Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Almost done. Almost.

I feel ridiculously guilty about my lack of blog activity.  Rest assured, my adoring public, I've been elbows deep in cookie dough for days.  With 8 recipes left to complete tomorrow, I hope to have everything packaged and ready to roll on Wednesday.  Again, anyone wishing to purchase cookies, please let me know in the next handful of days.  I couldn't bear the thought of getting something that wasn't of the highest quality I could possibly provide.
It's late.  The next 2 days are jam packed with final baking, finishes, packaging and shipping.  I assure you I'll have updates and pictures ready to roll after the waters have settled.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Big 4-0

Tonight, in between dishes, laundry, dinner, Cub Scouts, and Charlie Mingus - the world's most regal beagle, I finished the 40th cookie variety.  I wrapped the evening up with a remake of 1975's Almond Bolas; the Portuguese almond cookie I made last week and entirely forgot to add the sugar to.  I was quite careful to remember it this time, and the result was a beautiful little cookie with so many interesting characteristics.  Nutty and chewy like a macaroon, the center reminding me strangely of scrambled eggs (I couldn't help but think of breakfast when I remembered the addition of breadcrumbs to these), and the crunch from the almond on top. Not too sweet, it would be a lovely cookie with some afternoon tea.

I also prepared the cookie portion of Sparkling Lemon Sandwich Cookies, a delicate little lemon shortbread rolled in sanding sugar, which I'll assemble with the filling right before they're packaged; Navette Sucre, or Sugar Shuttles, a French butter cookie shaped like a loom shuttle, coated with egg white and sugar; and Polish Apricot Cookies, a delicate cream cheese dough wrapped around a filling of apricot, golden raisins, honey, cinnamon, and orange marmalade - much like a fat, overfilled rugelach without the walnuts.  In my love affair with all things New York City, I'm enamored with rugelach.  I can't wait to get into these.

With 28 recipes left to make, I feel bittersweet about nearing the end of this project.  It wouldn't take me more than 3 days of steady work to get them done, but I find myself wanting to drag it out longer.  Despite the stress of real life bearing down on me, these cookies have become such an extension of who I am.  They've provided me with much needed discipline and focus, and an outlet for the only way, it seems, that I can really connect with people.  I spend more time with them than I do my friends, and sometimes it seems my family.  I've been so focused on ingredients, recipes, when to bake what, packaging, who will receive an insane box of cookies, etc - that finishing ends up feeling a lot like the first time I moved away from home.  I'm not sure what's going to happen next, but the future is exciting and terrifying.

In the event that anyone is interested, I have several extra boxes available.  They can be purchased for $68, in honor of 68 years of Gourmet magazine.  Please feel free to contact me at allisonpvdb@gmail.com

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sundays Are Best

I love Sunday mornings.  Regardless of the piles of things I have to do to maintain my motherly duties, we always make what I've coined "fat kid breakfast", and we always read the New York Times.  Breakfast this morning was a baked dish of sausage, onions, green pepper, eggs and cheese with broiled english muffins.  I swear the boyfriend is a farm boy at heart, despite his crisp shoes and button-up shirts, and I love the homey simplicity of midwestern food.  Everything feels better with cheese on it in December.
My New York Times routine is always the same:  I flip through checking the headlines of the Travel section and the Week In Review, grab the magazine, and read the Modern Love article in Sunday Styles then set it aside to read the wedding announcements later.  My business in the magazine is the food article.  Amanda Hesser is among one of my favorite food writers, Cooking With Dexter is a charming account of adventures in the kitchen with the author's inquisitive young son, the other contributors always have such interesting historic and cultural information.  This week's recipe is asado negro, a Venezuelan Christmas roast braised in white wine vinegar, dry red wine, and a sultry dark caramel.  The article claims to "make a mockery of pot roast".  I want so badly to make it for dinner tonight, but was reminded that capitalizing oven space and time is not a good idea.  The day I spent making Thanksgiving dinner combined with extra work shifts and a sick kid left me feeling a little panicked and behind in cookie production.
I have 31 varieties completed, leaving me with 37.  Late into the night, yesterday, I baked 1979's Linzer Bars that filled my kitchen with the aromas of hazelnuts, raspberry and lemon.  The creamy nuttiness of the hazelnuts is perfectly balanced by the tart filling.  There were also 1994's Basler Brunsli - a Swiss chocolate almond spice cookie that reminded me of a dry French macaron.  I made 1958's Brazil Nut Crescents which showcase the rarely utilized brazil nut in a rich, delicate butter cookie.  Lastly, I put together the dough for 1996's Anise-Scented Fig and Date Swirls.  I love opening my refrigerator to find rolls, bowls, and discs of chilled dough waiting to be cut or shaped before going into the oven. 
I really do believe there to be something magical about the warmth of the oven, the mess of flour and sugar, and this time of year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Cornetti.  Bourbon County Stout.  Beach House's Teen Dream.

Last night, rather than going to bed as I should have, I stayed up and baked Cornetti.

An old family recipe from Turin, it was featured in January 1989's issue of Gourmet, during the height of America's introductory love affair with Italian food.  Made with ground almonds and cornmeal, these cookies acquire a coarse, gravelly texture.  During the 2 day process, resting in the fridge overnight and then on parchment lined trays for 2 hours, the dough is permeated by chopped candied orange peel.  These are my new favorite cookie.  The texture lends interest and surprise, and the bright orange notes remind me of summery evenings during these blustery winter days.
As the weather gets colder, I look to just about anything to keep me warm.  I've fallen in love over the course of the summer with Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout.  A small batch beer, aged for 18 months in bourbon barrels, the warm caramel and vanilla notes alongside the rich chocolaty stout deliciousness is my kryptonite.  I find the bourbon characteristics to bring a fantastic warming quality to the palate.  One of my responsibilities at work is to keep ice cream on hand, and my latest flavor is bourbon molasses.  For the same reason that I love bourbon county stout, the bourbon in the ice cream adds such a warm feeling.

Lastly, I'm loving listening to Beach House lately, particularly the album Teen Dream.  Victoria Legrand's voice is so rich and smokey.  Add it to your collection for sure.
I've been awake since 3:30 this morning.  I baked some beautiful bread, bought a Christmas tree and all the trimmings, had dinner with my little pieced-together family, and although I didn't get any cookies done, I hope tomorrow is more productive.  Peace out, ya'll.