I’ll share my normally top-secret-never-share-it-with-anyone recipes with you folks.
My brother is unaccountably lingering, but sleeping more and more. He went from chopped food to puree’d food to basically liquids, but he is too sleepy to take much in. When we visit him now, the visits are very quiet. Most times, he doesn’t wake up at all, and the three or four hours we spend at his bedside are spent reading to him, or watching television, or chatting with nurses. Last night, S was awake for a very short time, and I was able to tell him I loved him, and he said, “I love you, too…bye-bye…”
I spent most of last night feeling very sad, because I am afraid that will be the last time I hear his voice. I do believe S is trying with all his heart to make it to one more Christmas with us. I don’t know if he will.
I don’t want to talk about it right now. For weeks, I have been able to write about S in a clear-headed manner, and I think in doing so I was able to convince myself that I was well-prepared for what is coming, that I was faithful and composed and strong.
Today, I do not feel so strong. I want to think about something else.
I’ve done no Christmas baking this year. Usually, at every Christmas, I make all sorts of cookies, but the specialty of the house is the Italian Rainbow Cookies. S (a really fabulous baker and chef, who not only owns every conceivable kitchen gadget but actually uses them…used them…) would make all of his cookies and his specialty would be the Pignoli Cookies (pronounce it: Pin-yoli).
I made my Rainbow cookies for S about a month ago, when he could still manage a taste (they are very rich). They’re a bit of work, so when you make them for someone, it is another way of saying, “I love you.” In my family, at least, everyone knows that if I have made the cookies “just for them,” (for a birthday or Communion of something) they are packed with love and meaning.
S is not making his Pignoli Cookies this year. I am not making Rainbows.
The recipes are lovely, and perhaps they will become traditional expressions of love for some of you, too.
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces pignoli nuts (aka pine nuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If almonds have skins, place them in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain. Skins are easily pinched off.
Place the almonds, single layer, in a jelly roll pan and place in oven for 5 to 10 minutes to completely dry. If almonds are blanched, you can skip this step.
While they are still warm, grind the almonds as fine as possible in a blender or food processor. The almonds should have a powdery consistency.
Combine the almonds and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the unbeaten egg white and almond extract and beat thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonsful onto a generously buttered baking sheet (or use parchment paper) leaving 1 inch between each cookie. It’s easier if you wet your fingertip, as the cookies are gooey. Press approximately 1/2 teaspoon of pignoli nuts into each cookie and let stand 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before removing them from sheet with a nice broad spatula. Store in an airtight container when cooled – cookies are soft and chewy and good.
Anchoress’ Italian Rainbow Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, seperated
8 oz almond paste. Not ‘almond flavored’ paste, which is an abomination. Almond PASTE.
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted flour
red, yellow and green food colorings
1/4 cup raspberry jam or preserves without seeds. WITHOUT seeds. Use seeds, you ruin it.
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 12 oz bag Nestles Tollhouse Morsels. NESTLES. I know I’m a nag, but NESTLES.
13x9x2 inch pan, pastry parchment or greased waxed paper
In electric mixer, blend almond paste, butter, sugar, yolks and extract til fluffy. Slowly stir in flour.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold meringue into paste mixture. It’s sort of glue-y.
Seperate mixture into three bowls (approximately 1 1/3 cups of batter in each) then dye each batch a different color.
(One red, one green, one yellow)
Spread mixture onto parchment (or greased waxed paper) using back of spoon to even it out as best you can.
Bake each sheet seperately at 350 for 12 minutes.
Remove and let cool.
Spread raspberry on green cake. Top with the yellow cake. Spread apricot on yellow cake, top with red cake. Cover with wax paper or plastic and refrigerate overnight with a heavy book on top of it. I like the M section of the encyclopedia.
In morning, melt the entire bag of chocolate morsels (in double boiler or microwave, but watch it closely in the microwave; don’t overheat). Spread melted chocolate on tops and sides and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE or the chocolate will crumble when you cut it. When chocolate is “almos
t” set use a very sharp knife to cut into 1″ squares. Makes a whole bunch.
Really, both of these cookies are a bit more work than a standard drop cookie, but they’re both completely worth the effort and your family will be thrilled.
And S and I get to share them in a different way, this year, I guess.