Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas baking

With the break upon me, I finally have some time to bake! I have been given the duty of baker (and by given, I asked to bake a bunch of things) for my family gathering on Christmas.

I've decided to go with a few family favorites- namely, Nanaimo bars. I used to bake them for my American friends all the time! In high school, my friend and I just HAD to make them! Without an oven, it was quite an adventure. We ended up using up my advent calendar chocolate, and borrowed an oven from a nearby house. The only pans we could find were very small and circular. But they turned out! When there's a need for Nanaimo bars, there is a way.

I'm also going to bake a cheesecake and top it with some crushed candy canes, to make it a bit more festive. I can't get enough of peppermint! I drink peppermint tea nightly and put peppermint extract wherever I can! This cheesecake is going to be off the hook, because I'm going to use some crushed up shortbread cookies (rescued from class) instead of the generic graham cracker crust.

I've also typed up a post all about pies, so I'm going to bake a mincemeat pie in honor of that. I can't wait to share the post and the pictures to follow!

I also have some sugar cookies and fruitcake from class that have been waiting patiently in my freezer just for Christmas!

Needless to say, I'm quite excited. Pictures to follow!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gingerbread houses and snowflake trees

Yesterday was our last day of Baking Skills class for the semester. For the past month, we've been baking all sorts of Christmasy goodies! This week we focused on building and decorating our gingerbread houses. I hadn't decorated a gingerbread house by myself, well, ever! Lots of my classmates had really fancy ideas (an ice palace and a Nintendo house, perhaps?) but I decided that I wanted to do something colourful as it's in my nature. After a few tribulations with the generic "candy coated chocolate bites" not sticking properly to the roof, my Chef walked by and gave me a few helpful suggestions. I put a very light coating of royal icing on the roof, and the M&Ms were able to stick much better. For the top where the roof sections meet, I put some peppermint balls to look like Christmas lights.

We were all supposed to use an extra portion of dough to make a tree for the front section, but I wanted to do something different. A table mate had brought some snowflake cookie cutters, and voila! An idea: a snowflake tree. I think it turned out rather nicely!
 To top it all off, I used a light dusting of coconut flakes to give things a 'just snowed' look.

All in all, I'm pretty proud as to how it turned out. I was going for an old school/lots of sugary candy theme, and I think it worked!

I will truly miss my class- we all worked really well together. We had a mix of seasoned bakers and newbies (I'll admit I'd fall in the newbie category), and we all helped each other out. I know I learned a lot from my Chef, and I am truly sad that she will be in Florida next semester (I'm also jealous!). Enough cannot be said about my Chef without me getting all starry eyed. I was also unbelievably lucky in the partner area- all my partners assigned to me were really helpful and I learned a lot from them.

With the impending Christmas break, I feel a bit lost when I realise that I can paint my fingernails and wear earrings or sleep in to a normal human hour (class at 7:30 means wake up time in the 5am area). But I'm also ready for the break, and I'm especially ready to do some baking on my own! And okay, I'm pretty excited about the nail polish and earrings thing.