Already, today's list is looking distressingly long. Half my Christmas cards not sent yet, gifts not wrapped, house a mess. Isn't this what we're supposed to say at Christmas? Cliché moans of "Not enough time!" or "Christmas comes earlier every year!" All that's true, but, in spite of the break-in, I feel a little Christmas spirit sneaking in. I'm even making cranberry cognac trifle again, if you can believe it.
A few years ago, I stopped purchasing gifts for family and friends. Children are the exception--for some reason, they don't get excited about chutney or spiced nuts. Everybody else gets things from the kitchen. Always granola, and this year, some combination of lemon curd, cranberry vanilla jam, or these crisps.
Have you seen these crisps in bakeries or at nice grocery stores? They're so expensive! Generally around $10 for a small package whose ingredients cost $2. I love them, but never buy them. Brie or chevre are absolutely transformed atop these little things--they make crackers seem pretty darn boring. I know I've been using an inordinate amount of dried fruits and nuts lately. It's the season. So much fresh stuff is out of season, so I dig into the pantry.
Since you're probably reading this much too late for more Christmas baking, I think these make wonderful New Year's treats or hostess gifts for that wild party you're going to. (Our wild New Years always consists of holing up at Bethany and Chris' house in Bellingham and consuming egregious amounts of cheese.)
In Praise of Leftovers is going silent for several days since things in my offline life will be busy. But I feel all sentimental signing off this time. This is my first Christmas as a blogger, and I feel my community has expanded. Thank you for your part in that. And if I could digitally cry, I'd be crying as I tell you how generous, kind, and present everyone has been to us since the break-in. Daily, envelopes have arrived for Wyatt with money to restart his piggy bank, and his eyes get wider each time. For all of us, it's a tangible reminder that we are loved. I feel so sad (and yes, still mad!) for the person that was here in the dark, stealing cheese and chicken and spare change. That's desperate. Wherever s/he is, I hope their envelopes start coming in the mail soon, too. Merry Christmas, friends.
Fig Walnut Crisps
Have I directed you to Seven Spoons yet? It's one of my daily reads. I remember, right when I was starting my blog, I'd read Tara's with my jaw on the floor. So beautiful! And so beautifully written! I still feel that way about it. The only thing I changed from her recipe was adding some coarse sugar and salt to the tops of these loaves and baking them in mini pans instead of full ones.
softened butter for greasing pans, or nonstick spray
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup coarsely-chopped dried figs
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed meal or whole flax seed, bashed in a mortar and pestle or pulsed in a spice grinder
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tb. coarse sugar
1 tsp. grey salt or flake salt
Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease 4 mini loaf pans, or spray with a nonstick spray.
Spread the walnuts and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes until fragrant but without much color. Remove from the baking sheet and into a bowl, then set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir until combined. Add the reserved nuts and remaining ingredients and stir until just blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Top loaves with a sprinkling of coarse sugar and flake salt. Bake until golden and puffed, about 30 minutes. When touched, the loaves should spring back immediately. Turn the loaves out of their pans to cool completely, right side up, on a wire rack.
The bread is easiest to slice when fully-cooled. Leave the loaves to rest at room temperate for a few hours or, following do what I did and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, slice the loaves as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Heat to 300° F and bake them for about 12 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden. Cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.