Christmas Baking, Bah Humbug
Sometimes I want to go home just so I can bake again. For holidays past I used to bake things like this, or this
or even this.
Kitschy and adorable holiday baking. But the sad fact is that when you live next door to a bakery, and within easy walking distance of 14 other bakeries, it’s hard to justify baking at home. Oh, I still do, a little. I send Shel next door to ask for 10 grams of fresh yeast, or I make something that I can’t easily find already baked. But I seldom get my hands into dough, and it’s not often that the whole house smells of cinnamon.
For in truth, during this holiday season, what I’ve baked has looked more like this:
and I only did that to clean out the fruit bowl of things that needed using up.
But you know what? It turned out to make an inspired purée. So if you happen to have a couple of quince, a couple of potatoes, and a few sweet potatoes just taking up space on your counter, where you might otherwise be rolling and cutting out Christmas cookies, toss them all onto a baking sheet and bake them until the sticky juices run from the quince and sweet potatoes. When they’re cooled, peel everything and toss it all together in the food processor, then whiz it until it’s smooth. I added a good pinch of salt, and a quarter cup of maple syrup, because I finally found some and the flavor is so nostalgically wonderful, and that was a good choice too. The result was savory enough to eat as a side vegetable, and sweet enough for a light dessert or a breakfast treat.
It’s very good, but it’s not a cure for nostalgia. Everybody wants to go home for Christmas, and I’m no exception, even though there are snow and ice and power outages at home, whereas here it’s warm enough that I had a mosquito try to suck the root vegetable purée right out of me today, and we’ll have to hurry home with the mini bûche de Noël we’ll get from the bakery so the buttercream doesn’t melt.
I’ll be cooking, some kind of tournedos with foie gras for Christmas Day when it’ll be just the two of us, and for the day after, when we have guests, a capon stuffed with foie gras and cèpes, a rabbit and hare terrine, regular French holiday stuff like that. Nothing so exotic as a decorated star cookie shall cross my kitchen counter, not a crumb of gingerbread man will linger on my lips. If there are candy canes in France I’ve never seen one.
So if you’ve ever longed to be here instead of there, wished you were living my life instead of yours, remember what you have. You have home, with all its familiar holiday confusion, you have cranky family members for whom you can never find the right gift, you have Santas whose lap you can sit on if you dare, you have cookies you have to bake and a menu you’re not allowed to change because otherwise “it just wouldn’t be Christmas.” Or Chanukah. Or Kwaanza. You have home.
I miss all that. And right now I’d trade you 100 grams of foie gras, going for 98 Euros a kilo at my local butcher shop, for just one candy cane. Not that I have anything against foie gras, but candy canes? Now you’re talking Christmas.