Right now, I’m listening to: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (natch)
It all started innocently enough with the gingerbread mini-cupcakes. In a spasm of goodwill and the residual glory of some damn fabulous Thanksgiving pies, I volunteered to do the cupcakes for Ye Olde Day Job’s Holiday luncheon. Why not do something better than the tray of frosted Wal-Mart cookies, or that weird stuff someone makes with melted butterscotch chips and cereal? My recipe would be from scratch, using fresh grated ginger, even. I efficiently filled the cups with batter using a pastry bag, I decorated each one with a snowy swirl of vanilla icing sprinkled with red sugar, and topped each one with a green M & M–all six dozen of ’em. They turned out beautifully, they tasted delicious, and I basked in the compliments. I should have stopped there. Instead, I became a monster.
Next was the homemade toffee–the delicous alchemy of turning butter and sugar into better-than-Heath Bar-goodness! I was on a roll. What next? What couldn’t I do? Visions of a homemade mid-century modern gingerbread house sparkled in my mind. In these visions, I think I was wearing an apron and perfectly applied red lipstick too… Then, I found the answer, and my eventual downfall: the pecan log roll.
My dad loves these, so what a perfect surprise to bring down to Florida, right? And I got a great recipe, not just anything from online, but a super-authentic one from the Old Virginia Cookbook that’s been in my family forever. And, I’ve got my own peacns from my own tree, lovingly cracked by Hubby. So here’s how it went:
Me: Ooh, this is going to be so awesome!
Hubby: Aren’t there supposed to be chopped fruitcake cherries in there? Wal-Mart’s out of them.
Me: Those are gross anyway. We don’t need the cherries–this recipe doesn’t call for them. This is going to be way better than some crappy Stuckey’s pecan roll.
Hubby: That’s an awful lot of sugar. Brown sugar, too? Isn’t the inside supposed to be white?
Me: It’s not the Stuckeys recipe! And what do you know about making pecan log rolls?
Hubby exits the kitchen.
Me, muttering to myself: Okay, so that was a lot of sugar. And this is really runny–like caramel sauce. Tastes good, though. Ah, it says knead in nuts with powdered sugar. More sugar? Great.
So I add powdered sugar to the mixing bowl until the consistency approaches something that could be considered “firm.” Two bags later, I have something like six pounds of some type of nougaty substance–and enough pecans to cover maybe a third of it. Whoever heard of a six @#%ing pound pecan log roll? This thing is now the size of an actual log. All I can do is to cut it in half and freeze part of it for some other ill-fated endeavor, possibly to dilute it with cream and frost a sheet cake the size of a pickup bed. What the hell is wrong with me for thinking I can just whip up a pecan log roll with some random, untested recipe? Even cut down to size, it’s a monster. I carefully place the pecans over the surface, trying to hide as much of the goo as I can, though I’m still about three hundred nuts too short. The finished product is slightly overwhelming and depressing at the same time. Lumpen, sparse, and bigger than my freaking arm. Hope my dad’s hungry.
So tonight, I’m throwing in the towel, wrapping up the log, and putting everything in order for our merry trip down I-95 to see my family and friends in sunny Florida. I know it will be full of great company, plentiful food and cocktails, and that indefinable essence of home. The rest of this season will be about spending time with family and friends, and appreciating the good things in life. But rest assured–there will be no more show-offy candy making. Got any holiday-goodie disaster stories to share? I’d love to hear them!
Have a wonderful holiday, and all the best in the New Year!