No sooner had the gingerbread cakes left the building on Christmas Eve than New Year’s Eve began to rear its ugly head. The one saving grace between December 25th and December 31st arrives smack dab between the two holidays. On the 28th we celebrate Master/Master’s birthday, allowing me to step back from the chaos and bake a singular something to light on fire. This year, it was a checkerboard cake featuring black cocoa, red velvet and classic vanilla, frosted in serious espresso buttercream. The birthday weekend included a visit from Sweet Soprano, who despite lack of access to a proper jigsaw puzzle joined us for the festivities. Culminating with a day in the City, we dodged the holiday crowds covering quite a bit of territory. Logging perhaps too many miles on foot, we burned off sufficient birthday cake calories. It seemed only fitting to cap off the celebration with a glorious birthday lunch in the West Village. All too soon the party was over and we scattered in separate directions. Returning to the sugar trenches, it was time to assemble my retail New Year’s Eve mise en place.
Bring on the Guinness for the dark chocolate stout cakes and don’t forget the rum for the eggnog pies. Granny Smith apple pies were also on the docket plus a skip-the-top-crust fruit and nut galette. Coupled with the holiday will be an extended New Year’s break while the bakery expansion gets underway. The last few days of December brought out customers desperate to stock up on sweets and caffeine. Sugar cookies, gluten free banana breads and bags of La Colombe coffee exited the building at a furious rate. And yes, people were still snagging pies hot out of the oven. The drone of the oven timer paled in comparison with the buzz of the espresso machine. Thankfully, both sounds helped muffle the Sonos playlist.
At 3 pm on New Year’s Eve, an ever-so-fit millennial sporting turquoise running gear approached the counter with a serious question. He wanted to know how much sugar was in the gluten free banana bread. Pausing from identifying curious items in the freezer, I retrieved the recipe book to investigate. On an ordinary day, recipe math sleuthing is a cumbersome challenge. On New Year’s Eve, I’m over it. Making a feeble attempt to divide the sugar amongst 45 loaves of bread at 30 ounces each, I replied decisively, “Maybe half a cup. Maybe more. The bananas are sweet. I’m not sure. Probably closer to three quarters of a cup. Maybe. Maybe not.” Mr. Fit did not like my answer. Why, he wanted to know, couldn’t I tell him the exact amount? How I longed to tell him why. “Because it’s fricking New Year’s Eve. Because I’m tired and cranky. Because I think it’s enough that we take the gluten out of your damn bread. Now you want us to extract the sugar?!” But instead I shrugged. New Year, New Me? Doubtful. He left in a slight I’m-fit-and-you’re-not-huff. I longed to sprint after him and suggest that his New Year’s Resolution should be to introduce a touch more gluten and sugar into his diet. That may indeed, make him a nicer person. Finishing up the freezer, I headed home to a holiday as embraceable as Valentine’s Day. Except this year was going to be different.
Granted, I forgot to uncork the champagne. Also true, it was a struggle releasing the Windy City Overstuffed Vegetable Pie from the springform pan. But the company was stellar, the laughter as bubbly as a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. No evening more apt for reminiscing about Auld Lang Syne than with your not old college roommate. Should old acquaintance be forgot? Hardly. Happy Rockin’ two thousand something.
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