Baking During The Holidays

There are few things as depressing as having to work on Christmas eve and Christmas day, but as the private chef for a family, I typically end up doing both and this year was no exception. In addition, I also had to cook for visiting extended family members, and come up with some projects to keep the kids busy, as they were going stir crazy trapped inside due to non-stop rain. So needless to say, it's been a busy week for me.

Thankfully, I was able to turn to my fellow bloggers for some great ideas, and even better recipes, and these really helped make my week a lot easier. My first task, early on in the week, was to bake and build gingerbread houses, something I had never done before. I searched the Internet for ideas and came across very good recipes and thorough instructions from Simply Recipes. Everything from making the dough, to cutting out and baking the pieces, to making the royal icing, or the glue that holds the houses together, was included in the instructions. As a result, my first attempt at edible house building was a smashing success and the project managed to keep the kids busy for hours.

Then came the cookie decorating. My first bit of inspiration came from the blog, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which gave wonderful decorating tips as well as easy recipes for royal icing and flood icing, something I never even knew about before this. After the cookies and icing were made, I checked out a few other sites for ideas, with two of my favorites being Bake at 350 and One Tough Cookie. While I had a hard time convincing the kids not to glob on the frosting and sprinkles, I managed to exercise some restraint, and came up with some really lovely cookies.

My favorite discovery of the week, however, was a recipe I found for Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie on the Smitten Kitchen blog. While I'm typically no fan of sweet potato pie (to me it just tastes like a dense, pumpkin pie, and is a travesty of mush and over-spicing in my book) this one has definitely changed my mind. The key is the wonderfully flaky butter crust and the addition of buttermilk which both lightens the filling as well as adding a much needed tangy kick. Even the youngest of the picky kids was pleading for second helpings of that bad boy.

All in all, the week was exhausting, but making so many people happy and managing a few new discoveries along the way, always makes weeks like this a bit more tolerable.

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