You can say what you like, but I believe in the magic of Christmas, and I have proof.
In the 10 days leading up to Christmas, the proof that this period of time really is magical has been evident for the past four years. Great things happen, leaving their mark, but also little things, which, at the time, you don’t realize are important, but over time, they begin to change the very makeup of your daily life, filling it with fun and laughter and new flavours.
Four years ago, December 15 was my last day working in the office. I turned off the lights and left that all behind me; my daily life for more than four years. I was a little fearful, but above all, very curious and eager, keen to discover what the near future had in store. I’m still not used to the idea that this is my life, and I’m still amazed at how lucky I am. Some days it’s tiring, when they are filled with commitments and deadlines, but never, even for one second, have I regretted my decision.
Three years ago, I awoke with a smile. The evening before, I had been to dinner with a new group of friends. A casual pizza, organised by some friends of a girl friend of mine, whom I already knew, but only from chatting to online. From that day on, nothing was the same again: the first snow in the mountains, the holidays at the seaside in Maremma with the dogs, the concerts in summer…I like to think that we embraced it all. In that group of friends, I also found the person I had been waiting for forever, silently there, smiling, always around. He was there and I didn’t even realize it.
Two years ago, a good friend of mine, one who came into my life one magical December, told me: give life a chance to surprise you. And that I did. I sent my CV, I had an interview and the following year, in addition to cooking, writing and photography, I also became an Interpersonal Communications teacher at the Florence University of the Arts. This was also a gift from life, and given that presents which arrive at this time of the year are always a little magical, I was ready to embrace this challenge with open arms.
Last December, Tommaso and I laid the foundations for what was to become our life together. I met with an publisher and after a nice chat, I began to work on a book to be published the next year.
And for this year? I’m nervously waiting for the ten days before Christmas to roll around, in order to find out what surprises are in store and how they will influence next year.
Pear shortbread cookies
In celebration of the magic of Christmas, I made some biscuits – yes, once again. But these ones are different, and not Christmassy as such, but are made using the few pears produced by the pear tree in the garden this year.
This biscuit similar to the classic shortbread, buttery and full-flavoured; the filling is fruity and delicate. The dusting of icing sugar evokes images of the first snow during the winter mornings.
At breakfast time, open the window and let a little light in, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy with a couple of these biscuits: the day’s off to a wonderful start.
- 125 g of cane sugar
- 250 g of butter at room temperature
- 30 g of egg yolks around 2
- 300 g of plain flour
- 75 g of brown rice flour
- A pinch of salt
- Vanilla seeds from a vanilla pod
- Grated lemon rind from one lemon
- 2 pears
- 1 knob of butter
- 4 spoons of cane sugar
Rub with your fingers the butter and sugar until completely mixed.
Add the egg yolks and then sift in both flours with the salt, vanilla beans and grated lemon rind.
Knead it into a ball, pushing it down lightly, before wrapping it in cling film and letting it rest in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight.
Peel the pears and cut them into small cubes, then cook them with the butter and sugar until they are soft and soak up the liquid from cooking. Set them aside.
Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to a 5mm thickness. Cut out cookies with a round biscuit cutter measuring 5cm in diameter. In the centre, add a spoonful of the stewed pears and cover with another cookie. Score out a cross on the centre of each cookie when they are on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Heat the oven to 180°C and bake the cookies for around 15-20 minutes, until they are golden coloured. Leave them to cool and dust with icing sugar.