The first thing I wanted to do when we got back from a week and a half away was clean the fridge. I’m not sure if this means I’ve truly embraced my new homemaker persona or that I’m just neurotic. I honestly hadn’t given it a single thought on the (longer-than-it-used-to-be) drive back from Portland, but once I stepped foot inside, I was drawn to it like a magnet and couldn’t stop until all the shelves had been scrubbed and the old condiments emptied out and the vegetable drawer washed. When I was done, I stepped back and looked at the sparkling white interior: the mustard and jam jars neatly lined up on the glass shelves; the ketchup, fish sauce, and mayonnaise standing uncrowded in the door; the cheeses wrapped in paper and tucked into their drawer, everything clearly visible and nothing spoiled or inedible. And in that moment, I felt like all things were possible. Sort of like the feeling you get when you’ve just cleaned and organized your desk at work. You can see clearly again; you have a sense of renewed purpose. And I could use a bit more of that feeling these days, since the home life with baby and dog has felt chaotic ever since Cadel started to crawl–and then, just a week ago, when out of the blue I glanced over from my post in the kitchen to see him STANDING THERE, and a wave of mixed panic and pride washed over me.
Everyone tells you that they grow fast, but you can’t know this until you see it right before your eyes; I swear he looks different after a night’s sleep, and I can’t seem to keep his little dresser stocked with clothes and diapers that actually fit well. And our routine that had worked for a while has gone to pot. I crave other moms to compare notes with more than ever. Yet I find that the majority of new moms I’ve met have returned to their former jobs, at least half-time; so this staying at home business that I waxed poetic about just recently is not quite as romantic as I painted it to be; the reality is that some days it is a bit lonely. Even if the fridge is clean.
But I do feel a certain call to spend these months here at home with Cadel, even with the solitary days and the house work that is not calling me in quite the same way. Just yesterday we saw a homeless man sleeping in the alley that runs right by our house. And I had to come back and rewrite a big, boring chunk of this entry in which I’d written/complained about house work and lack of adult interaction (I must have been having a bad day; I don’t know why I ever thought that was good blog content)–because I was reminded that I’m damn lucky to have a house to clean and dishes that need to be put away, and I don’t even know what real loneliness is.
The other day I took some butter from the newly shiny shelf in the fridge and baked a simple batch of cookies for a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. If you happen to find a good jar of forgotten jam in the back of your fridge next time you clean it, all the more reason to make these. And to be grateful.
Swedish Jam Strips
adapted from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent
Greg Patent writes that the Swedish woman who gave him this recipe “shapes the dough lovingly, as though she were dressing a baby.” How funny, when I dress my baby it is more akin to wrestling a fiesty puppy or even a large, wet fish. Nevertheless, this is a simple and great recipe. Perfect for your last-minute cookie needs.
3/4 C almond meal
15 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C minus 1 T granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 2/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2-3/4 C berry jam (I used Tayberry)
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
couple drops almond extract
1 T boiling water, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pan liner. To make the dough, beat the butter in an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about one minute. Add the sugar and salt and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed beat in the almonds, followed by the flour, mixing only until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and shape it into a thick disk. Divide the disk into quarters, then shape each piece into a log about 12 inches long and 1 inch wide. Place the logs crosswise on the prepared sheet, leaving about 3 inches between them.
Leaving the ends of the rolls intact, use your fingers to make a shallow indentation down the length of each roll about 1/2 inch wide and 1/2 inch deep. You may need to go up and down the roll a few times to get it smooth and to keep the dough from cracking. Then, use a small spoon to fill the depressions with the jam. Do not overfill or the jam will overflow during baking.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the rolls are light golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
As soon as the rolls come out of the oven, make the glaze: whisk the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 T boiling water in a small bowl. Gradually add more water to achieve a consistency that can be easily drizzled, and decoratively drizzle the glaze crosswise over the rolls until you’ve used it all (you will get a lot of glaze on the parchment paper too, but that is ok; there is plenty).
Carefully move the rolls to a cutting board and cut them on the diagonal into pieces roughly 1 1/4 inch wide, or about 12 pieces per roll.
Cool completely and serve as fresh as possible. They will keep fresh for a few days in a cookie tin.