Where to begin?
Constructing a Christmas Eve dinner menu took a few days. I pulled together all the books and magazines I'd looked at recently and decided what to make. Wrote it all out on my list, and then decided what to mark off.
On the twenty-third we baked. Well, we shopped at the grocery store, and then baked. We made a gingerbread cheesecake; the same that we had at Thanksgiving. I must make a note to cook it longer than what the recipe calls for. It was undercooked and too runny in the middle after a good 12-to-24 hours' chilling in the fridge.
I made a brown sugar pound cake. Took the recipe from Southern Cakes (2007) . It's a Chronicle publication that I solicited a copy of for review in Tennessee Libraries. After browsing it and sending it off to my reviewer, I bought a copy myself. It's just that lovely of a book. The worst part of it was having to bend open its spine to make the Caramel Icing to top the pound cake with. The cake was good, and different. Ian said that my mom and I love our regular old pound cake too much. That means that we bake it far too often. Apparently he craves variety and this brown sugar pound cake sated him. The icing was way too sweet and thick. Four cups of confectioner's sugar poured on top of it. Must blame him for that. I would never have poured the whole batch on the cake, but Ian went for it. I broke off the icing and tossed it in the trash each time I cut a piece of cake for myself.
Banana pudding was a staple at my mamaw's house. I had a mamaw, two in fact. And I used to refer to them as grandmothers because mamaw is so pejorative, such a damning class indicator. Extended members of a family I married into joke about mamaws and papaws from Kentucky or West Virginia, as if being called mamaw or papaw is a bad thing. Nope, it just shows where you're at, or where you came from class-wise.
Anyway, my mamaw showed me how to make banana pudding. I wanted to learn because it's my father's favorite dessert. A few years ago at Christmas I went to elaborate lengths to make a banana pudding pie that ended up falling out of the fridge and spattering all over the floor. Broke my glass pie plate, too. This year, I found a recipe from Jean Anderson's A Love Affair with Southern Cooking: Recipes and Collections (2007). It bombed. The pudding never set up. My banana pudding was more like banana pudding soup. Yuck.
Making something completely from scratch and then having it bomb is the worst feeling. Next time, I'm using Jello vanilla pudding from a box because I know it works. And, I even tossed my bananas in lemon juice so they wouldn't turn brown. That wasn't anything that Jean Anderson mentioned doing, either. Of the three desserts we made, I so wanted this one to be good. It's the one I wanted to try most.
Almost forgot the Brownie Thins we made. They were right good and topped with chopped pistachios. Got the recipe in the December 2007 issue of Bon Appetit, but it's here online, too. We took them along to Ian's family's gathering on Christmas day and seeing several folks walking around chewing them was gratifying. I just wanted to offer something chocolate to those in need.