Saturday, October 11, 2008


It's that time again. The leaves start to change, ghosts haunt the neighbors' yards, Papa's birthday looms, and the ridiculous but uncontrollable urge to bake something from scratch as his gift takes hold.

I really should know better by now.

My dad is the reason they make expressions like "what to get for the man who has everything?" Fortunately, he hasn't made his love of coconut macaroons a secret, and last year I stunned myself and I think everyone else by turning out a pretty decent batch of chocolate macaroons. This isn't false modesty. I know my strengths, and baking just isn't one of them. But I just can't bring myself to order macaroons from some fancy bakery when I have the tools - and the fire engine red Kitchen Aid mixer I nearly gambled my marriage and my registry on - to make them myself.

Still smug from last year's unexpected victory, I decided I would be ambitious. I am currently in love with the French macaron, a cookie that looks like a little neon hamburger and only resembles the American macaroon in sharing some letters from the alphabet. It has the lightest crispiest shell and a wide assortment of filling options from ganache to jam to rummed up buttercream. There is a reason there are no photos of the coconut-espresso-blackberry jam macarons I made the night before. Those familiar with my culinary disasters of the past will understand there is similar reason I knew to attempt a trial run.

The macarons tasted ok but had the consistency of fly paper and cemented your molars together. When the recipe called for a pasty bag or cutting a hole in the side of a ziploc baggie, I opted for the baggie. According to the recipe, I was supposed to be able to "wick away" any excess dough with the flick of a wrist. Unfortunately my baggie resembled a tube of toothpaste mashed within an inch of its life. There was no wicking, no delicate piping, just obscene espresso-flecked blobs that yearned for each other like a demonstration in cellular mitosis. Running out of time, I decided I would embrace good old fashioned USA macaroons and went to work.

I wasted a lot of eggs.


I manage to pour in the right amount sugar.


I still don't know what "soft peaks" are supposed to look like.


Yay for the husband who supports the cause by coming in for samples


I tear up when I take them out of the oven. They look like coconut mounds that have inexplicably found themselves in the middle of my annual Christmas peanut brittle disaster. Seriously, there are two completely different desserts occuring on the baking sheet. I'm truly at a loss to explain this. Panicking, I cut away the goo. We still have enough time to go to the bookstore for a gift, right? Conveniently my camera battery has died. I make a Haily Mary pass into the double boiler of chocolate. If anything will fix the goo mounds, this has to be it. They go into the fridge. I wait.


The final test arrives.


We pass muster! She likes coconut! So much in fact that we instantly regret letting her sample as she follows us around the house screaming COOOOOKEEEEEEEEE.



I package it all up pretty to fool Papa into thinking it will taste as good as it looks. Thank god for Martha Stewart's Idiots Guide to gift boxes.


Happy Birthday papa! Here's to another year of forgetting why I should never ever bake until it's that time again.

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