December 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Macarons (Part I)

Every year I have to have at least one type of macaron in my Christmas cookie package because they are my favorite type of cookie. This year I have two, one old one new. Today I'll be posting about peppermint macarons (the new) and later I'll be posting about pistachio macarons (the old, spiced up of course).

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted candy cane shaped macarons on Almost Bourdain, which were made following a recipe by the famous Adriano Zumbo. The moment I laid my eyes on those macarons, I knew I'd have candy cane shaped macarons on my cookie list this year. I took that method of making candy cane macarons and adapted it to my trusty basic macaron recipe, which worked like a charm.

December 27, 2009

Holiday Lights

A great part about the holiday season is seeing all those decorations on people's lawns and roofs. Each neighborhood and street glows with different arrangements of lights. It's interesting to see how everyone arranges their decorations: a classic string of rainbow lights lining the roof, plastic reindeer surrounding the mailbox, a glowing Santa near the chimney, or even a big blow-up snow globe on the lawn.

As you can probably see, I find holiday lights quite enchanting. This year I wanted to include something that evoked the whimsy of these lights in my cookie box. So, I came up with the idea for holiday light cake pops, a bunch of light shaped cake pops "wired" together with green string. They can be snipped off to be shared with friends, but they're most striking when all seen together.

My brother jokes that individually, these pops look like chili peppers because I used red, orange, and yellow candy melts. The really funny thing is that these fake lights even tangle like actual Christmas lights, so making them was an interesting experience. In the end, they were worth all the untangling :D.

December 26, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

I've created a forest... of Christmas tree-shaped green tea cookies, quite a sight to behold. This green tea cookie is one of the first cookies I made when I started baking, except back then I used a diamond-shaped cookie cutter to make green tea diamonds. This Christmas, I wanted to spice up the recipe, so I did some brainstorming and ended up with this idea.

Sparkling sugar-coated green tea trees topped with yellow sprinkle stars and supported by chocolate chip trunks; it's a holiday forest pleasing to both the eye and the taste buds. My favorite part about them is that they actually do stand by themselves. And I know that Christmas is over, but even so, you can just skip the star sprinkles and just make a regular forest... of tree-shaped green tea cookies :).

Like Santa

Finally finished all my holiday baking today. This evening, my mom and I drove around delivering boxes of goodies, one of which is pictured below, to lots of friends. It was a busy night. I felt like Santa Claus delivering presents, quite exciting :D!

So, if you were wondering what's coming up here at Diamonds for Desserts, above is the list of all the cookies and candies I made this year. I definitely have a lot of catch-up blogging to do this weekend. Merry (belated) Christmas everyone!

December 24, 2009

Gingerbread Men

It's definitely been a busy (but fun) week in my kitchen. It's my fourth day of baking yet I still have lots to do before delivering my cookies tomorrow. This year, I have a nice mix of new and old recipes on my cookie list. I like to repeat a few old recipes year after year because I know that even if the new recipes turn out strange, or even catastrophic, I'll still have these tried and true recipes to fall back on.

One such recipe is for gingerbread men. These cookies are thick and chewy, opposed to the sturdy gingerbread used to build houses or the crunchy ginger buttons I posted about not too long ago. Gingerbread men definitely are a must for me every Christmas. Just the smell of them baking in the oven, all the spices: the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, automatically makes me think of the holidays.

December 12, 2009

Ginger Buttons

The holidays are here! Colorful lights, gingerbread houses, Santa hats, Christmas music, peppermint hot chocolate... I love love love the holiday season. Sadly though, I must constrain my holiday joy to concentrate on studying for my finals. Yeah... it's finals week here at UC Berkeley, which started today and ends next Friday. But, that also means that there's only one more week till winter break!

One thing I'm looking forward to right now is my annual Christmas cookie marathon. I've already got my cookie list all planned out (it's what I do during my study breaks) and a holiday playlist ready to go. So from 12/21-12/25, look forward to seeing five days of cookie posts as I bake each day from morning to way past my bedtime, cramming in as many cookie varieties as I can before Christmas day, when I'll be handing boxes of them out to friends and family.

But today, here's a recipe for a crunchy, ginger cookie perfect for snacking on during the holidays, whether you're cramming for finals or watching holiday specials on TV or sipping hot chocolate in front of a cozy fire. These buttons are also perfect for the calorie conscious; the cookies are fairly light in calories, around 40 calories each, with a minimal amount of butter (opposed to the usual 1-2 sticks of butter in regular ginger snaps) and egg whites instead of whole eggs. If you haven't started yet on your holiday baking, these darling buttons would be a great addition to your cookie collection.

December 06, 2009

My Mom's Holiday Fruitcake

Back at home, the beginning of the holiday season is marked by when my mom begins baking her festive holiday fruitcakes, a rich cream cheese cake studded with an assortment of dried fruits, chopped nuts, and glacé cherries. A slice of this delicious cake is perfect alongside a cup of tea for an afternoon pick-me-up. During the recent Thanksgiving break, I asked my mom for a copy of the recipe as she baked one of these for me. A cake like this is too good not to share.

I think the first time I encountered "the fruitcake" was back in elementary school, maybe first or second grade. I was reading one of my favorite series at the time, Junie B. Jones, specifically Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake. Junie won the fruitcake in the school cake walk and sadly discovered the only thing it was good for was as a doorstop. So from then on, I was naively under the impression that fruitcakes were indeed "yucky." Luckily not too long after, I discovered my mom's fruitcake, which cured me of this childhood delusion. This cake has a texture that is neither overly moist nor dry, neither heavy nor light. Instead, it falls in between these extremes, which creates a satisfyingly homey experience.

This is also a great cake to make as a holiday gift for friends and family. The recipe is uncomplicated, technique and ingredient-wise (the glacé cherries might be difficult to find when the holiday season is over, so definitely stock up in the winter when they're abundant, but any other dried fruit can be used in their place). The fruitcake is quite sturdy, perfect as a holiday party hostess gift wrapped up in red or green cellophane tied with festive gold ribbons. Little fruitcakes can be made in mini loaf pans. A round or square cake pan can be substituted for the loaf pan. The cake can be sliced up and gifted on ornate platters to display the contrast between the cream colored crumb and the colorful, jewel-like studs of fruits and nuts. As you can see, the versatility of this cake is remarkably unlimited.

December 03, 2009

Turkey for Lunch... Turkey for Dinner...

Every year, right before Thanksgiving, I am always looking forward to feasting on all the wonderful food to come: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, cornbread, yams, and pumpkin pie. But, after Thanksgiving is over, I remember immediately why Thanksgiving should be a once a year holiday...
a refrigerator full of leftovers.

The thought of repeating the same meal day after day makes me grow weary at the thought of another plate of turkey. Luckily, turkey is quite versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Usually, the weekend after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, my family has turkey sandwiches for lunch, an alternative to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers without having the same full-blown feast.

This year, in anticipation of the traditional turkey sandwich lunch, instead of Black Friday shopping, I stayed at home and baked cornucopia-shaped bread rolls with hollows perfect for stuffing with turkey and other sandwich fixings. Cornucopias seem to be the symbols of Thanksgiving, commonly displayed filled to the brim with an abundance of food; for these rolls, the bounty is, of course, our turkey leftovers. I was inspired by the giant bread cornucopia that I baked as a centerpiece last year for Thanksgiving, realizing that mini, individual versions would be perfect for sandwiches.