger cookies were just too much.

To make them, I baked the cookies and let them cool.  I mixed up the buttercream and crushed up some candy canes.  Once the cookies were cool, I paired them up according to size (I used a small cookie/ice cream scoop to portion out the dough so they were all roughly the same size.)- and my husband, who had no idea what I was doing, asked me if I was having an OCD moment- and then piped on the buttercream.

I squished them together and then rolled the sides in the crushed candy canes.  (As an aside?  When I was at the grocery store I found Gobstopper candy canes, Lifesaver candy canes, Hershey’s chocolate mint candy canes but no regular candy canes.  WTF?  I went with the chocolate mint but they aren’t the right colors!)

I threw them in the fridge for a bit and then packed ’em up.  I also made these peanut butter cookies which are gluten-free since there’s a team member who’s a no gluten girl.

That’s all for the team meeting that’s tomorrow at 12:30pm.  For the meeting on Thursday that’s at 9am, I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and will bring some of the chocolate peppermint cookies, in case anyone wants a cookie for breakfast.  Because cookies?  Breakfast of champions.

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