As far as reentry* points to on-a-whim cooking go, these cookies aren’t the most obvious choice. I might have gone with something from the market, or something from a new fall cookbook or maybe just something practical that would feed us for the next few days, like a hearty stew.
My track record with hamantaschen — those three-cornered filled cookies traditionally limited to Purim, but shouldn’t be, because did I mention that they’re cookies? And you can fill them with whatever you want? — is abysmal. I can’t seem to find a recipe that allows them to be as fragrant, buttery, delicate and delicious as I believe they were meant to be that does not completely fall apart once baked. I suspect my insistence on finding my hamantaschen nirvana in a cream cheese-based dough — cream cheese, although tangy and delicious, seems to just flop down and laze about like a kitten in the sun once it hits the oven — plays a part although, given, my sealing technique also “leaves a lot to be desired”. The first year I attempted a recipe on this site, they puffed and pancaked open in the oven. The second year was no better. The third and fourth year, I didn’t even bother.
White chocolate brownies have it tough. They share a name with a baked good that needs no improving on; their chocolate is rejected by self-titled “real” chocolate eaters for being a pale imitation of the rich, nutty and bittersweet awesomeness of darker chocolates; this same chocolate is so sweet that you must dial back the sugar in your brownies to adjust for it, removing moisture, risking leaving them cake-like and if it couldn’t get much worse, they’re barely white. More like, pale-yellowish-beige. Yum, right?
Because if I don’t mention this today I believe my husband will pop out of lurkdom and tsk-tsk me publicly for it, let me own up to one thing: I snore. Just kidding! I emphatically do not snore, not even when I have had wine with dinner and a lingering head cold and it would have been completely understandable. Not even then.
Exactly a year ago, I decided on a whim to make gingerbread cookies. I could do that back then; I had a little “baa”-ing baby trying to roll over in the living room and then he’d go no further! He’d be exactly where I left him! I mean, I still have a “baa”-ing baby but only if you prompt him with “And the sheep says?” and he is never, ever where last I left him. I digress.
What normal people often do is take a recipe for something floury, buttery and indulgent and try to make it healthier. Maybe they use less butter. They might dial back the sugar. But more often than not they swap in a little whole wheat or alternative grain flour and at least make something with more nutrients.
As if I needed any further evidence that I was meant to live in Paris, it is my firm belief (though based only in fantasy) that at any time of the year over there, I will have unfettered access to things made with chestnuts, one of my favorite foods that only get a lukewarm reception in this country. Sure, we roast them on “open fires” in December (in our smoking jackets, of course, while our dog brings us the evening paper) but the rest of the year, they’re relegated to nostalgia. Even in New York City, I rarely see such delights as chestnut paste, which I attempted to smuggle back into the country after our last trip, not realizing that airport security would consider it a liquid and force me to throw it away (I still get a little weepy when I remember this). And don’t even get me started on our woeful absence of marrons glace, or candied chestnuts. Okay, fine, get me started.