By Kristin Rosenau
Life reminds me of the childhood game of Hide-and-Seek. Most of it is spent hiding anxiously behind familiar routines or a pleasant facade, knowing that change is always close by, glancing around corners and peering into closets, never too far from finding you. Change knows all the best places to hide. Ready or not, here I come.
One year ago I was living in Montreal. I had a life of my own, a city I loved, and a job I abhorred. Two out of three ain’t bad, I thought. But it was. Spending eight hours a day in academic hell was killing me. I had a hobby—a passion—for baking and blogging that kept me sane, but soon butter and sugar weren’t even enough. Change discovered my hiding place and decided to do a little rearranging. I quit my job to pursue baking. And then I did what any strapped-for-cash dreamer would do. I moved back home.
After five years of living on my own, the sudden lack of freedom was stifling. There were scheduled family meals, little privacy, and a mother to remind me to pick up my room. I acted out like a bratty teenager, pushing both boundaries and my mother away. I realize now that my mother was probably having a similar problem, unsure how to deal with a new adult living under her roof.
My mother and I have always gotten along, but it was my sister and mom who were the closest. Like two girls at a slumber party, when they get together they stay up late into the night gossiping about boys, clothes, or the latest episode of Jersey Shore. My mother and I weren’t really like that, having few interests in common, and I’ve envied my sister’s relationship from afar.
At first it seemed like my new baking passion was going to push my mother and I further apart. The kitchen was often covered in a thin, immovable film of flour and powdered sugar. If my mother disliked anything, it was a persistent mess in the kitchen. She complained about the thousands of calories lying around in the form of cookies or cakes—a constant temptation against her desire to drop a few pounds. We’d argue about the pastry bags soaking in the sink and the lack of storage for my growing collection of baking pans.
Unexpectedly, all of this tension slowly began to morph into something different. My mother eased up on her objections about the chaos in the kitchen and I worked harder to keep it clean. We compromised by giving away the never-ending supply of baked goods (after sampling one or two… or a dozen). We’d joke about lemon zesters and discuss the properties of a good cookie. Those late night talks my mother and sister experienced began to mirror the way my mother and I spent our lazy Sunday afternoons.
My mother and I started to share more of ourselves with each other over the kitchen table. I’d tell her tidbits from my daily rounds in the kitchen and she would share favorite family recipes (like her mother’s famous honey cookies) or talk about her years as a newlywed, learning how to feed the hungry man living in her house. My mother’s stories began to influence the way I approached food. Although hesitant of my new career choice, she pushed me to pursue my baking dreams, knowing one day I would find my place.
I never anticipated that my career change would also change my relationship with my mother. Moving back home brought us closer together, literally and figuratively. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but my mother had become less of a parent and more of a friend. A year ago I had no idea just how much a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies shared across the kitchen table would change our lives.
The kitchen table is our story to tell.
Kristin Rosenau is a baker and professional blogger at The Pastry Affair, a blog about butter, sugar, photography, and life.
This recipe has its own branch in my family tree. Passed down through four generations, it holds a special place on my family’s table. My Grandmother Gwen makes these cookies every year for Christmas (and we spend all year looking forward to them). The soft honey cookies embrace the comforting flavors of fall–cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise. An anise glaze may be added for a touch more flavor and a hint more sweetness. These cookies may very well find their own place in your family’s traditions.
Yields approximately 4 dozen cookies
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 heaping teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup black coffee
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and anise extract to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add the butter and coffee. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before adding the eggs, sour cream, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir well. Mix in the flour to form a soft dough. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a heavily floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. You may need to work in up to 1/2 cup flour to prevent dough from sticking. Cut out 2 inch round cookies, re-rolling dough as needed. Bake for 12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned and puffed. Cool completely before glazing.
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon anise extract
2 teaspoons heavy cream, plus extra if needed
In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, anise extract, and heavy cream. If glaze is too thick, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time until glaze is spreadable. Spread glaze onto cookies and allow to rest for a few minutes for glaze to set before serving.
Spicy Taco Pumpkin Dip
My Aunt Nancy made this autumn dip for Thanksgiving and I barely stayed away from it long enough to eat my turkey dinner. Though the base is cream cheese and pumpkin, the dip still manages to be spicy with a classic taco flavor that shines. The dip is stuffed with vegetables, including red and green peppers and olives. Served in a bread bowl with a side of vegetables or crackers, this dip is sure to please any crowd.
Yields about 3 1/2 cups
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
3 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dried beef, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 can (6 ounces) olives, sliced
1 round loaf Italian or whole wheat bread
In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, pumpkin, taco seasoning, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes until smooth. Stir in the dried beef, green and red bell pepper, and olives. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, hollow out round loaf of bread (bread can be used for bread crumbs or another use). Fill shell with dip. Serve with vegetables, chips, or crackers.