Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The countdown is on

One of the greatest pleasures of the holiday season for me is to get invited to my best friend Caroline's parents' house. No matter which holiday they have a full house of beautifully dressed, interesting people sipping cocktails and discussing things like art, music and books. This year we're invited for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and I got Big Daddy to agree to Thanksgiving (we'll work on Christmas later - he won't know what hit him).

At any rate, my contribution to these soirees is always dessert and this year I'm pulling out the stops. I have to do something flourless since Caroline's mom is gluten free so my trusty Giada de Laurentis chocolate cake with almonds and amaretti will do nicely (this is from her Everyday Italian cookbook - I'm not normally a Food Network kind of gal but got this as a gift and the chocolate cake is worth owning the book for). Next is my beloved sweet potato bourbon cheesecake. I have to leave out the bourbon since we'll have a couple of people in recovery in attendance but it is spectacularly delicious even without it.

Of course there has to be pumpkin pie but I'm going to do an apple buttermilk pie as well. This pie is the evolution of a recipe that Big Daddy presented to me when we were first married. His version calls for canned apple pie filling and a sweetened condensed milk custard topped with oatmeal strusel. Oh honey, that baby was so sweet I thought my teeth were going to fall right out of my head! I've reworked the recipe to call for caramlized Honeycrisp apples and a buttermilk custard but kept the strusel because it is GOOD. Big Daddy says his version is better but that didn't seem to stop him from eating three pieces of the test pie I made over the weekend.

So that leaves one dessert left and I can't decide what it should be. Different factions are rooting for their favorites - Caroline wants Shaker lemon tart, the kids want Hershey bar cake and I'm leaning towards something chocolate like Claudia Fleming's cheesecake tart only with a chocolate cookie crust instead of graham crackers. Plus I'm in the mood to make a salted caramel sauce and that would be delishment on a chocolate something. Watch this space to see where I end up.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ciabetter but still not great...

I finally got a picture loaded but with this last batch of ciabatta I got at least one of the big holes that are so characteristic of the bread. I'll be the first to say that a pizza made from this dough kicked butt and took names but the darn dough still wasn't quite soft enough to spread properly. My family is objecting to me making another batch this weekend so I guess I'll have to comfort myself by baking ahead for Thanksgiving. More on that later.

Of course, I did have another disaster that promises to make me nuts for a very long time. Big Daddy gave me what, at the time, seemed like the best birthday present I ever received - 2000 sheets of parchment paper, cut to fit a half sheet pan. Since I am an insane cookie baker, this was the equivalent of giving a big fat Gucci purse stufffed with bling to one of the Real Housewives but I discovered the hard way that this parchment, which he got through their supplier in his kitchen, can't cope with moisture quite the way what I'm used to using can. So, a whole batch of bagels and a gorgeous loaf of no-knead sourdough later, I'm peeling shreds of parchment off the bottom before they can be eaten. Lord help me, what a mess. I keep telling the kids that paper is just another type of fiber and fiber is good for you, right? They're not buying even though I keep selling.

But for the Christmas cookie season I am golden! Or parchment colored! Whatever...