Owen and I did a lot of baking in preparation for the holidays. I had planned to include him in the first cookie-baking I did during the weekend before Christmas, but had hoped to do the next three recipes on my own—ha! No such luck. So Owen “helped” with most of the cookies, which basically just meant I had to do some extra cleaning. I was worried he’d put his hands in the mixer when it was on, so I kept telling him how dangerous it would be, and I think I overdid it a bit, because now when I turn on the mixer, he practically leaps into my arms with cries of “Dangerous!” Oops.
But anyway, we first made gingerbread men, using a recipe that came with the cookie-cutter. It made me a little nervous, since it required zero eggs and one cup of cold tea, but it turned out to be a really tasty recipe.
Especially once we put on a coat of icing. Sean now informs me that from hereon in, he will be in charge of the cookie decorating/icing spreading, because – and he is right – I tend to tire of the process once the glaze is made, and then can only bother to glob it on messily. I happily will give up this part of our gingerbread man baking next year, as long as he promises to go heavy-handed on the amount of icing on each cookie.
Owen did the sprinkles.
I usually like to make two or so old recipes and two or so new ones. This year I made my usual peanut butter balls with chocolate hats, but it will be the last time I ever make them, since the last two attempts have not turned out! The frustrating thing is that I made them for many years in a row and they always worked, and the last two years they have turned out to be soft and gloppy, with the peanut butter part melting a few minutes after they are taken out of the fridge! I can’t figure it out, since I have not changed any of the ingredients. Luckily my mother informed me that someone who she knows makes a great peanut-butter ball with chocolate hat, and she has promised to get me that recipe. Right, Jean?
Then I tried a recipe from www.andreadekker.com for seven-layer fudge. I don’t quite understand the “7”part of that, since there are actually 4 layers, each with multiple ingredients, but I ignored the math of it and happily made the fudge, although I didn’t so much “make” it as melt and reconstitute each layer. It’s a peanut-butter chocolatey layer, followed by a marshmallow nougat peanutty layer, followed by a caramel layer, followed by another peanut-butter chocolatey layer. Not sweet at all. :) They were good—they didn’t travel too well, since our travel day going north was strangely 70 degrees, but I think in normal winter conditions they would have been fine.
The last cookie I made was a cookie recipe that I saw in a magazine and that looked strange yet oddly compelling. It was for Greek sesame cookies, made with olive oil and red wine and was supposed to be served with a milk punch. I nixed the milk punch of course (who has time for that?!) and made the cookies. They were really, really good fresh from the oven, but a few days later a good portion of the toasted sesame seeds had fallen off each cookie, and they were a little dry and austere. I’d make them again, but not for the holidays and not for travel.
And now the holidays are over, but I’ve continued with the trying of new recipes, since it is January, a month that cries out for calorie comfort. Owen and I made a cake on the Monday after we returned from Boston, and then I tried out a black-eyed pea and collards recipe from The New York Times for New Year’s Day (very delicious!), and then Nigella Lawson’s Sunshine soup last weekend. It, too, was good, but since my roasted yellow and orange peppers got a bit blackened, my soup was not so much sunshine in color as it was vomity. So an F for aesthetics but a solid B for taste. Next up is Nigella Lawson’s “crustless pizza” which seems to me to be the love child of a pizza and a dutch baby – and who can pass that combination up?! Not I.
And Sean’s birthday is coming up, so Owen and I will put on our aprons and whip up another something chocolate on chocolate, Sean’s favorite. All week I’ve been telling him that we are going to make Daddy a cake on Sunday, and each time he responds, “Right now?!” Three year-olds, like pug dogs, don’t have a good sense of the future tense.