This is it.
The final post of my epic holiday baking season. I made almost everything I wanted to. Almost.
There always seems to be one or two things I don’t get to. This year it was Kentucky bourbon fruit cake. I made stollen instead.
But I did get in quite a few cookies. Like these. I never know quite what to call them. Growing up they were Mexican Wedding Cakes. Then I learned they are also called Russian Tea Cakes. Also, Snowballs.
I welcome the tartness and I shy away from adding too much sugar.
That’s my relationship with cranberries.
I love cranberry. It easily ranks in the top 5 for my favorite holiday flavors. Or I guess I should say foods, with it being an actual fruit and all.
It’s why this cranberry upside down cake immediately got my attention.
I want to introduce you to my friend, Jane. Even if you are familiar with her work, there is likely something you don’t know about her.
Without Jane’s support and interests in me, Food on Tap might have never come into existence.
She’s the one that connected me with publishers which led to my getting an agent and finally creating a full proposal for an idea I’d had for two years that Countryman Press eventually picked up.
This food blogging world is so big that sometimes I forget how I originally meet people. Jane and I got to know each other through all the fun food events I used to attend when we lived in the Bay Area.
But we actually go back further than that.
Way back in 2010 and 2011, I used to host a Blogger Holiday Cookie Exchange along with a co-hosting blogger friend. All involved traded recipes and made the cookies to post on our blogs and share the holiday love. In 2011, Jane participated in that. In 2012, she asked if I was doing it again, but that was the year that all my baking supplies, as well as most of my Christmas spirit, were boxed up and ready to move to California. But I always appreciated Jane’s interest in the project.
Soon, I got to meet Jane in person. I quickly learned that her positive attitude, friendly nature, and pleasant spunk stick with you.
A gluten-free food blogger over at The Heritage Cook, Jane and I share a strong love of Europe and the region’s baked goods. She’s managed to find a way to enjoy amazing baked goods despite her GF restrictions and earlier this year she teamed up with Shannon Kinsella to co-author the book, The Gluten-Free Bread Machine Cookbook.
Full disclosure, I do not own a bread machine.
I’m a believer that booze make desserts better. Whether it’s beer, wine, or spirits, there is just something about the richness and flavor they add to things like cookies and cakes.
Around the holidays, my go-tos are bourbon and rum. For these cookies, I went with rum. Gold rum. Jamaican gold rum, to be exact.
I had orange jam leftover and I thought the best way to put it to use would be pairing it up with some cookies.
It’s been a while since I’ve had an epic holiday baking season. I’ve been thinking back on the timeline.
2012 – We were driving across the country to move to California.
2013 – Small apartment kitchen.
2014 – Larger kitchen, but still a rental.
2015 – Same. And settling in after another move.
2016 – Big kitchen, new house, but I was photographing a cookbook for someone else while working on my own.
But now it’s 2017. I have a brand new kitchen. Not to mention an oven that has been OFF for months due to the summer heat.
I’m ready. It’s about to get real.
Today I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from my cookbook, Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer! I’ve lost count of how many batches of these I have made. Flavored with holiday ale, they have spiced, citrus notes that I can’t get enough of. They make the perfect cut out cookies any time of year!
Over a month has passed since my cookbook published. It’s been a whirlwind of questions, answers, outreach, event organizing, and even a podcast interview (link coming soon)! It has all been amazing.
At the same time, it left me with two overwhelming feelings.
Gratitude and mental exhaustion.
I was not prepared to feel either of these to the extent that I have over these past few weeks.
Let me explain.
A few years ago, I posted about a really great pumpkin dish I had when we were living in southern Brazil. Pumpkin is used there year round, and not solely associated with fall and the holidays as it is in the U.S. So I’d often find it on the lunch buffets, a popular business dining option during the week.
So this dish I speak of combined roasted pumpkin and Gorgonzola cheese. It was the best combination with the sweet pumpkin and pungent cheese.
I made it the same way that I could guess it was made there, but ever since that encounter I’ve envisioned a more exciting and luxurious version. Perhaps one with a different winter squash, fit for the holiday table.
I finally got around to acting on those visions this year.
It’s a rare for me to find one holiday recipe that I make over and over every year. I’m not against tradition, it’s just that there are so many candies, cakes, and cookies topping my favorites list that if I made each one, I’d have enough to last us right up until the next holiday season.
So I have to pick and choose.
That has started to change a little bit, though, as we’ve traveled abroad over Christmas and I’ve discovered traditional foods of other countries. It began with Danish Butter Cookies after visiting Copenhagen. I’ve made them a whopping two years in a row and I don’t see them dropping off the list anytime soon.
Since we’ve visited Austria and Germany at Christmas I’ve found a few favorites from there as well. Actually, my love of stollen started way back when I worked in a bakery and we used to make a modified version at the holidays. I’ve been searching for a good recipe ever since, but I end up running out of time to give it a try before the holiday hits.
I’m not really into the gift giving scene around the holiday season. It’s not that I don’t want to give gifts, but rather how gift giving seems to affect other people this time of year. It seems to be the number one source of holiday stress for most people I talk to — buying the right gift, buying enough gifts, having enough money to buy gifts, having time to ship and give them.
So other than a handful for close friends and a single gift for a family member chosen in a drawing, that about wraps it up for us.
But one thing I have not lost my holiday spirit for are stocking stuffers! The little thoughtful things that show up in your stocking. Or at least they used to in ours.
This year’s holiday baking list is long with a capital L.
The past few Decembers I’ve penciled in things I want to make only to have that task followed by the days disappearing and me running out of steam. So I put them off until the next year.
Well, this is the year that I’m making it ALL.
Now, most of these things are traditional recipes and the recipes of others. I checked off rugelach (a lovely apricot pistachio version from Martha Stewart Living) this past weekend. I still have stollen, lebkuchen, Danish butter cookies and panettone to get to.
Since I share mostly original recipes here, that leaves me little to post, besides a few photos. So I still feel like I should come up with at least one new holiday baking recipe to share with you.
This is that recipe. My 2016 holiday cookie.