Some New January Treats

We may have turned the corner on the shortest day of the year, and we may have had a pretty mild Winter to date (today's little dusting excepted), but January is still the darkest month for me. I think I'm suffering from the post-Holiday Season blues.

You'd think that after all the hard work, long hours and hectic rushing around at the bakery last month, I'd actually relish a little quiet time. But it's just too quiet for me and I'm having a hard time focusing and getting motivated; it's the baker's January existential question, "What is the meaning of being a baker in January?" Well, really, the answer is, "There isn't much!"

Christmas and New Year's tend to sate customers of any desire to shop more and eat more. And Valentine's Day, the next best holiday for bakers, is still too far down the road. Right now it's  j u s t  t o o  b o r i n g        h e r e ....

So, aside from doing a lot of cleaning in our kitchen, something we always do more of in January because a) we have the time and b) it really needs some TLC after the holiday rush, I thought it would be fun to try out some chocolate inspired treats in preparation for Valentines Day. Now, there's no guarantee that either of these products will make it to February, but for now, there's something about these short days and long dark nights that makes me want to bake something equally dark and 'short' (which refers to the crumb, of course).

Our first item came to me in a dream (literally) or in that first, semi-lucid moment when one emerges from a dream. Either way, it was inspired rather than invented. It's a Pear/Chocolate Sour Cream Coffeecake, and it's sensational.

Dark and deep, like our cold New England woods this time of year, it's a tea time dessert that, quite frankly, you just want to get lost in. The 'short' chocolate sour cream cake, studded with pecan crumble, is contrasted perfectly with  the soft and moist pear slices sunken into the top. Like all our desserts, it is full-bodied, satisfying, but not overly sweet.

Gratuitously, I've added one more picture of this dessert, because I, personally, find it irresistible. Maybe you will too.

Our second new treat is a lot less seductive than the first and far more straight forward. It is our Chocolate Shortbread with Cocoa Nibs.

These shortbread squares are dark and buttery with the added moistness of honey. They are less cake-like than a brownie because, like all shortbread, they do not contain eggs. The addition of cocoa nibs adds a pleasant crunch to the texture. Cocoa nibs are the crushed bits of the roasted cocoa beans. To quote the website , cocoa nibs are packed with "powerful nutrients and natural mood lifters" and are a "crunchy antioxidant pick me up." Now, who couldn't use all this to fight the post holiday blues.

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