Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is That You Santa Claus? : Thomas Kellers Shortbread

I love the holiday season. I believe my mom and grandma are responsible for this as they were always so good about making Christmas something extra special. For me, as a child, Christmas eve was particularly exciting in our little Norwegian household. We opened our gifts from each other on Christmas eve, the only ones under the tree in the morning were the ones that Santa had snuck in and left while we slept. Each christmas eve my mother and I would finish our day by preparing for Santa an assortment of freshly baked cookies, a tall cold glass of milk, a note from me to him, and a few carrot sticks for the reindeer. I remember waking up Christmas morning, and unlike most kids, I ran to the check the cookie plate before ripping open any presents. And year after year, without fail, only crumbs remained on the plate, half the milk was gone, the carrots had been nibbled, and Santa left me a thank you note in return. I remember marveling at the teeth marks in the carrots, wondering which reindeer had left them there. This remains one of my favorite memories. So each year when the holiday season rolls around I do my best, in my own way, to keep that memory alive. 

Cookies, no matter the variety, shape, color, or texture, seem to be the ultimate holiday symbol. In honor of that, this week I went cookie crazy. It was my attempt to make the most of this Christmas season. One of my favorite baking sessions came straight off the pages of Thomas Kellers Ad Hoc at Home - I made both his chocolate and vanilla shortbreads. 

Both recipes are oh so simple and quite tasty. I have to say I preferred the chocolate (even though it was so soft it fell to pieces, unlike most traditional shortbreads) it's perfectly rich and chocolatey. Before baking I topped my cookies with large chunks of sanding sugar mixed with a bit of fleur de sel, so that each soft cookie bite was followed by a serious sweet and salty crunch. Both shortbreads got a bit of fun garnish. The vanilla cookies took a little white chocolate dip, then a roll in crushed pistachio and dried cranberry, while the chocolate was dipped in melted semisweet and dusted with coconut or white snow-like sprinkles. Along with that delicious granola, a few of each shortbread will be finding their way into my families stockings. 

While I may not leave a plate out for Santa or his reindeer pals any longer, I know he would've enjoyed these immensely. 

What are you leaving out for Santa & his reindeer?