Now that the holidays are over, I find myself pondering the things I chose to bake, cook, eat and drink. Most of the year, I practice moderation when it comes to carbs. But periodically, and especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I begin to crave the aromas of fresh-baked treats.
The fact is that I am not much of a baker. I am too impatient, too intuitive, and too imprecise. But there is nothing like bread thirty minutes out of the oven. I decided to attempt a Swedish limpa, which is a traditional holiday bread (the Long Suffering Husband being of Swedish ancestry). Limpa is made with a mixture of rye and regular flour, and seasoned with anise seeds and orange zest. It is to be eaten with thin slices of “farmer’s cheese,” a mild, semi-hard white cheese, and orange marmalade.
The bread turned out to be aromatic and tasty, but I felt the texture was too cake like and not bready enough, and there was a slight gumminess to the crumb. Because of the rye flour, the dough was very heavy. I suspect that I skimped on both the kneading and the baking time. I need a stand mixer so I don’t have to knead by hand. But hand kneading is the fun part! I have to get up close and personal with that ball of dough or it’s not a satisfying experience.
My next project was a lifelong favorite: orange rolls. As a kid, I loved the Pillsbury kind that comes in a can. About once a year I make them myself, but I don’t have a tried and true recipe.
To be a really good baker, you need to make the same recipes regularly. That’s the only way to develop a sure hand. I made these rolls the night before and left a note for the LSH to take them out of the fridge the minute he got up, so they would have enough time to rise. They took forever! The recipe said “about an hour,” but two and a half hours later, they still weren’t doubled. Finally I couldn’t wait any longer, so I shoved them into the oven.
The verdict? They were better than I expected. Not as light and fluffy as they could have been, but baked through, tender, and orange-y. A friend told me that his secret for getting dough to rise during the winter is a heating pad set to low. I’m definitely going to try it next time!
I am a lover of fruit. My favorites are grapes, strawberries and pears, plus cherries in season. Somehow we managed to amass three uneaten packages of blue cheese during the holidays, so I fixed this platter of Asian pear, blue cheese, walnuts and honey as an appetizer one evening. I used more of the blue stuff to make a cheese ball, and I am pondering a blue cheese pizza.
Christmas dinner turned out great. We had a number of different veggie roasts this year. The best one by far is the Gardein Holiday Roast with cranberry and wild rice stuffing. It’s tender, absolutely delicious, and vegan. The gravy is very good too.
Here’s what it looked like in the oven, all crispy and brown on the outside, moist and yummy on the inside. With it, I roasted two packets of potatoes, carrots and onions with a baste of tamari and orange juice.
The surprise hit of the Christmas treats turned out to be a box of Godiva biscuits someone gave me. At first I was a tiny bit disappointed at having biscuits instead of chocolates. But this treasure-box of little masterpieces was beautiful and very satisfying.
On New Year’s Eve, we always have sparkling wine and potato chips. Our 2014 entry was a Chandon Brut Classic. I noticed some buzz this year about using the classic “coupe” shape for sparkling wine in order to smell “the aromatics.” Others said they use a standard white wine glass. Flutes seem to be out of fashion at the moment. But I like a beautiful champagne flute, especially these Waterford flutes my mother gave us. They are satisfyingly weighty in the hand, and festive.
And the Chandon? At $22, it was an excellent value. Plenty of pear aroma, sprightly flavor, and a nice mostly dry finish. It also revived pleasant memories of visiting the charming Domaine Chandon winery in Napa.
Now that it’s the New Year, I am cutting back on the carbs again. But maybe my resolution should be to learn how to bake one thing really well, and enjoy it all year long.