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There is always a reason to eat sweets. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, authors of Baked Occasions, share some of the best under-the-radar holidays and the desserts you need to eat to celebrate them.
Halloween is by far the best holiday for candy, but — much to the sheer delight of this sweet eater—there are literally dozens of other holidays where we should be indulging our sweet teeth. Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, the brilliant minds behind Baked in Brooklyn, share the woefully under-celebrated (and slightly goofy) holidays to bake for in their new book, Baked Occasions. While we adore Halloween (pictured, Milk Chocolate Malted Brownies with Chocolate Ganache), Matt gives us 7 additional reasons to eat sweets all year long.
1. La Befana (January 5th). La Befana, a very Italian holiday, should be adopted by Americans ASAP. It is the perfect creepy cool holiday – the perfect blend of Halloween and Christmas (paging Tim Burton). Essentially, Befana is a soot-covered witch who delivers gifts (or lumps of coal) to the children of Italy on Epiphany Eve. We make Brutti Ma Buoni (ugly but good) Cookies for La Befana (um, to put it mildly, Befana is not a super sexy looking gal), but really any mix and mash of Halloween / Christmas style dessert will do justice to this day.
2. Dolly Parton’s Birthday (January 9th). We celebrate Dolly daily. We don’t even wait for her birthday. For us, Dollywood is Nirvana and you are riding our Dolly train with glee or we will gladly kick you off. The beauty of Dolly is that you can make almost anything to celebrate. We picture something big and pink and doughnut-like, but Dolly Day is open to interpretation. Just celebrate with a smile.
3. Worldwide Nutella Day (Feb 5th). Nutella is loved the world over. And super fan, Sara Rosso, started World Nutella Day to pay homage to the heavenly hazelnut chocolate spread. Nutella-heads will put this spread on anything (bread, pasta, ice cream, scones, etc…) but we like it best baked into our Nutella Chip Cookies. Invite your friends over, cover the table in jars of Nutella. And pair with anything. It’s a very Instagram-able holiday by the way.
4. Ides of March (March 15). Renato, my business partner, has a weird fascination with the Ides of March. I suppose you could reason this two ways: a) he has a deep fascination with Shakespeare (unlikely) and/or b) he really likes Toga Parties (much more likely). Either way, it is a holiday to put on your calendar as it allows you to look both literate (Shakespeare part) and fratty (toga part). We made a Blood Orange (get it) Tiramisu for this date. How can you not?
5. National Sea Monkey Day (May 16th). What the hell? Truth be told, I am not even sure if you should celebrate this day, but I feel compelled to mention it because…well, because…National Sea Monkey Day. It can’t be ignored. What does one make for National Sea Monkey Day? Something shrimpy. I guess. I envision a big 1950’s homage to shrimp cocktail. This holiday almost made it into our book; however, we could not quite figure out how to use shrimp in a dessert-y way. This is probably a good thing.
6. Hunter S. Thompson’s Birthday (July 18th). I wholeheartedly believe you have to give props to someone that basically invented a completely new form of journalism. I have always had a thing for the subversive Hunter S. Thompson ever since reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – and at one point – even daydreamed about starting a respectful Fear and Loathing tour (friends intervened…thankfully). You can celebrate the gonzo journalist birthday anyway you like, just make sure it is a little off-kilter. For our book, we made a Purple Velvet (Gonzo) Cake for the day. We wash it down with whiskey.
7. Boxing Day (December 26). Yes, we know that many other countries celebrate this day, but how on earth did Americans let this slide off our calendar? It is the perfect holiday in that it serves no purpose except to nurse your Christmas hangover while sitting around eating leftovers in your stretchy pants. To celebrate: put all of your favorite leftovers on one plate. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Power watch some TV. Done.