Verily, My Kitchen is Trashed and There is Chocolate in My Hair.
Mr. K and I have no children and do not live close to any famly, so holiday traditions tend to be a bit thin on the ground-that is, aside from the annual "Cursing of the Tangled Lights", "The Losing of the Ornament Hooks" (we put away the equal numbers of ornaments and hooks every year, and the next year invariably take out about 1/3 more ornaments than hooks...I'm starting to wonder if we have mice with a metal deficiency or a neighbor with a lockpick and a hook fetish), and everyone's favorite "Screaming at the Cat as She Bats Happily at the Glass Ornaments and Wonders What Everyone's So Excited About". But there is also The Holiday Baking.
In truth, and all my tales of culinary disaster notwithstanding, I actually am an okay baker. And I like doing it, which means that I look forward hugely to the process of choosing recipes (always on Thanksgiving and not one minute sooner), purchasing ingredients (always the morning after Thanksgiving when everyone else is at the malls knocking over small children to buy the latest electronic toy) and, of course, making the goodies. These goodies all get frozen and then taken out and arranged on plates--2 - 3 of each cookie/bar/etc--to be handed or mailed to people I love/care about/appreciate.
There are some old standards that I make yearly--my Aunt Lori's Pumpkin Bread, for instance, is the stuff of legend. It is dense and moist and spicy and is topped with a cinnamon and nutmeg glaze and tastes like Christmas to me. (Well, except for that year when I tipped a tiny bit too much nutmeg into the icing and it somehow tasted like deodorant soap. It's a mystery--a little nutmeg = good. A lot of nutmeg = Lifebuoy soap. I don't get it...but I'm very careful with the nutmeg these days.) Also, the Truffle Brownies that I invented because anything with enough chocolate to choke a moose can't be bad. Oh, and the cranberry orange bars with the oatmeal topping, primarily because it's another tradition for Mr. K to look at them when they're done and announce that "that might be really good if it weren't for the oatmeal crap on top." Because yes, crap cookies were what I was going for.
But it wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't try out some new recipes. After all, what's a holiday if you don't find yourself at zero hour, loading cookies into baskets and realizing with dawning horror that the new recipe that was supposed to be "delicious, mouth-watering, a sure favorite with the whole family!" tastes, in actual fact, like ass and now there's a big empty spot in the arrangement and what the hell am I going to put in it because if I just put more of everything else then then there won't be as many cookies and..... (insert soft sobbing and/or desperate shrieking here).
One of this years new ones, optimistically named "Outrageous Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies" and promptly altered by me to be "Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies", has some interesting directions in the recipe. Specifically, it asks me to "melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Set aside to cool--BUT DON'T LET IT HARDEN." Don't let it harden? Cool it, but don't let it harden? What am I supposed to do--show it pictures of ugly chocolate? (Yes, I know...I just lowered the tone of my blog significantly. This is another symptom of the baking melee--a tumble to base humor that is directly related to assorted, ingredient-related stressors.) Seriously, though, am I really supposed to override the rules of basic chemistry so that a substance that is solid at room temperature suddenly isn't? I have a dark suspicion that the recipe creator may have also designed a few knitting patterns.....I know I've faced the same sort of impossible requests in a more wooly medium.
In any case, there are many things without which it would not be the holidays around Chez Knitingale. For instance:
- If I did not eat my weight in cookie dough and then complain bitterly that the recipes never make as many cookies as they say they will. (Mr. K has both the good grace and the native intelligence to avoid speculating on the cause of this strange phenomenon--one of many reasons we are so very good together.)
- If I did not lose one of my 1 -cup measuring cups early in the day, thus requiring the constant washing and drying of the other one and assuring that the drying will never be fully complete and will result in damp flour, soggy sugar, and seized chocolate.
- If I did not then find the missing measuring cup tucked neatly into the flour bag where I put it this morning, apparently quite certain that it would be far more convenient for me.
- If I did not have one batch of fudge refuse to set up, creating the world's most expensive, labor-intensive ice cream topping. Lumpy, too, if I was trying for fudge with nuts. The fudge I made this morning seems to have made it to fudginess, but the season's early. There's still the maple walnut fudge and the cookies and cream fudge to break my spirit.
- If I did not look up from what I was doing at some point to find a cat happily window shopping the cooling bread/cookies/candy/whatever, causing me to scream and then frantically toss out anything that might possibly be contaminated with cat snot, spit, or toe jam.
- If I did not manage to break several of the only cookies that Mr. K dislikes, thus requiring me to eat food that I'm not supposed to eat, or throw away perfectly good broken cookies--a serious crime where I come from.
- If I did not forget to take out the butter early enough to soften on at least one of my baking days, resulting in an overwrought whine from the hand mixer as its beaters clog up with cold butter chunks and a strange, un-Christmasy sort of smell in the general region of the motor.
- If Mr. K did not remind me again that the motor is only so big and maybe I should let the butter soften a bit before I try to beat it.
- If I did not reconsider what/who needed beating as soon as Mr. K decided to entertain me with the above selection from "Statement of the Obvious Theater" (I love you, Sweetie, you know I do!).
- If I did not drop at least one messy item on the floor, fail to notice it, and then track chocolate or melted butter or icing all over the house before catching on (in my defense, I do not cook barefoot as I have as much ability to maintain heat in my feet as does a popsicle, and it's hard to feel even molten chocolate through a sweatsock).
- If I did not remember only after baking four different items that I should probably have cleaned out the freezer first, since holding it closed with a big elastic band didn't seem to work last time.
- If I did not forget about the last batch of one type of cookie and end up making little chocolate charcoal balls.
Ah, yes. Tis the season.
Oh, I nearly forgot--the blankets went out to Utah today. Hooray! It was really very civilized--turns out all I had to do was get to the Post Office 10 minutes before it opened with my "I haven't had my tea yet, don't mess with me" face, and I was in and out in under 8 minutes.
Whoops--time to take out the chocolate charcoal balls.