I turned thirty at the end of January. I meant to throw a birthday party/housewarming at our new place on the 23rd, but alas, Jonas! So, we rescheduled for the 30th.
I salvaged what I could from that first Saturday’s cooking–although we still have two-pounds of prosciutto in the fridge, God help us–and decided to cater bits and pieces to fill in the rest of the menu for the following weekend.
Below, a compilation of what I served, but also what I originally planned to serve, to aid in planning your next winter party, plus some tips and notes:
- – a big batch of Vanilla Rooibos Apple-Rum Punch, for which I froze a bundt pan-ring of tea and cider to slowly melt into the punch throughout the night. I switched out some of the booze for Rouge Hazelnut Spice Rum, because I found it in the liquor store, and thought it looked appropriate for the dead of winter. [The punch hibernated nicely in the freezer for a week, and I thought of turning the leftovers into granita.]
- – a samovar of sweet, boozy hot chocolate: Move 10.5 oz (300 grams/3 standard chocolate bars) 70% cocoa dark chocolate to a food processor; pulse for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 3/4 cup powdered milk, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt to the processor; pulse another 20 seconds. Using a spatula, scrape the chocolate mix into a large pot. [Note: I scraped the chocolate mix into a tupperware, where it waited patiently for a week, until the following Saturday.] Pour in 2 gallons milk (obviously whole milk will be most delicious, but you can also use a lesser fat milk, coconut milk, or nut milk). Heat over medium, whisking occasionally. Pour in a bottle of creme de cocoa and half a bottle of dark rum. When the hot chocolate is just steaming, pour into a heatproof vessel for serving. (Or, simply keep the hot chocolate on lowest heat and let people serve themselves.)
- – fill a spare bathtub with bags and bags–we went through 10–of ice–or snow, if available. Nestle in beer, wine, Champagne, juice, soft drinks. Hard liquor can go into your regular freezer.
Small Bites: Scatter bowls and plates around the apartment, so there won’t be a pile up of people.
- – a collection of fancy olives
- – a big platter of seasonal crudités with chive and sour cream dip
- – cheese straw bites from Breads Bakery
- – halved, dried figs + a ribbon of prosciutto + mozzarella + basil + honey
- – a diverse cheese plate with hazelnut-apricot crackers, dried apricots, candied pecans
- – pizza spiced nuts
- – mini assorted quiche from Bread’s (Mediterranean: Eggplant, Roasted Pepper, Goat Cheese; Goat Cheese: Onion, Gouda, Onion, and Leek; Caramelized Onion and Leek; Mushroom: Mushroom, Onion, and Gouda)
- – avocado salad cups (avocado, tomato, goat cheese, cream cheese) from Bread’s
- – smoked salmon and cream cheese cups (cream cheese, smoked salmon, micro greens, capers) from Bread’s
- – a sheet of Saltie focaccia, halved, filled with sandwich fixings: a thick smear of cannellini bean puree (1 can un-gooped beans, warmed in a pan with 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons minced rosemary, 6 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt for 5 minutes, cooked until falling apart. Can be done up to 1 day ahead, although it’s good served a bit warm) + flash pickled vegetables (thinly sliced fennel, chioggia beets, watermelon radish, and golden raisins; allowed to sit in a solution of rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns) + Comté + prosciutto. Cut the focaccia into small, bite-sized mini sandwiches.
- – jambon-beurre, because I love them: baguette + best quality jambon de paris + emmental + a generous quantity of salted butter + spicy French mustard +cornichons.
- – burrata and Olive Tapenade Crostini
- – pulled pork from the best BBQ joint in NYC + mini potato buns + Dijon mustard + chopped marinated peppers. [The pulled pork, packed into tupperware with a layer of Hometown’s BBQ sauce and a pour of chicken stock, also managed well in the freezer for a week.]
- – sandwiches from Saltie
Dough: I bought some pie dough from Trader Jo’s, and made a collection of galettes:
- – cheddar, gouda, caramelized onion, butter-sautéed mushrooms, bacon, corn
- – butternut squash puree, goat cheese, caramelized onion, corn
- – beef and cheddar sausage, caramelized onions and leeks, gouda
- – roasted cauliflower, pickled sultanas, hot honey, leeks, tomato jam, cheese curds
- – Dufour hors-d’oeuvres: Mushroom Truffle Risotto + Four Cheese and Roasted Garlic
- – this very hazelnut cake
- – because Amelia made it look delicious and easy, Ruth Reichl’s New York Cheesecake
- – crème Patisserie/fruit tartlets from Bread’s
- – cupcakes from Magnolia
- – mexican wedding cookies from Cocoa Bakery
- – brownies
This cake recipe comes from Ripe, a book I turn to constantly. I’ve made this particular recipe at least a dozen times–it’s the cake I make when I want to impress. It’s super moist, even after a few days on the counter. It’s also wonderfully toasty and, well, hazelnut-y–rich, deep, dark, and fortifying. It’s what I imagine I’d make regularly if I lived winters in Scandinavia in a design magazine photo spread.
The results look, and taste, highly sophisticated; they’re equally great for a dinner party, or with coffee and tea. Best part–it’s a one bowl recipe, especially if you toast the hazelnuts a day or two in advance.
The ingredient list is very short, but I know there are several unfamiliar items. You can find golden baker’s sugar and light muscovado sugar online, or in finer supermarkets; however I’ve replaced them with white sugar + light brown sugar to good effect. It’s easy to find self-rising flour at the market, but if you don’t want to bother, here’s how to make your own for this recipe: 1/2 cup AP flour + 1/8 teaspoon salt + 1/2 heaping teaspoon baking powder. If you don’t have espresso, just use the last pour of that morning’s coffee. (I also like to use cold brew coffee, as it packs such a flavor punch.) Serves 8 to 12.
- about 2 cups (7 oz/ 200 grams) hazelnuts
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (250 grams), at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) golden baker’s sugar
- 3/4 cup (125 grams) loosely packed light muscovado sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons espresso
- Turn the oven to 350F/175F. Spread the hazelnut across a baking sheet, and toast for 10 to 12 minutes. (No more or they will burn.) Allow the nuts to cool for 10 minutes. If they have skins, remove them now. (I use the ‘roll between a dish towel’ method, although this boiling method has promise.) Use the heel of a large mug to crush the hazelnuts: you want some small crumbly pieces, some finer dust. (You can do this step up to 1 day ahead.)
- Using an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat together the butter with both sugars, until the sugars dissolve and the mix is the color of milky coffee. This will take longer than usual, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lower the oven temperature to 325F/160C and grease a 9-inch springform pan.
- Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl, and then add them in three small pours to the butter/sugar mix, incorporating each pour before you add more egg. (If the batter separates a bit on the last egg, don’t worry about it; keep mixing.) Fold in the crushed hazelnuts. Mix in the flour on low speed, just until fully incorporated. Spatula the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. (If the cake looks very dark at the 30 minute mark, cover the top gently with foil for the last bit of baking.) Out of the oven, allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan to let it cool completely.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the powdered sugar and the espresso, until you have a thick glaze. Once the cake is completely cooled, pour the glaze over the cake, and let it set.