Every Thursday night at Nowhere Bar in New York City, something amazing happens. A number of older crossdressers of all ages gather to dress up, mingle, drink, dance, and just be generally fabulous. Of course the music is great, too, and the DJ even tapes a runway down on the floor for the girls to strut it out.
Imagine going to a seedy dive bar in Hackensack in 1985. Big hair, light-up shoes, thick makeup, exposed corsets, micro-miniskirts, mesh, lace, pleather. It's all there on Thursday nights. Sure, it's entertaining, but I respect those gals more than I'm entertained by them. (Well, maybe it's a tie). They come from all over - Connecticut, Philadelphia, the Bronx, New Jersey, etc. Some of them actually take the bus to the bar, already dressed up! That takes way more balls than I have.
These ladies aren't your typical crossdressers. Actually, I'm not even sure "crossdressers" is the correct term to use. They aren't trans in any way that seems evident. It seems to me more like a party for men who like to wear womens' clothing and just be fabulous, but it's also not drag. It doesn't seem to be campy or ironic, either. I guess I only mention this because I'm sure that the term "Tranny Night," as my friends and I call it, is probably a misnomer. I am never really too clear about the correct terminology to use, so if you know, let me know. Until I find out for sure how these ladies refer to themselves (maybe just as "ladies"??), then I'll continue to call Thursday nights at Nowhere "Tranny Night."
I really dig these gals, so when John, my boss, told me there were having their third anniversary party at Nowhere last Thursday, I was thrilled. He asked me to bake up a few sweet treats. John, an accomplished (and hunky) chef, took care of all the savory food.
I decided to try the marshmallows again, but to photograph the process a bit more thoroughly this time. Since I had a ton of hazelnuts and raspberry jam left over from Valetine's Day, I made Linzer cookies again. Lastly, I wanted to try coconut macaroons - one of Charlie's favorites treats when we stop into any bakery in the city.
It was a bit gray and crappy outside that day, and for some reason I wanted to hear The Mamas and the Papas.
I also just got Kylie Minogue's new album, X, and it's pretty great. Upbeat, pop-y, dancey. I played this twice after the Mamas and the Papas.
Seemingly random musical choices, but I think my mood changed midday. Now onto the food...
Here are literally all of the ingredients I used. You can just mix up these few random ingredients in different ways, add heat, and suddenly you have a whole new product that not only tastes good, but can be really pleasing to the eye if you take some time with it. And the looks on peoples' faces when they first see it, then taste it, is extremely satisfying.
This is precisely why I love baking.
First again, the marshmallow. The first stage is dissolve some gelatin into water. I did this in the bowl of my mixer. Then you simply heat up some sugar, corn syrup, and water to 240 degrees (the "soft ball" stage of sugar). Looks like we're almost there:
Next you just turn on the mixer and slowly pour the hot mixture into the cold gelatin. Think of it like when you make Jello. You have to start with cold water, then add boiling water, then it sets as it cools. This is basically the same thing (as far as I can tell), but you also whip it to force air into it. This also cools it faster.
Here's what it looks like after 2 minutes:
And after about 7 minutes:
After 12 minutes, I added some red food color to make the marshmallow pink. I also added vanilla here to flavor it. You can see how sticky and thick it's getting by how well it still holds those stirring lines. It's like when you melt a bag of marshmallows to make Rice Krispy treats - warm and sticky and gooey:
After about 13 - 15 minutes, it's ready to be poured into a pan to set. It's so sticky!
I got this weird "select-a-size" cake pan at a yard sale upstate a few years ago with my friend Alberto. What a find - I've used it several times!
I wanted the marsmallow to have sharp corners, and casserole dish or lasagna pan wouldn't have worked. I visualized these things to be completely SQUARE. So in goes the marshmallow, and I spread it out with a greased spoon (so it didn't stick).
After 4 hours of setting (and a lot of mess in the kitchen), I flipped the sheet out and sliced it with a knife dusted with sugar. Perfect!
Those were ready to box and carry. Hurray!
For the macaroons, I made the actual coconut mixture the previous night, since it has to cool before shaping and baking. Also simple, you just cooked shredded coconut with a few eggs and sugar, then mix in some flavor. Cool, then shape and bake. It couldn't have been easier.
After 30 minutes in the oven, they're done. Crunchy outside, sweet and chewy inside. My mouth is watering as I type this!
Coconut is one of my favorite flavors. I don't know why I think this, but to me, it tastes like Spring is coming and warmer weather is on the way - and I LOVE that.
Of course, not content to just have coconut macaroons, I also used some leftover fancy chocolate to make a thick ganache to dip these things in. The bittersweet chocolate was so perfect with the sweet coconut. These were pretty awesome.
Here they are cooling by my window:
In the meantime, I was also working on the Linzer cookies. In a nutshell, I ground the hazelnuts, made the dough, chilled it, rolled it out, cut it into circles, chilled them again, and baked them. Chilling the cutout dough is the most important step in making the cookies pretty. They hold their shape and just come out beautifully.
Chilling out with the macaroons:
I wanted to drizzle white chocolate on the Linzer tops again, so I bought some very expensive white chocolate. It was so so so delicious, but I made big mistake. Thinking I wanted to make ganache, I mixed the white chocolate with a bit of warm cream to make a glaze, but it never hardened back up. White chocolate has a lot more fat in it, I guess. When you mix it with any other liquid, it can't re-solidify. For this reason, I dusted these with powdered sugar, which is the traditional way to make Linzer cookies anyway. They were very good, but I still prefer my white chocolate tops.
So I guess that's it for now. This was a long post, and all set to the tune of Fleetwood Mac. I'm off to Austin this week, then Mexico in two weeks. I'm not sure I'll have much time or reason to bake, but if I manage to get anything done, I'll certainly post it here.
Thanks for reading. Pie for now!