I wanted to have good bakery bread for the Christmas weekend so my hubby and I went to the San Diego Artisan Bread Bakery in Escondido and they were closed on Saturday (Christmas Eve)! Their loss. I would've bought a LOT of bread. So on the way home I remembered that there was a Panera Bread near our house and I knew they had pretty decent bread so we stopped by hoping they would have some bread left.
When we got there the shelves were sadly bare with only a loaf here and there. Thank goodness I saw some candy-cane shaped baguettes in the oven and asked if I could buy any of those. Fortunately they had a few left over from a special order and I took two candy-cane loaves home. As you'll notice from the picture on the left one of them actually looks more like a "7".
We also picked up a rosemary and onion foccacia as well as a bag of sourdough rolls. The baguettes made fantastic bruschetta (I could probably live on different kinds of bruschetta) and the foccacia was delicious with asiago and roasted veggies. Since we only had ground beef in our freezer on Monday we decided to make mini-burgers with the sourdough rolls. A little asiago, homemade aioli, tequila mustard and roasted veggies made the burgers perfect. Oh, and you can't have gourmet burgers without Arrogant Bastard (our favorite beer from Stone Brewery).
This year I was going to spend the entire week before Christmas making cookies. Unfortunately I've been a bit ill so I've been down and out most of the holidays. My husband had received an invite to a coworkers house on Christmas so I decided to stay up all night on Christmas Eve to make cookies to take to their house. Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies magazine inspired me to make seven kinds this year. Sadly, Martha disappointed me. Her molasses chews were no where as good as a recipe I used to use all of the time (which I believe is buried somewhere in a pile of recipes at my mom's house) and her stained glass Christmas tree cookies were lacking in both flavor and longevity. They only last about a day before the insides melt or disintegrate.
My spicy peanut butter kisses turned out nicely. I use half spicy natural peanut butter and half crunchy peanut butter. It's important to use only half natural peanut butter since it's a different consistency than name-brand peanut butter. The spicy peanut butter gives the cookies a kick but it's not actually hot spicy. You'll have to make them yourselves to see what I mean. If you like kickin' it up a notch then you'll love these (I'll post the recipe soon).
Normally I use Hershey's kisses for the tops but my mom had given me a container of milk and dark chocolate "buds" from a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania called Wilbur Chocolates. They have an extra bite to the chocolate that I like. I'm not sure which ingredient makes it better than the average bud/kiss but I think it might be the chocolate liquer listed under the ingredients.
A year or two ago it was a friend's birthday and I wanted to bake him something as a gift. Since I'm not a huge fan of cake I decided to try my hand at rugelach. I have this great cookbook called Manhatten's Dessert Scene that has recipes from bakeries and restaurants all over Manhatten. The recipe for rugelach sounded great and I knew a recipe for rugelach from New York would be trustworthy. The last three times I've made these they turned out a little doughy so this time I made sure to roll the dough out to 1/8 inch to 1/16 thickness. Next time I'll be sure to chop the walnuts finer so that they are easier to roll. This recipe doesn't call for an egg wash but I'm thinking I might try an egg wash or egg wash with a bit of cinnamon sugar when I make these again.
My snickerdoodles turned out okay this year but the weather has been pretty warm (and a bit humid maybe?) so my cookies lost their crispness fairly quickly.
Our stocking stuffers this year were entertaining. My husband and I both got each other a Violet Crumble candy bar. (Great minds think alike!) If you've never had one, run over to Cost Plus and get yourself the best candybar on earth. It's chocolate coated honeycomb. Technically it's not an actual honeycomb but it's perfectly crisp, sweet, and chocolatey. Violet Crumble is the Australian candybar but there's also a Cadbury's version called Crunchie.
My husband got me two funny edible stocking stuffers including a tray of Japanese gummy candies (hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, coke, and pizza) and this scary Japanese business marzipan cat. He knows my absolute favorite candy (besides the Violet Crumble) is marzipan. Every year for Christmas my parents get me a marzipan pig with a penny in its mouth (a German tradition) and this year we weren't able to spend Christmas together so I hinted to my husband that I would love something made of marzipan in my stocking. Unfortunately they were out of marzipan pigs and (somehow) he thought this cat would be better than marzipan fruit. Hmmmm. Am I alone in thinking this cat is kind of scary? It ended up tasting great, though. You know you're jealous. Maybe next year you, too, can get a marzipan business cat.
I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season and Happy New Year!