It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

Champers countdown for New Years

As traditional as Champagne is traditional for New Year's, it's nice to mix it up now and then with a few champers-based cocktails. My favorite affordable bubbly is Chandon Blanc de Noir, a Napa Valley California sparkling wine made by the French house Moet et Chandon.

[Copyright 2015 Jorj Bauer, Marsha Wirtel, all rights reserved]

  1. Kir Royale: This classic was my first champagne cocktail, and remains a favorite. Creme de cassis, bubbles.
  2. Kathleen: Limoncello and bubbles. Very refreshing.
  3. Elderflower: A bit of Elderflower syrup topped by bubbles. Have you noticed a theme here?
  4. Aperol Sprizz: Aperol and then bubbles on top. If you prefer a drier champagne, this will balance any sweetness.
  5. Champagne cocktail: Drop a cube of sugar at the bottom a flute, drop with Angostura bitters, top with bubbles, stir to dissolve sugar.
  6. Blini: Peach juice or juice blend, top with bubbles.
  7. Black Velvet: Stout beer and bubbles.
  8. Jade: From my friend Jack Persico. Shake 1/4 oz blue curacao, 1/4 oz Midori, 1/4 oz lime juice, dash of Angostura bitters over ice. Pour into flute, then top with bubbles.
  9. Chicago cocktail: Brandy, triple sec, bitters, bubbles.
  10. French 75: This is our current house favorite and what I'll serve this New Year's Eve. It's is slightly more complex: gin, lemon, sugar syrup, shake with ice, then bubbles on top.
Happy New Year!

Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking and The Culinary Institute of America Baking and Pastry

My final go-to volumes for basic cakes are two textbooks from Le Cordon Bleu and The Culinary Institute of America given to me by my aunt-by-marriage, food writer Anne Mendelson. Both focus on basic technique and recipes &emdash; building blocks &emdash; rather than a specific dessert. Meant to be used in a retail or commercial bakery, the yields are usually triple a home recipe (six dozen cupcakes or six nine-inch cake layers). Very useful for wedding cakes, and other situations calling for insane amounts of cake.

Interestingly enough, they don't have the same recipes. From Gisslen's book, I bake the spice cake and angel food cake. From the CIA cookbook, I bake the lemon chiffon cake, creme anglaise, German buttercream, and cream cheese icing (which is equal weights of cream cheese and butter, and less powdered sugar). I refer to both for basic research when I need a new cake or sweet yeast bread recipe; they provide me with good ideas and point me in the direction to go.

From these basic recipes, both show how to build ever-more complex pastries up to architectural wonders.

If you don't want or need six dozen cupcakes (or you need twelve dozen, or four fifteen-inch layers), Professional Baking has a chart of how much batter to use for any size layer. Both teach scaling (how to increase and decrease a recipe for more or fewer servings) and basic recipe ratios. The also cover most baking ingredients, from all-purpose flour through lychees, and equipment from measuring spoons through steam-injection ovens.

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