Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Holiday Baking, Part the Second

For the last several years, we have held an annual holiday open house a few weeks before Christmas. I love the opportunity to see all (or at least a large portion) of our friends, as such opportunities are rare these days. I also love the large-scale effort of menu planning, shopping, baking, and cooking for the big event. We usually have about 60 people come through over a six-hour period, and over the years our menu planning has become more and more ambitious (because we need our heads examined).

The general division of labor is: Michael - savories; Me - sweets; Kids - tidying up and running coats up to the master bedroom. I try to start prepping a good month ahead, making buttercreams and fruit curds and anything freezable with lots of time to spare, leaving the last week for the last-minute assembly of the more perishable items. With the exception of his home-cured gravlax, most of Michael's to do list falls within the last few days before the party.

We strive for a good balance of savories and sweets, hot passed items and cold buffet items, vegetarian bites to offset the meaty bites, fruity sweets to offset the chocolate treats.

This year's menu was as follows:

Hot Apps

  • Lime marinated chicken skewers with avocado crema dip
  • Cocktail sausages with rosemary and honey
  • Savory bread puddings with basil cream
  • Caramelized onion & thyme tarts
  • Wild mushroom bouchees
  • Ham & Dijon croissants
  • Miniature meatballs

Cold Apps

  • Lemon-tortellini skewers with basil and sun dried tomatoes
  • Cognac-soaked apricots wrapped in prosciutto
  • Zucchini rolls with herbed goat cheese & roasted red pepper
  • Miniature Caesar salad croustades
  • Vegetable Sushi

Savory Buffet Nibblies

  • Home-cured gravlax with the trimmings
  • Hummus with homemade pita chips
  • Spiced nuts
  • Cheese board
  • Goat cheese terrine (layered with pesto and roasted red peppers)


  • Black & White meringue cookies
  • Triple ginger cookies
  • Ganache-topped coconut macaroons
  • Pistachio petits fours
  • Neopolitan minicakes
  • Lemon Charlotte
  • Chocolatine (mousse/dacquoise cake)
  • Lemon meringue tartlets
  • Sweet cheese puffs
  • Miniature apple tatin
  • Chocolate-dipped langues de chat
  • Pumpkin cranberry bundt cake

Due to the nature of the thing, I always end up with almost no pix of the savories -- by the time the passed hors d'oeuvres are coming out, I'm busy being a hostess and have put the camera away. But no matter how mad the dash to get into (and out of) a shower before the first guests arrive, I always manage to get some photos of the sweets, as least. Enjoy! I wish you all could have been here -- it was a terrific party. Thank god we have a year to recover before doing it again, as it nearly killed me this year. Next year we're hiring Help.


Bouchees, before and after baking

Croustades, shaping and baking

Tartlet shells

Sweet cheese puffs

Zucchini rolls with herbed goat cheese

Photo of Chocolatine (upper right)

Dacquoise for Chocolatine, ready to bake

Preparing to assemble the lemon charlotte: sponge cake, lemon curd, lemon soaking syrup, softened gelatin, candied lemon slices

Lining the mold with jam-joconde sandwich

Preparing the lemon mousse

Filling the sponge-cake-lined mold with lemon mousse


Vegetable sushi, langues de chats, macaroons & triple ginger cookies, pita chips

Michael's kick-ass gravlax

Langues de chats

The sweets table: Pumpkin-Cranberry Bundt at rear center

Neopolitan minicakes & lemon meringue tartlets

Pistachio petits fours & Black & White meringues


Lemon charlotte


BOSSY said...

It was hard for Bossy to concentrate after she read the word BUTTERCREAM, followed quickly by the word GRAVLOX, and Bossy is sorry but conceptually, does it really seem like such a bad idea to have those two things at the same time?

Anyway all this to say: it looked lovely. And complicated. Yet simple. And Bossy is so sorry she missed it.

Do you promise to have another food festival if Bossy promises not to have another Family Emergency?

RuthWells said...

You bet your boots, Bossy. Here's to no family emergencies for ANYONE in 2008 (we had our share in 2007, as well)!