Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Infinity of Pi(e)

My daughter was home from college for Thanksgiving weekend. Hubby safely transported her back from her freshman dorm with a twenty pound bag of dirty laundry.
When she arrived home, I was already elbow-deep in flour, butter and molasses, preparing assorted cookies for Thursday’s feast at Grandma’s. I offered her a long, sticky-fingered hug and the last surviving bowl of drunken black bean soup, both of which she graciously accepted.
Although my rugelach batter was at the perfect temperature for rolling, I placed it aside to prepare a quick grilled cheese sandwich to play second-spoon.
As she slurped and dunked (the only proper way to eat a bowl of soup around here), I chopped, sprinkled and rolled, and we discussed the events of her first semester away from home.

My home was once again filled with the sounds of
a noisy holiday; the oven timer was buzzing, my collection of traditional (albeit premature) carols was competing with an overconfident Guitar Hero jam session, and as always,
the dog was barking.

Ignoring the chaos, we chatted about student life, missed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and as she turned pages while I rolled cookie dough, we perused the newest catalog from J. Crew.
In the midst of so many distractions however, I was strangely aware of the ticking coming from the wall clock behind me.
While I negotiated baking pans and cooling racks, my daughter responded to countless text messages and then excused herself from the kitchen to reunite with her old friend TiVo.

As I dissected a circle of dough with my pizza wheel, the ticking seemed to grow louder. I focused more intently on the smudged recipe that sat before me. As I mentally checked off the ingredients, I realized that a miscalculation at the grocery store days earlier would leave me without enough pecans for the pecan pie I had intended to bake.
An overwhelming feeling of panic set in because this was the one and only dessert requested by my daughter for Thanksgiving. I was already committed to three batches of dough currently chilling in our basement refrigerator, not to mention the deconstructed rugelach that had already invaded my counter space.
Clearly, time was at a premium and a shopping trip for pecans was absolutely out of the question.
But how could I not make her pecan pie?
As the ticking grew louder, I called upon my alter-ego,
one apron-wearing kitchen robot, to quickly and efficiently glide through recipes as though their printed index cards were penned in disappearing ink.
By the time I got through two flavors of rugelach and
two dozen flat bottoms and holey tops for linzer tarts,
a crazy-but maybe not so crazy- thought occurred to me;
One winter-coatless daughter in need of a pecan pie was, for the moment, available to her recently daughter-at-home-less mother, who was in need of being needed.
With a bit of trepidation at the thought of stealing time that was simply unavailable, I called upstairs and spontaneously offered to break from my baking chaos for the purpose of winter coat and
pecan pie acquisition.
I should mention that my daughter and I are cut from very different cloth, save for the fact that we both move like cheetahs at the very mention of free food, or an impromptu trip to TJ Maxx.
Although she was comfortably nestled in hubby’s recliner
(a chair we affectionately call “THE CHAIR,” because it possesses hypnotic qualities that renders its seated victims helpless beyond entire TiVoed episodes), this double-bonus opportunity was enough to break its spell.
She quickly pulled on (sock-less) suede boots and a
too-thin-for-November jacket, and off we went.

En route to our favorite haven of haberdashery, we discussed spring semester registration, the politics of roommate relationships and the quality of campus sushi. I was crafty in my attempt to uncover the possibility of an on-campus romance but she ignored the question with the same nonchalance she offered the laundry bag still sitting by our front door.
When we arrived, we made a bee-line for the coat department as though it might run out of coats, had we not presented ourselves on pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday at exactly two fifty-three pm.
We promptly participated in our typical mother-daughter banter as she gravitated towards coats well out of my price range, and I suggested she try on practical jackets I knew she would never wear.
We finally agreed on two lovely coats with opposing purposes
(one for dress up and one for inclement weather), and although time did not allow, we headed for the shoe department anyway.
Time flew as we tried on everything from slippers to stilettos.
I urged her to pick up the pace, knowing full well that I still had a refrigerator full of dough ahead of me.
It wasn’t until she found her sweaty, sock-less left foot
stuck in a too-expensive leather boot that she finally agreed to exit the shoe department.
We laughed as I wrenched the trendy-meets-equestrian
calf-hugger from her reluctant foot.
As she limped towards the cash register, a quick detour of the junior department nullified any prior covenant set to limit price, quantity or necessity.
Two coats, one vest, two sweaters and one pair of jeans later, we headed home in November’s early darkness.

We unanimously agreed that I would be of no use to chilling dough or the kitchen tools committed to my holiday project, without proper sustenance.
We found an empty table at our local loaf-themed eatery and literally broke bread together, all the while discussing the rich new color of her hair, the upcoming Spice Girls concert and the convenience of clutch purses.
It was time unplanned, yet time well spent.

As we headed home in pre-holiday traffic, her cell phone chimed relentlessly. She dexterously replied to incoming texts as I reviewed my mental to-do list, with a bit of uncertainty in my ability to complete the tasks ahead of me.
Irritated by countless promotions for Black Friday sales events, I switched my car radio to its CD function. She was surprised to hear her left-behind copy of one Christina Aguilera CD booming from my front speakers. It had become my go-to music when my commute to work lacked enthusiasm and energy.
As I sang along to my favorite track, she paused mid-cell-phone-dialogue, and almost whacked her forehead into the glove box, as she cackled uncontrollably in total disbelief at the notion that
I ever had, or might actually still have, "that freak in me."

We belly-laughed together for the short remainder of our ride home.
As we negotiated too many packages into the front door, we came to the stunning realization that both of us had completely forgotten about one pecan pie—the very catalyst for our frivolous shopping trip.

After pulling a kitchen all-nighter, my assorted-cookie project was a great success, and as usual, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s turned out to be wonderful—
albeit pecan-pieless.

As I sit, typing this post, she is packing for her return to campus.
The weekend that seemed to take forever to arrive, has so abruptly become just a pleasant memory.

When I look back upon the events of my hectic week, I am reminded of the value of our time spent together.
It seems that on the subjects of life and holidays, things don’t always turn out the way we planned. But sometimes we will find ourselves just lucky enough to reap unexpected rewards from our own
foolish miscalculations.

Time has a way of sneaking past, stealing precious moments and the luxury of togetherness. But, when the clock ticks loudly enough to be heard over the chaos of everyday life, I will rest well, knowing that I have the option to choose what is most important over
what is most obvious.
Because the fact remains that those bonding moments between mothers and daughters which allow opportunity for girl talk and belly laughs, are fleeting, at best.

But there will always be pie.


Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


--Michelle



Although I have yet to try it, I am told that the recipe for
Pecan Date Pie from Cooking Light's Complete Cookbook is one worth repeating. It remains at the top of my to-do list and will perhaps, find its way to our Christmas table.

I am happy to share with you one of the many tried and true recipes I have found successful for making Linzer Tarts. Although not a favorite cookie for all family members, my daughter and I love these and enjoy them with a cup of strong, hot coffee.
Raspberry jam is our filling of choice and I prefer to make a smaller cookie to avoid the avalanche of powdered sugar that so often occurs with the larger variety. I use a fluted cookie cutter to shape cookie base and top, and I use the large, round end of a metal piping tip to create the peek-a-boo cut out for the purpose of jam identification.
The recipe printed below is from the
International Cookie Cookbook by Nancy Baggett.
She calls these Jam Filled Almond Shorties.


Jam Filled Cookies

1 ½ Cups (3 sticks) Unsalted Butter slightly softened
1 Cup Confectioners Sugar
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Almond Extract
Finely Grated Zest of 1 small lemon
(occasionally, I will omit the lemon zest and replace with the seeds from one split vanilla bean)
1/3 Cup Finely Ground Blanched Almonds
3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2/3 Cup Good Quality Raspberry Jam (we like seeds but seedless is fine)

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl, sift in powdered sugar, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Add salt, almond extract, lemon zest and almonds and beat for about 30 seconds. Using a large wooden spoon, gradually add flour and stir until completely incorporated and the mixture begins to hold together (for the most tender cookies, mix dough just until incorporated—don’t over mix).
Divide dough in half. Lay each half between sheets of waxed paper and roll out into ¼ inch thickness (if you prefer chewier, thicker cookies, roll to scant ½ inch thickness). Place rolled dough, with waxed paper on a baking tray and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to chill and firm. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set rack in middle position in oven.
To make tops, remove one dough portion from refrigerator, remove top waxed paper, and using a fluted round cutter (about 2 ½ inches in diameter) cut out circles (dip cutter in powdered sugar to prevent sticking if necessary). Immediately place rounds on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Repeat with second portion of dough. Cut out the same number of rounds and using a piping tip or very small circular cutter, cut out center circle of dough round. Place tops and bottoms on parchment lined baking pans and bake in preheated oven (one sheet at a time) for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are just tinged with brown—be careful not to over bake.
Remove baking sheets from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.
Repeat this process until all dough has been used. You may re-roll scraps once or twice but I caution you that scraps which have been over worked will create tough, unpleasant cookies. I usually re-roll once and then discard the rest—this is why it so important to use as much of original dough as possible when cutting out.
Heat preserves/jam in small sauce pan over low heat until just warm and soft. Allow to cool a bit before filling cookies. If you prefer a snappier cookie, fill just before eating. If you like a softer cookie which absorbs a bit of the jam (as we do), you may fill cookies several hours before serving.
We prefer to dust our cookies with powdered sugar before filling so that we don’t cover the jam-hole with sugar. If you won’t be serving these for a while, it’s best to powder them with sugar just before serving.
To fill cookies, use small spoon or ½ tsp. measure to dollop jam in center of cookie bottom and spread out almost to end of cookie round. Top with peek-a-boo round.
Makes about 20 sandwich cookies.

Enjoy!

1 comment:

chelsea Frati said...

I love you Mom, and it's really true about the pie. I'm on a diet now anyway =P
Thank you again for the unplanned shopping trip and dinner date, forgetting about the pie was really a just testament to how much I was enjoying myself.