On Christmas Eve we always open the stockings and have a few treats. Those were the ice cream cookies and peppermint and pomegranate bark. While the peppermint had a cooling flavor, the pomegranate tasted refreshing and altogether they both were a great addition. Next time, we've decided on adding crushed peppermint pieces mixed in the Rice Krispie-melted white chocolate mixture for even more flavor.
On a side note, Baker's Chocolate white chocolate is not white.
And here's the moment we've all been waiting for, the moment I really couldn't wait for, the panettone! I'd rate this recipe a 10 for ease of execution and producing a really good loaf that anyone can make. For this recipe, the flavor, texture, and moistness was nice.
The main difference, and why I'd rate it a 7 overall is that I felt that while the flavor and texture were good, it wasn't like the other one. It's really more of a preference, I suppose, but The Bread Book panettone tasted a little more buttery and a tad bit sweeter. I also should have macerated the dried fruit in heated orange juice before mixing them in, though thanks to the moistness of the dough they didn't come out dry at all. I cut the recipe in half and I also added a few more tablespoons of flour, and if I made this recipe again I wouldn't decrease the flavorings (lemon extract, vanilla -- I might decrease the vanilla, and lemon zest). Also, I'd add a bit of sugar on top of the honey. This recipe didn't produce as large as a loaf as The Bread Book's, but it was fine. Since I don't have the book on hand I can't compare total flour amounts and such to see if theirs had more or not, or if the other ingredients were increased. All I know is that it wasn't as slack of a dough.
The baking time was a bit different for me since I didn't bake the amount of dough the recipe said to. The full recipe yields 3 loaves; I halved it, like I said, and baked all of it in a large, greased coffee can. After the given baking time passed, I inserted an instant-read thermometer and it registered nowhere near 220° (which I think is the temperature cooked bread is supposed to be?) and came out with raw dough. I covered it with foil and let it bake about 20 minutes more before I lowered the temperature to 325° and went on a 1-mile run with my brother. Maybe I slightly overcooked it, but when I stuck the thermometer back it it read 200° so I took it out and let it cool in the can a while before I unmolded it.
For anyone new to the pannetone and is looking for a recipe to get them started, check out the recipe on the Artisan Bread in Five website.
Panettone and mini quiches for breakfast, along with hot spiced cider that is not pictured. I love cider, and multiple cups were consumed throughout the opening of gifts and dinner preparations.
All pies where made on Christmas Eve, I should mention. I had to fight for the pecan pie since I've never made one before and I had to convince a certain someone that I knew what I was doing although I've never done it before. This recipe came from Em over at Sugar Plum. My only change was to add brown sugar in place of granulated sugar as she did in a previous pecan pie recipe of hers. It really lives up to the title of "ultimate pecan pie". Brown butter enhances the flavors and it wasn't toothachingly sweet. I decided to use up some leftover pomegranate arils from the bark, though I should have added those closer to the end of baking time.
The recipe for cherry pie came from Baker's Illustrated cookbook. Unfortunately, I needed to add more cornstarch since I used frozen cherries, otherwise the flavor was really good.
I passed first test at pecan pie, I was told!
While I like this recipe for pie dough, I feel that I'm either a) looking for a different result, or b) I just need to devote as much time to pies as I have given to cakes. Quite possibly you can't expect 5-star results when the only time you really bake pies is during the holidays with maybe 1-2 times extra during the other 10 months.
The main course consisted of things I took pictures of that have not made it to my hard drive and thus have not been uploaded. They never will be. So here you see the meat, the pork loin stuffed with prunes. Don't let the sound of that turn you off, it really is delicious. The combination of whiskey- (it was supposed to be bourbon; we have this discussion on "all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey can be bourbon" the last year we made this, too) macerated prunes, the juices released from the sage-rubbed pork loin, the prune soaking liquid, the broth (holy cow, we almost ran out of broth so Mom quickly browned some seasoned turkey pieces, added a can of chicken broth and let it cook with garlic, onions, carrots, and celery and I just sat there slurping it up) all add up to equal parts deliciousness. Last year, I used leftover prunes (the ones that weren't used) in a different chicken dish and it was incredible. My mom saw the recipe last year, coming from Lidia Bastianich, and we felt it was so great that it needed to reappear on the dinner table. It cooks much quicker than a turkey, too, and much of the prep can be done ahead of time.
While Christmas concluded with unwrapped gifts and many eats consumed, Christmas stays with us by the reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas, the reason that helps us through times that are difficult because we are reminded to focus on what we will always have with us instead of what we weren't able to do or get. A fitting end to day was seeing snow flakes falling at night.