Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gingerbread House and Christmas Memories

I remember my first memorable Christmas. Although I can't recall how old I was then, I remember exactly how it happened. There were presents, but only because my birthday falls on Christmas Day. Despite the fact that my parents are Catholic, Christmas to us was less about giving and receiving presents and more about church and getting together as a family. We would always go out to eat on Christmas Day, year after year, until it became a less than memorable routine.

But there was one particular Christmas from my childhood, the one I spent at my aunt's house, that I remember the most. My sister and I spent Christmas Eve night on the sofa-bed in the guest/recreational room, and when Christmas morning came my aunt brought us chocolate cookies and milk to have as breakfast. The TV was on, and I remembered being engrossed in watching this movie with my sister as we ate our chocolatey breakfast. I don't remember what happened afterward, and many of you may think that I am strange for remembering so vividly an occasion that was less than ordinary, but for a few hours that Christmas morning, I truly felt the spirit of Christmas.

The worst thing about that day was that for many years after, Christmas mornings never felt the same way anymore. But quite recently, I was lucky enough to experience the same feeling. It was early December this year, on a Saturday morning. My parents had flown in from Jakarta a few days before, and we were just about to sit down to have breakfast, when I switched on the TV and found a musical show on. It was a remake of Annie, an American classic that I've heard about but have never watched. And we sat down and watched it, as a family, even after breakfast has been cleared away. And it was the perfect Christmas for me, even at a few weeks before the 25th.

Now, to the gingerbread 'structure'. I initially meant to build an American Wild West General Store, complete with two stories, a porch and a signboard. However, things did not turn out as expected. Firstly, I did not have enough dough to make 2 levels, so I had to be content with one. And then, some of the pieces from the main building shrunk quite a bit after being rolled out, creating a structure that is too short for the porch I had cut out. So I decided to turn it into a fenced barn/shed, and hoped for the best. I didn't think it turned out too bad, although J thought it looked more like a Early Settlers-era jail.

Now, I promise to upload more photos of the gingerbread barn/shed over the next couple of days---it's been impossibly cloudy and slightly foggy today, and I just could not get the light I wanted for the photos.

Until next time, dear readers. But I will use this chance to express my gratitude and appreciation for your readership this past year. I know that I don't say it enough, but thank you all, sincerely, especially for being patient when my posts became more than a little bit scarce in the past months. I can't promise you that I will be able blog more next year, especially since I intend to expand my business and hopefully secure some wholesale accounts. But I can promise you that I will be here, no matter how sporadic, how brief, or how late I am with my posts. And I'm hoping that you'll stick around.

Have a Merry Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

Yours sincerely,


The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes. Thanks Y and Anna, for picking a fabulous challenge! I've always wanted to make another gingerbread house after my first not-so-good attempt.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cherries at the Farmers' Market

I went to the Farmer's Market today, and look what I found. When the farmer's markets are full of cherries and apricots and peaches and nectarines, I know that summer is truly here. I think I'll go once more before Christmas, to the Slow Food Twilight Farmer's Market, held at this beautiful former convent.

Perhaps I'll see you there?

On a side note, this was what I had planned as the Treehouse Christmas Gift Box. I initially planned it to be a special-order thing which I will then mail out closer to Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn't get it out to the market in time to get orders. Ah, well, at least the idea will last me until next Christmas. And do you like the postcard? I LOVE it! Big thanks to my friend and graphic designer Tiffany who created and printed the design in a matter of 2 days---that on top of her already large workload of being a full-time graphic designer. Isn't she awesome?

And the cherries? Plump, juicy, and so fresh that their firm skins yield just slightly when you bite into them, before exploding into a sweet-tart medley of flavours in your mouth. My parents, whenever they come to Australia in the summer, would always bring a box back home to give to the relatives. Since these ones are the best I've had so far, my only wish was that they had stayed long enough to bring a box home, straight from the farmers who've grown them. They would've liked these ones.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

November's Daring Bakers Challenge---Cannoli

So....if you happen to be a Daring Baker who happens to peruse the DB forum quite a bit, you would know that I completed my challenge early this month. Whaa..? Hang on, am I not the incorrigible procrastinator that you knew me to be? I am, actually. But not on Cannoli month.

I actually made, assmbled, and photographed my cannoli a few days before the deadline, and if you have access to the DB forum and take a look at the 'Share Completed Challenges' section for November, you can see my version of Cannoli right there, along with an explanation which states that I will be switching internet providers around the time of the posting date, and will therefore be posting late due to the interruption of internet connectivity.

The above is partly true. I was telling the truth when I said that I was switching providers, but no when I said that there was interruption. Because believe it or not, the transition was smoother than I expected, in spite of a few glitches along the way. Now that my internet speed is brought up to this century, I can hopefully take the time I used to spend twiddling my fingers in front of the computer waiting for the pages to load up, and turn it productive blogging hours. I don't even need to take a magazine with me anymore to the computer---this is great!!
I decided to bake my cannoli this month because baked cannoli = less time cleaning up. And I HATE oil stains. I mean, I can't suffer as little as a drop on anything in the kitchen. I'm sure deep frying them is the way to go, and as much as I love anything battered and deep-fried, I am not yet willing to subject my entire kitchen surface to a thin coating of cooking oil.

But moving on to the business at hand...the cannoli...I wanted something light and easy to eat to combat the November heatwave in Melbourne. As I did not have time to plan this dessert very well, I took a look inside my fridge and found, among other things, a half-tub of sheep's milk yogurt and some tinned peaches. Wait now, what? Ah, the shame. Yes, ladies and gentlemen readers of my blog, I eat tinned peaches. But please do not judge me. What are you to do when you are faced with an incessant and insistent craving for peaches, went to the market and bough a couple, only to find, hopes dashed and love lost, that the peaches are sour and tasteless. Blame it on the early season, or blame it on commercial growers who sacrificed taste for mass production, or even blame my local farmers' markets for not having it in stock yet.

But it was good. A hint of tangy sweetness from the yogurt mousse, the delectable taste of sweet peaches, and the crunch of the thin sheets of cannoli, layered into something resembling, but not quite, a millefeuille.

I enjoyed every last bit of it.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.