Happy New Year, dear ones! I hope that you are enjoying this close of the holiday season, celebrating the year that has ended (and possibly that the year has ended; that’s okay, too) and looking ahead with hope to 2010, a new year promising new adventure, new joy, new beauty.
I have learned so much in this year, mostly adult/real world kinds of lessons that were not always enjoyable but brought new and beautiful depth to my life. At the end of four years filled with good, solid academic education (which I loved), I learned how to finish well and how to close and then open chapters of my life, how to say goodbye well and how to stay in touch (an ongoing lesson). I learned how difficult it really is to find a job in this economy and how to piece paychecks together and how little I really need to sustain myself. I learned how to best fit all of my belongings in my car when moving and how to ask for help. I learned more about loving well and about making hard decisions (although I still have a long way to go on both of those).
This year, I have come to see more clearly that in every situation, there are difficult and painful things as well as beautiful and very, very good things. I have learned how to first see that whole honest picture of my life and to then cling to and give thanks for the good things... a job, a roof over my head, food on my table, people to eat it with, the amount of justice and freedom I’m afforded. It could all be otherwise.
And this year, I learned the truth of something I always knew in my head but maybe not deep in my bones: that God is always faithful, regardless.
To celebrate the old year and welcome the new, here is what I would call a celebratory recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s big and incredible cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours. I got this book from my cousin for Christmas, and I’ve already paged through the whole thing at least twice. Great recipes, beautiful photographs. I made these meringues first, and they are delightful: light and airy on the outside and dense and slightly chewy on the inside. They are craggy and beautiful, rich with chocolate and a hint of almond, and they are amazing. AMAZING. Happy new year indeed.
Cocoa Almond Meringues
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Position the racks in the oven to divide it into thirds, and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats (I just purchased my first silicone baking mat with Christmas money from my grandparents, and it is incredible!).
Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, ground almonds and cocoa.
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer in a large, dry bowl, whip the egg whites and salt at medium speed until the whites are opaque. Increase the speed to medium-high or high and continue whipping, adding the sugar about a tablespoon at a time. Whip until the whites are firm, hold stiff peaks and are very shiny. This will take a very long time, up to 15 or 20 minutes (so don’t panic if it seems like nothing is happening!). Beat in the vanilla.
Quickly and gently fold the dry ingredients and then the chopped chocolate into the egg whites. Work with a light touch to minimize the deflation of the egg whites, but realize that they will deflate somewhat, regardless.
Drop the meringue by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Dust them lightly with confectioners’ sugar (very pretty).
Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then, without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F, and bake for one hour more. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow the meringues to cool. Peel them off of the parchment paper or silicone mats. Marvel at their loveliness and enjoy!
Store the meringues in a cool, dry environment, either in an airtight container or uncovered in a basket at room temperature.
Yield: about 30 little chocolaty mountains
So may this year be filled with laughter, new lessons to humbly learn, community and good meals shared with friends, and much beauty and thankfulness throughout your days. May this year bring more justice and more peace in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, countries and world, and may we live and love with more compassion and grace and hope.
It’s a new year.