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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.)

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There’s a reason everyone adores Christmas crackers (also known as Christmas crack) – 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 internet: 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’s deep golden, then pull it out and scatter a handful or two of chocolate chips overtop. About a cup and a half.

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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

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(I didn’t even set this shot up.) It’s my ma-in-law’s birthday today and the plan was to take her to Earls for dinner, but the cold weather and news reports warning of dangerous driving conditions convinced her to not leave the house. Which was a bit of a relief. I came extremely close to ordering Inglewood Pizza, but instead made pita pizzas and am, I’m certain, a better person for it. I assume you know what pita pizzas look like already, so I’m going to tell you about the fruitcake I made this afternoon instead; it was an idyllic hour spent with low sun coming in the kitchen windows, sparkly blowing snow, and one of Mike’s Christmas CDs (modern-day mix tapes) playing Ella Fitzgerald and Red Skelton and Suzy Snowflake and Do They Know it’s Christmas? I have been positively itching to make fruitcake. Getting panicky about it the way I got panicky about having not yet made a pie by almost the end of summer. I haveContinue reading

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