Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Every year on Christmas morning, we do the exact same thing. It's actually scary how fine-tuned it is, actually. My sister is never able to sleep, so she'll get up around 4 or 5a and just sit in one of our wingback chairs and stare at the Christmas tree. If, as is most often the case, she has been the final decider on tree choice, the angel at the top will hit our ceiling. The rest of us tend towards smaller trees, but Rach always pushes for it to be as tall as possible. By 6a, my mom is up, feeding the animals. When we were younger, that meant horses, dogs and cats. Horses went, then came back, then went, sheep came and went, and now we have goats and chickens. Dogs and cats are always around. I'll be up by 6:30a or so, my dad shortly after. We'll make it down just in time to see Rach and Mom start mixing up the coffee cake. It's the same coffee cake every year - a sour cream coffee cake from the Silver Palate cookbook. Right before the bundt pan gets slipped into the oven, my dad will brew coffee, my mom will steep tea, and we'll settle around the tree. Our presents are even in the same places each year, by age, counterclockwise. Rach and I will open our presents (I always take longer, as I can't help but meticulously peel away the wrapping paper. I've never been a rip-into-the-presents person.). By the time my parents start opening theirs, the coffee cake is out of the oven and cooling. Thirty minutes out, and we're settling around our dinner table with fresh cups of coffee and tea and wedges of coffee cake.
Thinking about this makes me a bit sad that I'm not going home for Christmas this year. Rach isn't either. It makes me wonder if my parents are still going to make that coffee cake. I would, if J and I weren't going to Asheville over Christmas. I highly doubt the Grove Park Inn would let me use their oven on Christmas morning just so I could have my standard, treasured Christmas morning ritual. And anyway, it wouldn't be quite the same - I'd have made it instead of my mom and sister. Another big change would be that once it gets turned out (and we breathe a sigh of relief if nothing sticks to the bundt pan), J wouldn't know to fight me for the streusel. Because, as everyone knows, the nutty crumbly streusel is the best part of any coffee cake.
Luckily, I at least got a bit of an early taste of streusel this year. It uses walnuts instead of pecans, but I'll forgive it - the cardamom and the perfect amount of crunch it gives to this cake make up for the swap. Oh! And the cardamom! I got to use my whole cardamom that I had picked up at Cost Plus World Market months ago - painstakingly peeling the shells from the cardamom itself and giddily using our new spice grinder for the first time. The kitchen smelled amazing, even after leaving out the orange (I didn't look very closely at the recipe before my grocery trip...) While I packaged most of the cake up for gifts, J tried a piece soon after I made it. No words, just mmm's. It won't dethrone the Silver Palate coffee cake, but it's a pretty darned good substitute when home is so far away.
On a slightly related note, when the weather starts getting colder (it's snowing as we speak! errr, as I write!), I inevitably turn to the Silver Palate cookbook. I have the original version, but a 25th anniversary edition came out a while ago as well. In it are some of my favorite meals: simply perfect pasta carbonara, a fantastic chili (it has olives!). If I had been a bit more crazy, we would have made the food for our wedding ourselves, and their pork and fruit ragout and winter vegetable soup would have been placed center stage. I find it funny that I leap on every new cookbook and baking book, but always turn back to the same cookbooks I grew up with - the Joy of Cooking is another standby. This is just to say - for those who struggled deciding what cookbook to buy a loved one? Old reliables should be a part of any kitchen.
Last Week: Apple Cranberry Family Muffins
Next Week: Rewind! (you'll just have to come back and see, huh?)