A little over a week ago, I shed my coat and scarf for a pair of shorts – it was time to head home for Christmas! Leaving the cold, 40-degree weather behind in Providence sounded really nice, but I still haven’t decided if 80 degrees at home is comfortable or not. Luckily, Christmas yesterday was a nice 60-ish, cool enough for a jacket but still comfortable.
Now that I’m in school for nothing but six-hour baking labs every day, I’ve become the designated baker for any special occasion. This Christmas was no exception, and I definitely stayed busy in the kitchen! First up was Christmas eve dessert, Panettone. Now I know most of you have seen this fruitcake-like bread on grocery store shelves in a box around the holidays, but it’s a completely different product when made from scratch. I first baked it in my Viennoiserie lab that I just finished before leaving for Christmas break, and after one bite I knew I had to recreate it.
I’ll be doing a how-to for this sometime later on since I absolutely LOVE this recipe. One of the key ingredients in this Italian bread is Fiori del Sicilia, an orange-extract-type of flavoring (though it’s alcohol-free) that gives Panettone its unbelievable aroma and orange flavor. Add some candied orange and lemon peel to the mix and you’ve got a great citrus flavor to brighten things up. Sicilia isn’t necessarily difficult to find, but you’ll be paying a high price for the 4-5 grams that you need for the recipe. King Arthur Flour sells an ounce for $8.99 or so, which will last you quite a while. I was lucky enough to obtain an ounce of this amazing stuff from my Chef, but I will say it’s almost gone because I haven’t been able to resist putting a little bit in pretty much everything I’ve been baking. These mini Panettone will definitely be a Christmas tradition from now on!
My next assignment was Christmas morning breakfast, so I pulled an original recipe from my repertoire from last year. We all love scones and I’ve done several variations, so I knew my cranberry orange scones would be well received.
We were all so full from our Christmas eve feast the night before (another Christmas tradition – it’s our one night a year to eat fresh crab legs!) that none of us wanted a heavy breakfast, so fresh fruit and bacon on the side was perfect.
Christmas morning was such a nice time to be home with family. I didn’t have much of a Christmas list this year – my Christmas (and birthday and Christmas and birthday) present is my time at Johnson & Wales this year and probably next. I so enjoyed watching everyone else get the usual surprises, and since my parents are now living the beachside lifestyle, we made sure they had their own beach chairs to enjoy.
Christmas dinner consisted of a Thanksgiving replay, with turkey and all the fixings. We waited a few hours for dessert, but it was well worth it. Before I came home for Christmas, I helped out with a party that the Club of Culinary Excellence put on and had to come up with an hors d’oeuvre dessert. My partner and I decided to do a lemon mousse with gingerbread biscotti, and it was such a hit that I made a full-size version. While anything chocolate mint is my usual go-to, this was something unique and refreshing, and seemed to be a hit with the whole family.
I have a few more things to work on – choc-oat-chip cookies for my dad’s birthday in a few days, coconut macaroons, and maybe a couple more treats here and there, but I have to say, I’m looking forward to taking a little bit of a break from baking until I go back to doing it full-time. I have another week before it’s time to go back to Providence, but until then, I’ll be enjoying my time at home baking what I want, when I want!