If I were to sum up this year (which I won’t because I’m long-winded enough when describing a single day, it’s terrifying to consider what I could do with 365 of them), after I got past all of the good stuff — and really, it’s been a spectacular year, what with two book tours and several vacations and lots of awesome family time and dinner parties and and and… see, there I go! — I’d admit that at least from the vantage point of trying to relocate recipe ideas from my head to the kitchen to this computer and then onto yours, I’ve somewhat flopped and I have the photo IOUs to prove it. Would you like a tour?
December, 2013 Archive
I have a few things to tell you about this cake today, and none of them at the outset sound terribly upbeat, but bear with me, cheer is nigh.
The first is that if you put this out in small squares, dusted with powdered sugar and in proximity to a hand-whisked bowl of lightly sweetened schlag at a packed tree-trimming party, one by one, the handsome revelers will fall upon them, take a big delighted bite, and then you might out of the corner of your eye note that cheer melting from faces into a brief pang of surprise as they realize that no, that was not a brownie, but an extremely dark and intense square of gingerbread cake. Oopsies?
I suspect by now that most of you are on your way to where you’re headed, physically and possibly proverbially. Maybe you have a tree to cut down or some cookies to bake. You probably have a holiday party tonight, and rooms to clean before guests arrive. You no doubt have entertaining on your brain. We do, too. We’ve had two dinner parties thus far this month, and instead of being exhausted of them, I want even more. This might be a sickness. Or maybe it’s just realistic; for the price of dinner for two out, we can easily feed 15 at home, where we don’t have to deal with pesky restaurant minimums, the constant feeling that the clock is ticking as waiters are eager to turn the table over, we can actually speak to all of our friends (the reality of most big restaurant meals is that you can only talk to the people on either side of you — at home, musical chairs and shouting across tables is acceptable and encouraged), and oh, I don’t even put shoes on. Entertaining barefoot is where it’s at, people, trust me.
I think if you were to rank foods in order of how intimidating they are to cook, at the bottom of the list would be stuff you throw together any night of the week without a recipe, the top would be basically anything Grant Achatz has ever made and then maybe, just barely a notch below would be a dish that someone you love and respect makes so perfectly that you consider it to be “their” recipe. It feels almost wrong to make someone else’s signature dish, to meddle. It’s their thing, not yours, thus there’s clearly no way you could do it justice. I mean, sure there’s something else you could contribute to the holiday baking curriculum, maybe one of your favorites instead?
Today, because we don’t have enough bronzed and crisp, sugary, buttery thoughts already circling our heads, we’re going to talk about two recipes in one, a thin and lacy nut-caramel cookie known as a florentine and a filling that tastes exactly like eggnog, as if either of these things alone weren’t enough reason to gallop into the kitchen with your mask, cape and sense of urgency.
Six years ago, I attempted to shift my existing pretzel obsession into the cookie category, with only moderate success. The chocolate pretzel cookies I made were shiny, twisted and gorgeous, but tasted so mediocre — dry, flat in flavor, basically meh. I concluded that the firmness we’d want from a pretzel-shape was probably not something we wanted in a cookie. But silly me, I was just looking in the wrong place.
Last week, guys, last week… Wait, no. We cannot start a week as dreary as this one already looks from my Monday perch (this view, plus ten thousand loose toys and dark gray rain outside) with a complaint, it would not be good. But I have to tell you where I was most of last week because it’s so traumatizing, I cannot keep it on the inside any longer: I was touring kindergartens. Like, school, big old public schools with lots of kids. School for five year-old giants. School that my “baby” will require next fall. It was terrifying. It was all-consuming. I tried to swim off my anxiety in the middle of each day, only to return home to find that the sun had basically set at 2:30 p.m. rending that whole cooking-and-natural-light-photography thing I love so much impossible. It was not my favorite week.