It’s this time of year when all the cooking magazines start showing up filled with cookie recipes for the Christmas season. With final projects for academic classes only recently submitted and tests all through the past week, I haven’t been able to find many spare minutes for looking at the recipes. When I do sit down with a cookbook, it’s generally for work. I have no complaints about “having” to bake one a week and getting paid for it. There is a challenge in finding recipes week after week that use the same basic ingredients available at an operation that caters so much more to its kitchen side that the baked goods are nearly an afterthought. There’s chocolate and there are apples, but the only other fresh fruits that show up tend to be lemons. Expense mixed with functionality means no hazelnuts, pistachios, or cashews. Doing it once a week means I have to try not to make a tart every week, or have the same flavors twice in a row.
Behind these requirements pulling at my time, this hour for economics, these hours for English class readings, these hours for work, I can sense the flavors of holiday baking and the cookie recipes, new and old, that are waiting to be made. My mother has been stocking the pantry with sugar, nuts, and different types of chocolate. There’s vanilla extract, in its bottles, and vanilla beans, in glass tubes. Measuring vanilla, with its dark liquidity and small amounts, I can always make myself feel like an alchemist.
There’s also a gingerbread house cake on the list. I’ll pair up with my brother to decorate it, and I have already forced him to bake the cake itself with me. After years of experimenting with different construction materials, from gingerbread to graham crackers, the general consensus in our house is that cake is the sturdiest base material. We call them gingerbread houses no matter the construction material – our cake is technically a spice cake. There’s a pile of candies on the side counter, ready to be turned into windows, doors, pipes, Christmas lights, and walkways. Some siblings are planning on focusing on the cake scraps, using them to build sheds, dog houses, or cottages. Since even one candy coated cake, with frosting, pretzels, gummy worms, and red hots piled around the outside, takes our family a while to get through, we’ll be giving all but one cake away, to neighbors, friends, and extended family.
So, with classes over for the semester, and work slowed down to almost nothing during the same time, and Christmas in only four days, I’ll be grabbing all those cookie recipes, decorating my cake house, and otherwise submerging myself in a cloud of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
-The Holiday Baker