Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The last of holiday baking: Cookie dough truffles, chocolate spice cupcakes, a gingerbread house and a maple nutmeg tart
It's funny how fast the holidays fly by. There's a month of build-up, of Christmas trees, decorations, holiday music and then suddenly Christmas is here and gone. Then everyone asks how the holidays went, and this year I'm not really sure how to answer. Last Monday I got a call from my mom that I'd been expecting for a while, but was still shocking: my Grandma Hofmeister died after battling Alzheimer's for years. That same night, my Grandma Hawley (the one I baked 90th birthday treats for) went to the hospital. It was a bad day for grandmas. Strangely enough, these two less-than-happy events led to me seeing more family during the holidays than I have in years. On my mom's side, cousins, aunts, uncles and other extended family. On dad's side, I spent a bunch of time at the house, more than I would have been able to previously. Funny how those things work out. And it also meant I've spent more time at home with my parents and grandmother in the last month or so than probably the last whole year. So, I guess the holidays teach us there is good and bad, but you just have to try to see the good.
I had a couple baking dates in the weeks before the holidays, the first with a couple of my friends from work, Sarah and Christy. We decorated sugar cookies, I made cookie dough truffles and Sarah made healthy(ish) buckeyes. It was nice to spend time with them, and watch Sarah's son create masterpieces on his easel. Plus, I made these truffles, which while crazy good, were suuuper rich. Somehow my friend Nick managed to eat four at work that night. I'm not quite sure how.
Another treat I brought into work were these chocolate spice cupcakes a la Martha Stewart. The icing was my own creation, a swiss meringue buttercream that I added a few spices to (nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger). It had a really subtle flavor but made the cupcakes really tasty. On top were Christmas light cupcake toppers from Bake it Pretty, which were also rings. I ordered them a while ago and was so excited to use them! These disappeared pretty fast at work, and a small crowd gathered when I brought them in :)
The day after Grandma died, I was supposed to bake with Aunt Betty. I wasn't sure we would still bake, but it turned out we both needed a stress reliever, so we kept our date. It was actually incredibly therapeutic, although I'm sure baking is anything but that for some people. But Aunt Betty is one of the easiest people to talk to in my family, and it was nice to be around someone else who was sad Grandma was gone, but also knew it was for the best and that Grandma was better off where she was now. Funny enough, we'd both done stress baking the night before to calm down. Mine was homemade marshmallows, to go with my Grandma Hawley's classic hot chocolate for some Christmas gifts.
Hers was the gingerbread dough we used to make this gingerbread house. No kits for us, although that led to a fairly lopsided house. We called it the tornado house, because parts of it looked like it had gone through a fairly substantial storm (notice the roof that looks caved in). Non-kit gingerbread doesn't always bake through right and create perfect corners, so we had to do some patching with royal icing. It was fun though, even though by the time we got to decorating, we were fairly tired.
Last on the list for that day was this maple nutmeg tart, which I'd had bookmarked on Smitten Kitchen for a while. The crust turned out perfectly, and I honestly wish the filling had been far more maple-y, considering that's my favorite fall flavor. Now I just want to make a bunch more tarts, but need some fillings! Suggestions, anyone?