The holidays are always such a wonderful time, full of family and good food and festivities and fun, but it always seems as if they come and go in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe Christmas is already over! And New Years only 2 days away?! I found this year, as my first year in the real adult world, that it was hard to get into the Christmas spirit working my day job and having only one day off to get home to my family. Somehow, though, we still managed to have a wonderful time eating and drinking and quite literally being merry. I have a fantastic family.
One of the reasons they’re fantastic is that they all love to eat too! Maybe not quite in the same capacity as I do, but I have a peculiar appetite (read: excessive). When I got home late on Christmas eve eve, my dad laid out the entire Christmas dinner menu for me, a menu he’d had a large part in planning with my mom, and I swear he smiled the entire time he was telling me. It was fun to see him so excited! They’d left the dessert course up to me, which was easily decided when my mom suggested a family favorite: Mocha Torte. (The photos are from night time, and this particular tart was a bit messy, but you get the idea! It’s actually a beautiful dessert if sliced and plated properly 🙂 )
Now in my family, we have a long standing tradition, which somehow slipped my mind in the process of picking the Mocha Torte as our Christmas dessert. My late uncle used to make Julia Child’s Perfect Chocolate Mousse every year. He passed a few years ago, and since it has been my responsibility to recreate the masterpiece each Christmas eve, whipping the egg whites and heavy cream ONLY by hand, for that’s the only way it was acceptable in his mind. So late on Christmas eve, after church but before dinner, it finally occurred to us all that I hadn’t made it. So back to the kitchen I went and lovingly put the mousse together. As a child, it daunted me, but I was always so intrigued by the end result — something so incredibly divine I couldn’t even summon the words to describe it. But having grown up watching the careful process of it’s creation, the process of whipping and folding has become natural to me, and I love it. My uncle lived in New York City, so Christmas was one of only a handful of times we got to be together during the year, and so it’s important to us all to keep his memory alive. He’d be happy to know he’s living still in the form of his beloved airy chocolate mousse.
Aside from the Christmas desserts, I tried my hand at a few other holiday treats, including sugar cookies and ginger molasses chews. I wanted to bring something in for my colleagues, so it only seemed natural to bake something. The sugar cookies were surprisingly delicious — I’m not a big fan of sugar cookies in general, but these ones were slightly chewy, buttery and delicious! I attempted to decorate with royal icing for the first time, and while the results were certainly fine, I’ve got a lot to work on for next year!
The ginger molasses “chews” were more like “crunches” because they seemed to be a bit over-baked. I put them in for the amount of time called for on the recipe, but they were deceiving — they came out fluffy and soft, but got firm really fast. The flavor was still quite good, and I ended up really liking them despite my usual preference for all things chewy. The course raw sugar on the outside was a nice touch.
I’m not going to include the recipes and instructions because you’d be reading for days, but please visit the links below to get them!
Ginger Molasses Cookies from So Good & Tasty
Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies from Brown Eyed Baker (I also found royal icing piping instructions there that I used as well)
Layered Mocha Torte from Epicurious (this one’s an oldie but a goodie, and it’s deceivingly simple)
Julia Child’s Perfect Chocolate Mousse Maybe my favorite recipe in the entire world, and a surefire way to impress absolutely ANYONE (my uncle’s tip: use grand marnier instead of rum! I concur, SO good.)
And a recipe I’d mentioned earlier for Cheesecake Candy Bar Brownies from Recipe Girl. Never photographed these guys, but try to envision in year head what cheesecake brownies look like, candy pieces swirled in all over. YUM! I used a bunch of different candy bars, and omitted the nuts. The cheesecake layer got a bit too hard for my liking a day or two after they were baked, but overall they were pretty good. The candy bar bites were definitely the best!
As if that’s not enough, just TWO more recipes for you that I made a few weeks back — trust me, you do NOT want to miss these ones!
Mini Turtle Cheesecakes from Fake Ginger: these were a HUGE HIT, I changed a few things about the recipe, but they still came out incredibly well, and they’re beautiful little things. There was some caramel sauce left over that my brother used in his coffee for days afterwards, and since he’s been begging me to make him more!
Mini Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream: I actually used the Pioneer Woman Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe for the cupcakes because I’ve made it before and it’s absolutely fabulous, and just added some instant coffee to it. So good! I used Brown Eyed Baker’s Espresso Buttercream, which was also quite delicious.
I’m currently working on going back through old posts and updating them, as I’ve changed how I lay out posts since I first started this blog almost a year ago! This is all in an effort to streamline my blog for the day when I get back into it for real, and maybe even try to make something of it! I have some exciting news coming soon, can’t spill the beans just yet, but stay tuned for that in the next week or so!
Until then, with love, and sugar… and a very Happy New Year!