The office Halloween potluck is this week. Can I get a hip, hip hooray for forced corporate merriment? Most of my coworkers — the ones around my age, anyway — hit the grocery store the night before for a cheap platter of days-old vegetables or a clamshell package of cupcakes, the nuclear-survival kind with dollhouse swirls of frosting and cardboard sprinkles. The older ones bring hotplates and slow cookers filled to the brim with bubbling concoctions worthy of a witch’s brew. Yikes. I am not like my coworkers. And. I. Hate. Forced corporate merriment. I am never more industrious than on the days we have company-wide outings. So busy and loving my job, in fact, that I forget about the event altogether! Gosh. And now I don’t have a ride. But I do love to impress and delight people with homemade deliciousness. I can’t cook a grown-up meal to save my soul; however, I do happen to know a thing or two about baking. (And apparently, by “a thing or two,” I mean “how to make chocolate-chip cookies and pumpkin bread.” I also know that everything tastes better when you make it wearing pearls, heels and an apron. And possibly little else. I mean, I’m a feminist and everything, but that’s just hot.) Usually, I’ll bring in a big plate of freshly baked cookies and sit back while the masses moan with pleasure, spewing tiny bits of heaven. Oohs and aahs, all for my dessert. They glaze right over the unremarkable little bricks of dough, studded with hardened chocolate turds, proudly brought in by a lesser coworker. Who claims to woo all her clients with said bricks. Ha. Ha. Amateur. But the cookies aren’t enough this time. Besides the unwanted occupational hazard that involves making that perfect, heavenly dough but suddenly, tragically, misplacing it in spoonful increments, just before it goes into the oven? (And what’s with this upset stomach?, she wondered.) After two whole years with the company, everyone’s had my cookies. It’s time to up the ante. It’s business time.
Enter the Baking Bites blog. Which I’ve exploited to impress my people before, with a batch of peppermint Oreo brownies I brought to a lakefront Labor Day cookout. The Rice Krispies “Scotcharoos” I made from a recipe on that big blue box paled in comparison. PALED. Now that I’m following the blog on Google Reader, I drool over it several times daily but rarely pull the trigger and actually…turn my oven on. I’m a tough sell. But when I saw a recipe for Halloween Oreo mini cheesecakes, I knew I had figured out how to convince my coworkers at the potluck that they all want to be my best friends: tiny, orange-flecked tastegasms in paper muffin cups.
But alas. Despite my budding master baker (eek) status, the scope of my abilities is fairly limited. And sometimes you need more power than elbow grease and a spatula can give. This was one of those times. So I went to Target for the scepter I would wield as a Domestic Queen newly ascended to her confectionery throne: a KitchenAid hand mixer. (I almost settled for the Hamilton Beach model, on sale for six dollars, but I got over that. Would Poseidon settle for a KFC spork in place of that trident? No. No, he wouldn’t.) I clutched it to my chest as the Shining Camry glided homeward then drew it slowly from its box, peeling back its foam casing to free it from its cardboard prison. It’s glorious. Think halos and choirs of angels. Dough hooks. The thing came with dough hooks. Yeah. Until I get that deep red KitchenAid stand mixer (the Best Wedding Gift Ever) — which, let’s face it, could be a while — this is as good as life in the kitchen is going to get. And it works like a dream. Like every wonderful dream I’ve ever had. The Knight stood by, bemused if not fully amused, as I glorped 32 ounces of Philadelphia into my stainless steel mixing bowl, followed by six large eggs, which the KitchenAid summarily destroyed in a matter of moments. Beating it into creamy white submission. “God! I have such a boner right now!” I said this. I actually said this. It was the culinary equivalent of driving a Ferrari down a suburban street going 95. The mixing process was that intense. For a girl who delights in watching her Dyson whisk a dust bunny into oblivion from inches away, yes. It was. I dutifully plopped a spooky Halloween Oreo (“Boo-riffic!” Oh, Nabisco.) into each muffin cup and poured my beautifully liquefied cheesecake batter in after it. After 20 minutes, I had officially made my first cheesecake. My first adorable little baby cheesecakes. So beautiful, nestled there in their little paper cradles. These tiny snacks will win hearts. And they’re that much more special because they were conceived in the throes of handheld KitchenAid passion. Huge boner. Seriously.
I reluctantly left them to chill overnight then had one for breakfast. Unable to wait until Thursday. And they tasted…well, they tasted all right. Turns out I like my boring chocolate-chip cookies, which I could make in my sleep and always stir by hand, better than most anything else I could bake. I think I’d trade comfort like that for the throes of passion any day. I may be a one-dessert woman. But my coworkers? They won’t know what hit 'em. I'll leave the pearls and heels at home for now, I guess. Wouldn't want to hurt anyone.