I trained in Baking and Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY during another lifetime. I worked as a baker in the Hudson Valley for ten years after completing my “studies”. I crafted organic, artisan breads at Bread Alone in Boiceville, NY, made the “best biscotti and granola” (Suzanne Hamlin-New York Times) at the Hudson Valley Dessert Co. in Saugerties, NY and I bought the company when the owner retired. I grew the wholesale distribution, sold it to one of my employees, and opened another bakery. My specialty: “painted cookies”, that is, sugar cookies painstakingly decorated with royal icing – tasty and super cute.
Since I moved back to the Adirondack Coast, said culinary training has remained a fiction, at best. Having seen little evidence of my baking mastery over the years, my family tops the list of active deniers. When I do display my culinary prowess it is with seasonal appearances, similar to the “Chreasters”, Christians who only attend mass at Christmas and Easter.
At Christmas, I bake hundreds of sugar cookie penguins, reindeer, snowflakes and birds of peace. They take over the dining room table, waiting to be decorated with tinted royal icing. I add a hint of almond extract to it, after this article no longer my “secret” ingredient). At Easter, I bake chicks, bunnies and tulip sugar cookies. The tinted icings are accompanied by sprinkles, nonpareils, sugar eyeballs and more. The floor around the decorating table is littered with them, making it alternately sticky and crunchy for days. Then, as quickly as they appeared, they are gone, shipped off to friends, neighbors, and workplaces. My family is left to nibble on a few stragglers, deemed too imperfect for sharing with others.
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For the Love of Chocolate Chip Cookies
My husband loves chocolate chip cookies. LOVES them. I could probably count on two hands the number of times in our eight year relationship I have made this poor man his favorite treat. I have good intentions. I will buy a package, one package, of semi-sweet chocolate morsels with the intent of doing something nice. Side note: he is a Nestle Toll House purist – no messing with the recipe and no substitutions. Never having had the feels for chocolate chip cookies like he does, I have made the mistake of buying generic chips – never again. I think there may have been mention of this in our wedding vows.
I buy the real deal, and there they sit on the top shelf of the dry goods cabinet, next to the sugar, flour, baking soda and nuts just waiting to be joined together into one big, gooey family. But, alas, it never happens. Seeing the package, my husband sings a little inside. But weeks pass, and the slightly dusty bag of morsels now mocks him. In that moment, he unscrews the lid off a jar of crunchy peanut butter, digs a spoon in and comes up with an ungodly amount of the stuff. He tears open the bag of chocolate chips, sprinkles them on top of the peanut butter gob and dejectedly eats it off the spoon. Sad, true, and played out nearly every time, until the bag is gone. I am oblivious to the tragedy, have truly forgotten I ever purchased it.
Like many of you reading this, we are now under a stay at home order in New York State due to the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc and tragedy across the world. We are making limited trips to the supermarket in order to support the effort to flatten the curve and stay safe. Just coming off the tail end of a North Country winter, we have vowed as a family to combat our somewhat limited activity level and do our best to eat healthily so we don’t pack on pounds during this time at home.
Our go-to snacks sit firmly in the carb category and we attempt to enjoy them in moderation: pretzel chips, cauliflower crackers, mixed nuts, tortilla chips, brown rice crackers. You will seldom find: cookies, muffins, chocolates or ice cream in this house. I know, truly un-American.
Rumor has it there is a bag of semi-sweet morsels currently palling around with its favorite cohorts. I am faced with a dilemma: Do I forgo our commitment to healthy eating and take this time to make my husband the chocolate chip cookies his little heart desires? Or do I wait just long enough for him to reach for the crunchy peanut butter?