Holiday cheer and all that

Returning home for winter break this year didn’t just mean eating home-cooked food and enjoying the reprieve from cooking for myself everyday. It also meant having access to a large, well-equipped kitchen to bake to my heart’s content.

December 22, 2014: Coconut macaroons

Melty macaroons, not on melty wax paper.
Melty macaroons, not on melty wax paper. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

The story starts at a violin recital a few semesters ago where my dad had his first coconut macaroon. This is where I begin writing chapter two with my baking adventures: making coconut macaroons for my dad after his last day of work before his holiday break.

I think I flooded the kitchen with smoke somewhere in the middle of chapter four. Being the 20-almost-21-year-old-daughter I am, a crisis like this meant calling in Mom for backup. Good call. Crisis averted. Well. Mostly. The smoke dispersed relatively quickly once a few windows were open, but my macaroons looked a bit worse for wear.

Resident amateur baker had used wax paper to bake the macaroons, because she thought it was close enough to the “nonstick parchment paper” that the directions had specified. Don’t do it. Your wax paper will melt and your cookies will stick and you’ll have to sadly move them to a greased foil in your attempt to salvage them.

By the time I finished safely baking my macaroons, their final state accurately represented my own mood. We were all rather deflated. The little white coconut snowballs I had first put in the oven had melted, forming sad, post-snow puddles.

My dad re-entered the story at chapter six. He loved the macaroons. I received many apologies for their consumption and invitations to partake in the eating myself, but I declined. It wasn’t that I found my macaroons subpar (even though I did). It was simply far more enjoyable – and a huge compliment – to watch him make his way through the batch through the remainder of the evening.

December 24, 2014: Healthy Whole Grain Carrot Coconut Morning Glory Muffins

Healthy Whole Grain Carrot Coconut Morning Glory Bread - no, I did not create this name myself.
Wait, that’s not a muffin. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

Yes, I know that’s not a muffin. It was, perhaps, my mistake to not make that loaf into muffins, as the recipe clearly indicates in its title. I promise I don’t do this poor of reading in my English classes.

Regardless, I hadn’t imagined that changing the pan would affect the baking process so significantly. I knew the loaf, with its larger volume, would require a longer baking time than muffins in a tin – but I had failed to completely account for this difference.

See those crumbs? That’s because I didn’t bake the loaf long enough, which created difficulties when I tried to remove it from the pan, which you know – made me sad again. The top caved in, and some of the bottom stuck to the pan rather than the rest of the bread. It’s still in one piece for the most part, but even its fantastic taste and texture didn’t completely console me over yet another baking mishap.

December 25, 2014: Pear Cake

A pair of pear cakes.
A pair of pear cakes. | Photo by Courtney Cheng

On top of our holiday tradition of puzzle-building, this year my family also helped me make two loaves of pear cake. My mom chopped walnuts, my brother carried out the highly specific stirring instructions, and my dad grated the pears. For someone who prefers being a one man show while doing her thing the kitchen, it was genuinely tremendous fun to have three extra sets of hands around.

Not only was the entire process a lot easier because I didn’t have to watch over every single step, but it was nice to be working with my entire family on a single project again. It’s such a rare occasion to have all four of my family’s heads gathered around the same work space (particularly around one that doesn’t hold a puzzle-in-process) because my brother and I are often away from home. This little baking episode reminded me of Christmases past, when my brother and I woke up at 4AM to check for presents from Santa and spent the remainder of the day playing with our new toys in the living room, close to where our parents were relaxing or watching us have fun.

Although my pear cakes ended up a bit questionable with their dry texture (apologies in advance to the recipients of the second cake), I’m slowly teaching myself to let it go. As I constantly and shamelessly admit – I am still an amateur baker. The purpose of my baking – macaroons, muffin-bread, and cake – is not to make 5-star food, despite my best attempts.

I find joy in making food for other people to enjoy, and sharing that food experience with those around me. Though my first year of holiday baking didn’t turn out as delicious as I’d hoped, I still truly enjoyed baking all these goods for the spirit of it – to enjoy the holidays, take a break from work, and spend time with family and loved ones.

Wishing all of my readers a wonderful, (ful)filling holiday season. Stay warm, eat good food, and be merry.

3 thoughts on “Holiday cheer and all that

  1. I loved this post. Kitchen misadventures are often more instructive than the successes, don’t you think? Very happy everything worked out in the end. And I’ve made the waxed paper mistake, too, with pralines. What a mess! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment, Amy – and thanks again for the recipe! I would definitely have to agree with you on the misadventures. Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season.

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