A 15-Hour Homework Assignment for Christmas

Though I had received the grade on my homework assignment a month ago, there was a part of the assignment I needed to finish.  The assignment was to give someone the gift of an experience for Christmas instead of a usual gift.   The write-up of my attempt to do so was already graded, but I still had not actually completed the experience itself until yesterday.

I’m just not a good gift-selector.  I wish I was and I envy those who have this as a natural talent.  So it was not a big surprise when my attempts to give my family the gift of an experience fell a bit flat.

Except with my BFF.

I told her about my pathetic and weak attempts to find the right experiences for my family and she immediately volunteered to do this exercise with me.    She said she’d like me to cook with her to help her to become more present as a cook.   We didn’t want to do something that would be finished quickly because it would limit our learning experience and time together.  So we chose the hardest recipe I’ve ever seen but have always wanted to make:  a croissant recipe from the bakery in San Francisco that made absolutely the best almond croissant that has ever passed these lips.   Though I’m a decent baker, I only dreamed of attempting the recipe since it involves about 30 steps and would take approximately 2 days to make, given the many resting, cooling, and freezing steps.  We decided to camp at my house, wear our pajamas, take mindfulness walks by the river while waiting, and just savor our time together as BFFs.  Her loving and generous nature to share this experience with me made me cry, but that’s why she’s my BFF.

The day arrived and Lisa arrived with suitcase, ingredients and preferment (mix of yeast and flour, chilled in fridge overnight) in hand.  We worked as a team, verbally guiding each other through each step, providing input and feedback as needed to make sure we followed the instructions to the letter.  Chris provided Christmas music and champagne to help us maintain the proper mood.  We chatted and visited in-between steps as we went.

During the longer breaks, we put the little dog on the leash and took long walks to the park, coffee shop and crafts gallery.  We enjoyed the beautiful weather and savored what always seems like precious time together.

Toward the end, my friend/co-worker and newly discovered neighbor Suzanne came over to share a glass of wine and offer words of encouragement.  We laughed, told stories, commiserated, and bonded together over butter, wine, flour, and more butter.  Despite the wine, conversation, walks and food distractions, Lisa and I were able to follow the steps almost precisely to the letter.  But would the croissants come out like I remembered them from my favorite little bakery, 3000 miles away?  The real test for me would be the next morning, after everyone was long gone, when I filled the croissants with the almond frangipane (cream filling) and rebaked them with sliced almonds on top.

After a 4 week planning period, 4 trips to the grocery store, and a 15+ hour marathon, this is no place for modesty.  The croissant was second only to my heavenly  little bakery, and the flavor, quality and texture was better than I have had anywhere since.  Biting into that crunchy, flaky, succulent croissant brought me right back to the doorstep of that magical place.   But more importantly, the time spent with Lisa sharing a meaningful activity will provide fond memories to last a lifetime.  I’m still feeling a high from the fun we shared, and the sugar/fat overload from the tasting.  In the end, there is no greater gift to me than the mere presence of, and opportunity to share time with the ones I love the most.

The fruits of our labor

The fruits of our labor