Last week our next-door neighbor Kimberly brought over holiday treats she and her two sons had made, including the bar cookies above. They probably would have sat there unattended — Mr. Brooks, still convinced he’s gluten-incompatible, won’t eat foods that contain flour, and I hadn’t noticed that two large containers of cookies were now skulking about on the kitchen counter — had another neighbor not come over to borrow a handheld mixer on Thanksgiving Day.
When he saw them, his eyes got very big and he asked, “Are those (insert some name like Magic Wonder Dream Bars)?”
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“I might have to come back over and try those,” he said.
“Or not,” I answered — and not just because, moments before, he had been discussing how he didn’t understand how he had put on 15 pounds. (But mostly because just moments before, he had been discussing how he didn’t understand how he had put on 15 pounds. And also because in 30 minutes, I would be bringing three pies — apple, rhubarb and Key lime — over to his house as my share of the meal and thus didn’t want him declaring potential ownership of anything else in addition to that.)
Confession: I do not like baked goods. That sounds a little weird, coming from someone who last week brought in a whiskey butterscotch cake just to share with co-workers.
I do like the process of baking — the measuring, the mixing, the “drop by rounded teaspoonfuls” — but while I can appreciate the finished product, I don’t really want it in my house. I rarely think, “I could use a piece of cake right now.” (Unless it’s someone’s birthday. And then I always hope that it’s white cake with white buttercream frosting And big flowers.)
The irony of it all is that I’m really good when it comes to baking. One year for a newspaper Christmas party, I slaved over a bûche de Noël, covered in chocolate ganache striated to look like bark, decorated with “mushrooms” made out of cocoa-dusted meringue. It looked incredible, it was garnished with real juniper sprigs … and it went over like a lead balloon because I was living in Grand Junction, Colo., where people wanted, well, Magic Wonder Dream Bars and had no idea what a bûche de Noël was. (“It’s too pretty to eat,” they said, and so they didn’t. I went home and threw out the recipe. And the bûche.)
I still haven’t really learned my lesson; now I just save the desserts for more specialized occasions. Last Valentine’s Day I had friends over and pulled off individual panna cottas with raspberry coulis, which is one of my favorite desserts. (And a lot less showy and work-intensive than a bûche de Noël.)
I was thinking about entering them into this year’s dessert contest at work but there are only two categories, “most decadent” and “healthy options,” and I don’t think panna cotta fits in either particularly well. Plus, I’m not a fan of “friendly” competition because I’m really competitive, which took me quite a while to suppress to a level tolerated by others. (I was pleased to learn this runs in my family. Growing up, my mom was forbidden to play cards with her family because she would get so worked up during the games and, especially upon losing.)
Anyway, back to the cookies. The Magic Wonder Dream Bars appear to be a base of shortbread, with two types of chocolate, some sticky caramel, slivered nuts, and perhaps peanut butter and/or flaked coconut. If I were nicer, I’d take them over to my neighbor with the greedy eyeballs. If I were more devious, I’d take them to work and try to pass them off in the dessert contest. (But I think the winner has to share the recipe, and that might be difficult to do without a clear grasp of the ingredients.)
So instead, I think I’ll take them to work tomorrow and just put them on the table and let people enjoy them. It might make Kimberly even happier to know that her treats were enjoyed by two dozen people, instead of just two.
Or I might just keep my mouth shut, say they were delicious and thank her.