Every year, by some stroke of luck or bribery, I get invited to a lovely holiday cookie exchange alongside the beautiful and smart women with whom I work. I'm talking women who have reported from war-torn nations, women who produce the front page of the best newspaper in Florida, women whose reporting shuts down all varieties of shady characters. Also, dammit, they know how to bake.
Naturally, I feel inadequate, subpar and incapable of ever maintaining a house and hearth about the time the "Macadamia Sage Coconut Frosted Macaroon Mini Moon Pies" go around the circle, and I whip out the "NEST-LAY TOLLHOUSE-AH," as Phoebe would say.
This year, things got even more prickly. I'm on a diet, see. It's a contest with my friend, Aaron, to see which one of us can go the longest without eating bread and grains. It started as a friendly quest to lose a couple pounds, but it's really about victory at this point. We've lasted five weeks so far, and I'm not about to give in. YOU HEAR THAT, AARON? You'll have to drag the trophy from my dead, lifeless, skinny, meaty hands, because the most important thing in the world is winning, kids.
But I still had to make something impressive for the party. I didn't trust myself around raw cookie dough. What breadless cookie-style wonder could I make and also enjoy? Then it hit me. Peppermint Bark!
See this one? That's the Williams-Sonoma version. Isn't it beautiful? There's even an adorable dog on the tin. And it's easy, right? All you do is crush up some candy canes and dump melted white chocolate over the top. Right?
I went to the store and sized up the candy cane selection. The traditional white and red ones were a dollar more than the red, white and green ones. So, my choice was obvious.
I got them home and prepared to crush them. What a delightful holiday activity this would be! But wait. In order to do that, I had to peel a thousand and twelve little plastic wrappers off of each one. At that point, I poured a glass of Cabernet.
The pictures you'll see from this point on were taken in Hipstamatic, in an attempt to make everything look better than it actually is. Hipstamatic, by the way, is great if you have acne, blotchy skin, dry hair, wan cheeks, flaky lips or a wayward third/lazy eye. It really solves every problem. It makes me wish we could go back to the time before MEGA CRYSTAL CLEAR HDTV I SEE YOUR PORES HAHAHAHA-style photography.
6,000 hours later, I had peeled all the candy canes. Time to crush them. I put the canes in a Ziploc bag and beat them with a meat mallet, which worked for a spell, until I started puncturing holes in the bag and dust went everywhere. Then, I switched to the blender.
At that point I remembered my first grade color wheel and realized buying the discount canes with the green stripe was a grave and irreparable error. Instead of looking pink and chunky and festive, the candy canes turned into dust the color of dry cement.
Next step, melt the chocolate. The back of the bag of chips said to use a double boiler, which I do not have. Underneath that, in smaller type, it presented the option of microwaving the chips and stirring every 15 seconds. Now, listen. If you present me the opportunity to microwave ANYTHING instead of cooking it the proper way, please believe that's what I will do.
I dumped two whole bags of chips into a big bowl and microwaved responsibly for 15 seconds. I pulled them out of the microwave, and they looked like perfectly solid chocolate chips that had never before seen a fleck of heat. Since I am very busy and important, I decided I could not be bothered to check every 15 seconds, and instead would put the whole bowl in for two minutes and relax while I sipped my Cab and admired the artificial tannenbaum in the next room.
This was the result:
"It smells burned," came from the other room, to which I gently and respectfully replied, "I KNOW THAT!!!!!!" Then I slammed some things.
I chucked that batch and started over, adding far fewer chips to the bowl and checking every 15 seconds. Then I dumped the sticky, chunky chocolate over the gray concrete dust and smooshed it around.
Let me remind you again what I was going for:
And now let's look at my version:
This looks like Ewok vomit. Like bathroom sink caulk. Like a bacterial growth heretofore unexamined by science.
It's in the fridge now. My plan is to hammer it apart into small chunks that won't repulse people, then arrange it on a festive Christmas tray interspersed with some of the extra candy canes and chunks of a delicious fruit cake my mom made. The final step will be to put on really cute shoes and go.
I might also swing by Williams-Sonoma.