I can now deem the 7th annual dessert party a success. People came. People ate (I think more than usual). And people complimented my baking . . . and really that is what it is all about, right?
The party was immediately followed by the predictable let-down that follows a sugar high of that magnitude with conflicting feelings of remorse (why did I ruin the fudge?), disappointment (um, no one even tried to catch me under the mistle toe), regret (why didn't I try to eat real food at some point in the day?), sadness (a number of people did not make it), futility (seriously, when will I meet someone new and exciting at my party the way others have claimed they have?), relief (no more baking every night!) and panic (now I have to focus on Christmas shopping!).
As has been a trend in the last couple of years, once I finish all the baking and guests arrive, I neglect my camera and thus have very little evidence that people were actually in my apartment other than the crumbs sprinkled across my floor and the stray plastic cups I found on bookshelves and under (UNDER! why are you hiding trash????) the love seat in my bedroom. Although there was the pleasant surprise of a couple of wacky photos some friends took when they found my camera abandoned in the kitchen.
I started baking about a week and a half in advance: butter cookie dough, sugar cookie dough and ginger cookie dough can all be frozen or refridgerated. Even the red velvet mini-cupcakes and banana bread tasted great after coming out of the freezer. Wednesday night I made peanut butter cups and Friday night was candy fest with pecan toffee, truffles and a failed attempt at "No Fail Fudge"!!! This stuff only fails when I make it in NYC so I am absolutely convinced that it has to do with the altitude or the humidity or something. I nibbled on some of it last night before I threw it all out - dry and lumpy texture being the main problem - and while it didn't taste bad, I couldn't bring myself to plate a disappointing treat on the table so it hid in its pan under the shelves overhanging the fridge Sunday night. Saturday night **after the ward party** I continued my preparations by finally making the cupcake I have been dreaming about for a while: Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ganache and Ginger Whipped Cream. Again in miniature size for easy bite-size access. I'm not just being boastful when I say these things were amazing - they received many compliments.
Sunday was a whirlwind of preparation. Rolling out and baking all sorts of cookies. The candy cane sugar cookies (I substitute peppermint extract for vanilla in half the batch and color it with red food coloring) and the stars I cut out with the rest of the sugar cookie dough turned out better than ever. Rolling out the candy canes can be a giant pain but this year it went very smoothly. The ginger cookies were fantastic too - hitting just the right balance of crisp edges and soft center. But trouble started when I tried to reign my cookie press into action. It just did not cooperate. At all. I wanted to have a whole forest of little butter cookie trees and what I go instead was little ribbons of dough that refused to form anything solid enough to land on a cookie sheet. I improvised and rolled the butter cookie dough out flat, cut out squares (or something similar to squares), spread raspberry jam in the center and folded the squares into a triangle brushing an egg wash on top and sprinkling them with crushed hazlenuts. I tried a couple of other variations with the butter cookie dough but this was the only one I liked. Stupid cookie press. That is two ruined items. But at least with this one I didn't have to throw out the whole batch - just the ugly blobs that were supposed to look like snow flakes.
At some ridiculous point in the day I thought I was running ahead of schedule despite the fact that my friend who was supposed to come help me decorate cookies and cupcakes came down with the flu and couldn't make it. I frosted all the sugar cookies (cutting corners with the red sugar cookie stockings I cut out by only putting white frosting along the top a la the fur trim) with royal icing then made the tempermental red velvet frosting that thankfully worked, then whipped together some ganache as a last minute addition (because I thought I had extra time) and some ginger whipped cream. It was right as I was finishing the last batch of cupcakes that I started to panic, noticing it was nearly 6 and I was essentially in pajamas (although I did shower earlier), the kitchen was a disaster, I needed to vacuum, put out candles, get dressed, redo my hair, put on makeup and get all the desserts out and the punch made. Guests were due at 7 pm. I became even more stressed out when Brooke arrived around 615 to help and I was thinking in too many directions at once to even utilize her willing extra hands. She was great and vacuumed my floors and listened to all my conflicting instructions about setting out candles and lighting, no wait, don't light . . . okay, light the candles now. When my first guests arrived at 715 I had calmed down a bit and everything was set. The only problem was I had no desire to eat anything sweet since all I had eaten was a slim fast shake that morning and sampling treats to make sure nothing was gross.
During the party I ate a few pieces of cheese (because cheese is a dessert too you know!) and tried to talk to all my guests. Unlike years past, my apartment never became completely packed to the point of not being able to move. There was a good turnout but people cycled through, starting at my party and heading off in herds to the next party or stopping by after the Messiah performance at the church. It suppose it was better to have room to mingle and move among my guests but there is something especially satisfying about having a party big enough that people can't squeeze past the entryway. Of course they eat more when they can. Nearly every guest arrived slightly traumatized by the raging arctic wind that was especially forceful outside my door that night. I am close to the Hudson River which means cool refreshing breezes in the misery of stagnant humid summers and icy winds in the winter that bite through every last winter layer and make it difficult to walk straight into it. This year there was a significantly better male:female ratio. I am horrible with numbers so I can't even estimate how many people ultimately came by but it was nice to feel like things were semi-balanced. The last two years all of my friends kept commenting about how there were lots of beautiful girls and no boys. And they wonder why I don't date . . . of the boys who did come I don't expect any of them have any interest in me and although a few could grab my attention if they wanted it, I'm not holding my breath waiting for one to ask me out. Especially since I tried pointing out the mistletoe to a few and none of them took that bait. Oh, well. I guess I will have to wait and see what 2008 holds.
WARNING: the images shown below may induce hunger and possibly even cravings for any and possibly all of the following: red velvet cupcakes, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes, ginger cookies, truffles, pecan toffee, butter cookies filled with raspberry, sugar cookies, candy cane cookies or maybe even fudge. While there is no hard evidence that simply viewing the photos will lead to weightgain, research in this area is inconclusive as the results are generally skewed by the subsequent chocolate binge that inevitably follows. Please proceed with caution.