I associate trifle with Christmas – my great aunt Maud (who was British) used to make trifle – the kind with sponge cake in the bottom doused in sherry or brandy, a layer of fresh or tinned fruit, Bird’s custard and whipped cream on top – but it’s truly a year-round dessert. This is my aunt Maud’s trifle bowl, the stand long since broken off – I decided to bring it back this holiday, after chatting with a friend’s mum visiting from Worcestershire about trifle and the Great British Bake-off and the jelly-vs-no jelly debate (I say no jelly). It can be as summery or wintry as you like, and it still seems festive to me when made with a quick sponge roll spread with blackberry jam from the height of summer. If you’re not familiar with trifle, it’s a British thing traditionally made with layers of custard poured over sherry or brandy-soaked sponge cake, jelly roll or ratafia (similar to amaretti) and jam, stewedContinue reading

2
Share
,

Ever wonder what would happen if dense gingerbread and dark fruitcake got together? This. It was called coffee fruitcake in a 2005 issue of Gourmet, but doesn’t taste like coffee – you could swap orange juice, or grape juice, which is what my mom used when she made fruitcake decades ago. Or anything, really – but the coffee really does intensify the deep, slightly bitter gingerbread, which contrasts well with the loads of dried currants and raisins. You could, of course, stir in some other dried fruit – I was tempted to add slivered dried apricots, figs and cherries, and may next time, but it is tempting to stick with the ease of just raisins.

3
Share

*I’ve partnered with Lindt to bring you this buttery shortbread, topped with squares of Lindt dark chocolate. Doesn’t it seem like a great idea? It really was. It’s perfectly reasonable to eat shortbread for breakfast with (Bailey’s-spiked) coffee at this time of year, right? And then to keep nibbling from a stash on your kitchen counter throughout the day, like a slow dose of butter and sugar and Christmas joy? It seems as if I’ve been on a bit of a cookie bender since the calendar struck December – two cookie exchanges in the first week, and two back to back cookie baking classes to raise money for the food bank. There’s no shortage of new ideas at this time of year, but what I really want is a good butter shortbread – and something chocolate. My dad has, for at least the past decade, kept a stash of Lindt Excellence 70% cacao bars on hand, and the stack rarely dips below half a dozen.Continue reading

4
Share
,

Somehow it came to be November – before I even managed to settle into October – and because I was out of town for much of last month – and because THIS WEEK – I just want to putter around the house and bake. Also – this is the week we usually pack up and head to Jasper for Christmas in November for 10 days – and having spent the past 14 years with that block of holiday fun on the calendar, we’re going into withdrawal. To that end, we’ve planned some fun things to do around here, including digging out some Christmas movies to watch on a weekend morning. And so we pulled out the Christmas box early and rummaged through for the Grinch and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – the Saturday morning classics. And of course The Snowman, a little-known but fabulous movie based on a wordless kids’ picture book by English author Raymond Briggs. It was nominated for an Oscar, even –Continue reading

3
Share

Yes, it’s time. I decided that Tuesday night was as good as any to take on a large baking project – and particularly one that required me to strongarm copious quantities of batter from bowls to pans, and plenty of chopping. My family has been making this dark fruitcake for years; it’s a low-maintenance fruitcake, not requiring aging or brushing with liquor, loaded with dried fruit and nuts – apricots, figs, cherries, dates, citron – not a green glacé candied cherry in sight. Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, the 1997 edition – the edition is important, as there are completely different dark fruitcakes in different editions. (And no, it doesn’t call for eggs.)

2
Share

Somehow, it got to be November. For the past 14 years, I’ve spent this first week out in Jasper at Christmas in November, and I have to admit I’m going through some severe withdrawal. I made a list of things that have been hanging over my head for far too long to take care of with this time that would otherwise be spend driving/dancing/eating/spa-ing – organize the basement! organize the office! get teeth cleaned! sort out the garage while it’s still nice out! – but while I am making some progress, it wasn’t doing much to fill the hole left by the usual ten days of festivities. And so when I was asked if I might go pick up some things at Willow Park Village and make some party food out of it, I said hell yeah, immediately invited some friends over and went shopping. Willow Park Village is a bit of a haul south for me, but I spent a lot of time thereContinue reading

1
Share
,

Nevermind shopping days until Christmas – I’m counting down the baking days before Christmas. There are some things that can only be made during the holidays – mince tarts and shortbread December is an excuse to make rich breads with eggs and butter, loaded with dried fruit – like a yeasted fruitcake you can slice and toast and spread with butter and eat with your coffee. I’ve made stollen for the past few years, but thought I’d take the leap over to panettone (a quick trip from Germany to Italy) once I realized that those Weck jars I’m in lust with are oven safe up to 450F, and thus perfectly stylish vehicles for small, buttery loaves. (One batch of dough stretches much further this way than the typical two loaves of stollen folded over themselves.)

0
Share

Oops, I slipped and made a batch of crack. (Named for the crackers it’s based on, but likely also its addictiveness.) I wasn’t going to – it’s the sort of thing that if there’s a batch of in the house, I eat just to get it to stop talking to me. It hits all the right notes – sweet-salty-crunchy-chewy-buttery-chocolatey – and is easier to make than any batch of cookies. Sold? I’m sorry. And you’re welcome. The formula is all over the interwebs: lay about a sleeve and a half of (salted!) saltines on a parchment-lined sheet. Bring a cup each of butter and brown sugar to a boil – at first it will look like it’s swimming in melted butter, but after a minute of stirring, will look like proper caramel. Let it bubble for 3 minutes, then pour it over the crackers. Slide it into a 350F oven for 10-12 minutes (watch toward the end to make sure it’s not burning), until it’sContinue reading

2
Share
, ,

I made mincemeat from scratch last night. And again this morning. What took me so long? I mean to do it every year, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t managed to for at least a decade. (I’d remember. And I won’t make that mistake again.) I adore mincemeat, applied liberally by spoon or by tart. And yes, it likely has a lot to do with the season during which they’re eaten – I can’t think of another food so exclusive to Christmas as the mince tart – but what’s not to love about a dark jammy mix of dried fruit, citrus, apples and spices? And of course most things are their best selves when they’ve been homemade vs. mass-produced. I started with grated apples and chopped pears, along with raisins (two kinds) and currants, the zest and juice of a lemon and orange, some brown sugar and spices. Nevermind the suet – I used a bit of butter instead, which when you think about itContinue reading

1
Share