Heaven help the hostess who asks me to bring dessert. I am not a baker, nor have I ever been. The reasons for this are probably rooted in family medical history (a story for another day), and though I've tried my best over the years, it's probably in everyone's best interest if i dolcetti come from someone with a sweet tooth who can deliver.
One of the worst cakes I ever baked was buried under one of the three plastic trees in our High School foyer. (Not M. High for those of you who know me...the other High School in sap country, as some of you used to call it, after I moved away.) It was a day in June and our grad year. There were three of us. K., J. and me. We cut the cake in the staff room...it didn't look too good...hmmm, not cooked in the middle...but we proceeded as planned. We wandered down to the lobby to wait for our rides home and delight in some cake. One bite and K. grabbed the box from my hands, lifted the first tree beside her, and stuffed it in. There it went, never to be seen again. I still gasp when I think about it. She was that brassy and zanier than anyone I've ever met. J. and I still talk about it. As for K., she moved away, to our relief. She could dream up trouble just by breathing.
Any sweets I make now don't involve baking. It seems to work out better if I stick to this rule. My kids agree, as they've tasted enough of my half-baked disasters. The trouble is, I substitute too much in my endless search for healthier alternatives. Whole wheat flour instead of white, honey instead of white sugar, pureed prunes instead of butter...no wonder nothing ever turns out. Here's one of my favorite dolci and a recipe from my local health-food store. I make them almost every Christmas and they're as good as any regular truffle out there. Try them and, trust me, no one will want to bury these in your house plants.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup carob
1 cup honey
1/2 cup each sesame seeds, crushed flax seeds and unsweetened dessicated coconut
Mix all together (in a Cuisinart works best). If the mixture seems too dry, add more honey. Shape into balls and roll in carob or coconut. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
So how does the buried cake story end? Well, much as I held my breath that summer, none of us got a call from the school principal, which still amazes me since there was a crowd of kids in the lobby that day and none of them with Blackberries to distract them.
Over the years I've thought of a few possibilities as to what happened after K. told me without telling me that my baking was more than unacceptable:
1. The caretakers followed their noses and found a moldy mountain of goo in a sand-covered box, cursed the kids with nothing better to do, and spent the rest of the day tidying up the planter.
2. The cake is still there. It fossilized into a rock over the years and the plastic tree above it is a couple of inches taller than the others. No one knows why and no one cares.
3. One day while K. was baking a glorious cake for her adorable and innocent children in their new and happy home, she opened the oven door when the timer bell rang...and out sprang...a plastic tree! She then had an anxiety attack, a symptom that follows her to this day. No matter where she is in the world, every time she sees plastic vegetation, she faints. Her kids were traumatized as well and, as a result, have never tasted a morsel of cake. Think of all they've missed! Call it karma, I guess, or the perfect order of the way the universe evolves. Personally, I like this ending best. How about you?
Buon Natale a tutti! Merry Christmas everyone. Buone Feste. Thanks so much for reading my blog this year. I wish you and yours all the best life has to offer this holiday season. May 2012 bring you much happiness, and an abundance of pasta that's cooked just to your dente. See you next year.