Lots to catch up on. Here we go...
I feel like I spent most of last week baking. That's probably not entirely accurate. But that's what it felt like. Two Sundays ago, I did my holiday baking. I usually make something edible to give as gifts. Which works out handily for people like my father-in-law who is notoriously difficult to shop for.
This year's edible gifts were supposed to be two different kinds of biscotti and something I've been calling Christmas Crack(ers). Well, I have a confession to make. Three Sundays ago, I realized that I was running short on time. Somehow I was behind schedule and the holiday cards (which I like to handmake every year) were not coming out the way I'd sketched them out. I was on the brink of a crafting meltdown and very very grumpy. It ended up being a very unproductive weekend which only made me grumpier.
So the following day I made a decision that I was not going to let this ruin Christmas (the irony of the situation was not lost on me). I was going to cut myself some slack. So the cards weren't started on time. So the baking was delayed. So I'm pregnant. Like 35 weeks pregnant (that's almost 9 months pregnant for those of you who follow this sort of stuff in the traditional way of counting). So I'm going to cut myself some slack. I decided to do just enough baking to get presents out the door that go to family. The ones where you know that if you don't have a present for them, it would be just so wrong that you wouldn't be able to forgive yourself (I'm not a complete, total and utter slacker after all.). This consists of just a few family members so the holiday baking that it would entail wasn't going to kill me. And I'd figure something out for the cards to go along with those presents.
And the rest of the world? The folks who are on my holiday card list and the folks who are on my edible gifts list? I was going to assume that they would understand that this is not a normal Christmas. And that I am 35 weeks pregnant. And that if I skipped a year of sending them a card or edible gifts, they would understand and not remove me from their holiday card list. I felt a little lame about this (it just feels so un-Christmas-y!!) but I resolved to live with this decision.
So sorry friends who would normally get edible gifts from me. Am I making it worse by posting photos of what you would have gotten had I got my act together sooner? Not that I think all these friends read my blog anyways...
Let's move on.
This year's Christmas baking consisted of cranberry+pistachio cornmeal biscotti. The recipe came from that Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies mag. I was a little doubtful about the cornmeal. But it ended up being wonderful! The cornmeal adds a nice extra crunch at the end that makes this biscotti special. And aren't the red+green of the cranberry+biscotti pretty? So colorful! So seasonal!
I hit a few glitches with the first batch (pictured above are photos from my second batch). I did a little research and found that someone else in blogland made these (quick, go over to her blog and check it out. Gorgeous photos, reviews of recipes and a personal goal to bake very last cookie in the Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook-which seems to have a lot of the same recipes as the Holiday Cookies mag). She seemed to have run into different issues with her batch. But it gave me some ideas as to how I might improve upon my methods. I have more notes here (in the comments) if you are interested in learning about the trials and tribulations of this recipe. In a nutshell, the center of the cookie loaf is slightly undercooked-that's okay. Let the loaf cool completely (takes longer than the recommended 15 minutes) and then use a really really sharp knife to cut the loaf into biscotti slices (I have tips on the cutting method in my notes) before the second baking.
Next up in my holiday baking was Christmas Crack(ers). They're really called Chocolate Caramel Crackers. I found the recipe on Sally's blog (of Shim and Sons) who got it from Smitten Kitchen. (Recipe and method in the Smitten Kitchen blog.)
Holy crack! These are dangerously easy to make and easy to eat. I used matzoh crackers and added a little sea salt. I don't understand how anyone can eat more than one little square of these. My teeth hurt. I'd been on a major sugar binge lately (I blame the pregnancy hormones). But I do believe that these little shots of candy crack have cured me of my sweet tooth. Seriously. I just don't want dessert anymore. M had a piece and he called them unholy. Nuff said.
Last up in the holiday baking are the chocolate biscotti. I used this recipe. I made a few modifications like omitting the white chocolate chips (not a fan here) and then dipping them in melted dark chocolate (Green & Black's 70%). So they are still triple chocolate biscotti but in a different sort of way. The batter was pretty incredible. It looked more like cake frosting than cookie batter. I learned in the early years of being with M that I'd better save a nice bit of raw batter for him to eat or there'd be hell to pay.
One tip I want to remember is that it helped to moisten my fingers with a bit of water and then smoothing the logs of biscotti batter before sitting them in the fridge for a chill.
I had a taste test of the biscotti before I dipped them in the dark chocolate. Heavenly! I can only imagine how wonderful they'd be with a cup of coffee.
M is surprisingly not a fan of chocolate biscotti and passed. But it's chocolate, I kept saying. In the end, when he saw that the finished product included a dip in melted chocolate, he decided it was worth a try and then gobbled up the last few pieces that were leftover. Heh heh heh.