Tracy Zizek’s Sweet Christmas


Cafe de Ville executive chef Tracy Zizek loves to bake. She started her career as a pastry chef, yet now is really only able to indulge in the occasional baking extravaganza.

Gather a few friends for a baking party and use these recipes to make your own sweet Christmas.

Marble chocolate almond bark

Bakers prefer weight for accuracy. Baking is finicky at the best of times; the more accurate the measurement, the better the product. Most chocolate has the weight on the package, so it’s an easy eye-ball, if needed. Tips for tempering chocolate: always make sure your work surface is free of dust, moisture and debris and that your tools are clean and dry. Temper white chocolate first, then the dark. Have your house temperature at 19ºC. If the air temperature is cool, the chocolate will temper more easily.

  • 3 oz whole almonds with skin, roasted
  • 6 oz dark chocolate, tempered
  • 6 oz white chocolate tempered

To temper chocolate:

Melt down dark chocolate. Make sure that the chocolate temperature is between 115ºF and 120ºF. Pour 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto a cool work surface (marble or granite preferred).

Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate into a thin layer over work surface. Using a bench scraper, gather chocolate back into a pool in the center. Take temperature of chocolate. The desired temperature is 82ºF. Keep spreading and gathering until 82ºF is reached.

When chocolate is 82ºF, place back in bowl with remaining 1/3 chocolate. Stir together well. Take temperature. The working range for dark chocolate is between 88-91ºF.

Repeat the same procedure with the white chocolate. Final working temperature for white chocolate is 86-88ºF.

Procedure for bark:

On a parchment lined sheet pan, using the tempered chocolate, make a rectangular shape by placing about 2 T dark chocolate next to 2 T white chocolate. Continue to do this until all chocolate is used up and you have built a rectangular shape.

Sprinkle almonds over the top. Using a butter knife, slice through chocolate to create a marble effect. Leave chocolate to set for a minimum of 4 hours.

When chocolate is set, pick up the slab and drop onto counter top. It should shatter into pieces. Place pieces into a container and into freezer for storage until ready to use.

Whipped shortbread cookies

  • 1½ c butter, softened
  • 2¼ c all purpose flour
  • ¾ c icing sugar
  • garnish such as chopped pecans, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries, crushed candy canes (optional)

Place butter and sugar in electric mixing bowl. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed, using paddle attachment. Scrape down bowl. Add in flour and mix on low until combined.

Continue to mix on high speed for 9 minutes. Every 3 minutes, stop the mixer and scrape down bowl well to ensure even whipping.

Drop dough onto baking sheet by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Place garnish on top of each cookie.

Bake at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes until light golden in color.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Macadamia nut dragées

Dragée are hard shelled candy like confetti, the Italian wedding candy.

  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c water
  • 1 lb (452 g) macadamia nuts, substitute almonds or hazelnuts, if preferred
  • 3 T butter
  • 1½ c dark chocolate, tempered
  • ¼ c cocoa powder

Combine sugar and water in heavy bottomed pot. Mix well.

Bring to boil and allow the mixture to reach 230ºF then add all macadamia nuts. Stir constantly. The sugar mixture will crystallize (turn white and have a grainy, sandy texture).

Continue to stir constantly. The sugar will melt and give the nuts a shiny caramel coating. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Turn out on a parchment lined sheet pan. With 2 forks, separate all the nuts so they are not touching. Chill in fridge for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, melt and temper chocolate.*

Place nuts in a metal bowl. Pour 1/3 of the chocolate over nuts and stir until nuts are completely coated and the chocolate sets.

Repeat 2 times. On the last time, just before the chocolate is set. toss the nuts in the cocoa powder.

Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

*See almond bark recipe for tempering instructions.

Christmas fig pudding

Christmas fig pudding and Jam Jams are family classics in our house. The recipes come from my grandmother Leona; I spent years making these recipes with her. I also managed to set one microwave on fire and scorched a tabletop setting the rum in the fig pudding alight.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c dried Mission figs, cut into small pieces
  • 1 c suet*
  • 2 c fine breadcrumbs
  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • ¼ c molasses
  • ¼ t salt
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ¾ t cinnamon
  • ½ t fresh grated nutmeg
  • Your favorite rum

Beat eggs well, mix in the rest of the ingredients and pack into a well-greased bowl. Place tin foil over top and secure tightly with string.

Place bowl in a large pot and fill pot with water until the water level reaches ½ way up the bowl.

Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a steady simmer for 2 hours. If you need to add more water during the cooking process, make sure that the water has come to boil first.

When cooled, place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

When ready to serve, pull from fridge at least one ½ hour before serving. Flip pudding into a heat-resistant/fireproof container such as a glass baking dish.

Pour rum over and soak pudding. Make sure to have a little rum in the bottom of the dish.

To serve:

Using a barbecue lighter, set fire to the rum. The alcohol in the rum will burn off and heat up the pudding at the same time.

When flame is extinguished, spoon pudding into bowls. Serve with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Jam jams

  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 2 c soft butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 12 T Rogers’ golden syrup
  • 4 t baking soda
  • vanilla paste to taste**
  • 6-7 c flour
  • Your favorite flavour of jam or jelly

Cream the sugar, butter, eggs, syrup, baking soda and vanilla with your mixer. Work in flour to create a soft dough. Roll out onto a floured surface, about ¼ inch thick. Cut out rounds.

Bake in a 350ºF oven until golden brown (about 10-15 minutes).

While cookies are still warm, spread the underside of one cookie with your favorite jam/jelly and place another cookie on top. Allow to cool completely before packaging.

**The vanilla paste is a Nielsen-Massey product that I get through the restaurant supplier Qzina. It is a gel-like vanilla concentrate with vanilla seeds. The one I buy is 1.5 kg, which might be a bit large for the home baker; Duchess Bake shop carries the product in a smaller size. Regular vanilla will do as well.

*Suet can be found at most grocery stores at Christmas, though you might have to ask where it is. Shortening or butter could be substituted.

— Tracy Zizek

Tracy Zizek hasn’t set a microwave on fire for years.