Monthly Archives: December 2014

Silver Linings

NYE Cake Slice

2014 was a rough year.  Last New Year’s Eve I don’t remember even being aware that it had rolled around.  I was sitting in an ICU waiting room without any real concept of time hoping that Scott would pull through and stay with me.  It’s been an uphill battle since then to figure out what life is going to be like.

As I reflect back on all the pain, anxiety and sadness the past year has brought it’s hard to ignore all the good things that have happened too.  Things that wouldn’t have happened if our life hadn’t been irreparably broken.

Visiting the Grand Canyon

NYE Grand Canyon

We had always planned to go to the Grand Canyon together.  Having Scott unable to move around very well and Hermit’s Road open so we could take a driving tour worked out perfectly.  We had unusually wonderful weather for February and while it was probably too much too soon it was an amazing and beautiful time.

Spending Weekends Together

NYE Weekends

The first year that Scott and I were married he was home less than 3 months due to deployments.  After he became a police officer he worked weekends and I worked a typical 8 to 5 work week.  We used to joke that we were still so crazy about each other because we hardly ever saw one another.  Since Scott has only been working part time and is working in a role where he isn’t required to work every weekend we have spent much more time together.

Starting This Blog

Enjoying my tea and cookies.

I doubt I would have taken up this blog if Scott hadn’t been injured.  I’ve always found baking and cooking a great way to relieve stress and feel like I have a little control over my world. I constantly have something to look forward too that doesn’t involve social anxiety and let’s me practice my baking skills.  I’m looking forward to a 2015 filled with flour freckled clothing and the scent of sweets.

One of Scott’s friends referred to today as his birthday and I’m really embracing this idea.  So much so that I decided to make him a cake to celebrate this last year of living.

I made a chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting from Dorie Greenspan that was a great balance of rich chocolate and fluffy topping and perfect with a little champagne.  It’s been a difficult day but once we lit the sparkler that represented the past year I felt like everything was going to be ok.  I don’t feel that way as often as you might think.

NYE INgredientsNYE Cake BatterNYE Baked CakesNYE Finished Cake

Everyone wants a happy ending.  They want everything to be ok and Scott to be healed and our lives to be perfect.  Well that just isn’t the case.  Scott is still really sick quite frequently, I’m exhausted and depressed by the interruption of our life plans that may never get back on track and our lives will never be the same.  It’s ok  because this isn’t the ending. It’s the beginning.

Someday Scott’s New Year’s Eve cake will have lots of candles instead of a single big sparkly one.  I hope for a future with happiness and peace.  A future that’s better than the present.  Where our silver linings become our daily lives.

NYE Year 1 Cake

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Baking Chez Moi: Gingerbread Bûche De Noël

2nd Final Buche

The bûche de Noël- seldom baked, often enjoyed.  I love cake but there is a level of labor that generally excludes me from making a particular recipe and instead sends me straight to one of my local bakeries.

Abstract Buche

If there is one thing that I took away from making this cake it’s how glorious homemade marshmallow frosting is.  I could swear that I’ve made it before but I can’t quite place my finger on when.  It could be that I have it mixed up with some childhood memories.  We had some really wonderful neighbors across the street: Steve and Nancy.  Steve’s favorite cake was devil’s food with marshmallow frosting.  Ever year on Steve’s birthday Nancy would ask to borrow my mother’s double boiler pan and I knew that later on we would all be across the street enjoying some really delicious cake.

Ridiculous Marshmellow Frosting

Why has marshmallow frosting fallen out of fashion?  This stuff is wonderful.  Light, pillowy with the most pleasing gooey texture.  The version for this cake was flavored with vanilla and mine happens to be made with bourbon which was an extra flavor bonus in this recipe.  Buche de Noel’s are quite a project and this recipe can be broken down into four parts: praline, cake, filling and icing.

Praline

The praline is pretty spectacular all on it’s own.  I made two versions due to some potential nut allergies, one with pecans (per the recipe) and one with almonds.

Almonds for PralinePecans for Praline

The trick with the praline is to watch the sugar like a hawk and trust your nose.  The second you smell a strong caramel scent pull your pan off the heat. This was fab in the cake and was also great to steal little pieces and eat.  I would recommend making this a day ahead since their are so many steps to this cake.

Praline CaramelCooling AlmondsPecan stirringTwo Pralines

Cake

The cake consists of a whipped egg and sugar concoction with some carefully added  flour, cornstarch, spices and butter.  Simple ingredients but a bit of a complicated process.

Buche de Noel Cake Ingredients

Pouring EggEggs and Sugar for Buche

Buche stirring eggsBuche Beginning to Beat Eggs

 

My first attempt fell a little flat (although the cake was still useable and tasty).  My second was much better after I added one dollop of batter to the butter and mixed and then continued to add a few little dollops and mix until I felt it was pretty airy.  This helped immensely and kept my batter light and airy while I mixed in the butter.

Stirring in the Butter BucheBuche Batter in Pan

One the cake is golden and springy you dump it onto a towel coated in powdered sugar, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and pre-roll the cake and let it cool.  Sounds tough but probably the most fun I had with this outside the frosting.  Plus the smell of fresh cake is always heavenly.

Done buche cakeSprinkling Sugar Buche

Sprinkled Cake BucheBuche Cake Preroll

 

Filling

While the cake cools in it’s dishtowel blanket you can make the filling.  A simple combo of cream cheese and butter with spices and then some of the praline that’s been finely chopped.  While this was an excellent cake filler I suspect it might also lend itself to make the best bagel ever.

Spiced Buche FillingBuche Filling MixerPraline in the Frosting

Cake Assembly

Once the cake is cooled and the filling is pliable it’s time to fill and assemble the cake and get it ready for frosting.  The cake will probably crack, mine definitely did, but it doesn’t matter. Keep rolling up till you have your log and pop it in the fridge.

Beginning Final RollFinal final roll Buche

Frosting

The frosting written  for a single cake generously frosted both cakes and left some to spare for snacking.  I’m not sure why the recipe was written to generate so much frosting but I’m not really complaining about it either.  I used 100% organic boxed egg whites because my chickens don’t produce a lot of eggs this time of year and I knew I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with recipes for the yolks.  I had no trouble with the whites from the carton and wouldn’t hesitate to go that route again.

Marshmellow Frosting IngredientsPouring egg whites frostingThe recipe uses temperature and the use of a candy thermometer to combine whipped egg whites with boiled sugar, water and cream of tarter.  While I utilized this technique you could easily go old-fashioned with this one and use a water test.  When your sugar gets to the soft ball stage pull it off the stove, pour it into your stiff egg whites with some vanilla and beat till room temp.  As you beat the sugar in you’ll notice the frosting start to gain volume and change texture.

Pouring in the Soft SugarFluffy Frosting Being Beat

Ridiculously tasty and light don’t be afraid to try this on other cakes.  I found myself hankering for a little bit of devil’s food cake to snack with the extra.

Final Assembly

To finish this up the frosting is applied and topped with the rest of the praline.  While this isn’t simple to make I like the simple look of the final product.  Quite elegant and almost regal but still homey and accessible.

Finished Almond Buche

Finished Pecan Slice

 

While I probably won’t tackle anything this complex in the near future this was fun to make and tasted great.  A good balance of rich filling and airy frosting with fragrant spices and crunchy praline makes for a pretty great cake.

-Christie

Why My Pictures Look Great (My Secret Photo Weapon)

Scott at Badger Creek
Braving cold temps to capture reflection.

The reason for my great photos is pretty clear: my husband Scott.  He started taking photos with an old digital camera a few year ago during our hikes and it quickly developed into a hobby.

Scott Laying on Rocks Tonto
Scott capturing the travertine ceiling at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. That can’t be comfortable. Pretty obvious I’m the one that took this photo-blurry much?

Normally he prefers to be out in nature capturing a scenic view but when I mentioned I had a friend who was encouraging me to blog with Baking Chez Moi he graciously offered to help.  He’s always been my number one fan and supporter although I’m pretty sure the thought of all the baked goods didn’t hurt.

Braving the freezing cold water.
Braving the freezing cold water.

Some of you know I have blogged before both on my own and with a group. (If you aren’t familiar with The Wilderness Girls check them out-the blog is lovely.)  While I like writing and I enjoy photos I’m just not all that great at taking them and generally find it a chore.

While I may take a few pictures if Scott isn’t available, the majority and definitely the best ones are always taken by him. He is familiar with my impatience and after more than a decade together is aware of how I work in the kitchen. He’s able to photograph while I do my thing and get baking. I have a feeling his love of eating helps a lot.  His love affair with food appears evident in the photos.

My husband adored these to the point of immediately attempting to hoard them all for himself.  He ended up sharing a few cookies with his coworkers and with some friends.
Cookie hoarding can be a problem.

So my secret is out.  I love to bake but this blog would not be possible without the beautiful photos provided by Scott.  Hopefully I can showcase more of his photos as our adventures continue.  I definitely don’t think I’d be having as much fun without him.

-Christie

(A little bit more about Scott.)

 

Baking Chez Moi: The Rugelach That Won Over France

Pretty RollI’m a big fan of rugelach and this recipe is no exception.  When I first read it through I was completely unsure of how they would turn out as it was quite a bit different from other recipes I had tried.

Rugelach IngredientsThe recipe uses pretty straightforward ingredients although the filling of coconut, cherries and chocolate with touches of cinnamon was a little unusual for me.  One of my taste testers described it as having a macaroon with his rugelach which is a pretty ingenious idea.  Rather than chop up chocolate I used mini chips instead.Rugelach Dough IngredientsBlending DoughFinished DoughShaping the DoughI’ve never really made a lot of dough in a food processor before starting the Baking Chez Moi project and I think it’s ruined me for life.  The dough has always been so easy to bring together and clean up is a breeze.  After whirring my rugelach dough up in a flash I divided my dough up into squares and let it rest in the fridge.Cinnamon SugarRoasting PecansChopping PecansRugelach FillingI assembled the filling while waiting on my dough. I’m finally running out of my pecans from the last season and my tree isn’t quite ready to give up new ones.  Nothing is quite like the smell of roasted pecans on a fall Arizona day.  I didn’t re-hydrate my cherries since they still seemed incredibly moist.  These cookies are perfect for this time of year as most supermarkets have great sales on the ingredients. Butter basteCinnamon DoughFilling RugelachFilling RollFilling Roll WideFinished TubeHere’s where my impatience really paid off.  Rather than let my rolled up dough logs freeze for an hour I only let them freeze until my oven was to the correct temp.  I ended up making these twice since the first batch was such a big hit and the second time I realized with a full hour of freeze the dough seemed a little brittle so I let it soften up before I finished cutting.  I have a feeling this comes down to how your freezer is set.  I love making ice cream so mine is pretty much an antarctic chill.

Brushing egg on rollRaw dough rollsRaw roll up close

I think this dough could be frustrating but as I’d read the recipe through and had made rugelach before I crossed my fingers and hoped it was a forgiving as it sounded.  Sure enough once I had my rolls ready to bake they seemed like they might make it.  I made my second batch a little wider and while they were much easier to work with I think I preferred the smaller size.

Finished Sheet

Finished roll on sheet

Sure enough these turned out pretty great.  A few had fallen over on my sheet and they were still delicious.  When I wondered aloud if I should make a second batch my husband was all for it.  I tried a few other flavor varieties with jam, honey, apricots and walnuts but I think the original filling was the favorite.  I would happily make these again.

Final rugelach

 

-Christie