You know what? I tried. I tried and tried and tried. For years I was a holiday baking frenzy, churning out a dizzying array of holiday cookies from all around the world, packing them into sweet little gift boxes for teachers and family. After a life-changing, Christmastime encounter in Venice I taught myself how to make panettone (Italian sweet bread), sort of. I painstakingly rolled and decorated the most precious Buche de Noel (yule log cakes). And then? Last year I hit a wall and realized to my horror/relief: I hate holiday baking.
That's right. I hate holiday baking. All the pressure to produce joy and perfection in a cookie. The collapsing gingerbread houses, the re-toasting of pecans because I burned the first batch, rubbing skins off of hazelnuts. And the butter. SO. MUCH. BUTTER. I am so over it all.
It was when I'd just completed another fucking adorable Buche de Noel that it really hit me: I don't even LIKE EATING those things. The kind of cake you have to bake that will withstand rolling, a jellyroll, is made for durability and flexibility, not taste. And all that butter cream? Bleh.
And then the cookies, my god, the cookies. There's so much repetition. Rolling and cutting, scooping out the same size, measuring everything out exactly, which is not something I've very good at in the first place. So tedious! Am I really doing this for fun?!?
Worst of all, I don't even have a sweet tooth. All those holiday confections weren't really for me, anyway... supposedly. They were for gifts. But I have a teensy family. The ONE pie I made for Thanksgiving? I still have 1.5 pieces in the refrigerator a whole week later. When I buy myself a brownie it takes me about 10 days to finish eating it. I have a pint of ice cream in the freezer that I bought in September.
And now here I am, facing another holiday season, looking through my cooking magazines and wondering what I'll bake. The madness stops now! Why am I doing if I don't even enjoy this?
I love cooking dinner. I'll braise, I'll brown, I'll saute. It's not like I don't love cooking. I just don't love baking.
So this year I'm thinking about something happiness expert Gretchen Rubin once said -- To live the Big Life think small. (She said something like that.) What is it exactly that I want to get out of holiday baking? Some fun times with my son and just a few sweet treats. So fine, I'll make one batch of stupid sugar cookies, and I'll decorate them with my son. And we'll both have fun. And that will be it!
Except, I've always wanted to make a monte bianco cake...
How do you feel about holiday baking?
Image via Adriana Velez