If I were to cook my way through a cookbook, recipe by recipe, my first choice would probably be How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. It's not as comprehensive a cookbook as The Joy of Cooking (I actually don't own a copy) or Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which would probably be my second choice), but let's face it: all those baked goods! And there's something warm and inviting about Nigella that I've always wanted to embody, but somehow I always come off as more rigid than inviting, more cerebral than warm. When attempting to show others I care about them through food, I tend to screw it up. The food doesn't come out right (even if I've made it right a hundred times before) or I get too scheduled and feel like I'm forcing guests to come to the table or I just choose the wrong menu for my guests' tastes in food and atmosphere. I've found a few reliable party recipes but no recipe for becoming Nigella. That's probably because I'm Laura. As much as I might fight against it, I'm Laura down to my bones.
Anyway. In order to cook my way through How to Be a Domestic Goddess, I would have to develop an incredible metabolism/amazing restraint. I would probably have to send my husband to work with cookies or cake or scones almost every day. His coworkers would get positively fat, or else I would. But every once in a while, I take it out and try something. Tomorrow, Ian's work is having a charity bake sale, so I jumped on the opportunity to cook. I made a batch of my standard Better Homes and Gardens peanut butter cookies, and a batch of ricciarelli, an Italian almond meringue cookie, courtesy of Nigella.
I don't think my ricciarelli came out right. Not perfectly, anyway. I had more almonds than the recipe called for, and I ground them pretty finely, but even though I ended up putting all of my almonds into the mix, I didn't achieve the "hard paste" the recipe called for. More of a goopy paste. So I couldn't form mine into the beautiful little diamonds pictured, but I could put the batter into a pastry bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut out--whatever) and pipe little circles onto my parchment paper (I tried diamonds but they didn't hold their shape). I'm thinking that maybe I had too much egg white; I used local, organic eggs, whose size are not as regulated as the grocery store variety. But I would not be deterred. I sprinkled them with powdered sugar and put them in the laundry room to dry overnight, as directed (I always feel like I'm making something fancy when it takes a lot of waiting). I baked them at 250 for about 30 minutes (preheated the oven before hopping into the shower, baked them while primping) and dusted them with powdered sugar again.
The cookies came out nicely, I think, if not perfectly. They are stiff and hold their shape well, but when bitten into they are both chewy and crunchy and highly textural. Sweet, but not too sweet. The raw batter tasted much more almond-y than the final product, but that was to be expected. I think these cookies would be ideal on a breezy afternoon, with a cappuccino and a fantastic view.