As awesome as it is to bake loads of holiday cookies, boil up sticky sugar syrups for Christmas candies, and otherwise revel in the creation of seasonal desserts and edible gifts for the entire month of December, I have a particular soft spot for Christmas morning baking. Just the thought of frosted windows, a glowing tree atop a mound of glossy wrapped presents, Bing Crosby on the stereo, the pitter-patter of cozy jammied feet scurrying down the stairs, and the smell of spicy-sweet breakfast treats wafting from the kitchen make all the holiday rush worth it. Oh, the joy of Christmas morning!
Granted, that moment lasts all of about six minutes until someone pulls someone else’s hair, or trips over said cozy jammied feet landing square on the poor dog, or knocks a mug of coffee onto the carpet while tearing at wrapping paper like a clown on fire. But that’s why God gave us coffee in the first place, and the allowance to eat all the pastries we want for breakfast on Christmas day. The promise of homemade baked goods, preferably something yeast-risen, will buoy us all through the madness.
I know we’re all busy with holiday whatnot, so I’ll get right down to it:
I recently ate my weight in banana fritters and I feel great about it.
I don’t often deep fry, but when I do, it’s because a terrific recipe sucks me in and won’t let go until I bust out a heavy pot and thermometer and get down to business.
As much as I adore Christmas (fa-la-la-la-la!!!), it’s Thanksgiving that I love even more. The all-day cooking, the donning of stretchy pants, the gathering around the table without all the stress of shopping and buying and buying more and exchanging gifts. Thanksgiving is about comfort and reflection, family and home, and filling up our souls by eating like horses. And really, what’s better than that? Actually, this reminds me of a time when I was about 10 years old, returning to my mom’s house after spending a week with my dad during summer vacation. My mom asked what I’d like for dinner when I got home and I asked for Thanksgiving. And by God, my mother delivered Thanksgiving in July. This is evidence not only of how awesome my mom is and how wacky of a child I was, but that Thanksgiving has always, always felt like home to me.
OH HELLOOOOO. It’s been a bit since I’ve visited this space, but I’ve got solid reasons, I swear. Namely a huge move that’s landed us in a new house and all the stress and insanity that comes with it. And when you throw two little kids into the moving mix (one of whom personifies The Terrible Twos), even the simplest to-do list takes about five times longer than it should. There’s been a lot of running around like a crazy person, eating too much take-out, not knowing exactly what day it is, and many learning curves when it comes to sprucing up a 100-year-old house. (And no, I’m not exaggerating on that number–she was built in 1917. Which is how I’ve been feeling most mornings lately. Creak, ow, crackle.) It enough to make anyone a little nuts. I’ve downloaded two Justin Bieber songs this week. I don’t know who I am anymore, is what I’m saying.
Now that we’re well into October, I’m happy to say that we’ve officially arrived at what I believe is the most fantastic time of the year: High Baking Season. During absolutely any day in the months of October, November, and December one can legitimately bake for no other reason than it’s simply the right thing to do. And what a beautiful thing that is! It makes me glow from the inside, really. And now you know all my secrets.
There are cakes to impress, and then there are cakes to act as a balm. I’m a fan of both, of course, but give me a cake that can comfort like none other and I’m sold. No fussy frostings, no putting on cakely airs, just bake, cut, and serve straight outta the pan. Preferably on a paper plate. Even better is when said comfort cake is actually beautiful enough to impress, dead simple and keeps on the counter for several days of “just a sliver” eating. If I’m being real, though, for me that means a sliver after breakfast, a sliver after lunch, a sliver around 3:30 p.m. when my exhausted self is dying for coffee and a little bit of sugar. And then of course a “real-sized” piece for dessert, after dinner. All of that adds up to a criminal amount of cake in a day, really. But when a cake is just that good, you’re willing to be arrested for your eating habits.
Like so many of you (holla if you hear me!), nothing warms the cockles of my heart quite like an old school recipe with a kitschy name and just a hint of crazy. While visiting family back home in the midwest over Labor Day weekend, I got to digging through some old recipe files of my gramma’s. Talk about warmed heart cockles–it was beyond fantastic to get a snapshot of the kinds of things that struck her fancy at any given moment in time. Some of the recipes were handwritten cards from friends and family, and that’s obviously great (Aunt Marge’s Yellow Cake!!), but I also loved finding her old clippings from newspapers and magazines, and thinking of her saying “Oh! Well, THAT sounds good!” before pulling out the scissors and then tucking the paper away in her accordion folder.
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