Exactly four years ago tonight, I was a jittery and nervous wreck. I had menus to plan and food to shop for. I needed to figure out when I was going to make a mountain of variously filled crepes for a client, and I had to decide what I wanted to wear under my apron the following day. I was also hoping that he would like the Melomakarona I had made.
Mr. Fabelhaft was already on his way to Greece. To visit me.
We knew each other from high school. We were both on the stage crew, played Frisbee (because we came from the high school that invented Ultimate), and were very close friends. Pals, in fact. I thought he was gorgeous, but also that he was way too shy. He was the one I could pour my heart out to and he did the same to me when our burdens of being a teenager became too much. We went to epic concerts together and often went hiking and camping – once my mother got over her fear of letting me hang out with a bunch of boys as BFF’s.
We even hitchhiked to Maine together (time you found out, mom), when our parents thought we were elsewhere. On that trip, Mr. F admitted to having entertained various erotic thoughts since we were sharing the same tent by the roadsides, but since they remained thoughts, nothing interrupted our platonic state of being. We were friends.
Then he graduated high school, moved away to college, and we lost touch.
30 years later he finds me on facebook. (“You are where? In Greece?!”)
Our correspondence continued where we had left off… filling in three decades worth of information in the form of emails spanning many months. We discovered many common and uncommon things as the tone between us changed. We added chats to our emails, and when they weren’t enough anymore, phone texts. We spent so many hours laughing at each others’ stories, and smiling into each others’ eyes, until we knew we had to meet again. So he said he would visit me for Christmas.
Tomorrow, four years ago exactly, he walked into my shop.
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup of cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
10 – 12 cups flour
4 cups of chopped walnuts blended with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Preheat oven to 350F (170 – 180C)
Mix oil, butter, and sugar together until creamy. Mix in juice, cognac, and orange zest. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift & whisk together 10 cups of the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add oil/juice mixture and form a soft malleable dough. If the dough is too soft and cannot hold a shape, slowly add of the remaining flour, kneading in between.
Form into small patties, place on to parchment paper lined baking tray, and indent each patty with a fork in a criss-cross manner. This will help hold the syrup and the nuts to the pastry later.
Bake for aproximately 1/2 hour, or until golden brown. Cool.
Make the syrup, by cooking the honey, sugar, and water together (in a large pot) until all the sugar is dissolved.
In batches, add enough cookies into the syrup, and carefully turn them on each side to maximize syrup absorption. Leave them in the syrup at least 2 minutes.
Drain with slotted spoon and place on tray in layers. Have a coffee, or tea, since you might be standing there doing this for a while.
Before starting a new layer, generously sprinkle each layer with cinnamon/chopped walnut mix.
This lovely pastry which will fill your home with wonderful aromas, is at its peak in flavor and texture at least one week after it is made. It will keep for many weeks and is therefore made in such large batches.