OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS CHERRY ALMOND CAKE . . . It’s not too late to whip up this alternative to fruit cake.

The most loved and used  of all my many baking cookbooks is tattered, torn, mended and scribbled.   It has perhaps twenty pages.    More than fifty years ago it came free with a bag of Robin Hood Flour.  It contains the recipe for Wicked Wonderful White Bread and my stand by cinnamon coffee cake.  Every recipe is tried and trued and absolutely delicious in a wonderful old-fashioned way.    The recipes don’t call for exotic ingredients or special equipment.  They are stress free baking recipes perfect for almost any occasion.

I adore anything  baked with cherries, especially at Christmas time.  This recipe for Cherry Almond Cake is from the small Robin Hood Cookbook.  It is literally bursting with big, bright cherries.  It makes a generous cake.  Wonderfully generous.  You can cut,  slice and slice and nibble away to your hearts content.  It is a splendid cake for entertaining.  Large enough for second or even third slices.  What could be more perfect. You’ll find this  recipe on my food blog MRS. BUTTERFINGERS.

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OOH LA LA . . . COCO CHANEL INSPIRED CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPED PRESENTS

The logs in the great fireplace crackled and sang warmth into the room.  Heavy, faded green velvet curtains shut out the dark night.   Le Noël de la rue, warbled Edith Piaf, on the old Victrola.    It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains inviting  the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to fill the room with light.

Honest, plain brown paper.

A scattering of pearls.

An elegance of black ribbon.

A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Brown paper unrolled.

Silver scissors cut.

Pearls adorned.

Ribbons tied.

Champagne chilled.

Cassoulet simmered on the old La Cornue stove and filled the rooms with its rich aroma.

Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Theadora and The Tin Man had arrived.

It was Christmas in her little house in Paris.

 

 

 

CHEDDAR AND GRUYERE CRACKERS . . . Frozen savory assets for the holidays.

I like to make a splash  with holiday hors d’oeuvres.     Step out of the ordinary.  Conjure up the unexpected.   There is nothing more wonderful.  Nothing more special than freshly baked homemade crackers.  These are a snap to make.    A double dose of sharp cheese makes addictive crackers then don’t even need a topping.  Just whip up a handful of ingredients.  Pop them in the freezer and  slice off rounds whenever you want to serve freshly baked crackers.

They may seem like the last thing you have time for during the holidays but the dough for these savory slice-and-bake comes together in minutes.  Make a batch or double the recipe for a bigger stash.  You won’t regret it.

Dear friends, you know how I love to gild the lily.  These crackers take beautifully to hits of hot red pepper jelly or pungent blue cheese.  A little Brie or Gouda topped with a wafer thin slice of Granny Smith apple would go down treat.

Serve your wondrous cracker creations with glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve.  You’ll be the toast of the town!  The recipe awaits your nimble fingers in MRSBUTTERFINGER’S kitchen.

EASY AS PIE! I promise you. This is a no-fail perfect pastry recipe.

It is every baker’s dream.  The ability to whip up the perfect pie with a crust so  light and flaky and  delicious you chase the last crumbs around your dessert plate.    There’s more than a baker’s dozen way of making pie crust.     They all require a certain level of skill and more than a modicum of knowledge of the various types of pastry required for specific pie fillings.

Here is “the little black dress” of pie crusts.  It is suitable for almost every filling.  It is superb for savory pies and fruit pies.   Single crust pies like lemon meringue.   Chicken pot pie or steak and kidney pie.  Hand pies and tarts.  And best of all follow the recipe faithfully and you should be rewarded with perfect pie crust!

This is the secret to perfect pie crust every time.  The flour, butter, shortening, and water most all be VERY cold.  Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or longer before rolling.  And  finally,  don’t stretch the dough when you’re placing it into the pan.

One of the most popular fruit pie to make is apple.  The secret to eliminating the  gap between the apple filling and the baked pie crust is to toss your sliced apples with sugar and let it macerate while your pie crust rests.  Then add the thickener, spices and butter before putting your pie together.

You can prepare the dough ahead.  Form it into two balls, wrap well, and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.  Defrost  in the refrigerator.

Dear friends. Skip over to MRSBUTTERFIELD’S kitchen for the recipe.

 

 

AMARETTI COOKIES . . . wickedly wonderful classic Italian cookies. Fabulous for Christmas treats.

An Amaretti cookie is a cookie with attitude.    It is an elegant bite of crunchy, chewy wonderfulness,   heady with the perfume of almonds,  perfect with exactly the right amount of sweetness.

Amaretti cookies are definitely not your common, home-baked cookie one encounters in North America.   This Italian confection dates as far back as the 1700s, and is ancestor of the ubiquitous French macaron.   It is a cookie equally at ease with a cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Amaretti cookies  have the same almond base and deliciously chewy texture of a French macaron, but unlike the macaron it is a snap to make.  One simply whips up egg whites, folds in sugar and ground almonds and rolls the morsels in sugar.  There’s very much a Christmas feel about amaretti cookies.    They are so decadently,  deliciously different.

These cookies are a marriage made in heaven when you serve them with home-made  ice cream and salted caramel sauce.    My favorite bakery in Toronto, BOBBETTE & B ELLE,  introduced me to these glorious cookies.

The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

 

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE . . . a decadent holiday food gift

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Sometimes when one is bombarded daily with food recipes one forgets the one that transcends all others.    This  splendid sauce is the perfect food gift.  It is  decadently deliciously down-right lip-smacking, please can I have some more.  Portion it into small jars(it is very very rich).  It makes a memorable hotess gift.

It is the attention to detail.  The little extra that pushes something over the top.  That take it from very good to extraordinary.    And when that extraordinary itself is truly magnificent you have pure gold.

During our restaurant years every evening I made a gorgeous caramel sauce.   We would pour it liberally  over our house-made ice cream.  The recipe was time consuming and demanding.  So I started  the hunt for a caramel sauce that one could whip up quickly and without too much stress.

Making caramel sauce is rather like the fairy tale Brothers Grim Rumpelstiltskin.  You turn water and sugar into a deep burnished rich golden colour.  And you do not have to give up your first-born child to do it.

This caramel recipe has just the right balance of caramelized sugar to butter and cream.  The recipe is easy.  You put water and sugar into a pan.  Watch it turn a deep golden brown.  Whisk in butter.  The aroma smells like McIntosh Toffee.    Add a little cream.  Cool.  Taste.  Sprinkle in  flakes of  fleur de sel  and faster than you can say Rumpelstiltskin you have the most decadent salted caramel sauce.

Pour it over ice cream or a slice of cake.  Add a generous dollop of whipped cream and you have a dessert worthy of a four star restaurant.  The very best part of this recipe for caramel sauce.  It refrigerates beautifully.  I must admit I occasionally remove the chilled sauce, dip a spoon into its silky goodness and swoon over this stealthy treat.  The sauce will keep two weeks refrigerated.  Unbelievable but this has kept more than the specified two weeks when I hid it behind the mustard  and totally forgot about it.  It was still good almost a month later.

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE  – is pure gold!

CHRISTMAS DECOR INSPIRED BY MY LITTLE HOUSE IN PARIS

I’ve been away.  Traveling to my fantasy little house in Paris.   Heavy green velvet curtains cover the tall windows.  They keep out the cold wind that whistles and tugs at the window panes.  The house is snug and warm and I’ve filled it with treasure from the Christmas markets.  The flea markets have been scoured for bits of Christmas pasts.   I’ve wrapped fat white candles with brown paper tied with twine.    Angel wings hang from coat hooks  and the kitchen is rich with the intoxicating aroma of a welcoming holiday feast.   My Paris friend, Theadora, and our worldly traveled Tin Man  will dine tonight.  Joyeux Noel we shout from the balcony to the street belong.  Joyeux Noel!

Joyeux Noel!  Merry Christmas!  The perfect words to welcome dear friends and family to our house in the country.  I’ve brought memories of Paris home.  I shall wrap candles in brown paper.  I will conjure up golden angel wings.  And I will paint the words Joyeux Noel. There  is only a few short street of stores in our tiny  Ladner village.   It’s a charming , calm place to shop.  Far away from hustle and bustle of malls.   Quite by chance  I found these  letters on unpainted blocks of wood.   The perfect do-it-yourself project.  A little dark paint.  A little white paint.    Voila!

My slow and happy enjoyment of this season continues.   There are presents to be wrapped.  More decorations to make to adorn our home.  A Christmas tree to decorate, but all in good time.

 

(If you visit TripSavy you will discover the Christmas markets and other magical places to visit during the holiday season.  Photo of a Christmas market by TripSavy.)