I Don’t Do Windows… Unless They’re Cookies- Apricot Windows-42 eggs, 38 cups of sugar, 27 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 27 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 152 recipes to go!

May 9, 2010

Martha's Apricot Windows

André's Apricot Windows

Any recipe that starts with four-and-a-half sticks of butter has got to be good.

I volunteered to bring in a munchable for a breakfast meeting at work. People at work know I’m doing this cookie challenge and blog,  so when treats are needed, I usually get an email. I wanted to make something pretty and appropriate to serve with coffee. I landed on this cookie bar recipe.

4 1/2 sticks of butter are combined with 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 3 eggs, 3 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 1/3 cups of cornmeal. These ingredients create a thick, cake-like batter. The batter, save 1 1/2 cups, is spread onto a 11×17 pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with a non-stick coating. It’s baked at 375 degrees until slightly browned. An entire jar of apricot jam is spread in a thin layer on top and the rest of the batter is piped in a lattice pattern on the top layer with a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip. This step creates the “window” effect, hence the name. It is then baked again to crisp the lattice. Once removed from the oven, it is cooled and cut into bars. It makes about four dozen.

This is one delicious cookie and it was an absolute crowd pleaser. It’s certainly one of my favorites so far. It has a sweet and buttery shortbread-like consistency and flavor which is punched-up with the delicious apricot topping. Drooling yet?

I like making people happy. I am what most would refer to as a “People Pleaser.” Many folks think that this can be potentially a bad thing. “If you spend all your time pleasing others, when do you find time for yourself?”  I don’t like those kinds of questions. I’d like to think that we’re put on this Earth to make each other happy. If everybody took the time to make others’ lives a little better, I don’t think there would be so many unhappy people in the world. I’m not saying that we all have to be happy all the time. How monotonous would that be? I believe, though, that folks should try to do a little something everyday to make others around them feel good about themselves. Just a small, friendly, random act or a kind word usually does the trick.

I think laughter is one of the kindest gifts you can give someone. It’s like a pressure valve that needs to be released every now and then. Each of us walks around each day with thousands of thoughts in our heads. A lot of those thoughts can turn into worry, regret, frustration, depression, anxiety, etc… . I absolutely believe that when we are surprised by a joke, a quirk, or a playful stab, the valve is open and the pressure of the day is released in chuckles, guffaws, and snorts. Laughter takes all those overinflated worries and lets the air out just enough so they become smaller, more manageable, bite-sized annoyances.

After my time as a street performer and “Improv” comedian at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, I signed a contract with The American Stage theatre company in St. Petersburg, Florida. My job was to perform with a troupe that traveled to schools across middle Florida. The show was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I played the Goat, Farmer Zuckerman, and Avery (Fern’s Brother). The contract was for six months. We traveled by van from school-to-school. We’d erect the set. Do the show. Pack up and go on to the next school and do it again. Every day, Monday through Friday, this was my life.

I loved watching the kids’ faces, though. I love how kids are always so in the present. If they’re bored, they’re bored. If they’re happy, they’re happy. There’s no second-guessing what a child is thinking or feeling.

During the show they would sit mesmerized by all the stage business. They laughed and held their noses when Templeton, the rat fell on the rotten egg. They roared when Lurvey, the farmhand shook in his boots when he first spotted the words “Some Pig” in the spider’s web. They’d tear when Charlotte said her goodbyes to Wilbur, knowing she was going to die.

I would peer out from behind the set just to watch the audience. I loved that they were entertained by us, all the while not knowing we were just as entertained by them… but that’s live theatre, isn’t it?

In rehearsals, the director though it would be interesting if all of the long narrations in the script could be spoken in English and American Sign Language. We were all a bit intimidated. None of us had ever used sign language before, much less had to stand in front of an audience and make it look effortless.

It took a lot a rehearsing. E. B. White’s narrations were long and required fluidity in the phrasing. This was hard to do while your hands were trying to catch up with what your mouth was saying. We finally nailed it, though.

Towards the end of the show’s run, we performed at a school for the deaf. It was a huge theatre and it was filled to capacity. Needless to say, it was a quiet audience. I remember peering out at the audience during the first bit of narration from the actress playing Fern. Hundreds of faces lit up. We were speaking to them in their language. They smiled and hundreds of kids leaned in closer at that point. At the end of the play they all leapt to their feet, shaking their hands in a rotating movement above their heads. It was applause- their applause- silent, beautiful, and wonderful.

In the final weeks of performances, I was asked if I could participate in a special event at the main theatre in St. Pete. One of the resident members of the company, Ansel, had been ill. He was in his late seventies and had performed with American Stage for almost fifteen years. Saint Petersburg, for the most part, is a retirement community. The average age of its citizens is seventy-six so there were many elderly members of the ensemble.

Ansel’s cancer had progressed beyond the point of being treatable. I was asked if I could serve as the accompanist for an event to honor him. We had exactly a week to put this together. Ansel didn’t have much time left. I agreed and people from the local theatre community contacted me to set up rehearsal times.

The evening of the event was extraordinary. Ansel had been taken from his hospital via limousine to the theatre where the old marquis was brightly lit and read, “Heaven Can Wait – starring Ansel Walters.” Flanked by his two daughters, he entered into a packed theatre. All of his friends and family were there. Many flew in across the country to attend. Those who could not be there sent letters which were read aloud as part of the event. People got up and sang some of his favorite songs. Others performed scenes or monologues from plays in which Ansel had performed.

I didn’t know him. I was simply the guy behind the piano and accompanied tearful renditions sung with great love by friends and family. At the end of the evening, Ansel’s daughter, a career singer, took the stage. I began the intro of In My Life by the Beatles. She sang to her father one last time. Tears fell across the dark theatre, mine included. As the song ended, two costumers and dear friends of Ansel entered from backstage. They had one last costume for Ansel to wear. It was a white robe, wings, and a cheesy little halo. His face lit up and everyone laughed and cheered. I reprised his daughter’s song and the audience sang him out of the theatre as he waved, hugged, and kissed each and every person as he exited.

Ansel died peacefully in his sleep three days later.

How many people get to take their exit from this world with that much closure- with that much love? He must’ve been an extraordinarily kind man. He must’ve known that he was put on this Earth to make others happy. In the end, they returned the favor.

“After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

That last quote is not mine. It’s some of the last words spoken by  a noble, little spider.

6 Responses to “I Don’t Do Windows… Unless They’re Cookies- Apricot Windows-42 eggs, 38 cups of sugar, 27 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 27 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 152 recipes to go!”

  1. Linda O Says:

    I almost never leave comments on blogs when I don’t have anything more useful to add to the conversation than, “thank you for this, it made me smile.” But just can’t help it this time. Thank you for this. It made me smile.

  2. Martha in KS Says:

    I read about your blog in the KC Star. When I saw these cookies I thought they were frozen waffles & thought YUCK! Then I read about them & think they sound luscious. I think I’ll try making them with cherry preserves that I made last summer. Good luck in your quest.

  3. NispIrriple Says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Christian, iwspo.net

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