The Sweetest Crumb

Archive of ‘Christmas Cookie Traditions’ category

My Long Absence and Big News

For a long time I dreamed about going to pastry school in France, but this far-fetched dream was always buried in the back of my mind by far more rational, responsible thoughts. Finishing my practical Bachelor of Commerce degree and going on to obtain my Chartered Accountant designation has occupied my mind for the last 5 years or so. These goals have since become accomplishments and while I am proud of these achievements, I was exhausted from a job that I found unfulfilling. I was left feeling unsatisfied both personally and professionally. I was over worked and so stressed that my career started taking a toll on both my health and relationships. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point I decided that I should no longer be at a job where each day I struggled to force myself to get out of bed. While it became clear that this type of work was just not right for me at this point in my life, I left my firm with the utmost respect for my peers and mentors, and haven’t closed the door on returning to professional accounting later in life.

I simply decided that I needed a change for my own well-being, if nothing else. I was terrified to make a huge, potentially life-altering change. But one day, perhaps during a bout of insanity, I decided to apply to FERRANDI l’École Française de Gastronomie for their Intensive Professional Program in French Pastry. FERRANDI is one of the leading pâtisserie schools in France with a reputation that makes it more than a little intimidating. Also, did I mention it is situated right in the middle of Paris? The professional French pastry program involves pastry schooling for 5 months, followed by a 3-6 month internship in Paris. I applied not knowing whether or not I would get in, nor knowing if I was brave enough to actually go if I was in fact accepted.

A few months after applying, I received confirmation of my enrolment. After talking it over with those closest to me, I decided to take the plunge. Sean was able to join me for my year in Paris, working in a field where working remotely is often possible. Slowly we started checking off to do’s: applying for visas, booking our apartment and buying our flights. By Christmas I had left my job and by the end of January we were officially living in Paris. The craziness of relocating halfway across the world left me too busy to post, but I am hoping to have more regular blog posts from here on out (including more updates on the challenges of moving and how our first weeks in Paris have been.)

Before I get into talking about my first few magical weeks at FERRANDI, I just wanted to quickly recap some projects from my last few months in Canada. The annual cookie baking tradition with my bestie went off without a hitch once again. Here are some of the cookies our week-long baking spree yielded:

Also, for Christmas my nephew asked for a lollipop. Refusing to purchase some store-bought, preservative-filled candy, I decided to make my own. We’re all pretty focused on natural foods in my household, so I wanted to make my lollipops as natural as possible. I knew that this could be a challenge. I didn’t want to use corn syrup and I wanted natural flavouring. I used agave syrup and raw cane sugar as sweeteners and organic grape juice for flavouring. Sadly, my first shot didn’t go so well. While the lollipops looked and tasted great once they were removed from the moulds, overnight they became gummy and this is what happened:

I quickly learned that agave is mostly fructose, which absorbs moisture quickly (hygroscopic). This makes your lollipops gummy and saggy as opposed to hard and shiny. To achieve the perfect lollipops, a mixture of fructose and glucose should be used. For my second attempt, I scrapped the agave and cane sugar, and instead used a mixture of granulated sugar and glucose purchased from a local specialty baking supply shop. These lollipops turned out perfect and were a hit with the kids.

Having finally figured out the right sugars to use, I decided to play around with a few “adult” flavours. Inspired by Sprinkle Bakes, I made red wine lollipops and sriracha lollipops. I substituted the glucose I already on hand for the corn syrup. I thought both flavours were fantastic, but, be warned, the sriracha candy is definitely something you either love or hate ;)

Have a good week, guys! And stay tuned for a post on my first weeks at FERRANDI.

The Baking Tradition Continues

Our finished Christmas baking from a few years ago

Hello everyone!

I am getting so excited for Christmas (even though I have none of my shopping done). What could be better than spending time with the people you love, eating delicious foods and enjoying time outside in the snow (I love it when it snows those big fluffy snowflakes!). More than anything though, what makes me feel that Christmas is around the corner is baking with my best friend.

We have a tradition (for over 10 years now) of doing an insane amount of baking just before Christmas. We bake for about 5 full days, from about 8am until 11pm non-stop. There have been times where we’ve actually stayed up past 2am baking and decorating cookies. We book days off from work months in advance, have a huge ingredient list and a strict cookie baking schedule. We make about 25 different kinds of cookies, spend another day arranging plates of cookies and then hand them out to our closest friends. We love handing out the cookies and seeing how happy they make people. So that’s what I spent the majority of last week doing.

I had a great time picking up our ingredients at Superstore where I cleaned out their supply of butter and bonded with a stranger over the rising costs of butter!

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2012 Christmas Cookie Guide

Here is this year’s collection of Christmas cookies! Make sure you read about my annual baking tradition if you haven’t already. I will be posting recipes for these soon.

Brown Sugar Stamp Cookies
Chocolate Cherry Pockets
Chocolate Hazelnut Thins
Gingerbread Christmas Trees
Double Chocolate Biscotti with Ginger and Walnuts
Double Vanilla Meringues
Eggnog Thumbprints
Espresso Doilies
Yuletide Ginger Cookies
Gingerbread Houses
Lemon Glitter Balls
Lemon Window Panes
Chocolate Orange Macaroons
Matcha Green Tea Shortbread
Maple Leaf Cookies
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Spice Mice
Orange Cardamom Madeleines
Star of David Hazelnut Cookies
Swiss Walnut Cookies
Vanilla Sandwich Cookies with Ganache