Snowflake Sugar Cookies

It's Christmastime!!!!!!

Well, technically it's still November 30th but that's close enough for me. I am batshit crazy over Christmas, even though it is the busiest time of the year for me in terms of my job as a pastry cook. So, I kinda hate Christmas 'cause it means 12 hour days every day, but I also love it so so so much because, well, it's CHRISTMAS!!

I made Christmas snowflake sugar cookies (and gingerbread cookies) last year but this year I have upped my game! I bought new snowflake cutters back in March and have been absolutely itching to use them ever since. You'd think that buying snowflake cookie cutters in March would mean they're cheaper, right? Nope. Still cost me $40 for 4 cutters. But I neeeeeed them.

So this is the first post that will kick off the Christmas posts. All the posts from now until Christmas will be Christmas posts! Last year, I managed to do two posts per week but I am telling you right now that I am not doing that this year. I don't know how I managed to get the time to do that last year 'cause this year, I'm barely able to get the one-a-week out. I want to do two per week, I really do, but it ain't happening. 

If these cookies look super intimidating - don't freak out!! They're actually really easy, especially if you use sanding sugar like I did. With sanding sugar, it makes everything look way better. If you're lines are a bit crooked or your dots are a bit lumpy, it just gets covered in sparkly sugar and it looks great! And the designs can be completely made up, like mine are. I just did some basic lines and then added some more lines and then some dots without really planning ahead. 

So get your decorations out, put on the Christmas music, and start making your Christmas cookies!

Snowflake Sugar Cookies 

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
112 g icing sugar
1 g salt
5 g vanilla extract
50 g eggs
250 g all-purpose flour
20 g cornstarch

Royal Icing

400 g icing sugar
50 g egg whites

Sanding sugar and silver dragées for decorating

For the cookies, cream the butter, salt, and icing sugar together on medium speed in an electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until a homogenous mass is obtained, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer, add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix for a few seconds on low speed until the eggs are completely incorporated.

Stop the mixer, add the sifted flour and cornstarch, and mix for a few seconds, pulsing the mixer at first to keep the flour in the bowl. Mix just to obtain a homogenous mixture. 

Shape the dough into a flat square and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

For the royal icing, combine the icing sugar and egg whites in the bowl on an electric mixer. Beat with a paddle for a few minutes. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with the smallest circular tip you have.

Preheat the oven 325 F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit out for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or 2 silpats to 5mm thick and cut out your desired shapes. Remove the surrounding dough, leaving the cookies on the parchment or silpat. Gently slide the parchment or silpat onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes. 

Bake the cookies until lightly golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes, depending on the size of your shapes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Pipe your desired designs onto the cookie using the royal icing. While it is still wet, place the cookie icing-side down in a shallow container of sanding sugar. Shake the container a little, take the cookie out, and brush off any sugar the has stuck to the cookie (sugar granules with mess you up when piping later). Pipe any additional designs.  If you want to put on a dragee, do so while the icing is still wet. Let everything dry completely.

Vanilla Bean Caramels

Just a quick little post because it's Christmas Eve and I am exhausted after a veeery long day! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone, I hope you get to spend some time with your loved ones and can enjoy a bit of down time! I'll be taking a week or two off from blogging to catch my breath from work and get refreshed for another year of baking! 

Vanilla Bean Caramels

125 g heavy cream
55 g honey
260 g granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
15 g unsalted butter
2 g fleur de sel

Combine the heavy cream, honey, and sugar in a large saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the cream mixture. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then increase to high, stirring constantly to prevent the bottom from burning.

Cook the mixture to 124 C (255 F), then remove from heat and add the butter. Wait for the bubble to subside and then carefully pour into 1 inch diameter demi sphere molds or a baking pan lined with greased parchment paper.

Let the caramels cool and set for several hours. For easier wrapping, the caramels can be refrigerated until firm. They will be harder and less chewy but will go back to soft and chewy at room temperature.

Cranberry Sage Pie

I'm going to tell you right now that I haven't worked with fresh cranberries until now. Only frozen or dried. Crazy, right? I can't really remember seeing fresh cranberries in store when I was younger but I think that's because cranberries were not on my radar. Around Christmas time here in Canada (and around Thanksgiving in the States), bags of fresh cranberries are everywhere. I must not have been very attentive as a kid.

I've already used cranberries in a couple posts this Christmas season (these macarons and this tart) but those both used frozen, although you could totally use fresh. But this recipe is aaaalll about the fresh cranberries.

You might think, "Woah, hey now, cranberry and sage sound pretty...savoury. What's goin' on here?". But let me assure you, this is a sweet pie. The sage just adds a little herby note at the end while the cranberries take center stage in all their tart glory. A little hint of warm spices in there, a bit of apple to cut the tartness of the berries, and a good amount of white and brown sugar to make sure you're not making that sour face. You know, the "eyebrows raised, squinty eyes, and puckered lips" face. 

I just made that face right now while trying to describe it.

I really do love pies. They're simple and rustic, but just so darn delicious that they need no fancy-ing up. I like making refined and fancy desserts, I really do. But sometimes I love making a good ol' pie that embodies warm fires and blankets and Christmas music. And that's what this is. 

It's also a lovely coincidence that cranberries and sage are wonderfully natural Christmas colours. That's enough reason to make this pie. 

So make this pie, get the kettle on, and get cozy. It's going to be a good time.

Cranberry Sage Pie

Pie Crust

350 g pastry flour
100 g all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
226 g unsalted butter, freezer cold, cut into 1/2 inch dice
60 g vegetable shortening, freezer cold, cut into 1/2 inch dice
114 g water, ice cold
2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Recipe adapted from Food52

1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
115 g granulated sugar
100 g light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
700 g fresh or frozen cranberries
1 small apple 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg

Eggwash and coarse sugar for finishing

For the pie crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in an electric mixer. Add the cold butter and shortening and mix on low speed until the mixture look shaggy and the pieces of butter are slightly smaller than peas. Stop the mixer and check the size of the butter, sifting through the mixture with your hands. If you find bigger chunks, smear them between your fingers.

Put the ice-cold water and vinegar into a measuring cup and stir to combine. Add the water-vinegar  to the flour-fat mixture on low speed and mix briefly with a few rotations of the paddle, but do not let the dough come together.

Turn off the mixture and scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer to make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients. Squeeze a small amount of dough in your hand. The dough should come together in a clump. If it’s too dry, add a little more water a few teaspoons at a time. 

Remove the dough from the mixer, shape into two flat circles, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Unwrap one disk of dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8th inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie tin and gently press the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough to a 3/4th to 1 inch overhang. 

If you wish to make a lattice top, take out the second disk of dough from the fridge. Roll the disk out in a roughly rectangular shape to a thickness of 1/8th inch. Using a ruler, cut 8 strips of dough, each about 1 inch wide. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge.

Chill the dough-lined pie tin while you make the filling.

For the filling, combine the sage, both sugars, salt, cornstarch, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Use a food processor to roughly chop 350 g of the cranberries. Add them to a large bowl along with the whole cranberries. Using a box grater, shred the apple and add to the cranberries. 

Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit and toss to coat the berries and apple evenly. 

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the vanilla extract. Add to the berry mixture and stir to combine. Transfer the filling to the pie crust and create the lattice or your desired crust top. Chill for 15 minutes.

Carefully brush the pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sugar.

Position a rack in the lower third of your oven. Place it on a baking sheet on the rack and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pie to a rack in the center of your oven and bake for a further 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack until cooled completely, about 2 hours. Serve at room temperature or reheat in a 350 F oven for a few minutes.

Mint Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

Only a few more days until Christmas!!! I have to admit, it really snuck up on me. I know, I know, I was getting ready for Christmas months ago and have been going gung-ho on Christmas recipes since December 1st, but suddenly it's right here! Right in my face, saying "Hey, are you ready? Here I come, ready or not!".

Despite all my Christmas recipes, my decorations, and my tree, I don't know if I'm actually ready for Christmas...

There's a very good reason for why I'm not ready and I've mentioned in a few times in previous posts and I hope I'm not sounding too whiny - but I'm working like cah-raaazy. Every day is a 12 hour work day. Well, sometimes it's not - yesterday was 14 hours. 

So please forgive me because I barely have enough time to microwave leftover mac and cheese and get 6 hours of sleep before I'm off to work again. It's hard to work in Christmas cheer when I'm eating leftovers in a tupperware container over the sink. So glamourous. 

 But Christmas is coming whether Im ready for it or not, so I better get my head in the game. 

If you're feeling a little bit like me or maybe it just doesn't feel like Christmas yet, try out these tarts. They might help. A crisp and buttery crust, a silky dark chocolate custard, topped with a cute little dome of peppermint white chocolate crémeux, and sprinkled with crunchy caramelized cocoa nibs to give a little hint of bitterness to contrast all that sweet. I think I checked all the boxes with this dessert... creamy, crunchy, sweet, bitter, chocolatey. 

Mint Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

Sablé Dough 
Recipe adapted from Elements of Dessert

145 g all-purpose flour
350 g cake flour
240 g butter, at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean
3.5 g salt
180 g icing sugar
35 g almond flour
100 g eggs

Dark Chocolate Custard
Recipe from Cook with Jamie

242 g heavy cream
106 g whole milk
20 g sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
177 g good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten

White Chocolate Peppermint Crémeux

40 g egg yolks
166 g heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean
73 g white chocolate, finely chopped
2 g peppermint extract
1 gelatin sheet, bloomed

Caramelized Cocoa Nibs

35 g sugar
10 g water
100 g cocoa nibs

For the sablé, sift the all-purpose and cake flour together.

Cream the butter, salt, icing sugar, and almond flour together on medium speed in an electric mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mix. Mix until a homogenous mass is obtained, about 2 minutes.

Stop the mixer, add the eggs and mix for a few seconds on low speed until the eggs are completely incorporated.

Stop the mixer, add the sifted flours, and mix for a few seconds, pulsing the mixer at first to keep the flour in the bowl. Mix just to obtain a homogenous mixture. 

Shape the dough into a flat square and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven 325 F.

Roll out the dough to 3mm, then chill again until slightly firm. Line your tart shell by placing a piece of dough on top of each mold. Gently push the dough in with your fingertips until it conforms to the shape of the mold. Make sure that the dough is lined up with the mold. There will be some that protrudes from the rim of the mold. Do not cut it yet. Freeze the tart(s) until the dough hardens.

Once the dough is hard, use a paring knife to trim the excess off the top of the molds. 

Dock the dough with a fork and line with parchment paper and baking weights/dried beans/rice. If the dough is still frozen, bake it; otherwise re-freeze it. Bake until dry, but has not developed colour yet, about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and baking weights form the tart and bake for a further 5 to 7 minutes, until the tarts are very lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling, combine the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pot and heat over medium heat.

Scald the milk mixture, remove from heat, and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate has melted and cooled slightly. Add the egg and whisk again to incorporated. Transfer to a pitcher or similar vessel.

Place your tart shells in the oven and pull the rack out slightly. Carefully pour the chocolate mixture into your shells and slide the rack back in place, making sure not to spill the filling. 

Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until there is a slight jiggle in the middle of the custard. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the white chocolate crémeux, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until slightly paler in colour. Place the white chocolate in a large bowl.

Once the cream mixture has just come to a boil, pour a small amount into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Pour the remaining cream into the yolks, then return to the saucepan. Over medium-low heat and stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, cook the anglaise until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. 

Strain with a fine mesh sieve into the bowl with the white chocolate. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then slowly stir to melt the chocolate and emulsify. Add the peppermint extract. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and add to the mixture, stirring to dissolve. Place over an ice bath and cool to room temperature.

Place a 2.75 inch diameter demi sphere silicone mold on a baking sheet. Pour 40 g of white chocolate cremeux into the silicone molds (they will not be full) and freeze until completely frozen.

For the caramelized cocoa nibs, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over low heat, then increase the heat to high. Once the mixture has reached 116 C, add the cocoa nibs and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula. Continue to cook until the sugar caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Spread the cocoa nibs into a baking sheet lined with a silpat and let cool completely. Break up any large clumps of cocoa nibs and reserve in an airtight container.

To assemble, unmold a demi sphere and place it on the chocolate tart. Let the demi sphere thaw in fridge for about 30 minutes. In the space between the edge of the demi sphere and the tart shell, sprinkle caramelized cocoa nibs.

Cranberry & White Chocolate Macarons

I love Christmas. This is nothing new and I'm sure you've already come to that conclusion based on the many Christmas recipes that I've put up since the beginning of December. I love the decorations and the twinkling lights and even the music. But I love it for reasons more meaningful than shiny baubles. 

My boyfriend is not so much into Christmas (poor guy). It's pretty understandable seeing that his whole family is in another continent and he hasn't spent a Christmas with them in about a decade. He's turned a little bitter about a holiday that most people get to spend with their family when he doesn't get to. Like a modern day Grinch. I told him this, but he doesn't know who or what the Grinch is (?!?!). If I wasn't working 12 hours a day right now, I'd sit him down and make him watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. 

The other day, I was talking about how much I loved Christmas. He asked me why.

I gave him the usual answer - pretty lights, cute decorations, happy music. But he didn't really get my excitement. I started to really think about what exactly it is about Christmas that I love so much.

I love giving gifts. I love searching out the perfect gift for someone. I look forward to seeing their reaction upon opening their gift more than I look forward to getting any gifts. I get such delight in thinking of something that someone would just love - and not just "Oh, he likes food so I'll get him this random cookbook that I think I would like." You have to put more thought into it than that. It shows when you do. 

I explained that to my boyfriend and he started to understand it a little more. Truthfully, the more I explained it, the more I realized it. 

When I give a really thoughtful and heartfelt gift to someone, they smile. They smile a genuine smile of love and appreciation and gratitude. That's what I love - seeing that person realize that someone really cares about them, that they are someone very special to me.

Christmas isn't about buying useless crap and spending tons of money. It's hard to realize that because everywhere you look, you're bombarded with ads and commercials telling you that

if you really care about the one you love

, you'll buy them this necklace/gaming system/sweater/whatever. 

It's really hard to resist that because you think to yourself, "Well, I really do love them. If I don't get that, does that mean I don't really love them? Will they think that I don't love them?". We're led to believe that the more money we spend on someone, the more we love them. That's totally not true. 

The best gifts I've ever received have cost nothing. Gifts like a handmade card or a heartfelt poem - the ones that take effort and thought and feeling, not just money.

One Christmas several years ago, I was tight on money, so I wrote my parents each a letter for Christmas. My brother made fun of me for being so cheap. My dad shed a little tear when he read his. To this day, he still has that letter that I wrote him. I doubt that any of the books that I've given him made the same impact.

Ah, I'm getting all serious and sentimental here. The point I'm trying to get across is that you need to realize that Christmas isn't about


, it's about expressing love. The two are not the same. It's tough to stay afloat in the sea of "buy this!" and "buy that!", but it can be done and when you see that genuine smile from someone, you'll know what I'm talking about.

No one really needs more


in their life. But everyone could use a little more love in their life. 

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more..."

Cranberry and White Chocolate Macarons

White Chocolate French Buttercream

Recipe adapted from 

Bouchon Bakery

38 g granulated sugar #1

38 g granulated sugar #2

63 g egg yolks

75 g whole milk

250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature

125 g white chocolate, chopped finely

Cranberry Puree

200 g fresh or frozen cranberries

75 g vanilla sugar

10 g maple syrup

1/2 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick

Vanilla Macarons

Recipe adapted from 

Bouchon Bakery

212 g almond flour/meal

212 g powdered sugar

82 g egg whites

90 g egg whites

1/2 vanilla bean

236 g granulated sugar

158 g water

First, make the 


. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.

Place the white chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk the sugar #1 and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the milk and sugar #2 in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove 

the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer with the white chocolate in it. Let it sit for 30 seconds and then slowly stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is emulsified. Fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.

Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.

For the

cranberry puree

, combine the cranberries, sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the saucepan along with the pod. Heat over medium-low heat until the cranberries pop, about 7 to 9 minutes. Let the  mixture cool completely. Remove the cinnamon stick and the vanilla bean pod. Puree the cranberries with an immersion blender or a regular blender until smooth. Transfer to a container and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent it from drying out.

Start on the 


. The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a glass or bowl, trace the desired size of your macaroons (I used a 1.5 inch diameter for these). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.

Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.

When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and 

the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.

Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.

Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.

Pipe the remaining macaron mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Transfer the cranberry puree to a pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with cranberry puree. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.

The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.