What kind of Christmas cookies am I making this year? Lots of them. That’s what kind. Thirteen dozen cookies so far, and six dozen left to make.
There aren’t any recipes here. But this year’s baking bounty includes gingersnaps and orange cardamom shortbread. The gingersnaps are from Chez Panisse, via David Lebovitz, and are my most favorite gingersnaps in the world. And the orange-cardamom shortbread is homegrown, available here, and may be my very favorite winter cookies hands down.
Bake and enjoy! I can’t send you all cookies, alas. But by making them yourselves, you all get the added bonus of rescenting your house with the not-too-saccharine smell of holiday cheer!
I agonized — let me tell you — about what to call this recipe. First, in my head, it was a pumpkin pot pie. But that sounded too much like a plain old pumpkin pie; or like a pot pie with little chunks of pumpkin floating around. Not appetizing. Then it was a poultry pot pumpkin. That, I thought, was cleverer. But it was unclear to the folks on whom I tested it what the pot meant, given that we don’t live in Colorado or Washington State. I went back and forth until Sarah finally told me: why don’t you give it a descriptive — not cutesy — title? Your readers will appreciate it, and the fairies at Google who decide how to rank pages will appreciate it too. So I did. And it’s what you see above.
But no matter what this dish is called, here’s the important part: there’s lots of stuff floating around on the Internet about what to cook for Thanksgiving. I’ve posted here, in fact, about how one might go about roasting a turkey, making squash side dishes, and even pumpkin mousse. But what’s really important in this season of too much food is not what you do on the day itself, but — clearly — how you handle the leftovers.
Is your old model caramelized onion tart starting to feel long in the tooth? Do you bring it to parties only to have your friends and family give it a big ho hum? Well I’m here to tell you, folks, that the new and improved Twice Cooked onion tart is here to save the day, taking your allium game from old to new.
That’s right. Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, we’ve upgraded our caramelized onion tart from one featuring Manchego cheese and a few Walnuts to one bursting with bacon, Brussels sprouts, and a cheddar so sharp that it will make the back of your tongue convulse with joy (your Cheddar may vary).
My intention, I have to admit, was not to make a pear-apple crisp. This was meant to be a tart. It was meant to be neatly sliced wedges of fruit lined up in a pretty pattern, forming concentric spiraling circles, embedded in an ever-so-slightly sweetened mascarpone base, inside the most delicate of shortcrust pastry shells.
I had imagined it — obviously — maybe a little bit too vividly. It would have been glorious.
These eclairs were pastries of necessity, people. With almost four dozen eggs haunting my fridge, I really had no choice but to act rashly. But the thing with making eclairs for no particular occasion is that they can only be done in batches of two dozen. And with only three or four people to devour them — that’s a high per capita rate of pastry cream.
I cannot — alas — give you a recipe. It isn’t mine to give. But if you’re interested, I would highly recommend investing in a copy of Pastry: Savory & Sweet by Michel Roux. It is short, cheap, and has lots of pictures. But despite those things, I have not seen a better book for making elegant pastries at home.
I like cherries. I like them a lot. They are, so far as I can tell, the smallest of the stone fruit — miniscule cousins to the plum, peach, apricot, and all those most cherished sweet drupes of summer. They are the harbingers and the advance guard of the season’s coming in earnest, which — as any of you who are regular Twice Cooked readers already know — might actually count as a strike against them in my humble book. But their flavor is so intense, and so explosive when encapsulated in so compact a package, that it is difficult to think of them as other than bearers of the concentrated essence of all that is good in this too-hot season of the year.
There are some classic, really fine cherry desserts out there. Clafoutis may be the most deserving of attention, with its delightful texture — somewhere between a custard and a cake — and whole cherries, unpitted, baked right in. The denizens of Limousin, the region in central France from which the dessert derives, say that the inclusion of the pits enriches the final product, perfuming the whole thing with a scent that is not unlike almonds. And they say (I would assume) that folks concerned about swallowing a pit or cracking a tooth should really be more careful.
Strawberry shortcake is elegant, unpretentious, and simple. Yet so often it goes unbearably awry. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this thing that often lives near the strawberry display in the supermarket. It’s a little bowl-shaped golden cake, encased in plastic packaging, that bills itself as the shortcake component of the dessert, and sometimes makes the claim that it’s ready for reddi-wip, or some such other nonsense.
This is not a shortcake. This is an angel food cake — generously speaking. Or less generously — in Sarah’s words — it is a Twinky without the filling. Shortcake has a technical definition, and what it is is a biscuit. That simple. Sometimes it’s a biscuit of the same sort that you’d serve with fried chicken. Or sometimes it’s sweetened slightly — which it is in this recipe, here.
For anyone who has had any contact with me for the last month, the idea of a lemon kefir tart shouldn’t come as a great surprise. I have, after all, spent that time all but obsessed with kefir, stashing mason jars of room-temperature milk all around the house, and watching gleefully as my grains — the live active culture — transform said milk into a thick, sweet, sour, sometimes slightly carbonated beverage.
What has set me down this path is a recent trip to New York, to visit Hana and her husband. Walking into their tiny Manhattan apartment, two things struck me almost at once: the happy, healthy, gigantic kombucha mother gurgling away in a jar on their counter, and the jar of kefir, just about done fermenting.
I had thought, this year, that I might post a recipe that would be appropriate for the big game, the pigskin classic, the Super Bowl. It is, after all, one of the great calendar customs of the United States, in which folks come together to mark the passing of the winter with symbolically complex entertainment, the company of friends and family, and the life-affirming (if somewhat unhealthy) consumption of many of our native foods. It’s one of the great folk festivals, like the Palio in Siena, where the community as a whole bands temporarily into factions that compete against one another, but where that competition is ultimately about reaffirming our unity.
I explained all this to Sarah, and this is what she said: Clearly — you know nothing about football, or the Super Bowl. Not at all. So if you’re going to do this, you had better ask the advice of the Internet.
It’s been a holiday-scented whirlwind of baking around here. Because like I told you in the eggnog post — this year is all about the Grinch reduction effort. What we’ve got are some (festively shaped) gingersnaps from David Lebovitz, my own winter spice oatmeal cookies, and a batch of homemade canine treats that I’m sure are delicious — just not to me.
Folks who are getting cookie care packages this year — you know who you are. Everybody else: make some! You’ve got the recipes.