I’ve already started getting ready for the orgy.
I’ve made up the guest list—seventeen this year, not including my husband and me, with, as is customary at these events, more female participants than male. I scope out the stores for the necessary supplies, many of which conveniently go on sale in November. And it’s never too early to start freezing containers of homemade soup in anticipation of the madness of orgy week that allows no time for anything as pedestrian as cooking dinner.
I’ve been doing my orgy thing for five years now. It all started the same year I discovered the path to sensual healing I described last December in my maiden column for “Cooking up a Storey.” [Naughty Cookies and Sugar Walls] Every December since, I’ve pursued my goal of turning on friends and acquaintance to the point of weak-kneed salivation with ever increasing creativity and fervor, showing off shamelessly for a dozen-plus people, basking in the compliments without the slightest show of modesty. In fact, this former still-waters-run-deep girl boldly replies with an offer to strut my stuff all over again next year!
Looking back over a very eventful 2008, I see that my December orgy was excellent preparation for the ordeal of promoting my novel, Amorous Woman, which dominated and even transformed my life. But after ten columns here at the Smutters Lounge, I’m sure my loyal readers will guess I’m not going to make that connection completely obvious for you quite yet. It’s always better to make your partner wait for the ultimate satisfaction. Especially at orgies.
Now, for those readers who may be new to my tricks, I’ll let you in on the secret. The kind of orgy I’m hinting at isn’t about untrammeled sexual indulgence—well, not completely anyway. It has to do with another appetite that seems to wax with the waning sunlight, but is as old as the erotic urge itself. I’m talking about my four-day frenzy of cooking up my famous collection of winter solstice cookies.
Baking special treats at the winter solstice is a long-standing custom throughout the world, but of course it is up to each artist to make the tradition his or her own. My mother had her own selection of specialties—thin, melting slivers of Swedish nut cookies, round, sugar-dusted Russian tea cakes, toothsome and addictive chocolate crispies that needed an oven-side vigil to prevent burning, coconut macaroons made with condensed milk and decorated with a morsel of red or green candied cherry. I remember, too, the cookie spreads that other moms would offer at Christmastime visits, all so alluring in their exotic difference from our family classics.
For many years of my adult life, I contented myself with baking the X-rated sugar cookies my husband and I would bake one festive night in mid-December (and yes, sex was definitely involved in that celebration). But my wonder at the skill and artistry of the solstice baker was kept alive by the efforts of my oldest friend who would send me a tin of her Christmas treats every December.
To be honest, my husband and I took shameless pleasure in that box of cookies, which contained two samples each of over a dozen different kinds of classic European cookies. For several delightful nights, we’d allow ourselves to sample three or four different types, enjoying the thrill of selecting the particular indulgences as much as the eating of them. Several of my friend’s cookies were made from old family recipes from Holland like Jan Hagels and Speculaas, but other exotic species crept in—Nanaimo bars from Canada or biscotti from Italy. Over the years I convinced my friend to surrender a few of the recipes and occasionally attempted to try one out in my own kitchen. However, it was only during my year of baking therapy that I decided to tackle the challenge of making up gift boxes of several kinds all at once.
The critics loved it and clamored for more.
called “Six Layers of Sweetness.” Flush with my December immodesty, I’ll quote from one of the most gastro-masturbatory “good parts” right here:
Laura took a can of almond paste from the cupboard, a brand she ordered specially from a gourmet catalog, and spooned out eight ounces onto the kitchen scale, then tipped it into the food processor. This was her own inspired addition to a recipe she’d begged from a Dutch friend almost a decade before. It made the almond paste light and feathery, no lumps to weigh down the tiny cake layers, so delicate they rose no more than a quarter-inch high. She must have baked these cookies dozens of times over the years, and she’d assembled a long list of tricks to ensure success. Still there was always a pang of doubt when she set about on a new batch. Could she perform her sorcery yet again—take ordinary flour and butter and eggs and make them into something transcendent?
Making Venetians was rather like making love (ah, yes, sex again, what they said about randy widows was too true). Much of it was routine, a predictable intertwining of limbs and naughty pink parts. Yet in spite of years of experience, disaster lay in wait for any slip, a single moment of complacency or inattention…. Laura felt her face relax into a smile as she began creaming the butter, the European kind with extra butterfat. This was the easy part, familiar as taking your husband’s cock between your lips as you stroked him, just behind the balls, to bring forth that delectable little groan. Slowly she shook in the sugar, spring snow melting quickly on the fluffy, pale yellow mountains of batter. Next came the four egg yolks and a teaspoon of almond extract, colorless but surprisingly potent, filling the kitchen with the scent of an almond grove in bloom. Yes, she had done this dozens of times.
Sex, food and writing. As I promised in my first “Cooking up a Storey” column last December, those three topics will get me going any time, any place. As the year draws to a close, I hope you enjoyed peeping in on my ménage à trois musings of 2008 and perhaps even tried out a few of my recipes with pleasurable results. I’m planning to continue this column in the coming year because I have so many more good recipes to share, but I’m also going to be starting a new column over in “Authors’ Insider Tips.”
Actually, I’m conceiving this new effort as more of an informal chat—over some Venetians perhaps?—about my experiences promoting my novel this past year. I hope it will be helpful for other writers to retrace the journey of a newbie who learned to put herself and her work out there one painful step at a time. My transformation from diffident good girl to shameless hustler proved to be confusing, crazy, and even a bit masochistic, but the morsels of reward were as sweet as the thank-you notes I get for a box of my winter solstice cookies. So I’m off to bake a batch of Venetians for us to share and hope to see you at my kitchen table for some intimate talk about the truth of the book hustling life next February.
In the meantime, may 2009 bring lots of delicious sex, well-crafted food, and mind-blowing writing to you all!
Venetians: A Cookie for Shameless Show-offs
1 can (8 ounces) almond paste 10 drops green food coloring
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened 8 drops red food coloring
1 cup granulated sugar 1 jar (12 oz.) apricot preserves
4 eggs, separated 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grease three 13x9x2 inch pans. (Yes, you’ll need three, if you’re serious about doing the job right. Get some inexpensive non-stick pans at a local discount store and store them away for the higher purpose of bringing pleasure to many one bite at a time). Line with wax paper. Grease again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Break up almond paste in a large bowl with a fork or whirl in food processor with a few tablespoons of the sugar until fluffy. Pour into mixing bowl. Add butter, the rest of the sugar, egg yolks, and almond extract. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and salt.
Beat egg whites in a separate bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold into almond mixture with a spatula.
Measure out 1 1/2 cups batter and spread evenly in one of the prepared pans. To keep the layers even I drop Tablespoons of batter evenly over the pan and smooth it out with an offset spatula. Air pockets can be a problem, so rap the pan twice on a table when you are finished. Remove another 1 1/2 cups batter to a separate bowl and add the green food coloring; spread evenly in the second prepared pan. Add red food coloring to the remaining batter and spread in the last pan.
Bake the green layer for 6 minutes, then turn pan and bake for another 7 minutes or just until edges are golden brown. Do not overcook. Run an offset spatula around the edges to loosen. While first layer cools, bake the yellow and pink layers. Again turn cakes halfway through the baking process. Cakes will be about 1/4 inch thick.
Turn the green pan over directly onto jellyroll pan covered with wax paper as it has a tendency to stick. Cover empty pan with fresh waxed paper and place it over the yellow layer. Turn it over so that it rests on the bottom of the empty pan. Repeat with next pan. This makes it easier to slide the layers onto each other.) Remove wax paper from bottoms. Cool thoroughly.
Heat apricot preserves; strain into a glass measuring cup. Spread 1/2 of the warm preserves over green layer to the edges. Slide yellow layer on top (you will have to loosen it from the top of the pan with a long, sharp knife as it may stick. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Loosen pink layer with a knife and slide it, right side up, onto yellow layer.
Cover with plastic wrap and weight down with a large cutting board to which you add a heavy pot lid. Place in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, remove the cookies from the refrigerator to warm to room temperature. Melt chocolate over hot water in a bowl or cup. Spread to the edges of the cake with an offset spatula. Let harden briefly so it is still soft, but not liquid. Trim edges off cake—these make fun snacks for the cook and helpers. Cut the cookies into one-inch squares. If the chocolate is too hard on a cold winter morning, dip your knife in warm water first, wipe it dry, and it will glide through the chocolate. You can also turn one-inch columns sideways to cut into bite-size pieces—the chocolate will not crack as easily this way.
Store the cookies in an airtight container or tin at room temperature. They keep well for about a week.
Serve your Venetians on a fancy plate as befits the effort you put into their creation. Then sit back and enjoy the compliments!
Donna George Storey
December ’08 – January ’09
“Cooking up a Storey” © 2008 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.