chocolate whats-its, cranberry whatnots and lemon thinglings

Well, there’s no snow here but there’s a Christmas tree – and where there’s a Christmas tree, there must be Christmas cookies. I think it’s one of the laws of physics (maybe number 25?)

In the middle are luxurious Argentinean alfajores, or hockey pucks as Pat calls them. The crumbly cookies sandwich golden dulce de leche and then are dipped in chocolate ganache like these. You can also cover them in coconut and marvel at your fine fancy hockey pucks.

On the left are incredibly easy but richly rewarding cranberry shortbread which are buttery and punchy with bits of tart cranberry. These are convenient to make the dough ahead of time and slice and bake as you need them. And they look festive, too.

Lastly, these lemon almond cookies are fantastic and highly addictive little bites of bright lemon, which are especially refreshing if you’re over all the pumpkin spice blah-de-blah and cinnamon whatevers and peppermint who-cares. No judgement, just consider de-Grinching yourself instantly with a tin of these cookies (and if you feel like it, even share them.)

baking, ice cream

time for some r&r

The parents are coming! The parents are coming!

Oh, hey there. I was just having a Paul Revere moment there as I recall a recent weekend when my parents came to town and ALSO B’s parents came to town and then it was parentsapalooza and my brain almost melted. I had to make sure my parents saw my new place and were sparkled and dazzled to the point of blindness. I also wanted B and his ‘rents to feel comfortable and cozy and copacetic. And lastly I wanted to make sure everyone’s tummies were happy so that perchance, all of these lovely people may want to come back again and have a cup of tea with me or something.

The dinner part was easy, but I had to end on a high note: nothing too fancy-pants due to time constraints and the inevitable food exhaustion, but not cake-from-a-box because that’s not how we play around here.  It came down to fruit and ice cream – simple, classic, universally beloved, easily deconstructed to taste, and all of it could be made ahead of time – we have a winner!

First: this rustic rhubarb and raspberry crostata from Bon Appetit fit the bill for the best use of fresh fruit on a limited time table. What I was worried was a way too wet and sticky dough turned into wheaty bready crust (without too much filling leaking through), kind of like a Nutrigrain cereal bar or a Fig Newton. The filling was firm and a jellied consistency. I’d never worked with rhubarb before but this recipe was easy as you just slice ’em up and they don’t have to cook down all of the way before you bake. I did double the sugar to make it less tart. The results are a free-form fruit jam pizza which can be served warm or room temp and brings fans of both sweet and tart around the same table.

Second: This dulce de leche ice cream from Gourmet was touted as the best ice cream ever tasted. Count me in! The recipe specifies La Salamandra brand dulce de leche (a delicious caramel from Latin America) but it was so expensive: was it really, really worth it? OK, real answer: I dunno BUT  not having to make an ice cream custard with the risk of scrambled eggs absolutely was. This recipe is ridiculously easy and a no-egg ice cream that is this rich, creamy, smooth and flavorful was worth any price. However, maybe next time I could try Mexican cajeta (goats milk caramel) that is easily available at the local Mexican grocer here for a different flavor (and 1/3 the price).

And how did it turn out? Well, forks were lifted, conversation paused, and plates were cleared. At the end of dessert, B and I turned to each other amidst our parents’ chatting and we exchanged an excited, delighted glance that only we knew the meaning of: we’ve got the leftovers.