Sunday, January 21, 2007

Party People 2006

Recently I came to realization that AJ and I have a fairly rich, active social life.

AJ has known this all along. In fact, for years I would tell him that we really only have three friends that live in the city (you know who you are!) - though in reality we have many more (granted a few moved here in the past couple of years, and a few we made in a the past couple of years). Yet AJ has always pointed out that we do know a lot of people, and that we in fact have a lot of friends who we do a lot of things with..

This really never registered until our most recent Holiday Party. Every year we throw a dessert party where I put my life on hold for three-four days and bake until I can no longer look at flour, sugar, eggs or butter. Every year, I panic and think that I haven't baked enough desserts for the party and every year I some how, miraculously come through with the baked goods.

This holiday season was no different. The months of October, November and December were one big blur. Again, AJ and I once differed in our view of this time period. The minute October would roll around (specifically my birthday in early October) the year was over for me. My birthday, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Between prepping for each holiday, recovering from each holiday and the myriad of projects that I ambitiously set up, the months spin out of control and the next thing you know - it's the next year.

But that doesn't stop each year from being crazy fun, and for me to make each year even more ambitious then the last.

After several years of witnessing the holiday tornado of our lives, AJ had admitted that the holidays are indeed crazy. And after several years of living in denial about not having friends, I have finally given up and realized, yes I have friends in San Francisco. Super close friends that actually function as family. Close friends that we hang out with on a fairly regular basis, but for a variety of reasons we don't see as often, Not as close friends, acquaintances, and that quirky category of friends who barely know, but we would LOVE LOVE LOVE to know more. The type of people who we have a blast hanging out with but their lives are busy, our lives are busy, and we don't REALLY know them all that well. We always mean to hang out with them more, but, then, it never really happens.

Perhaps it's just as well, as we don't know them that well. What would happen if they ended up being really really boring? How sad would that be? Then we'd be stuck having made friends with boring people. And I really don't need more boring people in my life.

Of course, all these various types of friends came to our holiday party. The days of me fearing no one will show up at our parties are over.

There were a million other stressors going on in my life when AJ and I decided to throw our holiday party. Yet it has become a tradition, whereas there would be big gaping hole in our season if we didn't throw our party. So we threw caution to the wind and sent out late invites to all our friends.

And then I came up with a plan of attack. And here's where I leak my secret on how to do a proper dessert party.

Clear your freezer of EVERYTHING. The freezer if your new best friend.

We throw our dessert parties on Sunday. Earlier in the week (Wednesday and Thursday) I do what I call "light baking". Items like cookies and brownies. Bake them earlier in the week, stick them in a ziplock back (suck out all the air with a straw) and they'll taste fresh baked when you thaw them out.

Friday I start baking pies, tarts, custards, cheesecakes, and a cake or two. Anything that either needs to be refrigerated to set up, or anything that will sit well for a night or two in saran wrap. Saturday more of the same, and then Sunday morning I make all the frostings, icings, and decorate all the cookies and cakes. Oh yeah, and powdered sugar is my new best friend as well. Running out out of time and don't have time to make icing? Just sprinkle some powdered sugar over it, and it's good to go. Trade secret - a little powder sugar goes a long way.

I also learned a couple of years ago, to make labels for everything. It saves you from having to answer the question "so what is everything?"

Of course this can backfire on you. Especially if you make the labels in advance, and you don't quite get to everything that you meant to. Such as my Cranberry Cointreau topped New York Style Cheesecake. It ended up justing being a New York Style Cheesecake. Oh well, it seemed to be one of the most loved items - as it was finished by the end of the party (along with the Lemon Shaker Pie). And that Five Layer Dark Chocolate Cake? It's actually Seven Layers. Oh well.

I can usually average about four baked goods a day. I ended up with fifteen desserts. Not a record for me, but on the higher end (our parties range from 12 to 16 desserts usually). The list is as follows: Shaker Lemon Tart, Seven Layer Dark Chocolate Cake, Walnut Truffle Bars, Orange Cheesecake Brownies, Old Fashion Apple Bundt Cake, GF (Gluten Free) Lemon Cake*, Pumpkin Financier, Iced Hermits, Black Forest Crinkle Cookies, Chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies, Toffee Congo Bars, Cinnamon Cocoa Brownies, Peppermint Chiffon Cake, Dark Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding, and the New York Style Cheesecake (sans Cranberry Cointreau Sauce).

And once the desserts are out, I can enjoy the party. And once again, I looked around at the party, and I realize... AJ and I have a lot of friends. What the heck? Who were all those people at our party? I haven't a clue. Were you there? If not, why not? We were eating leftovers for days afterwards....

Keep an eye out for a potential summer party. We always talk about it, but we never actually follow through. Perhaps this will be the year.....

In the meanwhile I'm going to hang with my friends. My good friends. But I could always use some more. Let's hang out sometime. Just don't be boring.

*Gluten Free? Yeah, I have a friend (she falls in the category of "I wish we hung out more, but we never do because we're both always super crazy busy" though I know for a fact that she is NOT boring) who is has a wheat allergy. A WHEAT ALLERGY! That sucks. I LIVE on wheat products. I heart my carbs.

So anyway, I always make sure that there is something that she can eat at my party. Last year it was a flourless mousse cake and peppermint chocolate pudding cups. This year I decided to do a gluten free cake - just to see how it would work out. I labeled it GF so as not to scary anyone else from it. People didn't seem to miss the wheat. All that was left was one small slice.

Funny thing though, no one knew what GF stood for. The general consensus from what I heard was it stood for "Good Fuckin' Lemon Cake." Heh. If only they knew.


Oh yeah, if anyone is interested, my friend ED over at IS IT ED-IBLE posted my recipe for the DARK CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD PUDDING. The recipe isn't nearly as daunting as is looks....