During a recent Shabbos table discussion, my son asked me if I had ever cried to weasel my way out of trouble. I said, “Are you kidding? I’m a Litvak,” I said gesturing at my eyes, “Ice comes out.”
My son cracked up. “Stones!” he riposted.
It’s kind of scary how tough I can be. I don’t go in for chick flicks (except for the ones based on Jane Austen books—but that’s because they’re literary). I love action shows, movies, and books, and I never need the tissues proffered me at my many children’s circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, and weddings.
On the one hand, I’m not girly-girl. On the other hand, even when I’m feeling emotional, there is little outward expression. When I was in eighth grade, for instance, my mother was summoned to meet with the principal of my day school over my bad classroom behavior. Rabbi Lerner said to her, “When reprimanded, she is not contrite. She just stares at me blankly. She has no more emotion than this jade ashtray on my desk,” said the rabbi, pointing out the large green immovable object on his even larger desk.
My mother took me out of that school immediately. Thank God.
Today, I can still face both tragedy and joy without moving a facial muscle, if I so please. And the truth is I do please. I don’t like getting emotional in public. It implies a loss of control. It’s . . . MESSY.
What I do instead is, I BAKE.
Maybe this is a case of I bake therefore I am. I may be a failure in the tears-on-demand department, but boy can I ever bake. And the more I feel, the harder I have to bake, producing ever more complicated confections lest I lose control and well, cry. That’s my theory, at any rate. The only way to test it is to take my oven away—please don’t!
At any rate, when I discovered my daughter was hosting the final sheva brachos party for my son and daughter in-law, I asked my daughter if I could bake something for the event. I needed a vehicle through which I could express my deep love for my son and his bride, and my happiness at their new union. Pleased (or perhaps relieved) at my daughter’s consent, I riffled through the pages in my recipe scrapbook, seeking just the right recipe.
It would have to be very labor intensive. It would have to have butter in the dough. It would have to have extraordinary flavor and exquisite texture.
And then I found it. Torn in places, crumbling, stained, and yellowed; a page of my mother’s recipes, typed by her own hand just for me when I was a young bride of 18. That was way before the age of personal computers. Right at the top of the page was my dear mother’s recipe for Apricot Horns. Next to the recipe’s title, my mother had typed: (This is a bit of work, but worth it).
It took many hours to make this recipe and the results were outstanding: everything I could have wanted. I watched my family members take delicate bites out of those cookies, savoring their shocked, pleased expressions as one by one, they entered the apricot horn experience. My own personal catharsis was now fully realized.
And now for the recipe—I may not cry easily, but lucky for you, I’m good at sharing.
450 grams (1 lb.) butter, 450 (1 lb.) grams cottage cheese & 4 cups sifted flour.
Blend ingredients together with hands to form a dough. Shape into 2.5 centimeter balls (1 inch) & refrigerate overnight.
Filling: 450 grams (1 lb.) dried apricots, 2 cups sugar—simmer apricots in water to cover until tender. Drain and puree in food processor. Add sugar while still hot and process until combined. Cool.
Coating: 3 cups ground almonds (can be made by processing whole, almonds until almost powdery), 2 ½ cups sugar, 6 egg whites slightly beaten with fork to blend, confectioner’s sugar.
Mix sugar & nuts. Roll each dough ball into a 7.5 centimeter (3 inch) round (make only 10-12 horns at a time so dough will remain cold).
Place a teaspoon of filling in center. Roll up in the shape of a horn.
Dip into egg white
& then roll in nut mixture.
Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 190 Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit) for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Cool on racks. Yield: about 11 dozen horns.