Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baker's Lament

Perfectionism is not something I'm known for, but I do like to do a pretty good job. More specifically, when I make food, I want people to say it's the best darn _____ they ever had. Not perfection, just high expectations. Last night I had such a struggle that I'm ready to air my dirty pans.

Situation: Christmas Party.

Idea: Make Dorrie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies. Chocolate and salt and sable sounded perfect.

Problems = my World Peace Cookies were, I tempted to trot out the triteness, Armaggedon. Bombings. Nothing full of Noel cheer. They were sandy to the point of straight up sand. Beautifully dark and deceivingly messy cocoa infused sand that left streaks on my white countersinkfloorfridge. I pushed clumps together to save the dough, and my pending reputation at the party. There was a brief period of hope when they spread out on the slices of parchment I had laid out (running low on the goods this week) and looked like those double-chocolate cookies that have white chocolate chunks from CostCo, but when they came out, fat chunks of chocolate sandwiched between (couldn't resist) were no good. Like eating a melted Hershey's Special Dark at the beach in between crumbled up oreos left at the bottom mixed with sand.

And so, I went on a trusted journey from Egrement Elementary School Cookbook (published in Pittsfield, MA, c. 1985) to Lemon Bars. Done (I thought). Extra lemon rind in the curd and the shortbread crust looked toasty and I had made these just a few weeks ago for Dinner Club and so how stunned was I to take them out and find a yellow mush of beautifully colored bar (the yolks here!). Liam tasted one, and challenged to be truthful said, "I think they're mushy." I asked, "if you were at a party would you have a second one even though you might find them mushy?" He couldn't answer in the affirmative, but attempted to defend himself saying he's used to the high quality of my usual bars. I don't these people that well, I added, so I'm not bringing something that's not the best of what I have to offer.

On the way out the door, I tried another WPC, only to find that the skinniest ones, at room temperature, betrayed their true goodness: sandy and toasted cocoa, melting dark chunks, sparks of salt.

There were only four that looked like this on the cookie pan.

We went to the party with a 4-piece chocolate box from a new boulangerie/patisserie across the street, praying they were decent, and walked in to see that someone brought the equivalent of a pound box of fantastic, small chocolatier, seasonally themed chocolates that I promptly ate three of, encouraging the host to hide our piddly box in the corner.

Strangely enough, today in the chill of our December Parisian studio, the shortbread thickened up a bit and the rest of the WPC dough awaits a slighter squishing together for Tuesday - they might just be OK afterall.

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