Alas Christmas is a couple of weeks away…Vancouver had once again come to life from the dreary doldrums of fall as evident by the wonderful array of dancing illumination of lights in hues of reds, yellows, greens and oranges. They sparkled like gems adorning every Christmas Tree in the city while the smell of fresh crisp pine filled the air. A sight to see and experience as Christmas songs chimed throughout the malls, ice skaters glided gleefully along the ice at Robson, carolers caroling happily as trumpets played at the Christmas Market and the wonderful aroma of cinnamon lingered from in the gingerbread houses at the Hyatt hotel. Mmmmmm… A special time of year as everyone seemed to be in a joyous and giving mood…well that was what it seemed. Christmas always brought out the best in everyone perhaps its just the season of joy, peace and happiness. For me as it would signify family gatherings with cousins, aunts and friends alike spreading the cheer. My house filled with aromas of baked goodies.
I am volunteering at the Christmas Market this year. I don’t know…perhaps it was the promise of hope peace and cheer that attracted me as I got to see the joy in peoples faces as they sang along with the carolers; a sight that was rarely seen. Christmas was my favourite time of year. The festivities, but most importantly it was the snow. It was very peaceful watching the delicate fluffy flakes slowly, softly float down onto the icy pavement and blanketed the city transforming it into a winter wonderland; add the beauty of the twinkling gem like holiday lights, music…wow. As a child, I have always loved strolling in at night in the winter wonderland listening to the snow softly crunching below my feet…actually I still do. Couple of more weeks until the exact date December 25 and still more to explore 🙂
As usual, Christmas was the time my oven was on OT, baking me goodies. This year, there was a birthday and required me to do a cake. I wanted to make it more special by adding on pulled sugar as a topping amongst the usual raspberries. Spun sugar or pulled sugar reflected light and adds complexity in appearance to the dessert. As mentioned before, baking in many ways is an expression of me as I could manipulate texture, taste, colours and appearance hence bringing out my creative side. Unlike most cheesecakes which were dense, the cheesecake I made was a german cheesecake with extra tang from the sour cherry :). I don’t like heavy artery clogging and diabetes inducing desserts thus decided on a lighter cheesecake.
Next came a chocolate hazelnut tart. I was perusing through the baking section at Chapters in look for new books to add to my collection and fell upon a lovely book by Thomas Kellar called, Bouchon Bakery. What striked me from flipping through the pages was that although some recipes were quite technical, the book itself was quite detailed. Photos of the baked goods are exemplary and made it easy for the reader to follow. Like the Pierre Herme book I bought last year, I fell in love with the book. I have already tried 2 recipes and in good timing. I really liked the Chocolate Praline Tart which itself resembled hedgehog chocolate as it contained a hazelnut layer and a dark chocolate ganache layer. To add texture and crunch feuilletine was added. Overall, I quite liked the tart as it was light and rich in chocolate and hazelnut.
Chocolate Praline and Cocoa Nib Tart
Hazelnut-Almond Praline Pase 144 grams( I roasted and grounded my hazelnuts instead)
40% Milk Chocolate 15 grams (I had already used nougat-made of roasted hazelnuts and chocolate)
Cocoa Butter 12.5 grams
Feuilletine 60 grams
Skinned toasted hazelnuts 37 grams
Granulated Sugar 75 grams
Unsalted butter 62 grams
light corn syrup 25 grams
Whole Milk 21 grams
Cocoa Nibs 37 grams
Cocoa Power sifted 7 grams
64% chocolate 200 grams ( I just used dark chocolate, Callebaut)
Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
Trimoline Sugar 14 grams
Glucose 12 grams-***I did not use either trimoline or glucose-instead I used honey as a substitute
Unsalted butter 14 grams
Note: The purpose of trimoline and glucose was to make the ganache smoother, but if you don’t have that honey will do fine.