I’ve loaded my pantry with flour and sugar, and my fridge is bursting with 10 pounds of butter. Let the holiday baking begin!
I always put together cookie boxes, swapping in different kinds year after year. For this holiday season, Yewande Komolafe made things easier for us by creating a stunning cookie box with six distinct varieties — all based on one melt-in-the-mouth dough that can be made ahead. She’s brilliant!
There’s a classic shortbread, edged in sparkly sugar; a peppermint marshmallow dome (above); a chocolaty tile with ginger, citrus and sesame; crumble-topped strawberry jam bars with cardamom; and salted caramel and peanut butter mounds. There’s even something savory, just to keep people on their toes — Cheddar crisps with chives.
The most important cookie box ingredient, Yewande writes, is variety, and she’s got you covered.
Now, I adore a delightfully squidgy slice of Caribbean black cake and have devoured more than my share of cakes with fruit in them. Yet in all my cake-loving life, I’ve never tried a traditional Christmas fruitcake. It’s so reviled in our culture that no one has ever offered me one — and I never thought to ask.
Claire Saffitz is out to change this. In her latest piece for the Times, she gives fruitcake a well-deserved makeover. (There’s also a terrific YouTube video.) Her smart, streamlined version replaces the usual cloying candied fruit and peel with rum-soaked dried fruit and,freshly grated citrus zest, and the plastering of royal icing gets swapped for a judicious dose of almond paste. It can be ready to serve in just 24 hours, as opposed to needing weeks of booze basting and aging. I’m going to try the recipe next weekend. Won’t you join me?
Before that though, there’s a week’s worth of dinners to consider. If you’re thinking chicken, I love the look of Ham El-Waylly’s new recipe for Brazilian chicken stroganoff, made from tomatoes and heavy cream instead of the more American version with mushrooms and sour cream. The best part of Ham’s, though, might be the crunchy potato stick garnish. For a meatless iteration, Hetty McKinnon has a crème fraîche-spiked mushroom stroganoff.
Also with mushrooms (and also by Hetty) is a chile-flecked, cottage cheese-strewn pasta doused with lemon. Yewande also has a recipe for mushroom yassa, a vegan take on a Senegalese dish usually made with meat or fish. Her version, which adds caramelized onions and eggplant alongside the mushrooms, is spiked with chile, bay leaf and ginger.
You’ll need a subscription for the recipes. If you have friends or family who haven’t yet subscribed, consider a gift subscription for them for the holidays this year. It will delight them and support us in one fell swoop. You can also check us out on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, where Rōze Traore gives a concise and very helpful lesson in egg poaching. And I’m here at [email protected], happy to read your notes.
Let’s get back to traditional fruitcake. The French don’t go in for it much at Christmastime, preferring instead a festive bûche de Noël. (Dorie Greenspan has a gingerbread version that is terrific.) If, like me, you get a little giddy around French cakes, take a look at Aleksandra Crapanzano’s new book, “Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes.” My copy has so many sticky notes that I can barely close it.
Or maybe you’re more interested in fruit minus the cake? Don’t miss Ligaya Mishan on the eggplant emoji and the erotic symbolism of fruit. (Naturally, you already know that the eggplant is botanically a fruit. But did you know it is in fact also a berry?)
I’ll see you on Wednesday.