This has been a tough month for us. Not many people know this, but the enduringly popular Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was largely based on our family. The Monday before Christmas, Felix's actual birthday, was spent hovering around the toilet as all of us (except Oliver who had it 2 days prior) succumbed to the worst stomach flu ever. I'm sure there are worse things in life than having 5 family members sick all at the same time, but I can't think of any of them right now. I must have done 6-7 loads of laundry and we still had to use make shift bedding. The down time was spent with all of us huddling around a Christmas movie, holding on for dear life until round two hit. Suffice it to say, it was Christmas Day before I ate my first real meal, and tentatively at that. I missed our usual pre-holiday baking frenzy except our traditional coffee cake for Christmas morning, but the mixer must have noticed my lack of enthusiasm because it didn't rise to its full potential. By the time New Years' Eve rolled around, I was ready to shed the sickies and meet up with friends for a night of games and snacks. But it was not to be. Jasper had 103.2 fever and was in no condition to do anything but stay home, so I kissed all the dearies good-bye and said I'd see them in the New Year. Jasper sat on the floor playing with the measuring cups while I turned to the only decent thing a girl can serve guests New Years morning- homemade, and dare I say artisanal croissants.
Croissants are just about my favorite thing to make, but they are time consuming and require a 14 hour commitment on the part of the baker, including but not restricted to waking up early to roll them for the second rise. It was the perfect activity for a New Years' Eve with just me and Jazz. I put on Handel's Messiah, set him on the floor with a metal bowl and shiny measuring spoons and got to work. It begins with whacking lots of butter and a few tablespoons of flour until you have a malleable mass that you form into what is known as the butter packet. You move on to making the dough and then let both elements chill out in the fridge while you make yourself a drink. Next comes laminating the dough, which consists of rolling out the dough into a sizable rectangle, placing the butter packet in the upper third, folding the whole thing as you would a business letter, sealing the edges, and giving it a quarter turn. You then roll, fold, seal and turn again, a total of four times, which, if done successfully, gently works the butter into the dough in such a way as to create pockets of air when baked, which is what gives a croissant its delicate flakiness. Honestly, the French are to butter what Picasso is to a brush and canvas.
I made half of the batch filled with Bonne Maman Apricot-Raspberry preserves and the other half into proper pain au chocolats, the perfect hand warmer for little boys coming in after sledding. Ryan made a second french press and Jeremy, Hansi, and I fell into a daydream of being together somewhere in Paris or the French countryside. It was nice while it lasted.