DECEMBER SWEETS: A PHOTO TOUR

christmascookiesFondant-glazed Sugar Cookies

December is a busy month for a pastry chef… working odd hours, long hours, short hours (last night I worked from 10pm to 2am… and I pick up again tonight at 2am). I cook so much this month that I’ve started to feel like a real pâtissier and not just a silly imposter in a French kitchen. I can make a crème pâtissière in my sleep, a dough for a tart made from scratch takes about 5 minutes and I can have a lucsious jasmine-infused chocolate cream setting in the fridge in about 10 minutes. What a good feeling it is to start mastering something…I’m not tired of cooking, but I am a bit tired of eating sweets. At work, I only taste things that I have not yet tasted, and since we have many new cakes for the month of December, I have tasted my share. I’m thinking detox for January… perhaps a few apple tarts but nothing more!

The gray weather doesn’t make for very fantastic photos, but I try anyway. Here’s the December rundown. If you would like a recipe, feel free to contact me.

sugarcookiescatBastien’s peaceful kitty and pacman cookies

I tested out Martha Stewarts “perfect sugar cookie” recipe and found the cookies a little dull in taste and texture, but the shapes held beautifully in the oven.

I made a fondant with a dose of fresh squeezed ginger juice which gave a delicate pique to the tongue. I’m liquidating the less natural ingredients in my cupoards, such as food coloring. Thus, the fondant is colored with food coloring, but in the future I hope to find natural colors to take the place of chemical ones. We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon cutting, cooking, and decorating.

patedecoingPâte de coing : quince membrillo

If you have never had a quince, you could be in for a nasty little trick. Bastien picked one from the farm where he “works” not knowing what it was, but seduced by its sweet aroma. We were both so excited to taste this new fruit that was scented like a honey nectar from some garden in a paradise somewhere. We sliced it open and each took a bite: yuck! We spit out the bitter cotton fruit, thoroughly disappointed and did a little research only to discover that the quince is no good raw, and to unlock its delicious flavors one must cook it with sugar!

fleurdeselchocolat1Blonde caramel chocolates with fleur de sel

fleurdeselchocolat2Take a bite…

I spent an afternoon after work trying to temper chocolate for the first time. Working with tiny quantities of chocolate is not easy, especially when you are trying to stabilize the temperature… but it worked out ok for a first try. My basic caramel recipe is coming along. One of these days I’ll get it perfect and post it. I just love salt with caramel, and it’s quite lovely with dark chocolate too.

grandmarnierchocolat1

Grand Marnier-spiked almond paste chocolates

grandmarnierchocolat2Spiked almond paste in dark piment-spiced chocolate

My tempering wasn’t half bad for the second batch of chocolates, as you can see by their nice shiny gleam.

paindepicefoiegrasFoie gras on toasted pain d’épice triangles

We had this as an appetizer, but it could also have worked as a dessert or an amuse-bouche. The pain d’épice (honey ginger bread) was a nice compangon to foie gras. I topped with with a dab of homemade apricot jam and a dash of black pepper.

jasminechocolatquenelleJasmine-infused chocolate quenelles on a puddle of crème anglaise

Every other Sunday Bastien buys a few litres of raw Jersey cow milk from the organic market nearbye. Not only is it super rich and yummy to drink, but it is the best for dessert making. We have just learned that the milk changes quite a bit in the winter as the cows must eat hay rather than fresh grass from fields. It is richer in fat, but not as good in taste. Of course, it still beats any store-bought milk that I’ve tasted!

This dessert was so delicious and so quick to make (though you must let it set in the fridge for a few hours before serving). Jasmine and chocolate make for a surpisingly well-paired duo. My first crème anglaise (made at home and not at work) was just a bit too thick perhaps, but still soooo good.

beetsquaresaladBeet square salad

Beet salad doesn’t exactly make the catagory of “December Sweets” but they are sweet and I had to break the sugar fest with a little vegetable! We often have them raw, but here they were boiled, refrigerated, peeled, diced, and served cold in a very light vinaigrette.

Bon appétit!

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One comment

  1. Ariel

    Those are the most adorable sugar cookies I’ve seen in my life. I especially like pacman and the octopus/squid creature. 🙂
    Merry Christmas Eve! (and Merry Christmas too….)

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