I’m just going to come out and say this: I love Martha Stewart and I always have.  I was the kind of nerdy kid who woke up at 8am Sunday mornings to watch her first half-hour show.  I wish I were kidding about that.  And so does my mother, or at least she did, because every year I would beg her to make my most absurd Martha Christmas fantasies.  She’s a smart lady; she said no.

I, however, indulge my unrealistic culinary whims.  So what better way to kick off this blog than to cook from that 90s treasure: Martha Stewart’s Christmas?

This book is about 100 pages of Christmas splendor.  The classiest Connecticut holiday party you’ve ever seen.  Recipes for Christmas breakfast, puddings, cookies, cakes, potpourri and other crafts.  And it’s really so beautiful.  The images are warm and pretty, just like Christmas should be.  Really, I recommend it.


So I decided on a party.  A date was set.  A Facebook invite was created.  A menu was finalized.  I would dazzle everyone, like Martha, with the following:

Savory

Gougères

Spinach dip

Ham roll ups, in the Michigan style

Sweet

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

Jewel Cookies

Scotch Shortbread

To Drink

Spiked Hot Cocoa

Egg Nog

The gougères, or cheese puffs, you see above are a Jacques Pepin recipe that I got at Smitten Kitchen.  I made them three (3!) times this Christmas and let me tell you, this is a good recipe.  Pretty hard to go wrong with cheese and bread though.

Jewel Cookies are a long standing family tradition.  I started making them for Christmas at around 12 years old, when I started futzing in the kitchen.  They were sloppier then, lopsided and burnt around the edges but still good.  That should tell you what a great recipe this is.  This year’s batch came out great.  I’m quite proud of them.

Do you like spiced chocolate?  I’m such a fan.  Those chocolate cookies down there, they have cracked pepper in them!  I used Valrhona chocolate powder for this recipe and they were so rich. I’m really happy I went with the good stuff, the Valrhona added a lot of depth.  Pepper in chocolate isn’t for everyone but I found this recipe has just the right amount.  These cookies are a little different, but I didn’t get any complaints.

But it wasn’t all good.  There were some serious fails, and to be honest, they weren’t really my fault.  For one, the scotch shortbread was not only unappetizing, it was inedible.  I followed the recipe to a T and it came out pale and floury.  That recipe is one to scratch.  I’m not even going to show you a picture.

And the gingerbread mansion…sigh…  When I tell you I’ve been waiting 20 years to make this project, I really have been waiting 20 years.  I’m not going to go into details; the images will tell the story.

This is Martha’s mansion:

This is mine:

More like a gingerbread crackhouse.  The end.

There’s more though!  You thought this was just a food blog.  You were wrong.  There are crafts in this book and I made some of them.  I made this wreath for this party.

On the way out, guests were given muslin sachets filled with maple almonds and craisins.   A little nourishment for a long, cold, tipsy walk home.

Don’t you wish I was your Mom?

Chocolate Pepper Cookies, slightly adapted

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) room temperature butter

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and beat until fluffy.  Sift together the dry ingredients.  Add to the butter mixture and beat until well mixed; if dough seems too soft, add up to 1/4 cup more flour.  Shape into a flattened round, wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a well-floured board, roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick. (It’s best to divide and roll out a quarter or third of the dough at a time, leaving the remainder in the refrigerator.)  Cut dough into shapes and set 1 to 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until crisp; do not allow to darken.  Cool on racks.

Jewel Cookies, slightly adapted

Makes 3 1/2 dozen

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) room temperature unsalted butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs, separated

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 cups finely chopped pecans

1 cup thick raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt, then the flour.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.

Brush each dough ball with beaten egg white and then roll in the chopped pecans and place 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheets.  Press the center of each ball with your thumb and fill with 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until just golden around the edges.  Cool on rack.

Egg Nog, slightly adapted

Serves 50

24 eggs, separated

2 cups granulated sugar

2 quarts whole milk

2 cups Bourbon

1 cup cognac

2 quarts heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

Beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy.  Add the whole milk, the Bourbon, and the cognac.  Stir well.

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