Our annual office picnic was held on Thursday afternoon, and my division was assigned to bring desserts (yay!). I signed up to bring some cookies and bars. Last week a little kink was thrown into my baking schedule when a friend called and asked if I could fill in for him on a CAPAL Washington Leadership Program panel discussing economic policy at home and abroad. My job has almost nothing to do with the formulation of economic policy, but my friend knew that when he asked me to fill in. I love talking about my job, so I agreed to do it, even though the panel was on Wednesday night and it would require me to take some time off from work on Thursday morning to have my baked goods ready for the picnic by Thursday afternoon (which is not that big of a deal since I have vacation time to burn).
I was pleasantly surprised by the earnest and attentive nature of the 60 or so interns who were at the CAPAL panel, a la the Asian Princeton kids in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. They were very kind and asked great questions. While they asked Policy Director of the House Budget Committee was about Medicare entitlement spending and the Staff Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Zimbabwe, my first question was, what is my office doing about television psychics? (Answer: We sued Miss Cleo in 2002.)
Anyway, it was almost 10:00 when I got home after the panel on Wednesday night and I wanted to bake something quickly before I went to bed. I hadn't finalized my baking plans yet and looked in the refrigerator for inspiration. I saw a can of Young's Luxury Double Chocolate Stout and immediately thought about making Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread. (Those of you who know me know that I don't drink alcohol at all; however I do usually have some stout on hand specifically for making gingerbread or Chocolate Stout Cake.) Like the pumpkin cake earlier this week, the fall flavors were completely unseasonal, but I thought it might be oddly fitting to make dense and sticky gingerbread for a hot and sticky day (picnic weather forecast: 94 degrees and humid). This gingerbread bakes up with a wonderful chewy crust and is quite spicy.
On Thursday morning, I also baked up some chocolate chip biscotti and chewy cherry almond bars. These are both Alice Medrich recipes; the biscotti recipe is from Chocolate and the Art of Law Fat Desserts, and the almond cherry bars are from Cookies and Brownies. The biscotti contain no butter and are the only baked goods I ever make just for myself to eat. They provide the full flavor satisfaction of a crunchy chocolate chip cookie without the cookie guilt. The cherry almond bars bake up into a dense chewy texture, almost like marzipan. I like the flavor profile so much that a few years ago when I entered a chocolate chip cookie contest, I adapted this recipe and entered a cherry almond chocolate chip cookie recipe.
I ended up missing the picnic because I had a lot of work to do... But I sent my baked goods along with someone else in the office and so hopefully they went over okay!