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Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

December 4, 2021

Among our family’s Holiday-making traditions, filling rooms with boughs of evergreen is one of the brightest and best.  As we bring armfuls of snowy branches in, there is freshness and chill, that wild citrusy conifer smell, and always, a swell of gratitude for nature’s provision. This celebratory cake, with its cute caps of meringue mushrooms, is a woodland fantasy in just that spirit.

In France, la bûche de Noël harks back to Medieval times and traditions. Then, placing a log on the hearth on Christmas Eve and burning it for three days was believed to bring good luck, and good harvest. Centuries later, cakes have replaced the log, with thousands of versions baked worldwide.

Like those, ours—a chocolate roll cake with vanilla mousse filling, light-chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate “bark”– conjures memories of favorite flavors from childhood.  An elevated Hostess Ho-ho perhaps?  Or Little Debbie Swiss Roll snack cake. We’ve included a recipe for crispy meringue mushrooms that fit the woodland motif and add a nice crunch when eaten with the cake.

To streamline assembly for when you bake the cake, the mushrooms, mousse and dark chocolate bark can be made ahead of time. The meringue needs to be made on a dry-weather day—rainy weather won’t work. And for best texture and flavor, you’ll want to refrigerate the finished cake at least an hour, and serve it very cold. Continue Reading…

Happy Holidays

Chocolate-Dipped Walnut Brittle

December 4, 2021

My Dad always loved English toffee, and kept it out of kids’ reach, high in a cupboard in the dining room, to ensure it would last a little longer. My homemade version is a walnut-studded brittle rich with molasses, dipped in dark chocolate, and sprinkled with more toasted nuts. My simple method for removing the walnut skin—rubbing the toasted nuts in clean tea towels–takes away the mouth-puckering tannins you sometimes get with walnuts.  To make the candy, you’ll need a candy thermometer to monitor the bubbling syrup until it reaches 300 degrees, the hard crack stage. Use any good quality melted dark chocolate for dipping—or milk chocolate, if you prefer. When cooled, store the finished brittle in an airtight container in the fridge, or high up in that cool cupboard—to make it last a little longer : )  For more Holiday treats? We’ve got lots to choose from. Try our Holiday Brandied Fruit & Nut Bars, Coffee and Molasses Dream Bars, Christmas Pudding, Mincemeat Tart, Grandma Bertha’s Apricot Delights, Marshall Fields’ Chinese Chews, Gingerbread Cookies, Old-Fashioned Butter Cookies, Lutz’s Raspberry Nut Bars, or Jam Tart Bar Cookies. Continue Reading…

Happy Holidays

Holiday Brandied Fruit & Nut Bars

December 3, 2021

My Mom had a pecan tree on the grounds of her childhood home in Houston. Long after she married and moved to Chicago to raise me and my sibs, Mom’s family sent a big box of pecans each year for the Holidays. How Mom beamed when she opened that box! Then, she pulled out a battered baking tin and set to work making a dark, rich, fruit and nut spice cake. This recipe is an easy-to-make updo of that, baked in a buttered 9 x 13-inch pan with loads of toasted pecans, plus brandy-soaked dried cranberries, Montmorency cherries, Thompson raisins, a smattering of plump prunes, and some candied orange bits. Buttery and chewy at the edges, and oh-so-tender in the middle, it is my favorite Holiday baked treat. It’s very good with a hot cup of tea, and even better with whiskey! For another delicious Holiday treat? Try our Chocolate-Dipped Walnut Brittle.

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Happy Holidays

Christmas Pudding

December 7, 2020

Stir it up! That’s the chorus in Britain on Stir it Up Sunday, right before Advent. Churchgoers hear, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people,” and anyone—churched or not, with a love for boozy Christmas puddings stirs up the fruity mix to get the holidays going.Loaded with spice, fruit, nuts and tradition, the Christmas “pud” is a lovely creation, more moist and mellow than American fruit cake. Since it’s fed little tipples of brandy from the day it’s made until Christmas, the treat emerges a well-spirited highlight of the Holidays. For even more tasty Holiday tradition, try our recipe for Mincemeat Tarts! Continue Reading…