Christmas Pastries: Eclairs with Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

holiday-eclairs-chocolate-peppermint-ganache

- Yay for Christmas pastries! These chocolate mint eclairs will ring your jingle bells. -

When the holidays roll around, I turn to my staple Christmas sweets: cookies. Some candy. The occasional seasonal pie at dinner. While these tried and true favorites are always appreciated, have you ever thought about doing something a little different? Why not try Christmas pastries? I mean, seriously. WHY NOT?

A lot of folks cringe when they think of making pastry at home, believing the process is complicated, and that pastry projects are riddled with pitfalls at every turn. While some pastries can be finicky—making homemade puff pastry is certainly not on my “top ten fun things to do”—others, such as eclairs and cream puffs, are surprisingly easy to make, even for the home baker. [Read more…]

Steph’s Epic Christmas Mashed Potatoes Recipe

Steph's Epic Christmas Mashed Potatoes Recipe on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- Mashed potatoes for the yuletide history books. -

This time of year is all about reflection and appreciation, and I’m one of those people who feels compulsively grateful for every little thing in my life. That said, I’ve had a minor gripe building inside of me for the past few years. I’d like to get it off my chest.

Let’s talk about one traditional Christmas dinner dish many of us take for granted: mashed potatoes. You probably sit down with your family on Christmas and enjoy a plate packed full of many delicious things, one of which is mashed potatoes. When I picture your holiday dinner in my head, I envision a steaming mountain of light, fluffy potatoes, made with butter or cream, complete with a large enough ladle-full of gravy to feed half the third world.

In my family, there is no such magical beast. No bacon-rosemary mashed potatoes, or white wine mashed sweet potatoes.  In fact, where I come from, homemade mashed potatoes are like pink-maned unicorns that grant wishes while singing “What A Wonderful World.” In other words, they don’t exist. [Read more…]

Ricciarelli, Italian Almond Cookies, and Tips for Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies

Italian Ricciarelli Christmas Cookies on http://www.theculinarylife.com

- Ricciarelli are the perfect gluten-free Italian almond cookies. -

In kitchens across the world, holiday revelers are digging out worn cookbooks and faded recipe cards, clipping recipes from the newspaper, and scouring the Internet for tips. Ovens are being preheated, and houses are filling with the warm scent of caramelizing sugar and browning butter. Everyone, get ready! It’s time! It’s cookie season.

When I was little, I swore that I could gauge how many days were left till Christmas by how intensely my neighborhood smelled of baking cookies, or by how many hours my grandmother spent in the kitchen mixing, rolling, and frosting. For many folks, my family included, making Christmas cookies was (and still is) the best part of the holiday season. We enlist loved ones young and old to cut and decorate. We grin like madmen at the mess of sugar and clatter of cookie cutters. We’re positively giddy at the prospect of packing colorful, tissue-paper-lined gift boxes with the results of our labors, to be delivered on Christmas Eve or shipped across the country to aunts and uncles who flew the Christmas coop.

Not everyone can enjoy traditional floury cookies. If you’re gluten-free, the Christmas-cookie season can be a challenge – but it’s certainly not impossible.

[Read more…]

Christmas Candy Cane Cream Puffs Recipe

Candy Cane Cream Puff

Have you had your fill of colorful, sprinkle-covered Christmas cookies yet? I’m beginning to long for something a little different, something that curls my toes like a decent pair of elf shoes (bells included). Something I can face plant into from a standing position, a mega-pillow of cream and sugar that will captivate my every waking thought until I get a second bite. Cookies are a great sugar-delivery device, but their generally diminutive nature makes it hard to get your fix quickly and efficiently. (Ok, clearly I’ve fallen off the wagon in my crusade to avoid holiday sugar overload.)

Solution: the monster Christmas candy cane cream puff. Not necessarily a holiday staple, cream puffs go sadly unnoticed this time of year. It’s a shame, really, because cream puffs can be just as festive as any sparkle-flecked, snowflake-shaped, frosting-painted sugar cookie. And they’re easier to make than you might think. Seriously, you don’t need a culinary degree to make a puffy choux pastry. [Read more…]

An Unfortunate Affinity to 70s Soft Rock, and Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sweet Potatoes Biscuit Recipe on http://www.theculinarylife.com

Mmmm sweet potato biscuits… /homerdrool

Here’s an annoying fact: I get music from my parents’ generation stuck in my head. All. The. Time. Perhaps it’s because my mom listened to music constantly when I was small, but regardless of the cause, the end result is the vast majority of the 70s soft rock genre has wormed its way into my subconscious like an earwig on a coke bender. Air Supply, Chicago, Bread, the Carpenters, the entirety of the Yacht Rock canon. It’s all very good music, to be sure, but it’s little out of context in the land that is Steph’s Brain… And it’s become one hell of a distraction. [Read more…]

Traditional Shortbread Recipe (Mürbteig)

Traditional Shortbread Recipe (Mürbteig)
I’ve been searching for the ultimate traditional shortbread recipe for ages now. I love shortbread, but a lot of the recipes I find are too crumbly or too fatty for my taste. Ideally, shortbread should be a lesson in tender luxury – light and gently sweet, without leaving a fatty feeling on your palate. Finding the perfect shortbread was turning into an exercise in futility, and this lack of a decent recipe was a particular bummer around the holidays. [Read more…]

A Brief History of Christmas Cookies

A Brief History of Christmas Cookies - A Brief History of Christmas Cookies -

Today I’ve got a special treat for you–a guest post by fellow cookbook author Brette Sember. Besides her insanely prolific publishing history (with over 40 books to her credit!) Brette’s most recent project is a fascinating ebook called Cookie: A Love Story: Fun Facts, Delicious Stories, Fascinating History, Tasty Recipes, and More. If you’re at all interested in cookies and want to expand your knowledge of this delicious global tradition, I highly recommend this book.

Please welcome Brette, as she shares with us a brief history of Christmas cookies. She can also be found on her food blog, PuttingItAllontheTable.

A Brief History of Christmas Cookies

Why do we eat cookies for Christmas? For lots of people, it’s not Christmas without cookies. Our kids leave cookies out for Santa, we spend weeks baking and decorating our cookies, and there’s always a cookie plate at any party. The gingerbread man has become synonymous with Christmas. But how did cookies come to be such an important symbol of Christmas?
[Read more…]