Are you sick of all the Christmas music yet? I kinda am. I listened to lots of Christmas music while rummaging around the house today. It’s not even five PM and I’m already done for the year (or so it feels). I listened to lots of crooner-type songs during breakfast, then I switched to rocky stations when I felt that I needed a bit more upbeat company and now I’m just ready to let go all together, because somehow I’ve been unable to get myself into the mood I was trying to create.
The holiday season is a strange time of year. Our desire to pretend everything (and by this I mean absolutely everything) is dandy lies at complete odds to what is going on in reality (at this very moment and all year long). Violence, sickness, corruption, exploitation of workers, animals and of nature – they’re a steady force every day of the year, all twenty for hours.
It makes me sad and I’ve gotten the impression that you can hardly be a positive counter force as an individual, because there is just too much to change, the territory to cover is incredibly vast and beyond my reach, plus there’s too little time to change it all. I get angry watching the news and reports about the outrageously slow progress made by political actors on important matters that do not deserve anymore delay. I gasp when encountering yet again the astonishing influence of lobby groups. I watch with horror as election results get revealed and what happens when people are so strongly convinced that they are right that they forget about any manners they’ve ever been taught and amass a mountain of bodies beneath them as they attempt to reach their goal. All of these elements are connected to each other, they catalyze and push each other to greater heights. Ambivalence, mediocrity and blame certainly don’t help in moving toward a more peaceful, happier world. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
We could do so much better. It’s totally possible. We just need to start acting now. And yet, somehow, we, as a collective, don’t. There is no consensus on anything, not even an agreement on the right way to do something, anything. I think this is why: when you try to stand up against The System and change the way it works, it swallows you. The System is patient. And resilient. And resourceful. So mighty. And too many of us are afraid of truly sharing with each other in an effort to create a more peaceful, fairer future. By that I mean everything: community, culture, food, the uncomfortable moments of talking and of silence, the working through our issues (our own and with the person across from us) and giving away a little money and a little power, and having a little trust and faith in each other, in people that don’t look like you and don’t speak your native language. There’s not only the idea that one and one’s own are better and superior, more important and more deserving than the other and their own, but a history of resentment, anger and fear that if one loses a battle, one might lose the entire war. And to be giving away all the others that will come thereafter.
Most of us take the easy way out. During the holidays we try to rebel with little acts of kindness and through immersion in rituals and in getting in touch with community a little more than we usually might. This time of year, we foster attitudes that help us feel better about who we are all year, we take an edge off the guilt that built up between January and November. It’s not rational behavior at all, and still so socially acceptable in many cultures, perhaps also somehow required for reasons of mental stability if so many of us seem to do it. Dropping out comes at a high price, after all.
Don’t get me wrong, you can totally try to change things by starting by the (wo)man in the mirror, but if you go all the way, it will leave you isolated (e.g. in economic terms) and perhaps a little smelly. It could come at the cost of people thinking you are a little looney, too. For example, there’s a somewhat famous person in Cologne who lives in my part of town, in the garden of one of the churches, where he was granted right to stay in the late 1990s. The church built him a little hut made of wood a few years ago, in an effort to get him to minimize the use of the garden, but he refused. In summer, he sleeps in a tent, in winter Diogenes (as they call him) sleeps in the lobby of the bank down the street. He was the son from a well-to-do family, a student of philosophy, who one day decided to opt for a simpler life. While his decision may seem to stem from the luxury of having the ability to renounce a life full of comfort and riches, to me it doesn’t look the least bit luxurious. I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau and Walden. Most of us wouldn’t want to trade places. No one would expect us to either.
Why I write this as an introduction to a gluten-free vanilla crescent recipe? I don’t know. When I sat down, this is what came out. I decided to share along with my favorite cookie recipe of all time, because my horizon stretches out beyond cooking. I have made this particular cookie recipe more times than I can count, ever since I was little. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like these. They are made with vanilla, after all, so a total crowd-pleaser. This cookie only gets better with time. Let them sit in a cookie tin for a week, the flavor will only benefit! and if you’re not in the mood for Christmas music: there’s so much other stuff out there for you to listen to, no pressure! 🙂
Gluten-free Vanilla Crescents
250g gluten-free flour (I used one part Harina de Reposteria by AdPan, one part Schaer Mix it and one part Dove’s Farm Plain Gluten-free flour)
½ tbsp baking powder
1 package vanilla essence
200g butter (or margarine; at room temperature)
125g ground almonds
3 egg yolks (at room temperature)
1 whole egg (at room temperature)
3 packages vanilla sugar
about 100g powdered sugar
Place the flour in a bowl, add the baking powder. Add the vanilla essence, the sugar, the butter, the ground almonds and the eggs and knead all ingredients into a smooth and even batter. Roll into a ball, cover dough with a plastic foil and place into your fridge for about half an hour.
Line three baking tins with baking parchment and turn your oven to 175°C.
Remove the cookie dough from fridge and take out about a third. Place the rest of the cookie dough back in the fridge. The dough should be cool and not sticky at all. In case it is too stick, place back into the fridge for a while longer. Take a tiny piece of dough (about the size of half your thumb) and form a crescent. Place on the baking parchment. Repeat with the remainder of the dough until the baking tin is full, leaving sufficient space between the raw crescents.
Place baking tin into the oven and bake for about ten minutes, or until crescents are golden brown at the edges. Remove baking tin from oven and allow to cool off entirely before removing crescents (e.g. by placing baking tin outside in the cold).
Repeat with the remainder of the dough (always ensuring that the baking tin is cold, otherwise your crescents will met).
Once you have baked all cookies, place powdered sugar and vanilla sugar onto a plate and toss vanilla crescents. The vanilla crescents should be entirely cold for this process as otherwise the sugary decoration will absorb the humidity within the cookie and become firm and chunky, basically ruining the appearance of the cookie. Place finished cookie in a cookie tin and repeat with the rest of naked crescents until all are covered in powdered vanilla sugar.