Every year around the holidays, the fabulous Allison and I get together for a marathon baking session. These things have become somewhat epic. One year, we burned out a stand mixer's motor trying to make gingerbread (a tip: stay away from the recipe for Melissa's Gingerbread Cookies found in the Martha Stewart Cookbook). One year, we made about five thousand cupcakes. Baking with the fabulous Allison is always an adventure and never gets old. It also always involves wine--two years ago, we baked while I was recovering from neck surgery, and I discovered I got better pain control from Tylenol and Beaujolais Nouveau than I did from vicodin.
So anyway, Sunday's baking session was one for the ages. We baked at the fabulous Allison's house. Her husband, the equally fabulous Mark, took care of pouring the wine (and, when necessary, bringing in dinner).
We made chocolate-hazelnut wafers in memory of Gourmet Magazine (they were in its 2008 holiday cookie issue).
We made Ina Garten's French chocolate bark, filled with delights.
We made gingerbread cookies, a recipe that actually worked this time and did not destroy any kitchen equipment. (Look at how adorable they are! You dip them in sugar before baking!)
We also made Congo bars, which meant making our own caramel. We'd never done that before; it was very cool. You heat together sugar and water until it boils.
It requires some patience, because it takes a while and it looks like nothing is happening. But after a while, the mixture boils, the sugar dissolves, the water begins to evaporate, and the mixture begins to turn golden.
When it turns golden, you stir it while slowly adding cream, then remove it from the heat and keep stirring, and eventually it turns into the most beautiful caramel imaginable.
This all took us about eight hours, including clean up.
Totally worth it. Can't wait to do it again next year with my marvelous baking friend.