holiday baking: tips for success

IMG_0738 The holidays can lead people to try their hands at baking projects that may be beyond their limitations of time and ability.  Christmas is behind us, but there is plenty of entertaining yet to be done.  Straight from the R&P test kitchens, here are a few handy suggestions to help you keep your efforts in line with what is possible, reasonable and comfortable for you.

1. If the instructions are in Polish, then

Well, you see, I don't really need to say anything else, do I? 51 weeks of the year, that there would be my tip-off.  Not the week of 12/25!  That is the week when it seems feasible and even desirable to try to construct teeny tiny gingerbread houses to perch on the edges of our cocoa mugs.  Secretly.  Commencing late in the day on the 24th.  Using a recipe written in a language I do not speak.

1. If the instructions are in Polish, then familiarize yourself with how the Polish alphabet renders the words "make sure they are damn tiny and I mean that."

2. Try not to have the phrase "Martha Stewart you ain't, honey" be your mantra.  It does not facilitate.  You are not aided by it.  Nothing is added to your life by its incessant repetition.

3. No, you cannot reconstruct the recipe for royal icing from memory.

4. Royal icing that seems kind of runny will not "probably be fine."

5. Throwing the little cookies helps nothing, not-Martha.

6. If the market your daughter drives to turns out to be as out of powdered sugar as you are at home, you can make your own in the Vitamix using granulated sugar and cornstarch.  Do not ask me for the correct proportions.  Kinda eyeballed that one.

7. Low-sugar is for later.  Royal icing that could glue fur onto a hairless cat is what you are after. Confectionery DUCT TAPE, baby. Spackle-tacular.

8. Getting harder and harder to thread that damn sewing machine needle, even with the glasses--oops, sorry.  Wrong tirade.

9. Do not refer back to the picture and torment yourself with thoughts of how planning ahead, patience and hand-eye coordination are clearly bred in the Polish bone in ways people with a measly 26-letter alphabet cannot ever hope to approximate.

10. If the pastry bag says "do not fill above this line," you can probably take it on faith the manufacturer had good reason to tell you that.  All the testing required to support the claim has been handled by others, and no further action on your part--other than obedience--is required at this time.

11. The day may close with a good number of houses that are too big to perch on anything, o ye who will not likely ever have an eponymous magazine empire.  Go to bed.

12. Once the sun rises again, thank yourself for neglecting to notice that a full recipe of gingerbread dough will make a lot of houses, and again for the stubborn desire to get it right and use the spare dough to try again, because when you get it (in your own way) right, you will feel very, very pleased with yourself.


13. Bless the daughter who looks over the little elfin Levittown you have constructed out of cookie dough in the quest to make them the right size to fit the mugs and remarks, "the big ones will make nice table decorations."


14. FYI, the first written Polish sentence was day ut ia pobrusa a ti poziwai (I'll grind [the corn] in the quern and you'll rest), which appeared in 1270, perhaps on a primitive post-it note right after the holidays.