Saturday, December 6, 2008

CHRIS' COOKIES

I really should be occupying this cold day with lots of cleaning and preparing and getting the upstairs rooms ready for the five Christmas Guests we're expecting. And I'm not. I'm just being right now, enjoying the scents from the kitchen, the music, the soft clatter and stir as Chris goes about his cookie-making. Tomorrow and Monday, we'll do the fudge.

My only claim to any kind of artistry is limited to cooked stuff, and the fudge-makings stand ready, mostly still in the big green cotton shopping bags they came home in. There will be two dark chocolate (one will be studded with dried cherries and cashews---a little Guccier version of the old store-bought Chunky bars---a lifelong favorite with Chris).

One pan will be peanut butter fudge, with a top or bottom layer of pale chocolate, like the creamiest, smoothest Reese's cup you ever tasted, topped with jumbo salted peanuts. The last will be Latte, with milk chocolate, and flavored before cooking with a good double-shot from the Espresso-syrup bottle. Chocolate coffee beans for snugging atop each piece, after cooling.

Caro bought the pretzels, chocolate, and all sorts of sprinkly, chippy, nutty, brickly things to coat the sticks with; those goodies are mostly for her group at work. She's famous for her beautifully-wrapped, specially-chosen gifts. She also brought in several packs of those tiny loaf-pans, suggesting we give some of the fudge still-panned, with a little plastic knife attached, as the candyshops do with their fudge-for-sale.

Chris picked up flour, sugar, brown sugar, lots of butter, white and dark chunks, pecans to toast and macadamias and dried cherries, ready to make his coveted cookies. He knows the recipe by heart, and does no cream-the-butter step. The dry stuff is mixed in a big bowl, including both sugars and the flour, the butter melted, the egg stirred in, the glug from the Watkins vanilla bottle, and all made into a big creamy lump to be rolled into logs in waxed paper, frozen and sliced for baking.

Sometimes over the years, when our catering clients did not order the cookies for a party, guests would come hopefully to the kitchen, anticipating that we MIGHT have just made some, anyway. So we started doing that, carrying a big flat basket with several dozen, as a bit of lagniappe for the host, and everybody was happy. Especially the guests who knew where the Ziplocs lived, so they could stash a bag to take home.

This time last year, I had a little family book all ready and on a CD, ready for the printer, in order to get the copies back in time to send to family members. This year I had intended to make a little cookbook---I've got quite a few pages of family memories from all sides of our far-flung clan---who made the best biscuits, Maw's caramel poundcake, Mammaw's every-Friday pineapple cake with 7-minute, Mother's chowchow and pepper relish, her "apple dumplings" made in a 9x13, out of Pillsbury crescents wrapped around Granny Smith quarters, nestled into the buttered pan, and doused with a brown-sugar, cider, butter concoction, to bake bubbly and tender, coated with the thickened sauce.

The children all want the recipe for Chris’ Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies; he’s making about four batches of the dough today, these to be rolled in parchment, bagged, and snugged away in the freezer for the week of Christmas, when five of the children will be here.

On a cold afternoon, unheeding of the nearness of getting dinner onto the table, or after the night's dishes are done, someone will mention cookies. We’ll stand looking down into the freezer and deliberate; we’ll take out a roll or two, with discussions and decisions of whether we want the White Chocolate/Dried Cherry/Macadamia or the Ghirardelli Chunk/Toasted Pecan ones. Or we'll decide to slice chunks off every roll in there, lining them up all over the cookie sheets, a sweet Smorgasbord on the Silpat.

The first-ever batch of “plain” dough will be rolled this year---the two littlest, each barely a year old, will have their own cookies, the pure-and-simple sweetness without any additions. Those come soon enough in Life.

I meant to do all that book-stuff. But, as usual, the time has flown past me, leaving the dream only that, and the pages still to be put together. I make no excuses, offer no real explanations; little everyday things, important in their unimportance, have hindered and crept in and taken the time and place allotted to the writing. And that is as it should be; I count all the little family happenings and chores and days as blessings, all on their own.

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