Today's post was supposed to be all nice and nostaligic and well, Christmasy. I don't much care about Christmas anymore, to be honest. But I still bake cookies. I don't buy people presents, I don't do much in terms of decorations (although this year, it being S and I's first Christmas, we did do a little Charlie Brown tree). I do bake cookies. I always make my favourite of my grandmother's cookie arsenal, jam jams. Last year I also made her "nut cups" for my my mom (her favourite). I usually do some gingersnaps, this crazy shortbread+caramel+chocolate bar (also called "million dollar shortbread" because its so indulgent, according to the recipe. With a POUND of butter it'd better be). And sometimes some random experiment of minty something I don't often like.
So, long explanation short, I meant to post some lovely, poignant thing about baking my grandmothers classics, making my mom's favourite christmas treats for her, in lieu of a real present. Instead I find myself wanting to fling these stupid nut cups at the walls (how on EARTH did I tolerate making these last year.....oh ya....maybe a blog about it will help me next year). Its basically a cream cheese/butter/flour crust. That parts not such a big deal, once you decide the wooden spoon, then beaters, aren't working and lugging down the food processor is a better idea. Then you make some semblance of a butter tart filling. But tighter. Just eggs, brown sugar, a touch of vanilla, and some nuts. Pecans and walnuts in this case. Roll out the dough (a bit of time in the fridge helps, its pretty soft). Cut into rounds (I use mason jar lids and they fit the mini tart pans well). Fill and bake at 300F for 20-25 minutes. I took off to do some much needed yoga. But after 20 minutes when I was so rudely interrupted, I tried to remove one.... and, put them back for another 5minutes. It still didn't much matter. I even used my new non- stick, 12 mini tart pan, and chanced it on an old non-non-stick one my mom gave me last year after I told her of my escapades. I was worried about that pan, but I imagined she had gotten it from my grandmother so it was fitting. In the end it seems not to have made much difference. The filling solidifies on top, and trying to get it out of the pan makes it crack. The filling inside stays oozy and slips out everywhere while the tart shells crack. They do taste good, but they don't look perfect, or even pretty. Something I for some reason cannot tolerate today. Instead, I painted my toenails. At least they look nice now. I really am in a mood where I need to appreciate the little things. I keep looking at them for reassurance.
As I sit here, contemplating my anger and frustration, so many emotions come up. I don't know if I can post this. I think I may have talked about my grandmother before. She was the matriarch of our family. The reason we got together, aunts and uncles and cousins. We don't do it anymore. Now its just me and my parents. Is that why I don't really care so much about Christmas anymore? Don't get me wrong, I do love the opportunity to spend some much needed time with my family. But its just the three of us. We all have too much stuff, don't need presents, and we'd rather just spend the time together. I told a co-worker that the other day, I don't think she understood so much. Something about the idea of no presents got her down. I guess....I don't necessarily believe in the Christian view I was brought up with, and I certainly don't believe in the capitalist view I was inevitably brought up to. And I miss my larger family time. I miss the big gathering of people I only saw on holidays. And being incapable of recreating my grandmother's nut cups, makes me feel incapable overall, and miss her, which makes me feel a bit nutty myself.
I suppose I just wanted to make something for my mother, from her mother. And make it right. But I suppose I also need to learn I can't do that, as much as I would like to. Its hard to believe that holidays are still this difficult, 2 years later. But they are.
So after abandoning the project the other day, I put the remaining dough and filling in the fridge. Today I'm trying frantically to get them done before I have to go home tomorrow. I think I may be filling the shells too much, and should really listen (read?) when my grandmother wrote 2/3 full. Just 2/3 Sarah! It seems like not enough, especially since they are already mini tarts. But it rises up and overflows and sticks to the edges and maybe that is what makes it so hard to get them out. Also, maybe actually cooking them a little less so the top has less time crackle. And, finally, I had to make another little batch of filling, and I added a touch of corn syrup (like I remember from making butter tarts in the past). Not much. Say a tbsp or less for a 1/3 batch of filling. All these things seemed to have helped a bit. And I guess I'm just in a mood today where I can tolerate imperfect looking cookies. I'm heading home tomorrow, with my boy. It'll be the first time meeting the parents. I'm excited about taking this step, and nervous. I hope they all love each other as much as I love them. Merry Christmas/whatever you are celebrating!!!