Home For the Holidays, Baking of Course

It’s a good thing the economy doesn’t rely on the likes of me for any sort of stimulus spending this time of year.

If it did, there’d be no Black Friday or holiday spike in sales. Retailers would remain in the red. Our economy would sputter and quickly run out of steam.

I haven’t done any Christmas shopping at a mall in years. Malls scare me. There’s too many people, and too many choices. You know the fellow you saw there wandering aimlessly from store to store with a deer-in-the-headlights face?

That was me, and yes, I was holding a life size ceramic owl and 18-pack of herbal scented candles.

I may be a clueless shopper, but I’m not a half bad baker and, fortunately for those on my gift list, I’ve spent most of my adult life giving homemade gifts from the kitchen. This suits me fine since I’m a homebody at heart, and happiest when I’m in the kitchen. 

The No-More-Tears Pie Pastry Course

It’s always a pleasure to bake, even more so at the holidays when you’re not on deadline and there’s no editor breathing down your neck. I like to put on some Christmas music and get a pot of soup going, too.

Holiday Pecan Pie at The Pie Academy

It’s fun to imagine the glee with which your edible gifts will be received. Everyone loves a gift of food. It matters not that your edible gifts will be gone in short order; their memory will linger in the hearts and minds of your recipients long after the decorations have been put away.

Another thing I like about holiday baking is there’s no pressure to reinvent the wheel. Indeed, half the fun is visiting old family recipes you’ve made for years, recipes with a history and a story.

Recipes like the chocolate cookies you see above. I’ve called them by various names over the years – Bev’s Cookies, Chocolate Zebras – but they’re basically a brownie cookie with a soft, fudge-like center. They’re perennially popular: people I rarely hear from otherwise start calling in September or October and drop hints how much they love these.

Holiday Cheesecake at the Pie Academy

Cheesecake is another of my favorite holiday gifts to give, but frankly, if you’ve made my cheesecake list you have done something extraordinary to land there. (Imagine that I am the President-elect, and these are the real plums, the equivalent of ambassadorships or cabinet positions.) 

If that sounds boastful, it’s worth noting that I grew up in New Jersey, near a stretch of highway that could be considered the cheesecake capital of the country. The diners there served the absolute finest cheesecakes you’ll find anywhere, and the portions were only slightly smaller than those portable concrete highway dividers you see in construction zones. I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to make one just as good. 

As you’d expect, more than a few on my holiday gift list will get a pie; this year we mainly did chocolate-pecan, and in the 4-inch size because mini pies let you spread the love around in a cute and affordable package. Besides, some things – especially some sweet, rich things – are best appreciated in small packages. Better that you leave them wishing for more than overwhelming them with too much of a good thing.

Mini Pecan Pies at The Pie Academy

(Lots more to come about mini pies in 2017. I’ve been baking tons of them lately and I’m anxious to share what I’ve learned.)

So that’s how the week went around here. How about with you? Do you make any edible gifts? I’d love to hear your stories, so send me an email if you’d care to share.

Have a fabulous Christmas and holiday week, and I’ll see you back here soon.