A Marks the Spot

I’ll admit it – I was seduced by Martha Stewart. It all started out very innocently back in November. I had bought too much swiss chard and was on the hunt for a way to use up the hearty greens. I was doing my usual round of recipe searching – How to Cook Everything, Epicurious, Martha Stewart (usually in that order) and when I got to marthastewart.com, there it was… Where the Wild Wreaths Are. Now, you have to understand, it was early November.  Christmas was close enough to dream about all the projects I wanted to do to celebrate the season, and far enough away that I was still under the delusion that I could do them all – or any of them. I thought about the giant fir tree that had fallen on our property upstate during Sandy, with all those pine branches just lying there in a heap, and those fatal words popped into my head “I can make one myself!”. wreath_disasterNeedless to say, the wreath experiment was a disaster. I probably should not have let the bag of cut pine branches sit in the arid, New York apartment heat of my living room for three weeks. (On the upside, I did find a great new recipe for swiss chard: Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard.)

Feeling disheartened by the experience, and with Christmas looming, I dug through our box of Christmas ornaments and came up with a red amaryllis fabric flower and some holly leaves and berries that I had bought a couple of years ago to decorate a wreath. I dug around a little more to find the perfect finishing touch.

holiday_door

Now the question you might ask yourself when seeing this image – after “Is this the Prynnes’ residence?” –  is “Why does that paint color exist… in glossy?! And, why would anyone choose it for their front door?!” . I know. These are questions I ask myself every day as I’m climbing up the five flights of stairs to our home. The door color is actually the “accent color” of our building hall and stairwell. The main color that it’s “accenting” is closer to Yarn Harlot’s  Saddle Tan.  You can see now why I like to liven things up a bit for Christmas.

In fact, why should our door should be welcoming and cheerful only at Christmas? So off I went this week to my favorite fabric flower store on 28th Street, Pany Silk, and found a nice combination of flowers and leaves that I wired together to replace the holiday flowers and bring in the new year.

spring_door

I haven’t decided yet if it’s a little much for our apartment, it might be better on the front door of the cottage. But, I do like how it’s a nice relief to the dreaded “color” and strangely enough, the berries seem to work well with it. I’m inspired now to work with the ugly door, instead of ignoring it most of the year.  Maybe I’ll do different wreaths for each season. We do have masses of pine cones in our yard…

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A Yule to Remember

Eldred

Introducing Bûche de Noël 2012

Buche de Noel

I’m kind of old school when it comes to my yearly bûche de Noël, I follow Julia Child’s recipe from “The Way to Cook”. The recipe is a little fussy, but it’s worth it. The cake is an orange almond spongecake baked on a flat sheet so that you can roll it up, and it’s filled with and frosted with a chocolate frosting that involves mixing melted chocolate into an Italian meringue and then adding whipped cream. Not for the faint of heart. Her recipe also includes making a nut brittle and crushing it to include in the frosting, I leave that out along with the spun sugar she decorates the finished log with. I have a limit of carmelizing only once per recipe, hanging over a pan gently swirling the sugar water in deadly fear that it will crystalize is too nerve racking for me to do multiple times for one cake. Also, I usually end up making it at my parents’ house in Connecticut, which is challenging in itself.

I actually did the same thing this year that I do every year that I’ve been making the bûche de Noël, the difference this Christmas was almost purely aesthetic. I finally made the meringue mushrooms that traditionally decorate a yule log. Every year I plan on making them, but I either run out of time or interest. This year, after I made the Italian meringue – which turned out perfectly, I may have brought family members over to the Kitchenaid to admire it – I still had another hour that the oven was free and I was still feeling pretty energetic. So, I pulled out my pastry bag and went to work. Fortunately, when I was still at home I  had looked up the recipe for meringue mushrooms in my copy of Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts for tips on how to pipe out the meringue fungi. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right pastry tip, so I just used the bag without a tip, which worked well for mushrooms that are supposed to look like they’ve just been plucked from a woodland scene. I also sprinkled a little cocoa on them to give them a more woodsy look. Once they had baked, I then used a little frosting to stick the stems to the tops and spread it a bit on the bottom of the cap to replicate the gills. I then tucked the squat little guys around the sugar leaves I picked up at the last minute at N.Y. Cake and Baking Distributor on 22nd Street. Sprinkled a little powdered sugar over it, and… Voila!

Not only does it look great and festive, but it’s also a really tasty combination of flavors, the orange almond cake complements the chocolate really well.

Me and my buche de noel

Have a wonderful new year!!