We will be baking all this week. Revisting a few old favorites, and testing out some new additions, La Vida Dulce is up to her sobacos (armpits!) with flour-sugar-butter-eggs-chocolate, all the things that make this life so sweet. Last year we used the red Hefty "plates are lids, lids are plates" large platters and they suited us nicely as baked goodie gift trays. Wrapped up in pretty snowflake cellophane and shiny ribbons and bows, they are so very Festivus for the rest of us.
For starters, family favorites like the little Christmas Wreath donut cookies we made last year are sure to be chomped up quickly. Monica's Mexican Wedding Balls will be on the platters along with our English Toffee Cookies. Biscotti flavor for this year will be chocolate almond, made even richer with the new Nestle Chocolatier products.
This season I discovered some really interesting new goodies to try out and possibly add to our gift trays. No Chocolate Bark this year, opting instead for a White Chocolate Cranberry & Pumpkin Seed Fudge, adapted from those nice folks at Kraft. A new sublimely decadent Chocolatier recipe from Nestle is called the "Rated R" brownie. We shall see if it lives up to its naughty but nice name. Since I am the only one who enjoys drinking a good nog, I'm baking Egg Nog Coffee Cake, instead of the traditional L.A. City School Coffee Cake. Can't let a good nog go to waist!
Another new treat is my take on mini fruitcakes, which earned a plateful of homegrown tomatoes from my neighbors. They are my best customers! Not your standard doorstop fruitcakes, these are filled with diced fresh fruits and tasty dried fruits, none of that nasty candied stuff. Ugh! Instead we use fresh gala apples, mangoes, Fuyu persimmons, bananas, and a variety of dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, pineapple and coconut. And toasted pecans. Definitely not your granny's fruitcakes.
If I am so inclined and not too worn out, I may even add a crusty holey loaf, the world famous New York Times No Knead Bread to my 2006 gift platter. This is the bread we had to try out a few times to get it just right. It needed another pinch or so of salt. Bittman had to write a second column and made some adjustments to the original formula. My baking buddy George divided the dough into smaller loaves, and that may be the answer for gift giving. He also used sourdough starter in a test batch with excellent results. Think I'll stick to the revision Bittman wrote. Although time consuming, it is worth all the effort to enjoy a slice of this bread. The aroma in the house while it bakes, the crumb, the flavor, and the crust are all so intoxicating, it's like a controlled substance. What would be its street value? Laws governing proper fermentation and rise would be enacted, you'd read about pudgy politicians taking bribes of warm loaves and butter, and bakers in possession of banettons for this bread would have to be licensed.
Yes, it is that good. Happy Baking!