Food in general, and dessert in particular, often seems to generate almost primal memories. Food memories can take you back in time, triggering a wide range of emotions and powerful recollections. From my childhood in Brooklyn, I remember "the box" being brought in the door from Ebinger's Bakery, with a wickedly delicious blackout cake inside. The Capri was the source of fancy Italian butter cookies and my dad's favorite Napoleons. Junior's was the standard-bearer in the cheesecake department, and I still occasionally long for those Chock Full o'Nuts coffee shop whole-wheat doughnuts.
For everyday snack consumption there were Ding-Dongs, Ring-Dings, Devil Dogs, Ho-Hos, Sno-balls and Twinkies. There was one grandmother's boiled plum dumplings and the other's Russian apple cake. My mother's chocolate pudding pie and my Aunt Eleanor's chocolate cake still rank high on my list of ultimate comfort foods. Summer in the Catskills meant plump cinnamon buns and double danish from Katz's. Social activity revolved around the coffee klatch and group barbecues. I mastered the art of making the perfect s'more early on.
I concede that perhaps I have been more profoundly affected than most people by early dessert memories. I had an uncle who was principal owner of a great old-fashioned Jewish deli in Miami Beach. Like the proverbial "kid in a candy shop," this "girl in a bakery" was allowed to peruse the counters, which were positively heaped with an amazing selection of sweets, to sample as many items as I wished.
Is it possible that my fate was sealed at the age of 10? I knew then and there that I wanted to learn how to produce such wonderful treats myself.