I’ll be honest: I’m having the tiniest bit of trouble wrapping my mind around the holidays this year. Thanksgiving came and went in a blur of sun and warm weather which is perhaps what’s doing it: last weekend I sat in Alamo Square Park with a smoothie and bare arms and the day before we walked along Crissy Field in the blazing sun (where I took that photo above). This is decidedly not wintry holiday weather, and makes me feel all turned around. Today at least is chilly and grey and while I miss the sun it feels more like what I’d expect this time of year to feel like. Holidayish. You know?
Still: here we are in the middle of December. We will pick up our wee tree tonight from a friend who cut it for us from his property in the Sierras. I will make hot chocolate and we’ll munch cookies and string sparkly lights and put on ornaments. Tomorrow is our holiday party and I have a day of baking ahead of me – one of the best kinds of days – just as soon as I get a cup of coffee and a few more supplies. Next week I’ll do a bit more baking and send out the holiday packages, Kurt and Emily arrive on Saturday, we go to Sebastopol soon after and whoooosh. January 1 will be here before I know it. As this is my last holiday season in California for awhile – sob! – I am trying to savor the moments even as they pass me by ever so quickly.
I was going to make a chocolate cream pie as part of my ‘sweets buffet’ that will be on the table tomorrow, but I’ve decided to go with mini Guinness chocolate cake cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream instead – I want things that are bite-sized and easy to consume. Not that this pie isn’t easy to consume – it is, actually, and quite dangerously so.
I have been making a version of this for years, often around the holidays. As I’ve been consumed with all things flourless of late, I adapted it for an NPR article that probably will run next week; I wanted to share it here now, because it’s that time year: to make decadent sweets, to celebrate together, to gather ’round, hopefully with pie. I’m planning to make it again either for Christmas dinner or for the eve; it’s the kind of thing that will appeal to gluten-free folk, of course, but I’d argue the rest of us will devour it just as happily.
In the meantime, I have smoked salmon to procure from my beloved farmers’ market, a lemon cake to put in the oven, countless cups of tea to drink to keep me warm on this December day. Hope your holiday season is treating you just fine so far, and here’s to the happiest of happy days ahead.
Chocolate Cream Pie
I often make a chocolate cream pie for holiday gatherings because it seems just the right amount of decadence to properly celebrate the season. Here, I’ve come up with a slightly crumbly hazelnut-cocoa crust that is suitably gluten-free as well as utterly addictive. Serve with lots of freshly whipped heavy cream.
Makes 10 servings.
2 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350°F.
In a food processor, process the hazelnuts, sugar and cocoa powder until fine. Place in a bowl and add melted butter. Press onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until slightly crisp, about 25 minutes, and cool on a rack.
Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).
Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.