Thursday, December 29, 2011

GRAND MARNIER BUNDT WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE

THE YEAR IN PICTURES

New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
- Hamilton Wright Mabie


The fog hangs low and heavy, shrouding the city in an icy white mist. The sky is a now-familiar leaden gray and yet for the manifest moroseness of the weather, there is something so romantic, so palpably mysterious about the gloominess, the whiteness that swallows one up as one steps over the threshold, that thrills me to the bone. I wrap my heavy coat tightly around my body, tug it closer around my neck with gloved hands and hurry outside, excited and energized by the Arctic chill that heralds the onset of a true winter. The house is alive with activity, the blaring of the television set alternates with music bursting from husband’s office, books are strewn across the sofas and tabletops pell-mell with stacks of old photos, crumpled gift wrap and discarded ribbon. A beautiful, confusing chaos reigns, a chaos that only arrives at holiday time when everyone is home with few worries or cares other than being cheerful and merry, the sole responsibility being that of purchasing and receiving gifts, eating cake and cookies and watching all of the old black & white movies one can possibly watch in a minimum of time, only alternating with curling up on the sofa, dog tidily nestled in one’s lap, reading a good book.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

ORANGE GLAZED APPLE LATTICE COFFEE CAKE

HAPPY, MERRY & JOYOUS!


C'est la belle nuit de Noël
La neige étend son manteau blanc

Et les yeux levés vers le ciel

A genoux les petits enfants

Avant de fermer les paupières
Font une dernière prière


Petit Papa Noël
Quand tu descendras du ciel

Avec tes jouets par milliers

N'oublie pas mon petit soulier
- Raymond Vincy et Henri Martinet, 1946


We have been eating, drinking and making merry this holiday season. As soon as Scrooge left with the dreary weather and elves began scurrying around the house making plans, secreting away goodies wrapped in brightly colored paper and tied up in plump ribbons, the excitement set in and good moods were handed round. Recent good news on the homefront has added to the festive mood and the holiday cheer risks spilling over from Hanukkah into Christmas, doubling the jolliness and good will. We eat latkes and exchange gifts while the flames dance atop multi-colored candles in my old family Menorah and pretty paper is strewn across the floor; JP plays with the new gadget he received last night and Marty dashes from livingroom to kitchen and back again. Simon is now home, so the Astaire and Rogers and Marx Brothers films stack up next to the television set and plans are made to watch each and every one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

APPLE FRITTERS & RICH FUDGE BROWNIES FOR HANUKKAH

IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT


The excitement mounts. Elves bustle from room to room, digging out decorations, hiding gifts, grinning impishly as they slither and slide ever-so discreetly from room to room. Cupped hands around whispering lips, winks and nudges the latest form of communication; the glee is uncontrollable and contagious as the countdown to the first candle begins. Silver and gold flutter through the house creating a festive backdrop, both Christmas and Hanukkah decorations find their way out of drawers and cupboards in abundance and we find ourselves humming old tunes, from Silver Bells to I Had a Little Dreidl to Winter Wonderland. Our favorite holiday movies, Christmas in Connecticut, The Holiday, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Swing Time (really, anything with snow and romance will do!) are pulled off of the shelf and begin to fill the house with the enchanting sounds and flickering images of the holidays. Yes, even How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the magical voice of Boris Karloff makes its seasonal appearance to the still-excited child in each of us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

GARLIC HERB BRAID: Homebaked Bread for the Holidays

LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn’t show signs of stopping,
And I’ve bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
- Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne, 1945


Will it snow this year? I find it extremely difficult to find that old holiday spirit while the rain beats against the windowpanes, as the hail clatters onto the balconies and the clouds hang low and menacing, the sky a steely gray. The lights glitter, diamonds in the shimmering black puddles, in the inky night, the branches crack and sway, the leaves spatter onto the sidewalk below as the wild wind whips the streaming rain cascading down in torrents across the square. Doors creak, we snuggle down deeper under the blankets; we love the coziness, the storms outside are romantic when one is safe inside, yet the approaching festivities call not for rain but snow! We awake to the gray, dismal morning, no sun appears at noon, and we search, alas, in vain, for that old holiday spirit.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CHOCOLATE MADELEINES

PURE GOURMET: COGNAC PART II


Victoria: I know this is going to sound crazy, but I don’t know if I’m even gonna be able to sleep, I’m so tired.
Toddy: I’ll get you a cognac.
Victoria: That’ll help me sleep?
Toddy: No, but it makes staying awake a hell of a lot more fun.
- from Victor Victoria (1982)


Rules and traditions. Rules are made by those most knowledgeable to keep us safe and in line, to help us see our way forward more clearly, smooth the bumps and make it all work. Traditions are made…and kept… to connect us from one generation to the next, tie us indelibly to a community; give meaning and sense to our daily, weekly, yearly activities: create and establish patterns of behavior that give comfort in the repetition and instill rituals we understand, habits that offer a comfortable familiarity and sense of well-being.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MACARONS PAIN D’ÉPICE (GINGERBREAD MACARONS)

WITH ORANGE CHOCOLATE COGNAC GANACHE : COGNAC PART I


It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas…. The air is redolent with the warm, comforting scent of spices, cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves. We count the days to Hanukkah, thrilled that Simon will be coming home for the holiday, yet this year we feel the urge for a little Christmas spirit as well. Maybe it is the icy whiteness outside the window giving the world a romantic glow. Maybe we just need a bit of festive cheer that only sparkly decorations and the scent of an evergreen can bring. I will dig out the shoebox overflowing with shimmering garlands and the few holiday decorations we have collected over the years, hand-painted shells, walnuts and tiny pinecones in gold to string gaily in and out among the green, several treasured gems the boys made when they were mere tots. I’ll pull out the cookie cutters and bake batches of sweet, buttery treats, stars and menorahs, Santas and reindeer, all dancing happily together on the plate. I’ll make my favorite Cookie Christmas Tree, piles of sizzling potato and cheese latkes to be eaten in the glow of the Hanukkah flames. “The more the merrier,” the tiny elves shout with glee! Yes, our Hanukkah and Christmas can indeed mingle side by side in merriment and joy, seeing in the New Year in brilliance and splendor.

Friday, December 2, 2011

FRANGIPANE ÉCLAIRS

The Paradoxical Son


Winter rolls in on a wave of misty white, the fog hanging heavy and cruel over the city. The icy chill penetrates every pore of one’s body and no matter what one does, no matter how many blankets or pairs of socks, the cold has simply moved in. But the gloom and gray of an autumn day doesn’t dampen my excitement for the onset of winter and the coming of the festivities. The holiday spirit seems to have arrived and settled in, as the bustling marketplace is alive with shoppers pushing their way towards stalls overflowing with seasonal treats. Garlands of gold and silver sneak their way in, Santas pop up on velvet hills of snow and visions of sugarplums, smoked salmon and oysters dance in my head. The first strains of Winter Wonderland and Rudolph signal the beginning of the Christmas season.

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