I made our January recipe for "Lemon Bars" two weeks ago and served it to the 15 or more young professional/graduate students who meet weekly at our home on Sunday night for a sit-down dinner, bible study and conversation over coffee and dessert. I was mindful of John's initial post and doubled the recipe for the Browned Butter Shortbread, and included the pine nuts. I only made 1 1/2 times the filling for the "doubled recipe". Also decided to gussy up the presentation and made 2 tortes with fluted edges, instead of bars. I found the shortbread a little too oily for my taste but overall was very pleased...I did love both the color and taste of the lemon filling! So I put my sophisticated little dessert out for the PhDs, lawyer, faculty members, army officers etc. and lo and behold they mostly wolfed down made-from-a-box brownies that someone else had brought instead. I have baked for many a decade now and do know that resisting the lure of chocolate is like trying to hold back the tide for a lot of people but Betty Crocker Brownies instead of eye-pleasing, lemony slices of goodness on Brown Butter Shortbread? Really?
I have since made even more observations that lend credence to a hypothesis I have long thought: The default design for most humans, unless there is strong early environmental intervention, particularly females, is to seek all things chocolate first. Last weekend I had promised to make the "Groom's Cake" for the daughter of a friend. Had been under the gun most of the week at work and didn't start the first layer until late Friday night and then spent six hours Saturday finishing it up for a 6 p.m. military (i.e. swords and shining buttons on dress uniforms) wedding. Now I am not a fancy cake baker like the Lovely Lady Baker so I just quadrupled my grandmother's chocolate cake recipe, layered raspberry jam flavored with Triple Sec in between and covered it with chocolate butter cream frosting. It was monstrous...probably close to 30 lbs! Not at all sophisticated. More like something you see at the Riley Co. Fair with a 3rd place 4H ribbon attached. It dwarfed the petite and tastefully decorated rose pink wedding cake. I knew I would end up with half of it leftover. The caterers didn't know what to do with it and I saw them from a distance hacking at it and placing globs of mixed up cake and frosting on plates as best they could. It looked awful. And the officer gentlemen, petite wives of said gentlemen, the gorgeous bridesmaids in formal finery and the guests from the upper middle class and above all devoured it. Cacao must mimic some neurotransmitter in the brain.