I always look forward to Christmas mainly because I will get excited about preparing Christmas meal for my in-laws and my family. The usual menu will include appetizer, mains will be turkey and dessert. Sometimes, I will also prepare drinks. And of course, I will seek my helper's assistance in the kitchen for the cutting and washing. I usually do the baking myself.

For the appetizer for my in-laws this year, I decided to make a sour cream dip. In order to go with the dip, I made Grissini. It was my first time making this. I'm not a big fan of hard and crispy cookies or breads. But I figured Grissini will taste good with dips, and it was confirmed when my family loved the combination so much.
Recipe for Grissini, adapted from Alex Goh's "The World of Bread."
(Makes at least 20 sticks, depending on your length. I have a mix of short and long)

250g Bread flour
2 tsps Instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
150g Cool water
35g Shortening

1. Mix all, except shortening, in low speed to form a rough dough.
2. Add shortening and continue on medium speed to mix to form a smooth elastic dough. Approximately 5mins.
3. Place the dough in a bowl, cover it and let it proof for 45mins.
4. Mould the dough into a ball, let it rest for 15mins.
5. Roll out the dough into a rectangle (L12cm x W50cm).
6. Cut the dough into strips (W1cm x 12cm).
7. Moist the palm lightly with water before rolling the dough. Stretch the dough strips slightly, roll them out about 18cm long then roll them in sesame seeds.
8. Put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush them with water and sprinkle with salt. (I omitted the salt).
9. Let them rest for 10mins then bake at 220C for 15mins.
10. Allow them to cool, then bake at 120C for another 15mins to make them dry and crispy.
11. Serve, or keep them in air-tight container to be served later. bread_grissini1
To make sour cream dip, fried 2 slices of bacon till crispy, then cut them into coarse pieces. Blend 2 cups of sour cream (400ml) with bacon bits, spring onions and smoked paprika until finely. To have more variety for the dip, prepare carrot strips, cucumber strips, cooked prawns and Grissini. Enjoy the feast!
bread_grissini3 bread_grissini4

Grand Marnier Fruit Cake

I went for a vacation in California during the school holidays to reward my children for studying hard for their national exams - two for PSLE and one for GCE 'O' levels. While I was there, I couldn't resist the opportunity to shop in Costco, a famous wholesale centre where they have in-house brands and sells other famous brands, in bulks.
What I looked for are the dried fruits and the nuts. They sell in big packets and it's relatively cheaper, and some, you can't get it locally. Therefore, with the dried fruits, I decided to bake fruit cakes as Christmas gifts for my friends and family. It so happens that my colleague told me about Wendy's white fruit cake, so I decided to use her recipe since I was already thinking of using Grand Marnier instead of the usual Myer Rum for my fruits. So here's my version of Grand Marnier Fruit Cake. I hope my family and friends like them. 
Recipe for Grand Marnier Fruit Cakes, adapted from Wendy.
(Makes approximately 5 small loaves)

Dried fruits:
100g Dried White mulberries
100g Montmorency cherries
150g Dried Blueberries
100g Dried Cranberries
100g Golden raisins
150g Grand Marnier (+ some orange juice, optional)

Combine everything and let it soak for at least 2 days.
375g Butter (I used salted)
200g Caster sugar
6 eggs
338g Plain flour
200g Toasted pecans, coarsely chopped (keep some whole pieces to decorate the top)
100g Grand Marnier

1. Preheat oven to 150C. 
2. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
3. Put in eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
4. Sift flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until no clumps are seen.
5. Fold soaked fruits and all the remaining liquid into the batter. Add pecans and mix well.
6. Pour batter into the pans, level and bake for 40-45mins.
7. Remove cake from oven. Pierce holes in them and brush them with Grand Marnier. Let it the cake air and when cake has totally cooled, keep them in air-tight container.
8. Drizzle more Grand Marnier for the next few days before consuming.
9. Wrap it up and present as a gift.

Merry Christmas & a Happy 2016 with lots of baking and feasting!