This Christmas was an especially wonderful Christmas, filled with family, friends new and old, and lots of delicious things to eat. My aunt and cousin are visiting from Thailand, and we have all been visiting our favorite neighborhood restaurants.
We started the day off with blueberry pancakes, a favorite recipe from Alton Brown, another favorite chef and TV personality. I usually prepare a large batch of the dry mix, which I keep on hand for my mom to use whenever she feels like having pancakes. My personal favorite are banana pancakes, made by dotting slices of very ripe bananas into the pan rather than mashing the bananas into the batter. The resulting pancakes are more like hot banana cakes, dripping with caramelized banana juice. Yum. We added walnuts once. Even more yum.
Then I embarked upon a more ambitious mission: another recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s book, the Tiramisu Cake. Our family friend came over early and helped me assemble the cake, which was super helpful. Since I did not have instant espresso, I substituted extra strong Vietnamese coffee, which my coffee-loving brother had lying around. I initially mixed it with water because I thought it was instant coffee, so it is a very good thing my friend was here because I would not have noticed otherwise, meaning my unsuspecting dinner guests would have had an unpleasant mouthful of coffee grinds. The Tiramisu Cake gave me a chance to utilize my new buttercup yellow KitchenAid stand mixer, a Christmas present from my parents, and the cake part came out well. I think I over-baked them, though, because they were pretty dry the next day. Unfortunately, I over-beat the whipping cream because I did not keep an eye on the mixer, which is ridiculously more efficient than I am. This accounts for the curdled look of the mascarpone frosting. I used amaretto for the espresso syrup, which was overly sweet and not strong enough for my taste. Next time I will use less cake, maybe even just 1-9×9″ round, which I will cut in half. I will also use more espresso and either brandy or marsala. I liked the chocolate chips in the center, so I will do that again.
This has been a wonderful year, and I am finishing this post on New Year’s Eve with less than four hours before it is time to welcome in the new year. I am in awe of what has happened during 2009, and I am happy to report that I am in a substantially better place than I was at the start of the year. It is good to come home after an extended leave of absence because no matter how much you think you have changed, your family and childhood friends know you better than you think they do. It is important to reconcile past to present because your future builds off the intersection of both, and like a house, you need a solid foundation. I have learned a lot about myself this year, and the most important of all is this: I would rather know and love myself than be “known” and “loved” by a million others.