Last Thursday, at 23:37 Central European Time, I sent my editor my final manuscript, 852 days after the proposal was preempted all the way back in October 2009. Forgive me if this all sounds rather dramatic, but, oh my goodness: 852 days, a hundred sleepless nights, countless destroyed cuticles and a few gallons of tears are just a few of the metrics I can't help but list when I think about how on earth I got from there to here. When I was sure - convinced! - for so long that I couldn't do it.
But I did do it. You guys, I did!
[Insert "Rocky" theme song or the sound of an Olympic crowd cheering here. Or both!]
How on earth did I do it? That is not a rhetorical question: I have been asking it of myself a lot this week. (In my head and sotto voce, just to add to the slightly loony appearance my mother said I had towards the end of things last week, when I wasn't really showering or eating or doing much of anything besides staring at a computer screen and perfecting stuff.) I still don't really know. Bird by bird, yes. But with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, too, and a freaking village of people telling me I could do it (though I was convinced for about 838 of the past 852 days that they had absolutely no idea what they were talking about). It was the hardest work of my life.
Things aren't entirely finished just yet. The manuscript is currently in the hands of the copy editor, the person responsible for catching every last little typo that I didn't already, who makes sure all the punctuation is correct and who also is invaluable as a fresh set of eyes to look over everything and ask me the hard questions, namely to clarify stuff that my editor and I may have overseen. In the meantime, I am finishing up the testing of a few straggler recipes and periodically pinching myself black and blue, because I still cannot believe that I wrote a book. Me. A BOOK. A book with words and pages and a copyright page and a very pretty jacket (more on that as soon as I can share - wheee!).
Honestly, at times it is more than my feeble mind can process.
When the copy editor is done, the manuscript will come back to me for one final go-through. At some point after that, it will be released to the printer. The day that happens, I will most likely be prone and screaming silently in despair as I am sure I will suddenly have a million reasons why I am not yet ready to let go. Sadly, I will not be able to preemptively sedate myself with copious amounts of sparkling wine. My husband keeps saying something about perspective and a baby and yoga class, but I am not really sure what he is talking about.
So that is where we are at the moment. The book, called My Berlin Kitchen, will be published in September. Which is also when we will be going on book tour to eight cities (they are still being finalized, I'll have a final list in a month or so). Uh, yes, you read that right: We. We as in me, Max and the little dude in my belly, who should be about three months old by then. I'm coming to see all of you with mah baby!!
And, people, I cannot WAIT to see you. I am pretty sure that might be the very best thing about this whole thing anyway.
So in addition to, you know, finishing my book, I made graham crackers a few weeks ago and lo, they were good. I made them because a very nice young man named Darryl was coming over to interview me for his blog, Stil in Berlin. And also because I wanted to eat them. The recipe is Nancy Silverton's and just in case you were wondering, there is no graham flour in these graham crackers, just plain old white flour. Brown sugar, honey, butter and vanilla give the crackers their flavor and snappy texture.
Despite being delicious, they were a bit complicated to make. The dough, as seen above, is very soft and must not only be refrigerated for hours, but then also rolled out with copious amounts of flour, see below, and then the flour must be brushed off before the crackers are topped, decorated and baked and honestly, it is not that complicated, but clearly I had a lot of my plate around the time when I was making these and I kept thinking that if I lived in a country where graham crackers were readily available in any grocery store, I would never make homemade ones again.
Still, this did not exactly stop me from eating and enjoying them (dipped in milk, especially). Also, my mental state was delicate at the time, which is probably why a cookie recipe made me feel slightly, shall we say, pushed over the edge. You may feel differently.
And that is where things are at right now. Me, graham cracker stuck in my mouth at a jaunty angle, covered in pinch marks, feeling - slowly more and more so - like I have just climbed the biggest mountain in the world. It feels so good.
Nancy Silverton's Graham Crackers
Makes approximately 24 crackers
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
2.In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.
4. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.
5. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
6. Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.
8. If you'd like to make the cookies look like "real" graham crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
9- Bake for 15 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.