Happy New Year everyone. Today is the first day of 2012! I wonder what this year will hold for me and my family. I’m trying not to have any preconceived expectations because this year will inevitably be a year of change. But as Price Pritchett said, “Change always comes bearing gifts” and I do believe that to be true. After all, last year was full of changes and I received so many blessings I would never have expected. I start this year with a new job and I am getting settled into a new routine which feels good. I am excited to have the time to start blogging again and am already planning a few things I want to try.
For a while now I’ve been wanting to make a gingerbread centerpiece. I had plans to make them and give them as gifts to a few people. So I shopped and shopped to find small candles. I made the dough and baked the cookies. And then life got a bit out of control and I had to work all through Christmas. Needless to say, the centerpieces didn’t get made. This weekend I looked at my gingerbread cookies and decided that rather than throw it all away, I would try to make them into New Year’s centerpieces. They aren’t what I would have made if the circumstances were different, but I was happy with them all the same.
I wish you all a happy new year and hope that each of you can find peace and happiness in your lives.
With the first day of spring behind us, I have officially survived another midwest winter. Rochester had record amounts of snow this year (of course) and the snow was piled about 4 feet high in our front yard. Most of the mailboxes down are street were barely peaking above the snowline for several months. But after about a week of temperatures in the 40’s (yay!) the snow melted surprisingly quickly. Even with a surprise snow storm that laid down a couple of inches earlier this week, we can now see almost all of the front lawn.
Since the HCB assignment this week had peanut butter in it, which I am allergic to, I decided that I would take the week off. However, after seeing my fellow bakers’ comments about Chocolate Genoise Cake with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache, I am seriously thinking that I will have to bake the chocolate genoise after all.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a photo of some cookies I made a few weeks ago. This is my interpretation of Martha Stewart’s Spiced Cardamom Cookies. I’ve had these cookies on my Must Try list ever since I saw them in her Holiday issue two years ago. I know, it is pathetic that it has taken me this long to get them done. In my defense, however, I just haven’t had a lot of spare time due to the job I have had and I have also been dealing with some challenges in my life for almost that same amount of time. So now that I am working a job that can be “left at the office,” and I have finally accepted the fact that I am going to be learning patience with these trials for the unforeseen future, I decided to try them.
Now I do have to state for the record that Martha Stewart and I have a love/hate relationship. Some of her recipes are great, and some of them just really do not work. This one, however, is a definite keeper. The dough was easy to mix up and also to work with. I used an impression mat that I have for fondant. It’s not quite as nice as Martha’s but it worked out okay. The cookies went together quite quickly and I think it would be a fun project for kids to do. See Martha’s recipe here.
The squirrel cookie cutter is made by Marimekko and I bought it last winter when I was in Minnesota. I thought it was the perfect cutter to use for fall and went really great with the walnut cookies (also seen on Martha Stewart but I used the recipe from House on the Hill.) (You can find the walnut recipe here. Since I made these cookies for some children that can not have nuts, I filled them with chocolate buttercream.)
The cookies turned out great and my family has already requested that I make them again. If you are looking for something fun and unique, definitely give these a try!
This week we had another free choice as to what we wanted to bake. I looked through the list of the cakes Marie baked before the group officially started and narrowed down what I wanted to try. The cake that caught my eye was the Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust. This cheesecake is a perfect fit for this time of year because it has ginger and cardamom added to it. And not only that — the cake is encircle with gingerbread cookies! Now what could be more adoreable than that?
To be fair, the gingerbread cookies are optional in this recipe. If you want, you can purchase gingersnaps and grind them up for the crust. But seriously, the gingerbread cookies are the funnest part of this recipe. So for me, there was no question on whether or not I was making them.
The gingerbread dough was easy to mix up. The dough is flavored with molasses and the spices of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The dough is put in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up. When I took it out later in the day, the dough was easy to work with and rolled out nicely. I cut out the small gingerbread boys and girls and then cut out squares to be crushed up for the crust. The crust is made by adding butter and a little salt to the cookie crumbs. I elected to leave out the salt since we are watching the sodium in our home.
The cheesecake itself went together quite easily also. One unique part of this recipe was the addition of ginger juice. To acquire ginger juice, you take a large piece of fresh gingerroot and grate it. Then you squeeze the grated ginger to extract its juice. (The gingerroot is then disposed of. ) The main components of the cheesecake batter are cream cheese and sour cream.
The cheesecake is baked in a water bath for an hour and then left in the oven with the door closed for another hour. Then you cool it on a wire rack for another hour before putting it in the fridge overnight. So this dessert definitely has to be made the day before you want to serve it.
To serve the cheesecake, run a hot knife around the inside of the pan to release it, and place on a serving plate. Then you press the gingerbread cookies around the outside. You can use jam to adhere the cookies a little more securely to the cheesecake.
My family really liked this cheesecake. The ginger flavor was quite strong but not too much. It was refreshing to have something a little out of the ordinary and these spices just feel like Thanksgiving to me. And if you make this cheesecake, don’t leave out the cookies because they were our favorite part of this dessert (I’ve already received a request to make more).
Since it is a new year, I thought that I should make something new, unlike anything I have ever tried before. What I decided on was Madeleine cookies. Madeleines are something that I have admired for a long time and had a desire to try but never have. Once I watched a Julia Childs video about making the darling little things, but still I never ventured out to do it. The biggest thing stopping me was that I didn’t have a pan. I have looked a few times but could never decide whether I wanted mini madeleines or regular madeleines. I also did not know if I should get a nonstick or regular pan. Decisions, decisions. . . and that is why I never bought one.