Christmas 2014 Recap

Hey all! Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday full of warmth, happiness, and family. You probably noticed my absence all of last week. I took an unintentional blogging/baking break, by way of a stomach virus. I spent all of last week feeling absolutely terrible and nauseous at the sight of food. Not what you wanted to hear following Christmas wishes but it’s true! I had two more #CookieCraziness recipes planned, including one with a new gadget my plans were quickly brought down. I’m feeling much better, and have been slowly regaining my appetite for delicious things again. I’m glad too because as a food lover, not eating is blasphemous.

Christmas Tree

Anyway, let me tell you a bit about my holiday. In my house, we celebrate the 24th, not the 25th. It must be some Dominican tradition but that’s just always how it’s been. Back in the day, we used to have a full house but now it’s just us four plus our neighbors. I actually prefer it this way because there isn’t much pressure to be super social, and I can have more leftovers.

Besides the fact that there’s really only eight of us (plus/minus 1), my mom always cooks a lot. To be honest, Christmas Eve is basically a repetition of Thanksgiving in terms of food, except that the main protein changes. Instead of turkey, we have pork (or pernil for the Latin@ folks). I actually prefer the pernil to turkey but for tradition’s sake on Thanksgiving, we roll with it.

Christmas Dinner_1

From L to R: Pastelon, Pastelon de Verenjena, Moro de Gandules, Platanos Maduros, Cassava, Parker House Rolls, Pernil, Potato Salad, Basic Salad, Pastelitos.

On our menu this year:

  • Parker House Rolls: the same we had at Thanksgiving (from Bon Appetit), except that I doubled the recipe because of reasons. Still a winner!
  • Pernil (or pork): Star of the night. What Dominicans traditionally have on the table for Christmas Eve. Pray there’ll be leftovers.
  • Moro de Gandules: Rice with pigeon peas. Another holiday staple at my house. Super simple but delish dish, made with my mom’s secret sofrito (actually, almost everything has this stuff in it).
  • Pastelón: That starchy starch thing that has been at our table the past couple holidays. I still don’t eat it but there it is! (in depth description of it’s innards here and here)
  • Pastelón de Verenjena. Eggplant casserole, which is almost like a lasagna. This is my fave, and is always at the table specifically for me. Layers of tempura fried grafitti eggplant, ground beef, green beans, tomato sauce, and tons of mozzarella.
  • Potato Salad. Another holiday staple. I make the salad every time, this time was no different. (check out it’s ingredients here)
  • Basic green salad. About as basic as it looks/suggests. At the table for almost no reason as barely anyone eats this stuff.
  • Pastelitos or empanadas. “Appetizers” except not really. Two kinds: cheddar cheese, and ground beef mixed with hardboiled eggs.
  • Platanos Maduros. Last minute addition to the table of fried sweet plantains. Can’t no one say no to these.

As you can see, this is basically Thanksgiving part two. No one’s complaining, as basically everyone is all about that pernil (no turkey) (dang, couldn’t help that!). We had our littlest neighbor here, who’s eight and extremely hard to shop for. I don’t know but eight is such a weird age; not a teenager but not exactly a kid. That in between age is hard to gauge what they actually like. Strange, but we got her a password journal (which she LOVED), this super cute DIY jewelry box, and some trinkets from Claire’s. She and my sister decorated it in the kitchen. It was so fun to see her reactions to the gifts. One of the main reasons giving is the best!

Christmas Present_1

After all that, we had dessert. Since I was food adverse last week, I had nothing planned. Nothing, which is super unlike me. I asked my mom, which is moot as she never knows, what she wanted. Got nothing from her so I ran with my sister’s suggestion of making a tiramisu. I rolled with it for three reasons: my sister asked, easy to make, and was on my bucket list anyway. I made it the night before, which was awesome because that freed me up to bake bread the next day.

Christmas Dinner_3

It was super simple to make, and is actually super delicious too. I have to say, for such a simple dessert, it was really good. It’s also not very photogenic, if at all. I used this recipe and have a few suggestions. The main one is to mix the mascarpone with the yolks because this stuff is stiff and will never incorporate with the mix when folding. No one wants a lump of cheese in a supposed smooth dessert. Another is to only soak one side of the lady fingers. These things are literal sponges and they soaked up quite a lot. Do one side and hope there’s still some bite when serving. Finally, add booze to this. Every baker’s secret weapon should be in here. I threw a bit whisky in the cream and in the coffee but it could’ve used more.

All in all, it was actually a pretty nice Christmas Eve. There were a few minor setbacks that could’ve ruined things but others made up for it. If anything, this was a major upgrade from last year, and for that I’m most grateful. I hope everyone’s holiday was as uplifting as mine, and that this last week of the year is an awesome one!

Christmas Confetti Cookies

If you’ve come to Lucy the Baker for plain old sugar cookies, you’ve come to the wrong place. There are no plain sugar cookies here. Yeah, I’ve got cutouts (dazzled with royal icing and a hint of lemon), brown sugar ones that taste like cinnamon, and I’ve got pinwheels, but no regular old sugar cookie.

The thing is, sugar cookies are my least favorite.

Christmas Confetti Cookie_6

They are so BASIC. Ugh, like so plain with nothing really going on. There is so much potential in a sugar cookie to become something more than what I consider a sugar coated blob of butter. I actually had a bad experience once with a snickerdoodle that tasted just like that. Scarred for life, to be honest. It’s also what I’m trying to avoid, and why you won’t find a snickerdoodle or plain sugar cookie recipe here (for now…. never say never).

Christmas Confetti Cookie_Batter

Now, you might be thinking; “but Lucy, confetti cookies are still plain sugar cookies.” That’s where I’ll stop you. Confetti cookies are sugar cookies on steroids. I mean, it’s sugar on more sugar! I can’t hate on that. Why are confetti cookies different than plain old sugar cookies? They just are.

I’m aware that sprinkles (or jimmies to some folks) don’t taste like much or “add anything” to a recipe but I think they do. They add festiveness (in this case), decoration, and they’re just plain fun. Like, do you even consider a plain sugar cookie to be fun? I don’t think so. Besides, sugar cookies have to be adorned or decorated with something more, whether it’s icing or chocolate, to even become likable. Sprinkles are the best and easiest route, so I went with that.

Christmas Confetti Cookie_Batter2

I saw this recipe on the amazing Joy the Baker‘s site when her newest cookbook, Homemade Decadence, came out. Consequently, it was also the same day her new page layout went live. Her site is bright and colorful (like she is), which matched these cookies. I’m a sucker for anything with sprinkles, so I knew these were going to be in my future for sure. Since December is basically National Cookie Month, I planned them to be a part of my #CookieCraziness.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that you can make the dough a day ahead. I’m not one to make things ahead of time, so I was intrigued into trying it. It made my life so much easier because I basically just preheated the oven, portioned the dough, put them on the sheet and baked them. That’s it! The only sucky part was photographing the making of the dough. It was late and the lighting was off. I felt slightly defeated but I rolled with it, and I think the photos came out okay.

Christmas Confetti Cookie_Batter3

Since I wanted to make the dough ahead, I ran into some poor planning. I completely forgot to take out a stick of butter! You can’t really make anything with cold butter. The solution? Cutting the stick into tiny cubes, and spreading them out on a plate. I’m sure it’d work if you piled the cubes in a bowl but I’m really picky about these things. I spread my tiny cubes out on a plate, and made sure none of the cubes were touching. I came back in like 10 or 15 minutes to room temp, soft butter. This is honestly the best way. The microwave can backfire on you (ahem, melted butter), and putting a stick of butter in my pocket just won’t end well.

Needless to say, these cookies were awesome. I picked the red and green sprinkles for obvious reasons. I also accidentally poured in the whole half cup into the dough, realizing that I only needed to put in half right after I emptied out the measuring cup. I don’t think it harmed the cookie at all! They were crispy, with a little crunch from the sprinkles. Even with all the sprinkles in the cookie, I dipped them in more sprinkles. More the merrier, right?

Christmas Confetti Cookie_Batter4

I hope you now realized that plain sugar cookies are lame, and that confetti cookies are where it’s at. Who would ever decline a fun, festive, and sprinkly cookie over a plain and unadorned one? No one, that’s who. Keep sprinkles in your pantry and dazzle your cookies every once in a while!

Christmas Confetti Cookie_5

Christmas Confetti Cookies – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 32-36 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup red and green sprinkles

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t be afraid to cream the sugar and butter longer than you think! Ideally anywhere from 3-7 or 10 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Fold in 1/4 cup (or all of them) of sprinkles into the batter. At this point, you can wrap and chill the dough or portion and chill the dough on the baking sheets. Either way, chill it for two hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Take out the chilled dough and portion, if you haven’t already into tablespoon sized dough balls. Drop the dough balls into the remaining 1/4 of sprinkles, and placed on the prepared sheets. Alternatively, if you decided to portion and then chill, roll them in the sprinkles before hitting the fridge.
  5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they start to get slightly golden around the edges but are still pale. Cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • My cookies spread out and flattened as they baked. This may have happened for a number of reasons. Either the dough got too warm, or the liners and sheets I used were to blame. For the record, I used standard aluminum half sheets lined with silicone liners. Darker pans and parchment produce a different, darker result. Both are fine but it’s just worth nothing. 
  • I do not have vanilla beans (sigh) so I stuck with extract. Should’ve liqoured them up, to be honest. 
  • We like jimmies here, so I used that. Feel free to use whatever sprinkles you have on hand. 
  • Go check out Joy’s blog if you haven’t already, and then weep at the magic inside her cookbook. 

Christmas (Eve) Wrap Up

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, full of great times with family and plenty of gifts, drinks and good food. Per our family traditions, we celebrate Christmas Eve. Back in the D.R., they celebrate Christmas Eve and open presents on January 6th, also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day. Here in the U.S, we do our gift opening on the 24th instead of the 25th. It’s always been that way since I was a kid, and it’s how it’s always going to be. Of course, as an adult, the amount of gifts dwindle to almost nothing. Unless you’re lucky, then things never really change.

Since I’m now an adult (depends on the day and who you ask, to be honest), the most important thing about Christmas Eve is the food. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinners are basically interchangeable in my house. The only thing that is a major change is the main protein.

On this year’s menu:

  • Pernil: Roasted pork shoulder. I look forward to this amazingness every year. It’s tender and juicy and just absolutely delicious. Don’t be fooled by it’s appearance!
  • Moro de gandules
  • Pastelón
  • Dinner rolls: these are my standby recipe (again). I did half AP and half whole wheat flour. I also doubled the recipe. Remind me not to do that again by hand.
  • Potato Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Green Salad
  • Fruit Salad (not pictured): a giant can of fruit cocktail, mixed with blended sweetened condensed milk and plain Greek yogurt. My Mami also threw in a shot of brandy, for good measure.
  • Piña Colada (not pictured)
  • Random fruit bowl: grapes and apples, given to us by the folks at our local grocery store. They also threw in a bottle of cider. This is another one of those traditions, where they give loyal patrons a bag of this stuff for Christmas and again on New Year’s Eve.

The last thing on the table is the Bahamian Rum Cake. Purposely left for last because OMG it is amazing! I saw this recipe in David Lebovitz’s book Ready for Dessert. I knew I had to make it because it has all of the components my folks like; cake, coconut, and rum! It was so good! Words cannot express how delicious this cake is. I almost want to dedicate a post to it but a few pictures should suffice 😉

Our Christmas Eve meal was spectacular, as always. The holidays this year brought a weird feeling but I’m just going to take it as a sign that next year will be better. I hope you guys have a fabulous Christmas, and that you continue to enjoy the rest of the holidays; straight up into next year!

Note: for detailed descriptions of the menu, please check out my Thanksgiving post