Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year's Cookies (Porzelchen)

New Year's Cookies
Although New Year's Cookies aren't a tradition in my family, I do share a German heritage with them and thought they would be fun to make today - before the resolutions begin!  New Year's Cookies, also called "Porzelchen" (High German) or "Niejoash koake" (Low German), have been made by German Mennonites for many generations. (Scandinavian and Russian Mennonites also have versions of this recipe.) They were traditionally made the day of New Year's Eve, to be eaten during "Watchnight" services in the Mennonite church (and usually finished off the next day). Watchnight was the spiritual alternative to the drunken revelry associated with New Year's Eve.

Consider this recollection from Violet, in her blog Promptings: "That late-ish New Year's Eve church service, consisting of hymns, testimonies and lots of prayers, always ended with lunch in the church basement - definitely the highlight of the evening for us kids. Portzelky was the star of the menu - iced, plain, coated in a sugar-cinnamon mixture, or dusted in icing sugar. Some were soft as marshmallows, others were chewy. Some cooks filled theirs with apple bits, but most with raisins. It always amazed me how one food could turn out so differently in the hands of a variety of cooks."

"Cookie" is actually a misnomer; Porzelchen are not cookies at all, but rather a type of fritter or doughnut with raisins. The High German name means "tumbling over" because they are said to turn over by themselves in the hot oil. Porzelchen are made from a spongy yeast batter with raisins, and dropped by spoon-fulls into hot, deep fat. The dough puffs up, tumbles over, and fries to a golden brown. The "cookies" are then rolled in sugar or glazed.

Porzelchen recipes use a variety of ingredients.
As Violet points out, Porzelchen come in a variety of incarnations but all the recipes I've seen include raisins and yeast. Some use apple, snips of prunes or sultanas. Methods and ingredients vary too - some use scalded milk or melted butter, some baking powder, others baking soda. Some folks remember having a bagful of Porzelchen dusted with icing sugar and ready to take to the Watchnight service. But user Becky (of Junction City, Oregon) wouldn't dream of using powdered sugar: "We generally serve them with ham and pickles. But we NEVER put powdered sugar on them." Another member, deepfreeze, says: "My mother served these for lunch on New Year's Day along with Farmer Sausage and dill pickles." She rolls her Porzelchen in granulated sugar. Still others might use a glaze of powdered sugar and milk.

And not all traditions relate the "cookies" to Watchnight services either. According to Norma Jost Voth in her book, "Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia," Mennonites gave their Russian neighbors Portselkie when they came and sang for them on New Year's Day. The "cookies" were a symbol of affluence and luxury and carried with them the wish for an abundant year.
The two-spoon method works for me.

I used the recipe from the "Mennonite Treasury of Recipes" (Canadian Mennonite Conference. Derksen Printers Ltd., Steinbach, Manitoba, 1982). This is one of the most popular cookbooks in the Mennonite German community and a Canadian bestseller. It can be difficult to find but Derksen Printers sells copies of the soft-cover, spiral-bound book for $20.

I chose not to use raisins because I don't particularly like raisins in my doughnuts. I rolled half of the Porzelchen in a cinnamon-sugar mixture and the other half in powdered sugar. The dough is very sticky and some people use an ice cream scoop, resulting in perfectly round balls. I like the rustic look, so I used two teaspoons to scoop and scrape the dough into the deep fat. The first few turned by themselves but most had to be persuaded.

I enjoyed making these, knowing they've been part of a tradition in German, Russian and Scandinavian families for years. Before we get to the recipe, here's a Low German nursery rhyme from "Off the Mountain Lake Range," a 1958 Mennnonite cookbook produced by the Gopher Historians of Mountain Lake Range (Minnesota) High School:

Eck sach den Shornsteen Roacke.
Eck visst voll vaut ye moacke.
Ye backte Niejoash Koake.
Yave ye me eane
Dann bliev eck stoane
Yave ye me twea
Dann fang eck aun to goane
Yave ye me drea, fea, feef toaglick
Donn vensch eck you daut gaunse Himmelrick.

English Translation:
I saw your chimney smoking.
I knew what you were making.
You were baking New Year's Cookies.
Give me one -- I stand still.
Give me two -- I start walking.
Give me three, four, five at once,
Then I wish you the Kingdom of Heaven.

1 tsp sugar
1/2 c lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 c raisins
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites, beaten
3 c flour
oil (for deep frying)

Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in lukewarm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle with yeast and let stand.

Combine milk, water, salt, remaining sugar, baking powder and raisins in a large bowl.

Beat in egg yolks and yeast.

Stir in flour to make a heavy (rather stiff) batter.

Fold in egg whites.

Cover and set in a warm place until at least doubled in bulk (about 2 hours). The end result is a fairly sticky dough.

Drop by tablespoonful into hot oil (375 degrees Fahrenheit) and fry until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels, then roll in granulated sugar. Or cinnamon-sugar. Or powdered sugar. I shook mine in a bag of cinnamon-sugar; some I did in powdered sugar.

I shook my "cookies" in cinnamon sugar.
Or you can use powdered sugar.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

2003 - Ten Years and Counting

We have kept a record of our recipes, observations and
memories over the years in "Our Cookie Journal."

Here we are in our 10th year of "Our Cookie Journal," although we've been baking cookies (and other delights) longer than that. Still, it's quite a record we have kept and I aways laugh and cry whenever I read through "Our Journal" again. I try to read it once before I begin baking, so I can benefit from any notes we may have made in the past about our favorites. Some years are harder to read, though — like our first Christmas without Dad, or my first year in England, without my family.

The reason I have it out as early as Nov. 8 this year is that I made Pumpkin Bread today. I used Mom and Dad's tried-and-true recipe and wound up with eight aromatic mini loaves. I've already had two yummy slices (topped with cream cheese). I'll have to make another batch so I have plenty to share! I emailed the recipe to Lisa again - let's hope she remembers the  pumpkin this year! (See UnPumpkin Bread!)

We can't help including Pumpkin Bread in "Our Cookie Journal" - especially since Dad always loved baking it and giving it away at Christmas time. A few batches of Pumpkin Bread are the standard prelude to all my cookie baking too. (I feel the same way about Chex Party Mix too. Mom mailed a package containing Chex cereals and Bugles to me last Wednesday, so I've already made two batches of Party Mix too. I did it within an hour of receiving the package! It's all part of Christmas to me.)

Anyway, since I'll be "Home for the Holidays," or at least for Thanksgiving, I'm going to start baking next week. I'll need to take cookies with me and I'll want cookies in the freezer for when we return. Now, to peruse "Our Journal" and decide what to make this year!

There's always tomorrow, Cookie Monster!

Add caption

Today I will live in the moment...

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2002 - Holiday Baking on the Homefront

This entry was written by my sister, Lisa, and sent to me via email to add to Our Cookie Journal. 

Although they're doing crafts, the scene isn't much
different when Lisa and her girls are baking
I was bound and determined to bake Sugar Cookies today. I took Rachel and April to school and on the way, I noticed the van wasn't shifting properly, so I hurried home. After talking to Mike about the van, it was determined that I was grounded. I was disappointed. I needed ingredients for the cookies. Did I waste time? No! I started burning Christmas CDs for everyone and made various phone calls to get out of my dilemma.

Eventually, Michael came over and drove the van and said I could drive it as long as I don't use overdrive, which I don't. So I jetted myself to Kroger for my necessary goods. While I was there, I found Baker's Secret sheets and racks on sale for $2.50 each! I came home and got everything ready for Sugar Cookies. I didn't have to hunt for "Joy of Cooking" either.

It was almost time for the girls to get off the bus, so I measured and prepped everything and preheated the oven. When the girlies came in, I had them join me and we added our ingredients to the mixing bowl and made our dough. Sugar Cookies mixed in a Kitchen Aid - what pleasure! Remember how sore we used to get from all that mixing? We would take turns, passing the bowl back and forth!
Anyway, the dough was heaven. After a short chill, wrapped in Glad green wrap, I rolled the dough, gave the cutters to the kids and let them have at it. They did a great job! No doughy casualties. No amputees. They made holly, bells, candy canes, angels and small circles. The cookies smelled wonderful baking - so buttery! We ended up with 49 cookies.

We moved right on to Chocolate Chip Cookies. The girls measured all the ingredients. They poured in everything but the flour. Both girls are adept at egg cracking. No shells in our dough! The first dozen was too dark, the next two were perfect, but the rest were flat. They tasted wonderful but they looked so sad. I doubled the batch and it seems when I do that the cookies don't turn out right, so single batches from now on. I got 8 dozen flatties — I mean cookies.

Then we were ready to frost the Sugar Cookies. Using our old standby, Betty Crocker tubs, I made yellow, blue and green frosting, plus we used white. I showed the girls how to frost and sprinkle and they took off. They did really well! We have some of the most colorful cookies. The girls kept telling me how great it was to be baking and decorating. They really had a good time, as did I! We listened to Christmas music, burned candles and Mike even brought us McDonald's. What a great day!

The only thing missing was you!!!!!!!

2002 - Backstretch to Homestretch

Our second-to-last issue — ever. 

It's Dec. 9 and Charlie and I leave for "home" tomorrow. I had to stop production all week so I could finish the real work of the magazine but I got a lot done today. The boss called this week and said this would be the last issue — "The Backstretch" is folding. Naturally, I'm disappointed. When I gave my notice because I was moving here to England, Sam worked it out so I could continue editing and designing the magazine from here. It's been great! I've been able to work from home, look after Charlie — and bake Christmas cookies! I don't think it's going to be easy to find something else here that's as flexible.

On to the baking, I made only two more types of cookies but they took a while. I started with Lime Meltaways. I made only one batch, since I was in a hurry to get them baked and brought home to Mom. One thing I have to remember: nuke the limes for 20 seconds for maximum juice. Two lovely logs yielded about 5 dozen Limeys. I packed them up for freezing, except one each for me and Neil to sample.

As I waited for the Lime Meltaways to chill for an hour, I decided to get the dough ready for the Moravian Spice Cookies. Except it calls for FIVE cups of flour and I had only three. Neil - bless him - went to town three different times for supplies. My Moravians didn't turn out as crispy as they should be. They were kind of chewy - still good - but chewy. I didn't get the dough rolled out as thin as it should have been. I used parchment paper instead of a Silpat (because I didn't have one) and I think that might have made a difference. Mom will be glad to have her scraps still and she said I could have her Silpat when I get home. Which is soon, so I better finish packing - cookies and clothes!

Friday, 28 December 2012

2002 - Wacky for Kolacky (that does not rhyme)

Last night (Nov. 25), I mixed up a batch of Klotzky dough. It was such an easy dough because it only used three ingredients: cream cheese, butter and flour. Then I popped it in the fridge overnight. I baked the Klotzky this morning and learned an awful lot for next year (or maybe when I get back from America). 

At first, I thought they were going to be too much trouble: easy to make the dough but a pain to make the cookies and bake them. The recipe I used called for a diamond-shaped cookie cutter. I was going to use a pastry wheel to cut the dough into diamonds but I decided to use a round biscuit cutter (or I could have used a glass). 

Then I realized that a whole teaspoon of preserves, or jam, in each cookie is too much - it's more like a scant 1/2 teaspoon that's needed. The preserves made quite a mess on the cookie sheets if I used too much jam. I overlapped two opposite sides and pinched in the center, to make the bow-tie-shaped cookies. Yet, on my first tray full, they all burst open in the oven. And if they burst apart, they're just not pretty.

I pinched and twisted the dough together in subsequent batches and the cookies, mostly, stayed closed. I'm thinking parchment paper is a must in the future (but that could affect how brown the cookie bottoms get). In that respect, I'll have to keep a careful eye on them while they bake and not pay much attention to the timer.

It's also important to roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness (or should I say thinness?), or they won't come out nice and tidy - but rather fat and bulgy. They're a delicate cookie, a bit like a little fruit turnover or pie.

My husband, son and myself ate two each, straight from the oven. So we wound up with 4 1/2 dozen left to put in the freezer. They're so good! Definitely worth the effort, which isn't much once you get the hang of it.

Klotzky have many incarnations and spellings. Whether you call them Jam Kolaches, Kolaczki, Kolacky, Clotchky or Polish Bow-Tie Cookies, they have Slavic origins. The most common spelling is Kolacky (pronounced ko-LAHCH-kee, which explains all the spelling variants). Kolache means "small cookie" in Macedonian.

Most recipes call for cream cheese in the dough; and jam or preserves for the filling, which is the Polish variant of this Eastern European favorite. This recipe usually lists as few as five ingredients, including butter, cream cheese, flour, jam and powdered sugar for dusting. It's not easy to find two that list the same amounts, though. Furthermore, variations can use shortening, sour cream, cinnamon, egg, and even ice cream.

Here's what a perfect little
Kolacky should look like.
The method of shaping the cookies can vary, from bow-tie shaped to thumbprint-style to crescent-shaped. Although I made mine bow-tie shaped, other recipes call for rolling the dough into a log before refrigerating. Cookies are then cut into 1/4-inch slices, thumb-printed in the center and filled with a 1/2 teaspoon of jam. If you have trouble keeping yours Kolacky sticking, you can pinch both opposite sides together to form a little parcel.

Blogger StressCake offers a few tips: Roll the cookie dough between two sheets of plastic wrap before chilling. She also says pie filling doesn't bubble or run as much as jam can. For anyone in the States, that usually equates to Solo. Also, rather than a teaspoon, use a pastry bag to fill cookies. (I suggest squeezing out a teaspoonful onto a piece of parchment paper as a guide.)


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour
Jam or pie filling (about 1/2 cup)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional, but recommended)

Mix cream cheese, butter and flour. Divide into two discs and refrigerate overnight (or at least one hour). Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 2-inch squares with a pastry cutter or cut out 2-inch circles with a round cookie cutter. 

Fill the center of each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam, preserves or pie filling. Pinch together opposite sides of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Alternatively, you can roll the dough into two logs; chill; then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Use your thumb or spoon to make a dent in the center of each cookie. Fill with your choice of filling.

Cream Cheese Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of Kosher salt
Cream together all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Refrigerate until needed.

Simple Nut Filling
1/2 pound ground walnuts
1/2 cup super fine sugar (or half brown sugar)
2 egg whites
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl and use to fill cookies.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


"In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips."

--Jerry Smith

2002 - Sugar Cookies in a Snap(shot)

This morning I was saying, "Ahh!" Now I'm saying, "Argh!" And marveling at the late hour. I started early by slicing up the Lime Meltaway logs. Apart from taking a long time to bake (15 minutes), they're fairly easy. It's a shame so many of them kept breaking and I had to eat them! (heh heh!) I froze the baked cookies on sheets, then stacked them in holiday baking cups, before storing them in tins. They're tucked away in the freezer now till tray-loading time. Freezing before stacking should keep them from sticking together like they did last year. A golden, citrus-y yield of 5 1/2 dozen should be adequate.

Now, I must say, only the truly dedicated (demented?) bother to bake Sugar Cookies. They can be SO much work! What's more, Charlie woke up while I was cranking them out, making it very difficult to concentrate. I used Martha's recipe again - just a nice, plain Sugar Cookie. She calls for cooling cookies on parchment in the fridge or freezer before baking. It helps them keep their shape, which makes icing them easier.

I made a dozen each of trees, bells, holly leaves, snowmen, candy canes and stars (6 dozen), and used the scraps for a dozen and a half mini trees - they're so cute! Charlie helped: he super-imposed a star on a snowman, dusted a few stars with flour, and dropped his (wet!) candy cane in the flour canister!

Before I  put Charlie to bed, I mixed up some Royal Icing (using Just Whites powdered egg whites) and generally got everything together so I could start icing cookies in the morning. Once he went off, though, I figured I would be better off getting them done while he wasn't around. I was up till 2 a.m.

I used the outline-then-fill method, which works really well and isn't as messy as just slapping it on there. I also used my frosting tips and bags for the first time. It was all very professional, I must say.

I gave the candy canes stripes, of course. The trees have stars on top and multi-colored ornaments. The holly leaves have three red-hot berries each. The bells are red, with red hots for handles and silver-dragee clappers. And the blue stars have a silver dragee on each point.

By the time I finished all those cookies, I didn't even want to do all the mini trees that I thought were so cute earlier. But Neil came in and he put the decorations on after I frosted them white (they had yellow stars on top and green sugar sprinkles.) I left them out overnight to set, and froze them this morning. They looked so pretty and festive all over the table that I got Neil to take a photo.

It's 2 a.m. - I'm going to bed now!

Friday, 21 December 2012

2002 - Fill Your Boots!

I started early yesterday morning (Nov. 17) on Pumpkin Bread. I whipped up a batch and got seven mini loaves. I only bake three or four loaves at a time and I rotate them halfway through, turning the pans and moving the pans around on the oven rack. They turned out beautifully! I'm working on the next seven lovelies now. Mom sent the aluminum loaf pans in a care package. I had canned pumpkin left over from last year (thank goodness it has such a good shelf life!). 

The kitchen smelled so good and the loaves look so tempting. Even Charlie said, "Bread!" So we had a slice each and put the rest of the loaves (enrobed in foil) in the freezer. They'll make great presents in December and I love having it on hand, to have with tea.

That's mine on the right!
After all the Pumpkin Bread was baked and packed away, I went into town to shop for stocking stuffers for Lisa. It's another one of our traditions. I think we started soon after she got married in  1980. We decided that boyfriends and husbands (particularly ours) aren't much interested in Christmas stockings. Especially filling them with goodies. So, we decided to do stockings for each other! Mostly it's just Christmas paraphernalia - earrings, pens, playing cards, CDs, videos, coasters, candies, note pads, etc. Sometimes, there will be a surprise or something lavish. It's the idea of taking care of each other that we love, though. We both have the most fun filling the socks! 

We talked on the phone about whether we should continue after I moved to England and, as usual, we both had the same wish - to carry on as normal! So, we have to get it done early and mail them to each other. Because each recipient has to stuff her own stocking hastily before bed on Christmas Eve, the stuffers have to be individually wrapped. It may be a corny tradition, but by still filling each other's socks, we fill our distant living rooms and hearts with the love and spirit of a sister. The cookies are the same way - only it all happens in the kitchen.

2002 - Let's Roll!

I made Grandma Baker's Criss-Cross Cookies (peanut butter) because I prefer it to the "Joy of Cooking" recipe. The recipe calls for the dough to be chilled, though, and I'm not sure it needs it. It made the dough crumbly and harder to roll into balls. I think it's better to roll the balls, roll them in sugar, make the criss-crosses, then refrigerate the tray while another tray is baking.

Charlie's tricycle on Christmas morning.
They turned out beautifully. Once again, with my oven, rotation was the key. I wound up with six dozen (plus two) and Charlie ate one fresh from the oven when he woke from his nap. I froze all but two singles. Then I went straight into the Lime Meltaways. I love the way they smell - when I'm making and again when I'm baking. All I did today was mix the dough and shape it into rolls. I'll bake them tomorrow.

I took a break to put together the tricycle we got Charlie for Christmas. It's a beaut! It's blue chrome, has a bucket in the back and a long handle for me to push him around - I love it and cannot wait for Christmas morn! We walked to the bookstore to get a Christmas present for my brother Frank.

After supper, I whipped up a batch of Sugar Cookies (from Martha Stewart's 2001 Holiday issue). That dough is in the fridge too. I'll bake those tomorrow too, but frost them another day. Only 13 days till Charlie and I go see Grandma!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Cookie Platter 2012

Here is one of the cookie trays I'm giving away for Christmas this year.
Clockwise from top left: Dutch Spice Cookies, Brownie Thins, Glazed Lime Cookies,
Dunkable Brownies, Vanilla-Bean Butter Cookies, Snickerdoodle Pinwheels,
Nestle's Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies, Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies,
Sugar Cookie Cutouts and Pumpkin Muffins.

Note: I haven't written about the cookies without links yet. When I do
mention them in "Our Cookie Journal," I will add the links.

2002 - Wheat's My Favorite!

The Wheat Chex is a decidedly smaller box! BOO!

Each year, I vow to write or call General Mills to complain about Chex cereals and this year, I mean it. I don't want to complain about the cereals, as such. It's that I'm unhappy with the disparate quantities among the three varieties.I have always been disappointed with the puny size of the Wheat Chex box, so I sent them an email complaint.

The problem is that each batch of Original Chex Party Mix calls for 3 cups each Rice, Corn and Wheat Chex. The boxes come thusly: Rice = 13 cups; Corn = 12 cups; Wheat = 8 cups.  After the cereal has settled, at least one cup of that is crumbs. Consequently, I never have enough Wheat to stretch to three batches, and I'm left with too much Corn and Rice. And Wheat is my favorite. 

I suggested they offer a special, three-pack for holiday consumers - with all the cereals in the same-size box - so the Wheat Chex can accommodate a third batch. Are there really people who buy three boxes of Chex cereals at Christmas time and then make one batch of Chex Party Mix? And then what? Eat the rest of the cereal for breakfast? I don't recommend it; especially if I'm invited to the party where the Chex Party Mix is being served. It's nibble-icious.

As it is, I can only make two batches. Here it is Nov. 16, and that'll be gone before Thanksgiving. Yummy! I'm glad that Neil doesn't like it - leaves more for me. I'll have to watch Charlie with it though. 
That's all I managed today. The Chex Cereals came via express airmail from Mom. She sent some Bugles too - they're always fun to play with! I may pick up some more Chex cereals when I go home Dec. 2. A box of Corn; a box of Rice; and TWO boxes of Wheat.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Homemade Cookie

"I am still convinced that a good, simple, homemade cookie is preferable to all the store-bought cookies one can find."
-- James Beard

2002- Horn of Plenty

*For future reference, 1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup = 113 grams.

After talking to Lisa long-distance on the phone last night, we agreed that I had better get baking - TODAY! Nov. 15, 2002! A week before Thanksgiving! Since Charlie and I are going "home for the holidays" from Dec. 2 to 18, I probably won't get another chance to bake if I don't do it before we leave. And since he's 21 months old, I'll be lucky to get much done at all!

Our Cookie Journal is a good read.

After leafing through "Our Cookie Journal" last night (crying and laughing), I had an intense urge to make Dunkable Brownies. I can't get the unsweetened chocolate I need on this side of the Atlantic, though, so those will have to wait until I get back "home from home". Not to be daunted, I popped "Kevin's Christmas Favorites" into the boom box and started with a batch of Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. Charlie happily napped through each ding of the timer.

~ May I just pause between batches to say: Perfect! ~

Ahhhh! Four hours later and I have 13 dozen Chocolate Chip lovelies in the freezer and one dozen on a plate on the table for immediate consumption and enjoyment. This oven is a bit flaky, so I had to be careful: turn the trays midway through baking; checking them, starting at 10 minutes to make sure they don't over bake. 

I set out to make one batch but quickly realized it wouldn't be enough to sustain me - I mean, us - through Thanksgiving AND Christmas. So I made two batches. Charlie woke up at the halfway point, so we opened our Thanksgiving care package from Grandma! Talk about your "horns of plenty". Cocktail rye bread, egg nog mix, Chex Mix supplies, aluminum loaf pans for Pumpkin Bread (to be made this weekend), Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix, a Thanksgiving kitchen towel, a turkey-shaped oven mitt, and an actual cornucopia. Loads more, including a few treats for Charlie (like freeze-dried strawberries)! Let the holiday season officially begin!

2001 - Cookies for Santa

I know for a fact that Kriss Kringle loves
Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Dec. 23, 2001

Since I'd given away or devoured all my Pumpkin Bread, I made another batch and yielded another seven mini loaves. Mmmmm! Great for breakfast on Christmas morning - and so easy too.

We also had zero Chocolate Chip Cookies left! It didn't matter to me; no, I could have done without them. But we had to have something to leave out for Santa Claus! So I made another batch: some for Charlie with no nuts; and the rest in their glorious, nutty, natural state.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Pumpkin Loaves at the Ready

I like to keep loaves of Mom & Dad's Pumpkin Bread wrapped festively at the door
and ready to share! They make great gifts and these loaves are loved by all recipients.
Happy Holidays!

2001 - Ghost Writer

2001 was the first year I lived in England, away from my family. When I came home for a visit, I brought The Cookie Diary with me. Lisa made this entry from her side of the pond:

This was a year of firsts for the Carr bake shop. First, the week before Thanksgiving, I made Chex Mix for the girls. Personally, I can do without it! I have never done Chex solo but I believe Kevin would have approved. 

Lisa bought one of these for each of us.
I went right on to People Chow, from the cookbooks I bought for us at Cracker Barrel (Gooseberry Patch: Magic of Christmas, 2001). It's made with Rice Chex, peanut butter, chocolate chips and powdered sugar. It was good while warm, but once it got cold, nobody wanted to eat it. 

Then I did a test batch of Snicker Doodles. They were yummy with a great texture. 

On Dec. 3, with the kids' help, I made about 6 dozen Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies and four dozen Snicker Doodles. I also made my first ever Pumpkin Bread (this may explain why I left the pumpkin out of the first batch!). So I made six loaves with pumpkin and three without - but all loaves were equally delicious.

I made four batches of Snicker Doodles - eight dozen - on Dec. 15. They turned out beautifully. They were difficult to mix - someone lost the paddle attachment to my KitchenAid. So, I tried to make do with the dough hook.

Danielle, Rachel and April were present for all sessions. They were all helpful - getting cookie sheets ready, measuring ingredients, and cracking eggs. They also are quite adept at rolling and sugaring the Doodles. I have plans and ingredients for fudge, Poor Man's Cake and more Pumpkin Bread.

Snicker Doodles
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour

2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Beat butter on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar, soda and tartar; beat till combined. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Combine cinnamon and 2 Tbsp sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll balls in sugar mixture and place on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Keep dough chilled while waiting for batches to bake. If dough gets warm, it wont spread right, leaving fat cookies. I got better results flattening the balls with the bottom of a glass for more even baking.

People Chow
1/2 c butter
1 c creamy peanut butter
2 c milk chocolate chips
17 1/2 oz pkg corn or rice cereal (Chex)
1 lb. powdered sugar

Combine butter, peanut butter and chocolate chips in saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring often. Pour over cereal and mix until thoroughly coated. Place cereal in a paper sack, sprinkle in powdered sugar. Fold down the top of the paper sack and shake well. Makes 3 pounds or about 12 servings.

2001 - A Team Effort

A fistful of recipes. Thanks, Mom!

Lisa's work schedule was manic again, so Mom and Lisa's three youngest daughters kicked off the baking bonanza this year. They worked at Mom's house and she had a bit of an assembly line going. She set up a card table in the living room too, so they could work in teams on different jobs. Very productive! 

One weekend, they made Butterscotch Refrigerator Cookies. I don't know whose idea they were because I've never been a big fan of butterscotch. The recipe calls for melted chips, but they decided the cookies would be better with whole chips left intact. (I think they would be better if Lisa made them like she made Un-Pumpkin Bread and leave the butterscotch out completely!) They also made Grandma Baker's Peanut Butter Cookies; Rachel and April were in charge of rolling the balls in the sugar before criss-crossing them with a fork.

While Lisa and I seem to focus on chocolate and peanut butter as our favorite cookie ingredients, Mom gets tired of all the chocolate year after year, and tends to deviate toward the fruitier alternatives. After starting solo with a batch of Pumpkin Cookies on another weekend session, she whipped up a batch of Glazed Pina Colada Bars - a new entry for her from Land O' Lakes. She made two 8-inch versions and a third, smaller one, in disposable aluminum pans, so I get to take a whole batch back with me.

Tropical Orange Coconut Drops, another new entry, were up next. However, Mom opted for Tropical Lemon Coconut Drops this time around. She and Danielle baked them while Rachel drizzled icing on the Pina Colada Bars. She recommends placing waxed paper beneath the cookies and drizzling the icing with a fork.

Danielle was in charge of the Citrus Slice 'N' Bake Cookies. They're refrigerator cookies that get formed into logs, brushed with melted butter, rolled in orange or lemon sugar, and then sliced. Very bright in flavor and appearance. I think lime would be good too. 

Raspberry Strippers, from last year, made a repeat appearance. They're neat log cookies that are filled with jam, baked, drizzled with icing, and then cut diagonally into little cookies. 

I guess to prevent an all-out revolt, she ended with Fudge Revel Bars, another newbie - but at least they're chocolate! "These smelled delicious while they were baking," she said. After she melted the chocolate, she swirled it into the batter with a wooden spoon for a marbleized effect. 

"This is my last year," she declared - again. (She says that every year!) Aside from making all these cookies, Mom also kindly copied each recipe onto a card for me. So, thanks to her, I'm going back with a suitcase full of cookies and a fistful of recipes! Thanks, Mom!

Tropical Orange Coconut Drops
2 c sugar
1 c butter
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon extract
3 1/2 c flour
1/2 c coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients except flour and coconut. Beat at low-speed until creamy. Stir in flour and coconut by hand until well mixed. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are lightly browned, 8-12 minutes. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

2001 - Un-pumpkin Bread

I'm home again! It's been great to see Mom and Lisa and her girls again. Soon I'll be seeing my brothers and their kids too. I love my family and miss them so much. And shopping in familiar territory! I bought a cake decorating kit - they're expensive in England - and vanilla - PURE! And lots of sprinkles, dragees and colored sugars. I also got two more bags of chocolate chips - I'm still not finished making Toll House cookies. And I'll make Sugar Cookies when I go back too. I need an offset spatula too (for icing cookies). Since pecans are cheaper here, I picked up a big bag of them for Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pumpkin Bread.

Pumpkin Bread tastes best
with Pumpkin.
That reminds me - Lisa made Pumpkin Bread - or should I say "Un-pumpkin Bread" - this year! She didn't realize till her loaves were already baking away in the oven that she'd left out the pumpkin! She made some regular pumpkin-flavored loaves later but she didn't toss out the first batch. They were deemed edible and even delicious and they were gobbled up despite missing their key ingredient (see photo).
She also spent time at Mom's this year and they made loads of cookies together. She'll have to tell me which kinds and what her yields were. I need Danielle, Lisa, Mom and Rachel to tell me more for this year's "home front" entry.
I managed to bake about six dozen Moravian Spice Cookies before I had to call it quits in Blighty. I still have half the dough in the freezer because there simply wasn't enough time to finish and get my bags packed.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

2001 - Skyco Saves the (Holi)day!

Last night, around 10, I mixed up the dough for the Grammy's Chocolate Cookies. Then this morning, I rolled the dough into balls, rolled them in sanding sugar and baked 6 1/2 dozen aromatic cookies. They are sinfully sweet and chocolate-y. Most are now packed up in the freezer for Christmas and our visit home on Dec. 10.

Then, I decided to make Checkerboard Cookies from Martha Stewart's "Cookies" magazine. They were a lot of work, especially for a measly 4 dozen. However, I really enjoyed making them and the results are spectacular, I think.

They took hours. I had to split the dry dough and knead cocoa into one half (just as Charlie was waking from his nap!). I had to use a ruler to make sure the chocolate and vanilla strips were perfect. Then, I needed a pastry brush - which I didn't have - so Charlie and I went into town to find one. Fat chance! There are a few grocery stores and some specialty shops but nowhere to find kitchen supplies (unless you count Woolworth's). I wound up buying a paintbrush at the chemist's (drug store).

They really were fun to make and I can't wait for Mom and Lisa to see them. They're very delicate too. I might have to make another batch but I don't know when. I'm still working on putting together this issue of The Backstretch Magazine and I have to finish it before I leave for home. So, I might not get to make another entry until I get back here.

Butter comes in 250-gram packages, which is 9 ounces. Most recipes call for 8 ounces! Cookies that are baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, bake on Gas Mark 4 (which is 180 degrees Celsius). Vanilla bottles here say: for each teaspoon that is called for, add an extra 1/4 teaspoon. That's not right! It must be because it's not pure. I can't find pure vanilla here, so I will have to bring a big bottle back.

Shortening (required for my Moravian Cookies) does not exist here. But I found a great online place that sells American groceries. Skyco is owned and operated by Tony and Jean Phillips (and their daughter Justine) in Surrey, and they are so nice and helpful. They started out as a deli, but now import a wide range of American and Canadian products to ex-pats like myself, who are craving a taste of home. In my case - Nestle's Chocolate Chips and Jiff Peanut Butter. And oodles of other things (like Brown-Sugar Pop-Tarts and Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn and Heinz Hamburger Dill slices!). I'm ecstatic to be able to source ingredients (and goodies) here. Hallelujah!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Cookies are for Giving

Citrus Slice 'N' Bake Cookies

Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies

Recipients receive a "Cookie's for Santa" plate
with their assortment.
Simply wrap with colored plastic and tie with ribbons.

Checkerboard Cookies, Criss-Cross Cookies,
 Choc-Oat Chip Cookies, Snicker Doodles, Overnight Cookies,
Citrus Slice 'N' Bake CookiesPumpkin Bread Muffins,
Sugar Cookies
Cookie boxes should be prepared the
day you plan to deliver them.
Let recipients know how to store them and
whether they can be frozen.

These pretty but sturdy boxes held an assortment of cookies
and other treats. A key was provided in the lid.

Charlie's teachers were the lucky recipients of
these snack boxes, filled with cookies, pumpkin bread
and Lime-Chili Pumpkin Seeds.

I made these "bakery boxes" from cake boxes. I bought
some thick plastic wrap to make windows after
I removed the center square. Good for presentation
but not for storage!

Another assortment of cookies in a homemade
window box tied up with ribbon.

Lime Glazed Cookies

Delete Cookies?!

Winelady Cooks: Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Winelady Cooks: Pecan Shortbread Cookies: Holiday Cookie Recipe #1   Pecan Shortbread Cookie The 'theme' for my cookie recipes this year is EASY! . Since we are short on time th...

2001- Separated by a Common Language

Charlie and I are going home to America for a visit soon, so I need to get my baking done before we leave. It's not always easy converting my recipe ingredients, supplies and measurements to "English". The first time I went grocery shopping in Waitrose, I cried. I didn't know where anything was, all the packaging was different, the labels weren't the same and some of the generic names weren't the same.

Let's start with Reynold's Wrap. Both Americans and Brits have a habit of calling things by their brand name, instead of their common name. Companies don't like that, of course, because their brand can become generic. That's what happened to Hoover in England and Aspirin in many countries. There is no Reynold's Wrap in Britain and I even struggled with the generic name of "aluminum foil". Store clerks (one says "clarks" here) gave me a bewildered look when I didn't say "alumin-EE-um". They would laugh at me, I would laugh at them. "There's no extra I in aluminum," I would insist. It seems there is in the UK, though.

And the list goes on. Seran Wrap (or plastic wrap), is cling film. Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda (reminds me of Bette Davis mixing up a remedy for Max in "All About Eve"). Finding molasses can be tricky (or treacly). Golden syrup and treacle are common in grocery stores, but I have to go to a health food store to find molasses. Vegetable shortening does not exist. Someone suggested "ghee", which is akin to clarified butter, but I don't think they are interchangeable. 

I brought my own measuring cups and spoons, so I'm OK there but I have to do conversions every time I bake because my oven temperature is measured in degrees Centigrade (or is it Celsius?) and Marks (as in Gas Mark 4=350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius). I also have to do conversions whenever I use butter, which does not come in sticks here! And so, many recipes call for butter in stick-quantities that I had to write the conversion (1 stick=1/2 cup) in the front of "Our Cookie Journal" for easy reference. Fortunately, I found a cheat-sheet in a notepad at a lighting shop, of all places, that I keep in my kitchen utensil drawer. 

There is no canned (or tinned) pumpkin either. Or chocolate chips. Or unsweetened cooking chocolate. My baking sheets are way too massive for the tiny ovens here. Peanut butter is not common. Christmas sprinkles and other decorations are scarce. Decorations seem to be of the Christmas-cake variety. Marzipan is plentiful; but not tubs of frosting. Coconut is referred to as "desiccated", and is unsweetened. Sigh!

Still, none of these hardships stayed me from my baking course. My "official" start this year was Nov. 25, when I made 7 1/2 dozen Nestle's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. The chips, of course, aren't available in Blighty, but Lisa sent me two packs and I brought two back from my Halloween visit home. I had made one batch last week, to test the oven, but they're already gone! I also brought back some Libby's pumpkin, so I made Mom & Dad's Pumpkin Bread, which produced six lovely mini-loaves - but they were for Thanksgiving.

I've decided to make, in addition to the CCCs, Lime Meltaways, Moravian Spice Cookies, Grammy's Chocolate Cookies (new) and Checkerboard Cookies (new). I'm also going to bake Sugar Cookies but this year I'm going to use Martha's recipe with Royal Icing.

The trick will be finding everything I need over here. It's also been tougher with Charlie around! I'll be able to manage only a batch a day. The hardest part, though, has been being so far away from Lisa and Mom. True, we weren't able to bake together the past two years, but this is worse. So I'm separated from everyone here by a common language and I'm separated from my loved ones by an ocean.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

2000 - Cookie Crazy

I think I finished this year's baking on Sunday, Nov. 26 (unless I make some coffee-flavored cookies for Neil before he gets here Thursday from England). The Moravian Spice Cookies urned out really nice. They were a lot different from anything I've ever baked. I came up with about 18 dozen very thin cookies. Their aroma alone was worth all the effort.

Rolling the dough was a bit tricky for me. It kept tearing at the edges. And, as I said previously, Mom insisted on keeping the "scraps" to put on her ice cream. I baked them for 10 minutes total, instead of 14 as Martha advised.

Then I went ahead and made Dunkable Brownies, which are always fantastic (unless you mix together the wrong recipe, like I did earlier in the week!). A double batch produced about seven dozen of these glorious mounds. They are super good and very easy to make. I started today at noon and finished at 7:30 at night. This could be my last U.S. baking session but, since I'm pregnant this year, Mom decided to make a contribution. She was only going to make some PeeBees and some Coconut Macaroons but she went cookie crazy too! We'll need to set out two cookie trays to showcase everything.

She started with Peanut Butter Criss-Cross Cookies, using Grandma Baker's recipe. (Though she'll say she actually started the baking season with Pumpkin Bread.) She made four dozen medium-sized goldies that are dee-lish. I'll be using this recipe from now on (instead of "Joy of Cooking's") because they have a superior texture.

Next, she made Lemon-Honey Drop Cookies - except she converted it to orange. She got the recipe from the December issue of "Cooking Light" magazine. Also, she used orange marmalade in the glaze instead of orange zest. Yield: six dozen, and proclaimed a tasty success.

On the same day, she made Raspberry Strippers from the same magazine. However, we agreed that even though they came from "Cooking Light," there was not much light about either recipe. "These were so easy," se said. "You just divide the dough and roll it out into logs then use the handle of a wooden spoon to make long dents along each log to fill with jam." You get about two dozen per batch, so she doubled the recipe. Also, she used strawberry-rhubarb preserves (you could use any kind you want). They're worth making again.

Then Mom came down with the flu and couldn't bake or do much else for about a week, poor thing. When she recovered, she made Pineapple Cookies (maybe from Aunt Judy's recipe box, she said). She had to add extra flour because she found the dough to be more like batter. She glazed them with an icing made with confectioner's sugar, pineapple juice, brown sugar and maraschino cherries. I didn't much like them but I'll save the recipe, just in case. She wound up with nearly four dozen.

She made quite a contribution and our first tray, which we set out tonight (Dec. 8), looks very tempting and delicious. It also included some Sugar Cookies that Lisa baked. She started making bells and trees but switched to simple rounds when the dough wouldn't cooperate. She used only white frosting but a variety of colored sprinkles. They were just as good as always.

Parchment paper was my greatest discovery this year. The silpat is OK, especially for the Moravians, but the paper made everything SO much easier.

Lisa wrote this year:

Magic Cookie Bars are a magically easy creation. Three 13 x 9-inch pans (one for you, one for me, one for the Meijer HBC Christmas Party).

Festive Fudge - So easy to prepare but my arm and shoulder still hurt from the stirring. Yield: two 8-inch pans=4 pounds. [This link is an Eagle Brand PDF recipe book; it includes the Magic Cookie Bars, above, and many other recipes worth perusing.]

German Chocolate Cake Cookies- Made using a dry cake mix. Easy but so messy in a chocolate-y way! Yield: four dozen.

Coconut Macaroons

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2 egg whites
3/4 c sugar
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 pkg (7 oz.) shredded, sweetened coconut

Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper.

In medium bowl, mix egg whites, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add flour and stir until well blended. Fold in coconut.

Drop by teaspoonfuls about 1-inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake 15-20 minutes until edges are light brown. Cook on cookie sheets. Peel foil/paper from cookies. Makes about 28 cookies.

Grandma Baker's Criss-Cross Cookies

1 c peanut butter
1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients.

In mixer bowl, cream together peanut butter and butter. Add sugars gradually and cream together until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs and beat well. Stir in flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Chill dough, at least one hour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with a fork in a criss-cross pattern. 

Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.