Italian genes do not equal la dolce vita

I dedicate this post to my mothering and baking soulmate, Beta Mom.

ah, a glass of vinoLast night I attended a holiday party with my neighbor. I know, I know – a little too early to be going to Christmas parties, IMO, but I like the hostess, wanted the chance to catch up with my neighbor-friend and it was an Italian-themed holiday party! I’d be a fool to turn down tasty food, desserts and some vino! And I’m a quarter Italian, so I decided I would bake authentic Italian cookies to bring.

Susan Misstep #1: Wanting to endear herself to the hostess and party guests, Susan chose a time-consuming and labor intensive option she had never tried before instead of bringing a bottle of wine.

My mom is a very good cook and has an extensive library of cookbooks, so I felt confident embarking on my baking journey with her trusty Italian dessert cookbook in my hands. I selected two possible recipes, one for Biscotti di Pignoli (aka pine nut macaroons) and the other for Parma Chocolate cookies, both with few ingredients and only 5 steps to deal with.

Susan Misstep #2: Susan assumed the simpler the recipe, the more successful the outcome. Oh, how we laugh at her rationale a day later!

I decided I would make the macaroons because the recipe called for even fewer ingredients than the chocolate cookies, and I headed off to the grocery store. goddamn-almond-paste.jpgUnfortunately, the grocery store had just switched all the aisles around, so I was off my game from the start. I searched high and low for the almond paste for about 10 minutes, until I finally gave up and selected (from memory) the ingredients to make the chocolate cookies. But because I never leave well enough alone, I headed back to the bakery aisle one last time, discovered the almond paste in a box (not in a can like the author said) right where I had been looking. I walked out of the store with $20+ worth of ingredients for both types of cookies. Who said confectionery genius came cheap?

Susan Misstep #3: Ah, it should come as no surprise to you that Susan did not know anything about confectionery genius and therefore did not know what the hell she was talking about. In short, Susan wasted way too much time in the store and way too much money on people she didn’t even know. (We won’t even get into the fact that she never writes down everything she needs before going to the store, but this time that part worked out okay.)

One of the items I purchased to save time was a little carton of egg whites.

liquid-eggs.gifSusan Misstep #4: Susan decided to ignore the fine print on the back of the little carton because she had already dumped in the egg whites into the bowl with the other ingredients. The fine print went something like this:

Liquid egg whites are heated during the pasteurization process and therefore not recommended for meringues or angel food cake.

Susan Misstep #5: Rationalizing that she was very clearly not making meringues or angel food cake, Susan decided that the macaroons would come out just fine.

Unfortunately they did not. Instead of cute, puffy pine nut creations they came out flat as flat fucking almond paste pancakes.


(That’s a melted half stick of butter thrown on top of them in disgust.)

But I decided to charge forward and go to Plan B: the Parma Chocolate cookies.

Susan Misstep #6: You know what’s coming, right? You know that Susan should have left the Parma Chocolate cookies right where they belonged — in the recipe book. But she didn’t.

No, she didn’t. These sad-looking things came out hard as rocks, like dried-up, crumbling poop, rivaling Beta Mom’s snickerdoodoos for the coveted Scariest Looking Cookie of the Year award. (That’s raspberry jam in the middle, by the way. That makes it all better, huh?)

My second grader could do better than this

Needless to say, all I was left with 2 1/2 hours after my trip to the grocery store was a big mess to clean up.

Kitchen mess More kitchen mess

I ended up bringing a bottle of wine.


14 thoughts on “Italian genes do not equal la dolce vita

  1. cynthiacloskey says:

    You will learn, Grasshopper. Someday you’ll start to bring the exact same thing to every party — in my case, that means pecan pie or red pepper dip, depending on the party. Do that a few times, and it moves beyond unoriginal to expected, and finally to traditional.

  2. Sophie says:

    Hey! You bake like I do. That’s why I go to something called the b-a-k-e-r-y. Then just plop those goodies on one of your plates, cover in plastic wrap, and TA-DA! Ciao for now!

  3. Cindy and Sophie: but-but-you see, I have to do things my way — the hard way. And historically (yes, SUSAN HAS DONE THIS BEFORE – shocking) most of my experiments turn out just fine and dandy. It was the almond paste. Or the egg whites, trying to cut corners… did you notice it was more of my magical thinking? (I WAS on time to the party, though.)

    Okay, lesson learned and thanks for the advice; someday I may heed it. In the meantime I don’t mind sharing my mishaps with everyone. It’s either laugh or cry in this house, and oh, ho ho ho do I laugh when I’m not crying. Buona notte

  4. You are too cute. You get an A+ for effort — no doubt.

    I’m so relieved to see that someone else’s kitchen looks like mine… On top of everything, the power went out in 1/2 of my home on Thanksgiving(short circuited?), including my kitchen, and the landlords haven’t fixed it yet. Oy vey.

  5. And WHY? WHY? do grocery stores insist on changing things around? I can make out my list from memory of the order of the aisles and then they go and screw everything up. I really gave it the frozen food guy one day and then he said “M’am, it wasn’t my decision.” Still!

  6. lanipai says:

    La dolce vita sounds more like livin la vida loca! You are a brave soldier to go into such hostile territory alone. If it was me, I would have turned on my expensive heel and stormed out of the grocery store when I discovered the almond paste was in a box and not a can as specified by my Mother’s all knowing tried and true recipe book. And to further attempt not one but two different cookies! Truly you deserve the cooking metal of honor. I would have been quite please myself with the bottle of wine. Bravo!

  7. Singlemomseeking: I can’t believe you still don’t have power in your kitchen – that’s horrible! (Along with being a daffy, thickheaded baker, I’m also Master of Stating the Obvious.)

    Madame Queen: I know, tell me about it! Since they couldn’t move the main sections around (produce, meat, fish, etc.) they must have decided to get their jollies by rearranging and shifting around every other aisle in the store. They also got rid of the video store, expanded the pharmacy section, I couldn’t find anything. Ay caramba or whatever they say in italian!

    Lanipai: thanks so much for stopping by in your expensive shoes (bravo right back atcha!). I can’t believe you’ve decided to lavish me with the Cooking Metal of Honor. Like I really can’t believe it 🙂

  8. Oh, Susan. I feel your pain. Your first rule should always be to never try a new recipe to take to someone’s party. I’ve been there, done that, and it has the same ending.

    It’s funny how recipes look so easy in a book or on TV cooking show. Actually, Paula Deen was cooking up some awesome (and seemingly easy) looking macaroons on her show this past weekend. You should check out her recipe on the Food Network!

    Oh, just a question. Did the cookies at least taste good?

  9. Ah, my sisters in crime. Thanks for your support. I have to reiterate that I’ve done the ol’ experimentation before and have never had such poor results. In fact, things usually turn out okay. And the fact these were very simple to make makes it worse. Oh, well. I have grander things to chip away at my self-esteem than this!

    Lulu: the chocolate cookies were passable in the taste department if one could ignore the crumbling, misshapen hunk part. Almond paste, on the other hand, must taste much better when puffed up.

    BTW, in addition to a plaque, I’d like to have a building named in my honor.

  10. I saw the title of your post from your comment over at Lulu’s place and just had to come over. I’m sorry that your cookies didn’t turn out well, but as fate would have it, there’s a contest happening over at my blog (and the blogs of 4 others) to win a signed, personalized copy of Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Mario Batali’s Babbo in NYC.

    Maybe that could help?

    We’re posting recipes from the book over two weeks and three are already up, including mine today:

    Ricotta Pound Cake

    You only need to comment to enter, so come on over 🙂

  11. Oh, my gosh Susan! What a hilarious post. I loved the “missteps” and the photos, too.

    If it’s any consolation, your kitchen looks lovely, despite the mess.

  12. Sognatrice: I have a feeling only having Gina DePalma in my house would help, but I’ll stop over for a chance to win the cookbook anyway!

    Terry: I think my kitchen is lovely, too.

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