Every year I pick an intricate recipe to make on Christmas Eve with my mother-in-law. The day before Christmas we have all the time in the world and are usually eager for an excuse to avoid the frigid Toronto weather. As a former scientist (McGill Chemistry class of '51), Mrs H is a precise and unflappable cook. Recipes with a page-long list of ingredients and three pages of instructions don’t deter her. Neither do steps— such as “use a candy thermometer” and "beat eggs until strong peaks form"—that make me turn the page.
Last year we made the cookies featured on the back cover of the Martha Stewart Living holiday issue. They called for peppermint extract, which Mrs. H. happened to have on hand. When I asked about the price tag—25¢—she said something about using the oil for a recipe about 40 years ago!
The year before that, we made a take on a bûche de Noël from The Globe & Mail. It called for lemon curd and a rolled meringue (not exactly possible, we found out). We bought fresh jarred lemon curd from a local specialty shop for that one, but I recall the decorating steps required a pastry bag—also on hand, but again "from 40 years ago."
I'm on the lookout for something ultra-challenging for this year's project. We'll cook at my house this year, so the ingredients and tools will be of this century. So maybe the recipe should be from 40 years ago? I’ll ask Mrs. H to pick one from her dog-eared books and yellowing newspaper clippings. Any suggestions are welcome, just as long as it's as complicated as the treats in the Tara Donne photo below.
This photo is actually from Martha Stewart. We thought it was so fitting that it needed to be published again. It was taken by Tara Donne. She was a photo editor at Real Simple and is now a photographer based in Brooklyn.