Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Hijinks

With the holidays looming near, I have decided to take some time away from my usual daily toils to savor the finer things in life... like updating this page and making preparations for the gloriously gluttonous feast that is Christmas.

As is customary at the Pantry, Christmas is a time to experiment with new recipes and like the mad but generous kitchen scientist I fancy myself to be, distribute the results to my loved ones, for better or worse, wrapped in shiny ribbon. While I've had my share of successes, my family and friends have endured some ... shall we say, near misses. For instance, I recall the candy making incident of 2004 - I'd just had my wisdom teeth taken out (and all of my wisdom apparently) when I tried to make some rather tricky hand made chocolates while doped up on Percocet with a mouth stuffed with gauze. While by some miracle, the truffles turned out, the cherry cordials (read: the golden fleece of candy making) didn't and resulted in one giant sugar cube, a broken wooden spoon, a vat of cherries that had been steeped in rum for 3 months and one very frustrated (and drunk from boozy cherries) girl. Most recently was the Great Jamaican Christmas Cake Debacle of 2005 - as a child, I'd watched my uncle carefully sprinkling his renowned Christmas Cakes with a good portion of rum every week until they were deemed 'just right' - but my combination of enthusiasm, procrastination and love of rum resulted in quite the opposite. As my grandmother tells it, all the rum had melted the marzipan/fondant icing during shipping and turned my poor little cakes into a sort of squishy pudding floating in a very tasty but considerably gooey soup by the time Christmas rolled around. Thank goodness I shipped them in air tight containers!

This year, given my increasingly busy schedule, I've decided to scale down my efforts and try my hand at something a little simpler - fudge. While the candy making skills are similar to those required for fondant (I've not given up hope on the cordials!) they're not nearly as labour intensive... and much easier when you've f**d-up as much as I have and finally learned to properly calibrate a candy thermometer. In typical Pantagruelia fashion, I perilously improvised the recipes (before tasting them, of course) and I think I've come away with a few successes that I thought I'd share.

Drum roll please:

Ta da!

I made four kinds of fudge this year and all of the batches seem to have turned out (except the first which is now a Christmas present for the critters in the composter). Starting from the top left: coconut cream (just like the pie!); basic chocolate (in case the others flopped), crunchy peanut butter (all the filling without the requisite waxy chocolate cups) and a very rummy version of Rum and Raisin (yes, I am fond of the boozy deserts). If you've been on my christmas list in the past and have suffered through the soupy cakes and rock hard sugar cookies I thank you for your patience and assure you that it is safe to open your gifts this year.

Wishing you all a delectable Holiday Season!

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