Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Year of Magical Thinking

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I’ve spent a lifetime ensnared in the vortex of magical pantry thinking. Forever believing, praying, that there’s a treat hiding in the dark recesses of the kitchen that has yet to be uncovered. A stray morsel of Halloween goodness, a pastel wrapped offering from the Easter bunny, St. Nick’s scraps laying in wait for your happy discovery.

I found myself in this predicament on New Year’s Eve, one sheet to the wind and working on the next two. We’d had dinner. And champagne. I’d thought, stupid me, that dessert would be unnecessary because lately it has been. When the majority of your waking hours are spent as a professional pastry chef, at the beck and call of sugar and butter, there’s a point of saturation that negates mortal cravings. But I’d sold my shop. The little kitchen where all the supplies for making dessert magic are stored is no longer open to my pillage. And it had been that way for about a week. I’d gone a week without baking. I’d been going through an unwitting confectionary detox and in that slow burning hour before the ball dropped, I ached for a treat. Any treat.  

I checked the cupboards. Nothing. I checked the cupboards a few more times; shifting the contents around in hopes that I’d catch sight of a shiny wrapper, the universal symbol of “yummy.” Nothing materialized despite my earnest incantations.

“For god’s sake woman! You’re a baker, whip something up,” you’re thinking to yourself. Well yes, of course. But after all these years of owning a little confectionary just down the road from my humble abode, I’ve let my personal pantry go bare of all those lovely sundries I’d need.
I checked the cupboard one more time, in the event a confectionary elf planted a spare biscuit for my consumption while I downed another glass of bubbly.

And then I remembered that I did have butter, flour and sugar. I am my own elf who shall make shortbread!

Inside of forty minutes, with time to spare before we rang in the New Year, we had dessert. All this with nary an appliance to aid me. Just my handy paws and a little magical thinking.

Happy New Year.

Short Bread for the Desperate

Ingredients

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter at a bit below room temperature (and a touch more butter to grease the cake pan

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a cake pan (anything between 8 and 10 inches).

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Whirl around with a fork so it’s well combined. Add butter in small pieces and massage the dough until it starts to come together and there are no stray clumps of flour. Pat the dough into prepared pan and bake until firm in the center and just starting to brown, about 50 minutes.

Let cool completely (or not. It’s better if you do but I didn’t. I was desperate). Cut into wedges and scarf.

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