happy yule

when we lived in austin, and the tree was up in the living room, people were stopping to get their christmas trees, and gifts were on everyone’s mind, one of the catalogs that my parents inevitably got every christmas season was the swiss colony catalog

for a person entranced by food, such as myself, the swiss colony selection was a glorious thing to behold (or so i recall). thinking back, it probably wasn’t great food, but it looked enticing at the time: little summer sausages, rolls of cheese covered in almonds, candies tied up in bows, nuts, petit fours, mini cakes, fruitcakes, beefsticks, and gift boxes from four items to four hundred. it was mesmerizing. 

9eeef082a0bfefe8b71ca0b40012975fone of the most very interesting food stuffs in the christmas catalog, though, was the yule log advertised year after year on the front or back covers, little raccoons peeking out of a chocolate log. a little holly with berries stuck on the edge, and slices with the telltale swiss roll look. every year i looked at that thing, and every year i wanted to buy it. it must have been outrageously expensive, or shipping was, because i never sprang for one. come to think of it, i think my parents may have purchased one thing from there one time – i remember getting something from swiss colony at one point, but it wasn’t frequent. (knowing my dad, it was probably cashews.)

fascination with the yule log (or, as the french say, buche de noël) has stuck with me since. thanks, swiss colony.

however, every christmas, my makes a red cake, and why have two cakes? don’t need it. so i just never made a buche de noël because there was already christmas cake. but this year, i stayed home, and i spent ALL DAY today making and putting together a yule log cake. FINALLY.


so started off with martha stewart’s recipe, and then kind of migrated over to bon appetit because it didn’t require mixing cake batter over a double boiler -_-

(THAT right there should set the tone on how tedious these things are).


the cake itself was even an ordeal: you need to separate the eggs and beat a meringue and then beat the yolks til light and fluffy. on top of that, you melt your chocolate with sugar to make a chocolate syrup and then add it to the yolks slowly (so you don’t cook the eggs) then fold in the meringue, then finally add your half cup of sugar and half cup of cocoa. good grief. anyway, spread that out into a jellyroll pan and it bakes just like that – 12 minutes.


i really should have taken a pic of the rolled cake. right after it’s out of the over, you flip it onto a dishtowel that’s been dusted with powdered sugar, and then roll it up IN THE TOWEL and let it cool. 

meanwhile, make your mousse…. round one i failed and threw it out. round two went a lot better. mousse involves melting chocolate and beating more separated eggs. oh, and homemade whipped cream. 

at this point, if you need to go to the store to get more chocolate chips and eggs and cream because you’ve just thrown out your first attempt at chocolate mousse, now’s a GREAT time. 

time to unroll the cake from the towel!


oohh noo.

well, spread the mousse on and attempt to roll it back up…



at this point, i was kind of crying inside, but i knew that everything tasted good, so it would at least be delicious. ok, i knew the MOUSSE tasted good. at least that would be yummy.

i set that out in the garage for about 3 hours in hopes that it would harden up enough to frost. then i made frosting, which i feel like should not be a big deal, but ended up being a big deal

for future reference: always just go with a cream cheese/butter/powdered sugar/nutella chocolate frosting. it’s just so much easier.

martha said “make a ganache and whip til the consistency of butter.” ok, martha. after whipping for 20 minutes, it was still the consistency of unwhipped cream. so i added butter and some powdered sugar and sort of rescued my frosting.

after rescuing the frosting, it was time to make my bark chunks, which was probably the easiest part of this whole mess. melt chocolate chips and spread into a thin layer on wax paper, then cool til it’s hard. break it up! easy peasy. and i didn’t screw it up.

then came the part i knew i couldn’t fail! meringue mushrooms! most people would balk at making these little guys, but not me! after years of macaron work, i knew how to deal with making meringue for baking. whipped up egg whites, poured in some boiling sugar water, then mixed in a little cocoa and vanilla. poured it into a piping bag and got to work making little mushrooms on parchment, which are pretty much the same as making little macarons on parchment.

the fun part was also making the stems, and since the meringue was stiffer than macaron batter, they stood up! 


and of course, the mushies took 2 hours to bake *eyeroll*. when they were done, all i did was put a little frosting on the stems and stuck them to the caps.

time to frost, place the bark, and set the mushrooms.

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i did use real pine needles, so those weren’t edible, but they sure do look nice! final step was to dust with powdered sugar and a little cocoa.

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now, there are no little raccoons. and i think i spent a solid 5 hours of work on this thing. but this tastes pretty good. i would use a vanilla mousse or cake next time – it’s so rich that it needs something to cut it. overall though? swiss colony ain’t got nothin’ on my buche.


i decided to donate to TPT (st. paul’s pbs station) in hopes that more money would encourage it to get the create channel on its airwaves. in the meantime, i have access to a bunch of aired shows, including the great british baking show! i watched season one on netflix a while back, and was instantly hooked.

the premise is simple: get a bunch of brits together for a bake-off, including a technical challenge where they have to read directions and use their know-how to create these arcane recipes, and every week someone is picked off. two judges: mary berry, who reminds you of that great-aunt who’s slightly on the saucy side but likes to wax eloquent about foods of yore, and paul hollywood, who’s harsher than mary but also better looking (when he compliments a baker you know that the baked good is top notch). add in a couple emcees in blazers who like to make bad puns and weird sexual references, and it’s a, ahem, recipe for success.

so with my newfound access to tpt’s archives, i watched season three over the past week, and just finished up the finale with the winner earlier tonight. i’ve never been so emotionally invested in reality tv! maybe it’s because the contestants really are just joe schmo next door and looks like they could be your neighbor who’s really good at baking cakes. maybe it’s because everyone is generally sad to see people go. there tends to be no drama between contestants (that we can see), and everyone’s just so dang happy for the winner. no hard feelings.

the person i was hoping would win won, and it was so emotional for that person as well – you could tell throughout the competition that it was hard to feel like s/he was actually good at baking. it ended with real pick-me-up words from the winner:  “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.”


as an aside, i’ve decided to stay home for christmas, and i’m going to make a buche de noël. and have a bonfire. 



today is foodblog. sorry for the lack of words!

  1. bacon made that galette SO MUCH BETTER. any future squash spinach galettes will include bacon. 

bacon  galette jane

so i spatchcocked the bird again, which reduces cooking time significantly i’ve never been able to capture the seasoning process of the turkey before, but liz was able to get some pics of jane scooping in the seasoning while i shoved it under the skin. spatched squash


mmm look at that bird! i think i forgot a step that would have flattened the breast out a little more, but that’s quite all right. it was pretty delicious as is! 

so it begins…

tonight i made real cranberry sauce from scratch! 

we never had cranberry from a can growing up; my uncle squire attended to the cranberry orange relish that was a staple on the thanksgiving table. and that relish* STAYED a staple for my entire 37 years…EXCEPT THIS YEAR. i’m changing it up.

sorry uncle squie 🙁

i went searching for a reasonable recipe to make cranberry sauce, and it turns out they’re all pretty reasonable. cranberries, juice, sugar. alton brown’s and the pioneer woman’s recipes were pretty similar, and they eschewed the refined sugar and went the natural route: honey and maple syrup, respectfully. 

i went with the pioneer woman’s recipe as i like the taste of maple syrup over honey, and i doubled it. 

it’s so simple, i can still remember it:

  • bag of cranberries
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1 cup syrup
  • orange zest
  • 3 tblsp orange juice (i put a little more than that)

(i also threw in a pinch of salt.)

so what we’re doing here, effectively, is making a cranberry JAM. bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. i then poured it into jam jars, and now they’re all sitting in my garage waiting for thursday, when it will be served cold. 

i’m hoping the stuff holds their jar shapes so we can make them jiggle.

(also, i might add, my new kitchen is MUCH more conducive to good food photography.)



(except when i can’t focus, apparently.)

*relish: throw cranberries and a whole orange into a food processor. blend. throw in a bowl and mix with a boatload of sugar. taste. probably add more sugar. serve cold. 

ATK’s squash galette

so i made this squash galette today from america’s test kitchen via lynne rosetto kasper (on twitter).

Copyright 2016 America's Test Kitchen (Daniel J. van Ackere)

Copyright 2016 America’s Test Kitchen (Daniel J. van Ackere)

and it was really time consuming. cubing squash is not my most favorite thing to do on the planet, that’s for sure.

but it was really yummy. and FILLING. omg. i don’t think it could ever replace just squash at a thanksgiving meal. it could be a nice appetizer, but the whole wheat crust really fills you up, and you’d have no room for dressing during t-day.

also, if you weren’t going vegetarian (this was vegetarian option for thanksgiving guests), this could definitely benefit from some pork product – sausage, bacon, something. 

i definitely would make this again, and i’m thinking about making just the filling for thanksgiving. throw some bacon in it, and it would be delish. or if there were a less filling way for it to get from table to mouth – a cracker, perhaps? i might make it for an appetizer. we’ll see what happens!

when life hands you pumpkins


i know it’s easier to just go buy a can of festal and use that for all your pumpkin baking needs, but let me tell you: making your own pumpkin puree to use in bars, breads, PIES, is probably the best thing you can do for your baked goods. want to actually taste PUMPKIN instead of all the spices? make fresh pumpkin puree.

firs off, plant some pie pumpkins in the spring. have a bumper crop due to all the rain. if that doesn’t work, your local food vendor should sell pie pumpkins.

cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, put them in a pan (glass or a jelly roll pan works – something with edgess), and bake them at 350 for an hour-hour and a half or so. until you poke a fork in them and it slides in easily.



look at that carmelization! anyway, let these cool for a bit, then scoop out the insides into a food processor and whip it up. scoop that mess into a colandar/sieve/strainer lined with a dishtowel. 

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let this sit overnight at least and drain all the liquid out. i am saving my pumpkin juice to make a festive drink!

put these in whatever container and stick them in the fridge for soon use and the freezer for use down the road (like in a month for thanksgiving).

let’s make a pie

following a bunch of chefs on twitter only results in one thing: me wanting to make a bunch of food. 

andrew zimmern (renowned travel channel chef AND minnesotan) posted his blueberry pie.


i used my own pie crust recipe, which is below. it’s the same one my mom used for pumpkin pies while i was growning up, except instead of crisco (transfats central), i use butter and sometimes lard if i have it. i also add a quarter cup of sugar for pies.


a couple notes on crust making: keep that butter cold. i’ve tried making it in a food processor, and nothing beats just getting in there with your hands. 


cover up that bad boy and throw it in the fridge while you do the rest of your pie making. crust is easier to handle if it’s chilled. 


the recipe calls for 5 cups of blueberries, but i used SIX. such a rebel.

it also calls for cardamom, which i actually had. i did have to grind it up though, which is easily done in a coffee grinder. not just for coffee! use it for grinding spices AND your poppyseed. it also called for orange zest. this should be tasty! i did add some nutmeg too, which AZ did NOT call for. i hope it turns out ok.



time for the crust! let me tell you, the best thing i did was get a dough scraper. that thing is the bomb for helping roll out pie crusts. 

blueberry-pie06once it’s rolled up on your pin, you just roll it back out over your pie plate. SO EASY. i feel like i should go back in time and tell my mom before she used store-bought crusts. 


throw in those blueberries. 6 cups certainly fit.  


lattices look like a huge pain, but they’re just a little tedious. pro-tip: after rolling out your dough, use a pizza cutter to cut the strips. this is also helpful for cutting all different kinds of dough. no sticking, no jagged edges. 


and in the oven to cook! AZ’s pie had this fancy edging, but i cheated and just used a fork to tamp everything down.

aw yiisss.

blueberry pie
Serves 8
mmm mmm blueberry pie
Write a review
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr 15 min
Crust for 2 9-inch crusts
  1. 2 c. flour
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 1 c. fat (butter, lard, crisco)
  4. 1/4 c. sugar
  5. Cold water til dough comes together (1/4-1/3 c.)
For the pie
  1. 6 c. blueberries (3 pints)
  2. 1/4 c. cornstarch
  3. 3/4 c. sugar
  4. 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (optional)
  5. 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  6. 1/4 tsp. salt
  7. 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  1. Mix flour and salt together. Add cubed, cold butter chunks or other fat. Use fingers to mix and crumble together. Add water gradually until dough comes together. Bring dough together and cover - you can flatten it in a disk shape and wrap in plastic wrap or just cover the dough ball. Put in fridge while you deal with the berries.
  1. Mix the cornstarch, cardamom, sugar, salt, orange zest, and optional nutmeg together. Add to blueberries in a large bowl and mix it all together. Set aside and grab the dough.
  2. Set your oven: 400º
Put it together
  1. grease your pie plate. cut the dough in half and roll out half on a floured surface, flipping at first to make sure it doesn't stick. put it in the plate. throw those berries in. roll the rest of the dough out and cut off the jagged edges with your pizza cutter. cut into strips - 10-12 at least. lattice the strips by laying strips one way across the pie, then pulling them back alternating to insert the strips the opposite way. cut off the excess dough and make sure edges are all cohesive by using a fork on the edges or other method. time for the oven!
To bake
  1. bake at 400º for 30 mins, the drop temp to 350º for another 45-60 minutes til filling is thickened and bubbly.
Adapted from andrew zimmern
Adapted from andrew zimmern
Life in the Cheese Drawer http://katerrific.com/

the worst

today i made bohemakuchen filling for this saturday, which is kuchen baking day. i’ve made poppyseed for the past couple years, and so i made some apricot (amazing!) and almond for when i make my own batch (and i can bake them how i want.)

anyway, i was reminded of the worst kuchen experience i’ve ever had.

the year i lived with my grandma, i got access to her stores of many baked goods in her basement freezer. pies, cookies, brownies, and even some kuchen leftover from easter! so i said, grandma! why haven’t you eaten this kuchen yet? oh, she forgot it was there. i could have it. 

so i did – i took a couple to work with me one day, had one for dessert another day, until all that was left was an apricot and a poppyseed. you can tell which has what filling by looking at the sides – if they’re darker, then poppyseed. if you’re grandma, you slyly stick your thumb in the side to check it out and inconspicuously put it back if it’s not what you want.

poppyseed is my favorite – it’s delish. 

so here i had the last two of the season and i was super excited. i warmed them up in the microwave at work, relishing the apricot, saving the best for last. 

i bit into the poppyseed – IT WAS PRUNE.

cookie time is here!

the little-known song in charlie brown christmas, of course, is “cookietime is here”. 

this weekend was cookie baking time! i actually started last weekend with my macarons (they’re better aged) and baked a couple batches of cookies throughout the week. charlie came this weekend and hung out, and helped out with a couple of the cookies (like the double-batch of molasses ginger that he requested).


IMG_1438i tried something new this year (well a couple things). instead of using my boring, dry peanut butter batter for my blossoms that i always do, i looked up with america’s test kitchen had to say on peanut butter cookies. it looked a little more fancy than my other recipe, so i decided to give it a go.

i made the ATK peanut butter cookie recipe and stuck a chocolate star in the cookies and called it good. i don’t mind it, and it’s decent! i’m not a huge fan of just peanut butter cookies, so this is good news. sorta point, ATK??

also during the week i made my eggnog snickerdoodle cookies, which, along with the molasses ginger, are my favorite cookie of the season. 


and of course i had to make these dumb, tedious things because not only are they my dad’s favorite cookie, but they’re nate’s as well. good grief.


they’re pretty to look at, but man they take a lot of time.

new this year! i decided to try making spritzes. i needed a cookie press for this, so i managed to get to tjmaxx friday on my way home from work and pick on up. on the plus side, i can also use it for piping frosting, and the container is a lot bigger than my other frosting piping apparatus. after a couple failed attempts at the press, i had to sit down and watch a youtube tutorial on how to use it. huzzah! who knew i needed to click it twice to get it to stick. 



and i tried to make rosettes again this year. i don’t know if it’s my irons, the batter recipe, or what, but i do not like the way they turn out. they’re still good; you can’t go wrong with deep-friend batter covered in powdered sugar. they just look weird, and i wonder what i’m doing wrong. 



mmmmmm balls of deliciousness….

i also made some chocolate candies in silicon molds and some covered nuts and my peanut butter krispy balls. every year i try to make fewer cookies, and it seems like every year i add more cookies on. might be time to do a culling. at least i give a lot of them away. there’s something to be said for at least not eating all of them by myself like i used to!