It’s the night before Megan Palffy hosts her friends for a Brunchgiving and she’s lost in a cooking frenzy. Her house smells of gravy and carmelized onions.
She has a lot to do before people start arriving at her home in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. Tomorrow, she’ll wake up before sunrise so she has enough time to prep.
“My schedule starts at 6:30. We have a coffee run. We've got to move couches. At 7:50, my tart will go in and then we go to set up tables. Chicken goes in at 9:30, potatoes go in at 10:00. The mini quiches will go in at 10:40. Then the champagne comes out of the fridge at 10:55 and at 11:00, we get going,” she said.
Palffy started exploring the culinary arts at the onset of the pandemic, when she was furloughed from her job as an international exchange coordinator. She had just moved to Colorado, so quarantining left her feeling especially isolated and anxious. Eventually, she grew tired of using adult coloring books to fill the days and decided to try a new hobby.
“I started just messing around with baking at home because it gave me something to do with my hands and something to focus on,” Palffy said.
Before long, she was looking for ways to up her game.
“I did find an online community of people who were also baking and it was based out of the U.K.,” Palffy said. “So I was seeing a lot of things that I don't normally see here. They had different cakes and different cookies and just different everything.”
While she talked, she arranged slices of sweet potato and two kinds of squash on top of a caramelized onion tart so it looked like a flower. Every now and again, she turned away to whisk a slowly simmering gravy. Palffy used recipes for those dishes, but improvised a batch of cinnamon marshmallow roll-ups, using her own homemade marshmallows.
“Worst case, if they don't come out, they don't come out,” she said.
The pastry isn’t something that would be served at a Michelin star restaurant, but watching Palffy make quick adjustments and spur-of-the-moment decisions about how to bake them was like watching a “Great British Bake-Off” contestant in crunch time. At one point, she paused to figure out the best way to bake the roll-ups.
“We're going to put them in silicone little baking cups and put that on a cookie sheet and that will let them be their size," she said.
Palffy has big dreams to one day set up a stand at a farmers market, or even open her own bakery. But for now, the only proof of her newfound culinary skills will exist on her Instagram and in the bellies of her friends and family.
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