Winter seems to be over, and it's about time. For me, unofficial beginning of spring is Candlemas. It's when the light is changing, like the moment at dawn when the sky changes from "kind of night" to "day, soon". This year, of course, a serious cold spell started around that time, and I spent most of February freezing off several parts of my anatomy. But at least it was not in the dark!
"Official" beginning of spring is my birthday party. It has not always been that way: In my teens we were more often than not up to our ears in snow at that date. But for a long time now it has fit just fine, and this year it did so again. When I did the shopping on Saturday (with the aid of Gwydion, whose birthday party it was, too, and Travelling Utto who had come to the party early because he had the longest way to drive), the sun was shining, at the party we stood on the balcony to watch the sleet glitter in the sun, and on Monday the smell of grass and earth and damp that is early spring was there, and I opened all the windows.
The party (a by now very traditional brunch) was fine. I had planned not too cook so much, but did not quite accomplish that. Between Gwydion and me, we had invited 30 people, of which 21 were there. I got the 6th season Doctor Who (squee!) and the disappearing-TARDIS coffee mug (SQUEE!!1!eleventy-one!) that I had been convinced for ages *had* to exist, but which neither Snow nor I could find anywhere for years, and a small red espresso maker (*happy face*), a cat mug, and some other things.
The preparation is half the fun, especially as this is a buffet-style brunch, my friends like to bring food, and should I ever feel unenthusiastic about cooking, I can just buy bread, cheese, sausages and Nutella and still everything will be fine. But of course, I am enthusiastic about cooking.
I had breakfast in town, then met with Gwydion and Utto. I had to keep the purse strings a little tighter this year, so much of the shopping was done at the supermarket, instead of at a dozen small speciality shops. This made the whole process faster, but more exhausting. Back home, we had second breakfast and then I started with the preparations. Gwydion came back some hours later to help. We always party at my place, because it's bigger.
Over the course of the afternoon and evening I made a leek soup, a chili sin carne, green jelly, chocolate madness, a meat pie, a pasta salad and a yeast dough to turn into sweet rolls in the morning. For the pie, I used ready-made frozen puff pastry dough, and the leftovers I rolled very thin and cut out little pigs, painted them with egg yolk and sprinkled them with salt. I didn't expect them to do anything more then "get done" in the oven, but they turned into three-dimensional round pretty piggies. It was an unexpected bonus. We nearly destroyed the jelly by talking to much and letting it boil, but we caught it just in time and cooled it down quickly, so it still turned kind-of-solid overnight.
Sunday I got up at seven to finish the sweet rolls. They were very much worth it. At ten, the first guests arrived, and at half past one in the night the last guests left, after helping me with the dishes (still no dishwasher) and tidying the kitchen. It's a party with no features, just eat, drink, talk. I set up the food in one room and the drinks in the other, which gets people moving around and meet not only the people who happen to sit next to them.
Monday I slept until noon, and didn't do much until the evening when were playing Exalted: Dragon-blooded again, and ate most of the leftovers. I was becoming a little frayed at the edges, then, because, introvert, and three days of people, no matter how much I like them, is hard on me. Also, I became very tired of doing the dishes. Next year there'll be a dishwasher.
Per two to four people, take 100 grams of chocolate, 125 grams of sweet cream, and 10 millilitres of liquor or cold coffee. Whip cream, set to cool. Melt chocolate, let cool to hand temperature. Stir chocolate into cream quickly, then add liquor, stir some more. That should be done in about 30 seconds. If you like, mix in bite-sized cookies or fruit. Pour into serving bowl, let it cool for two hours or so. This time, I used 400 grams of chocolate, Kaluha, and added two handfuls of amarettini.
Make a cold sweet yeast dough, with the fluid half milk, half eggs, some butter, and some finely grated lemon peel, all at room temperature or cooler. Knead well and let rise over night in the fridge. Butter oven dish, sprinkle sugar inside. Knead dough again to make it smaller, form roll, cut roll into slices of about 50-65 grams each. Flatten slices, put about a tablespoon of Austrian-style plum jam ("Powidl") in, close to balls, twist top, dip into melted butter and put into oven dish. The rolls should touch in the dish. Let rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature, bake at 190°C until light brown on top (30-40 minutes). Sprinkle with sugar.