Another year, another fun Valentine's Day with my friends. And trust me when I say that I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm of the group that thinks Valentine's day is essentially a "Hallmark holiday" created to make money off of the idea of "love." Not to say there's anything wrong with showing someone you love them on Valentine's day - it can be a fun day to do something romantic with your special shmoopy. I just don't get into the marketing aspect that it's all about now - singing cards, Looney Tunes balloons, single roses wrapped in a piece of plastic, teddy bear arrangements, etc. I guess with a nod towards silliness, those gestures can be fun, but people seem to take it all so seriously. I don't want to sound cynical or bitter, because I truly don't think I'm either. I just can't help but cast a critical (and realistic) eye on these marketing blitz days. I feel largely the same about Christmas, though not to such a strong degree. VD just seems like a very flimsy reason to celebrate something you should be celebrating all the time (if you are actually lucky enough to be in real love).
Anyway, I had a great dinner with my friends at arguably the oldest gay bar in New York City, Julius. I say "arguably" because no one seems to really know for sure, though Lampost Tom tried to convince us otherwise. They have cheap drinks, a jukebox loaded with Cher, and the best/cheapest burgers, fries, and onion rings in town. Four dollars gets you a thick burger, $1.50 for fries or onion rings, and extra $3 gets you a Stella to wash it all down. Combine that with good friends, interesting patrons, a peculiar smell, and a prostitute outside trying to light the place on fire with gasoline (no, not kidding), and you have my idea of a great Valentine's Day.
Oh, I have to let it be know that it really bugs me when people call it "ValentiMe's Day." I think there must be a correlation between people who say "Valentimes" and how many mylar Taz balloons they try to bring onto to a crowded subway car.
VD is one of those days that I really love baking for. I like taking the time to make really pretty, tasty, delicate things. Actually, I like baking for all holidays for a number of reasons:
1. It gives me a reason to bake, which I am struggling to find these days.
2. I can experiment with new ingredients that are in season.
3. My friends enjoy it.
Ok, so that's only three reasons, but I think they're good enough. Baking while I worked at Getty was easy because I had a willing audience all in one place. It's more difficult now that I don't have a dedicated tasting group that I can easily reach. That fact also makes it a bit more difficult to even find the motivation to spend the money on butter and fruit and flour and to put the effort into it.
I feel a bit guilty confessing this because I know I have so much support to bake and get a business going in one form or another. I think losing my job has had a bit more of an effect on me that I previously thought. I've fallen back into a habit of questioning everything I'm doing, and wondering why I do it. Second-guessing myself. Like, why do I bother continuing to buy camera equipment, or cake pans, or butter? Well, I like butter a lot, so I'd probably buy that anyway. I suspect a lot of this questioning is directly-related to financial worry and risk-taking. I've always been risk-averse, especially about money, and spending money on baking seems like a risk. I'm ashamed to admit that it even seems like a waste, now that my income has changed.
But as I've always known, and recently re-learned on my new favorite reality show, Make Me a Supermodel, you don't get anywhere if you don't take risks. For instance, Perry takes risks every week, and always comes out on top.
Go Perry! (I actually just wanted a reason to post a picture of Perry on this blog.)
Ok, enough of all that confessional bullshit. Just had to get it off my chest. Back to my VD baking project.
I decided to make little "sweet-treat packages" this year for my friends. I'd been wanting to try making marshmallows for some time now, and this seemed like a perfect excuse. Also, Linzer cookies (nutty cookies with a raspberry red "window" in the center) are very traditional and Valentine-y. Lastly, inspired by flower-sending Greg's love of the black-and-white cookies from the deli down the street, I opted to try making those.
I got into the spirit by watching the hilarious Valentine's Day episode of the Golden Girls. They mistakenly check into a nudist camp, but decide to try to get into it. They strip down and walk into dinner, only to find that everyone wears clothing to dine. HILARIOUS!
Ok, so the marshmallow was extremely simple and fun to make. It's basically just sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, water, and whatever flavor you like. I used vanilla, and also added a few drops of red food coloring to make them pink. You just mix it all up and spread it in a pan to set, then flip it out and cut it. I found scissors worked well, but they left jagged edges that I didn't like:
I'd like to try these again sometime and document the whole process. It's neat to see it all work. The chemistry is simple and fool-proof.
I wanted to make the black and white cookies small and bite-sized (and able to fit into a little box, so I tried. I think I overcooked them, though. Some came out too brown on the bottom and, in my opinion, too dry.
I pressed forward with decorating them, though. I added red to the white frosting to make black and pink cookies, and added a little heart decoration in the middle. I have tons of those little things from like 3 years back. The pink frosting is just water, powdered sugar, and a bit of lemon juice, while the chocolate side is actually ganache.
I was feeling a bit impatient making these, and I think it shows. They looked sloppy, but they tasted alright. Not great, but not bad, either.
Lastly were the Linzer heart cookies. I love Linzer cookies and tarts simply because they taste good and are not too sweet. They're usually topped with powdered sugar, but again, to cut the sweetness (and to make them easier to transport), I topped them with drizzled white chocolate. It's a sturdy, pretty, and tastier way to go, if you ask me.
Here they are prebaked:
And here are some pictures of post-baked Linzer heart tops:
And my work space (I need more counter top!):
Here's a nice little assortment photo. The little cookies on the top right were the cut-outs of the Linzer hearts. I baked them and at the last minute decided to dip them in white chocolate and coat them in sugar. And honestly, I think they were the best tasting thing in the box!
The final product, ready for delivery (and the end result of a totally fun crafternoon):
One thing I thought once I had these boxed up and ready to go was that THIS is what unemployment looks like. I mean, if I was in senior citizens home, the only difference is that I'd be doing this with popsicle sticks instead of cookies.
So here we go! (These were all taken on my new phone. Well, except the one of Greg, obviously).
One box went to Greg in LA:
Which he received FIVE days later, thanks to FedEx's sorry-ass delivery procedures:
Then to Matt:
Next, one to John, who was home sick for the day:
I stopped by Nowhere to give one to my boss, John, too, but I forgot to take a picture. Doh!
Then uptown to Bianca:
One to Randy, whom I also forgot to take a picture of. Here's one of him anyway (on the right):
And finally one for Steve, my roommate:
I felt like the Valentine's fairy, delivering fat and sugar all over the city.
Here are a few other pics from my VD night, taken on my phone. They're random, but I think you can deal.
Charlie in Times Square
Guy with a cat on his head
"We rarely eat any form of noodle, Dawn."
"Female Trouble" was a fantastic way to end a night!
So that's it for this VD. I wonder what I'll be doing next year at this time...
Up next - treats for trannies!