Baking For the Occasion

Baked Elements>

Holidays are a good excuse for a number of things, including but not limited to excessive celebration, spending time with family, taking a day off from work, giving gifts, and lots of hugs, kisses, and kitschy decoration. They are occasions that bring people together — and what happens when people come together in festive spirit? We eat, we drink, we revel.

There is one holiday that, I believe, New York does best, and that day is Halloween. This past October 31st, I was fortunate enough to be given the late shift at work — I arrived at 4 PM and left at 10:30 PM. Dressed in my least creative garb, I celebrated vicariously through my costumed customers and passers-by heading to and from the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. I watched baby Batmen, pumpkins, and witches tote buckets of fun-sized candy down 12th Street with their parents not far behind.

Although I’ve been living in NYC for five Halloweens, this was merely the second for which I actually went “out” — on three out of the five, I was sick. I had forgotten just how crazy things (can I call those dressed-up characters “people”?) get. As the night crept in, so did the raucous crowd, and when I finally finished closing up shop and began to make my way back home, I entered the mayhem that is Halloween in Union Square. A Texas Ranger, blowing on his whistle with unbelievable gusto, stood in the intersection of 12th Street and University Place and, pointing in every which direction, attempted to direct car traffic. A mime in front of Japonica Restaurant stood up against the window and put on a show for an amused family eating dinner directly on the other side of the glass. What do all of these oddballs do to celebrate? They eat, they drink, they get crazy.

Holidays are my excuse to bake. On my friends’ and family members’ birthdays, I’ve baked cookies to give as gifts, decadent brownies and lavish cakes to share at the parties. On Thanksgiving, although my cousin traditionally brings the apple pie, I like to fill the dessert tables with other treats like cranberry-pear bundt cake and pumpkin pie, and sometimes I’ll make buttermilk biscuits for sopping up the gravy. For Christmas, some sort of gingerbread usually makes the menu, along with peppermint bark or more cookies. On Halloween… well, to be completely honest I’m usually in a candy coma, uninterested for once in my life in making more treats.

This Halloween, however, I made malted milk chocolate pots de creme just in time — before I hit that sugar high — to enjoy their sweet, velvety decadence. Richer than custard and simpler than pudding, these are the kinds of things that will satisfy your sweet tooth for days. Have any leftover Whoppers from trick-or-treating? I always do. Here’s a dessert that will put those malted milk balls to good use, even come February when Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Candy doesn’t expire… or does it?