Thursday, 28 February 2013

2007 - Let It Dough!

I hauled out my nutcracker oven mitt (that Mom gave me one Christmas) and my Christmas tree spatula (that I wheedled out of Mom a few years ago) and all my cookie cutters and cranked out the Sugar Cookies that Charlie requested. There were about 9 1/2 dozen, but 2 1/2 dozen were mini trees, so it's more like 8 dozen.

I made Charlie's trees; and snowmen, bells, candy canes, stars, mini trees, and, as an afterthought, angels. I set these aside (on new trays that I bought last year) to be frosted tomorrow.

My lovely assistant, Charlie, with the Checkerboard Cookies. 

Then I made the dough and "logs" for Checkerboard Cookies. That takes about an hour! It's really fiddly and you have to be dedicated to want to bake these. The doughs — black and white — are rolled to measure, then cut into strips. The strips are then used to build the cookies, using an egg wash to help them stick together. Charlie and I both really like the taste of these light, buttery cookies, and I love the way they look on the tray.

When Charlie got home, he requested Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies, so we made a half-batch (he got some math practice!). We listened to Christmas music while we mixed, just like Lisa and I always did. He always pulls his little stool up to the counter to help. At one point, ihe accidentally lifted the mixer arm and dough and flour flew all over the kitchen! We both froze; then he started singing, "Let it dough, let it dough, let it dough!" We both exploded with laughter! We put the four logs into the fridge (no paper towel tubes — I want them flat on one side like Grandma's always were). We made two logs with pecans (me) and two without (Charlie).

I also mixed up some of Lisa's Snicker Doodles. I'm bored with those Snickerdoodle Pinwheels — they look great, but they don't taste that great. So, I honored Lisa by trying her favorite Snicker Doodle recipe, which she kindly copied into the diary the first year she made them. I refrigerated the dough for tomorrow, when I'll be back at it again.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

2007 - Better Late Than Never

I think I set a record for late starts this year. There was no way I could start the day after Thanksgiving, since I had the dinner. I've made a batch of Pumpkin Bread (before Thanksgiving) and I've made two batches of Chex Party Mix, but no cookies until today, Dec. 3.

I had to walk Charlie to school first, before I could start baking. He requested "Tree Cookies" to take to the Pantomime on Thursday, and I need to finish the teachers' cookies for Friday morning.

The snowman cookie jar is filled with Charlie's favorite: Hedgehog Cookies.

Still, I made Hedgehog Cookies first, to fill the Snowman cookie jar. I made a double batch but it sure doesn't look like there will be enough! I wound up with 5 1/2 dozen, so I'll be making more of those for sure. I have only enough chocolate chips for another double batch. I'll have to get more grocery goodies from Skyco next Monday or so. I took four "Hedgehogs" to Charlie to eat on his walk home. I use that recipe every year but I haven't copied it into Our Cookie Journal yet (I still consult "Joy of Cooking"). You'd think I'd have it memorized! I have a compulsive nature to double-check the recipe anyway.

After I knocked out the Hedgehogs, I made a batch of Sugar Cookies from Martha's 2005 Cookie magazine. I'll get those rolled, cut out and baked tomorrow. Charlie I spent the evening making invitations for his Gingerbread Party on Dec. 17. We used a cookie cutter to trace out gingerbread shapes on brown construction paper. He has invited NINE schoolmates! The other parents think I'm crazy but Charlie's really looking forward to it and I know it will be fun.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Go Nuts! It's National Pistachio Day!

I never tried pistachios until I made Brownie Thins for National Brownie Day. I think I tried pistachio ice cream as a kid and didn't like it and that's why I steered clear of the distinctive green nut. The pistachio tree, which is native to the Middle East, produces fruit in bunches similar to grapes; the seed is the "nut" with which we are familiar. And my grown-up palate appreciates their crunchy, buttery flavor, not to mention their benefits. In addition to having more antioxidants than green tea, pistachios are a good source of fiber, copper, manganese, beta carotene and vitamin B6.

Pistachios are delicious alone or added to vegetables, fish, meats, salads, rice and desserts. Which brings me back to Brownie Thins — decadent, flavorful, flat cookies, studded with toasted pistachio nuts.  The rich, dark chocolate complements the pistachio's savory goodness. They are the perfect way to celebrate National Pistachio Day. Any leftovers will be perfect for tomorrow — No Brainer Day! 

Brownie Thins

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 c sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/4 c chopped pistachios

Position rack in lowest third of oven; preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 2 baking sheets. Place butter and chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium-high until almost completely melted, about 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Add sugar and egg; whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Add flour, both extracts, and salt; stir just to blend. Let batter stand 10 minutes. 

Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing apart. Spray sheet of plastic wrap lightly with nonstick spray. Place, sprayed side down, over cookies. Using fingers, press each mound into 2 1/2-inch round. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle pistachios over rounds. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until slightly darker at edges and firm in center, about 7 minutes. Cool on sheet 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack; cool completely.

shared this recipe with the Try a New Recipe Tuesdays blog hop at Home to 4 Kiddos. It also appears on Polkadots on Parade in the Wow Me Wednesday blog hop. You can also find it at the popular blog hop at Buns In the Oven and the linky party at My Girlish Whims

Monday, 25 February 2013

2007 - Postscript to a Painful 2006

My sister Lisa, co-founder and co-creator of Our Cookie Journal, loved Christmas and family.

I couldn't write anymore last year after Lisa died— too bleary-eyed and heart-broken. I don't even think I baked anything else after Charlie and I got back to England. I was shattered with grief and we both had jet-lag. Christmas was less than a week away and we were scheduled to move into our new house in January. It was a relief that there was so much going on; I didn't have as much time to dwell on my loss.

I'll miss my sister in every way, every day. Since it was close to Christmas and I'd had Our Cookie Journal out, I took it with me to the funeral, with loads of photos. It was nice to have a legacy to remember her and something she loved doing — baking cookies with and for her family. 

Mom said that Lisa, Mike and April made Festive Fudge the weekend before she died. I'm glad I made it too — and that I got to tell her about it. We talked about how good it was and how it reminded us of the fudge we'd buy by the pound at the Kentucky State Fair.

I've already written that she baked Pumpkin Bread in some giant loaf tins that Mike bought for her. And she made April's birthday cake earlier in the week — chocolate frosting on a yellow cake for her youngest of four daughters, a 10-year-old.

She also showcased a new entry in her repertoire: Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls. There's a Rice Krispy version that uses powdered sugar but she used a recipe featured in Taste of Home magazine. More a candy than a cookie, these rich concoctions were the last treats she made. She declared them a success worth repeating and had three fresh off the tray — as did April and Rachel. They were still in the fridge at her house on the day of her funeral, and the girls offered one to me. I took a chocolate-y sphere from the tray, took one bit and, although it was yummy, I just couldn't swallow it. It was too sad and I was too choked up. April said they wound up throwing the rest of them out because they depressed everyone. Bless her. 

Mom had planned to make White Chocolate Cherry Crunchies but said she couldn't remember where she saw the recipe. It was Lisa who had remembered that it was Paula Deen's recipe. That girl's memory was impeccable! I will miss that so much — she knew all the dates and names and details of all our lives. Mom had a batch of Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons in the fridge that she couldn't ever bring herself to finish after Lisa died. She threw it all out. "I wanted to knock it all on the floor," she said. 

Rachel and April wound up making some slice and bake cookies — snowmen, trees and stars. Danielle and Michelle said they just couldn't because it would be too depressing. April said making cookies, like her mom did, made her happy. We all handle it differently.

Michael honored Lisa with a baking frenzy that included Chocolate Chip Cookies, Whoopie Pies (regular and peanut butter), Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter Fudge and Donya's Coconut Crunch Delight. Lisa definitely would have given him a cookie stamp of approval on such a peanut-buttery array. I'm sure his baking session was cathartic as well.

I will miss her brief but brilliant entries in Our Cookie Journal. As well as collecting and trading recipes with each other. And passing the diary back and forth each year to review Christmases (and kitchens) past and talk about the current year's hits and misses. I'll miss her memory, her sense of humor and her love and comfort. I'll miss her help in the kitchen, even when we weren't baking side-by-side. I'll miss the promise of another session with her. But I'll never forget the fun we shared, the memories we made and the dozens of cookies we ate together. I'll measure every new recipe by her standards and her memory will mingle with the aromas in my kitchen every time I bake cookies. I love you, Dahling! Merry Christmas, always! 

Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

1 c peanut butter
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
1 1/2 c crisp rice cereal
1 1/2 c (9 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
4 tsp vegetable shortening

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and marshmallow creme; add cereal and stir until well coated.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and shortening. Microwave, uncovered, for 1-2 minutes, or until chips are melted; stir until smooth.

Roll cereal mixture into 1-inch balls; dip in chocolate. Place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set.

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

Friday, 22 February 2013

2006 - The Day the Cookies Cried

My happy, darling sister, Lisa, frosting cookies for Christmas.

Mom called today and told me Lisa died. How, oh how, is that possible?! I refused to believe it. My brain still can't fathom it. My Lisa!! Co-founder and co-author of Our Cookie Journal. Sister. Best friend. Mother. Daughter. Wife. All-around goodnik. How is she gone?!

I talked to her Thursday — she was going to bake cookies with Mom this year. Mom was out at Lisa's house Friday, so they could plan what they were going to bake. They had decided to bake tomorrow but Lisa was tired and her back was hurting, so she wanted to move it to Thursday and Friday. She was supposed to see a specialist on Wednesday. 

How could my dearie be dead? I'm so alone here in England — I wish I was home with Mom and Lisa's girls. I just hope Mike waits with the funeral for me — so I can see her one last time. Oh my God — I'm just sick with grief over her. She was only 44. Her youngest daughter, April, just celebrated her 10th birthday four days ago!! And it's Aunt Catherine's birthday. This is just so wrong.

I'm glad I spoke to her several times over the past few weeks. She was looking forward to Christmas, as always. We talked about stocking stuffers and presents for the kids. And how much we miss each other. She had made Pumpkin Bread with giant loaf pans that Mike had bought for her. And she had told Mom that she wanted to make "Kevin's" Lime Meltaways. And she told me that she wanted to get the Kolacky recipe from me. 

It's Sunday, Dec. 10, and I usually call her on Sundays. I don't know how to go on without her. I wish I had been able to reach her when I called her Friday. How can she be gone?! LISA!!! I need you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Lisa Jo — my only sister. My dearie. My "dahlink". I love you so much!!

Needless to say, I won't be baking any more cookies this Christmas. (Or listening to U2 — our favorite band — ever again.) Charlie and I are booked on a flight to Louisville on Wednesday. Meanwhile, I'm walking around the house like a caged animal, wanting only to be home with my family. Poor Charlie doesn't understand, so I have to keep up appearances for his sake. But I cannot stop crying and wishing with all my heart that this is not real... 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

2006 - We Come Bearing Cookies

Cookie Sampler, 2006.

I cranked out a batch of Dunkable Brownies yesterday (Dec. 8), resulting in 5 decadent dozen! I baked them for only 8 1/2 minutes in my fan-assisted oven because they're not nearly as nice if they're overbaked. I want them chewy and moist, not hard and dry.

I also baked the Snickerdoodle Pinwheels that I prepared yesterday and wound up with 10 1/2 dozen. I don't know how I got them all in the freezer! I just kept shifting things; and I tossed a few questionable items. The Snicks were tastier this time, with the extra cinnamon-sugar. And I just love the way they look. 

I made a quick batch of Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons too. I had a bit of a mis-hap though: the recipe calls for unsweetened coconut and I added sweetened (which I've done in the past) but forgot to adjust the sugar in the recipe! And I even consulted last year's entry in Our Cookie Journal before I began.

I didn't have a chance to finish them yesterday, anyway, so I don't know yet how they'll turn out. I had to get Charlie's supper ready for him after he got home from his school trip to the Cinderella pantomime. And I had tea with Linda and Neil, our next-door neighbors from Winslow Hall. 

I did manage to mix up some Spicy Pumpkin Seeds to put in the cookie gift boxes though. They're so tasty, yet so easy — I made 6 cups' worth.

There were only four cookie boxes to make this year for Charlie's teachers and headmistress. I was very happy with the results (and so were they). Charlie and I delivered them this morning. I enclosed a card, so they'd know it was a perishable gift. On the back of the card, I put a photo of what was inside, as a legend (like chocolate boxes):

I'm exhausted! But not finished. I still want to make the Coconut Cookies, even though they're not going in any treat boxes. They'll be great for cookie trays throughout the season. And I want to call Lisa and see what she's making or if she has any new entries for the diary. I've tried her a few times but she's sooo busy with her job at Meijer. She must work 60 hours a week! We talked about stocking stuffers not long ago though! I'm glad we've kept up the tradition even after I moved to England. Anyway, I'll call her tomorrow after I get back with Charlie from Millie's birthday party. 

I packed four boxes with cookies and more for Charlie's teachers & headmistress.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

2006 - Slice and Bake — and Freeze Before I Eat Them All!

Since both the doughs I made yesterday went into the fridge overnight as logs, I was a slice-and-bake fiend today (Dec. 6). I baked the Lime Meltaways, a yearly favorite, giving them all a coat of powdered sugar, and broke only ONE. It's a new Christmas baking record! I also ate two; and packed away 15 1/2 dozen. My freezer is bulging!

I also baked Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies today and yielded a whopping 15 dozen. I can't see myself ever doubling this recipe. I wasn't sure if I'd like them but they were scrumptious! "They make a nice lunchbox cookie," as Mom would say! I'm glad I made them — I think they were a hit and they could make a repeat performance in coming Christmases.

While the Overnights were baking, I decided to give the old Snickerdoodle Pinwheels one more shot. I vowed last year that I wouldn't make them again but I love the way they look. So, I decided to give them another bash but this time I'll increase the amount of cinnamon-sugar mixture. I'm hoping that will do the trick and you can finally taste the cinnamon — a problem I have with most Snicker Doodle recipes. We'll see!

Monday, 18 February 2013

2006 - Overnight (Cookies) Sensation

SIGH! For some reason, I couldn't get motivated this year! I was as sick as a dog the day after Thanksgiving, so that didn't help. And I've been very busy with Charlie and all his school-related activities. But his last day of school is Friday and I needed to get moving so we can give cookies as gifts to his teachers. Sooooo, right after I got home from walking Charlie to school, I got busy!
While waiting for the butter to soften, I whipped up another batch of Pumpkin Bread. I wound up with seven mini loaves. I froze all but one, which I intend to eat for breakfast!

I was still undecided what to even make this year. I didn't want to make all the same things again. And since the oven was in use for the Pumpkin Bread, I thought I'd try Lisa's Festive Fudge. It's an Eagle Brand (condensed milk) recipe that she gave me last year. It was easy and quick — I made one pan of chocolate fudge and one pan of chocolate-pecan fudge. Of course, I sampled a square from each batch (two hours of chilling later) and deemed it dee-lish! I tinned it all up and put it in the fridge. Yield: 2 pounds.

After that, I decided to go with Lime Meltaways again. They're easy enough, being slice-and-bakes, so I mixed up the dough, wrapped the logs in parchment, and put them in paper-towel tubes in the fridge. I made a double batch of four logs, which I'll slice and bake tomorrow. 

Then I called Mom to ask her about Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies. As kids, we never liked them as much as her other cookies. I remember Dad loved them and ate them by the handful. But Mom couldn't find her recipe, so I called Aunt Judy in Ohio. She easily found the recipe and quickly rattled off the ingredients. She couldn't say how long to bake them though and said, "Can't you tell when they're done?" I had to laugh! Of course I can but my OCD kicked in and I needed her to say!
I started them in my stand mixer but had to switch to an enormous bowl — it's a gigantic recipe! Aunt Judy remembered that Dad didn't like nuts (and neither does Charlie) but I do, so I added pecans to half the dough. I got five hefty logs from it. By that time, Charlie was home and writing his Christmas cards at the table, so I called it a night.

Without nuts for Charlie (and most kids).

Grandma Baker's Overnight Cookies

4 c brown sugar
1 c butter
4 eggs
6 c flour
1 Tbsp soda
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 c nuts

In a large bowl, sift together flour, soda and cream of tartar. In a HUGE bowl, combine brown sugar and butter and blend well. Add eggs and combine until well-mixed. Stir in nuts.

Form dough into loaves or logs and wrap in parchment paper. Chill overnight. 

Slice and bake cookies at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes (rotating cookie sheet midway). Makes about 15 dozen!

With nuts, for meeee!
I shared this recipe with the Foodtastic Friday Feelin' at Not Your Ordinary Recipes. 

2006 - A Chip Off the Old Block

Later that same day ...

So late, in fact, that the day has just gone. I couldn't start baking till 9 p.m. (mixing, really). Charlie helped me throw together a double batch of Toll House Cookies, which yielded a substantial 11 dozen! That ought to hold us for a while! I prefer to use Nestle's chocolate chips but I ran out; fortunately Skyco had Hershey's chocolate chips. Charlie and I had one cookie each off the cooling rack — they were superb, as usual. 

Charlie cracked me up because he got so tickled, when adding ingredients, at how the brown sugar didn't pour out of the cup when he tilted it into the bowl. Instead, it plonked out, holding the shape of the measuring cup because it had been packed. We had such a laugh! He's such a good boy — and Masterchef!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

2006 - Chex Party Mix to the Max

Now, to get back to yesterday (Nov. 17), when I was happily interrupted (finally!) by a care package from Mom. 

After I called Mom with the good news, I whipped up a batch of Nestle's Toll House Cookies. "It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!" I came out with 5 1/2 dozen, which won't even get us through November! So, I'll be back at it later today.

Naturally, I made a batch of Chex Party Mix yesterday too. But in my enthusiasm, I set the oven too low (150 degrees Fahrenheit) and it should have been at 250. It's still delicious — complete with Bugles, cashews and pecans. Mom sent some nice little pretzel knots too.

Since that box went missing and I was desperate for Chex Mix, Mom sent another package containing the three Chex cereals and a few other goodies that will be here before Thanksgiving! So, it will be Chex Max this year! Well, the butter is softening, so I better get busy measuring out the ingredients for the next installment of Toll House Cookies.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Conversation Heart Cookies & More

Still reeling from the chocolate-and-cheesecake pleasure that is Lincoln's Brownies, I made Sugar Cookie Cutouts today for Valentine's Day. I haven't done that since Mom came over for Charlie's third birthday (he's having a party for his 12th this weekend). She helped me frost them all and Charlie shared them with his classmates at Montessori school. 

I decided to go way back in time and use the recipe we used to use from "Joy of Cooking". However, this time I used a different suggested addition: 1 teaspoon of lemon zest (instead of cinnamon). My valentine cookies were teasing me the whole time that they baked with their zingy aroma. They did not disappoint in the sampling either. I love them.

I used a common Royal Icing (4 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water) and it contrasted nicely with the zesty cookies. I think I will look into getting some glycerin for future endeavors — it's supposed to make the icing glossier. These still turned out nice though. 
I made a few pink-and-white Valentine cookies that are pretty and quaint. I used the biggest and smallest hearts in a set of cutters so the cookies are true cut-outs. These dainties won't do for my son and the mates he's having round this weekend though.

Instead of pink and white cookies, decorated with pearlized nonpareils, I made a pile of Conversation Heart Cookies for them. I used white, green, blue and purple to mimic the colors of the pastel candies. And the pithy sayings were updated to reflect the taste (or lack thereof) of 12-year-old boys today. Some are cool: L8R and LOL; some are funny: FART and KMN; and some are personalized: CHAZ and DYLAN, etc.

That was the best part of these cookies. Not only was it fun coming up with the expressions on the cookies, it was made simple with a Rainbow Dust food pen. I found it at the Creative Cook Shop in town and I love it because it works — I wrote on the cookies with edible ink. There's a 0.5mm nib and a 2.5mm nib. It's Kosher and suitable for veggies. Do I sound like a commercial, or what? I had fun is all. Since the icing had completely set overnight, it took less than a half hour to finish the "decorations". 

Hope the boys enjoy scoffing down my Valentine's cookies as much as I loved making them. They'll keep in the freezer till Saturday for the party. Next time you make Valentine's cookies, get the conversation (and the laughs) going with an edible food pen! Meanwhile, the elegant ones are calling to me and a cuppa tea. Happy Valentine's Day all!

I shared this recipe with the Hearth & Soul blog hop, sponsored by 21st Century Housewife and Savoring Today.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Honestly Good Brownies for Lincoln's Birthday

Happy Birthday, Abraham!

It made me happy that Daniel Day Lewis won a BAFTA Sunday for his compelling performance in Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln." I have a big, soft spot for the 16th president! He's my favorite. Ask any American kid to name three presidents and they're sure to say: Obama, Washington and Lincoln. His rail-splitter-to-President tale of success is inspirational to youngsters and typifies an age-old ideal of the American dream. That Honest Abe wrote eloquently and intelligently, and was largely self-taught, made me love him even more. I devoured biographies on Lincoln when I was in school. As a fellow native of the Bluegrass State, I was proud that he was a Kentuckian too.

I haven't seen "Lincoln" yet but it's on my must-seel list. Today is Lincoln's birthday and I've always remembered the date — even after the government  lumped his birthday with Washington's (Feb. 22) and called it President's Day (Feb. 18 this year). So, I'm celebrating today with a big pan of Lincoln's Brownies.

Lincoln's Brownies meld in your mouth.
It's a recipe that's been languishing in my recipe box for years. I wrote it down and never wound up making them. I'm sorry to say that I have many recipes like that because I collect more recipes than I make (and I get hung up on favorites!). An Internet search doesn't provide much information about this recipe, aside from a few shares that seem identical to my copy. The recipe ran in a Dec. 1982 issue of Ladies' Home Journal as "Phyllis George's Lincoln's Brownies." The late George was married to Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown.

I have no idea why they are called Lincoln's Brownies. Maybe it's the union of the chocolate brownies and the pale cheesecake? The old ebony and ivory metaphor? That would be nice. I have read that Lincoln liked to eat Gingerbread Cookies. But I made Gingerbread for Christmas and Gingersnaps for Epiphany, so I've decided on Lincoln's Brownies. If anyone knows anything more about the history of these integrated treats, please let me know. 

Lincoln's Brownies
1 c butter
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 1/2 c sugar, divided
4 eggs
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 c chopped nuts
2 tsp vanilla, divided
1 pkg (8 oz.), cream cheese, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or spray a 13x9-inch baking pan, then line with parchment paper; butter or spray parchment paper. 

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat (or microwave about 3 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring at the halfway point). Let cool.

With wire whisk, beat in 2 c sugar and 3 eggs until blended. Stir in vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and nuts until blended.

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with remaining 1/2 c sugar. Add remaining egg and 1 tsp vanilla until blended, about 3 minutes.

I forgot to add the nuts, so I sprinkled them on top.
Drop 6 dollops of cream cheese mixture on top of batter. Firmly swirl with a spatula to marbleize. Spread in prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack until partially cooled, then turn out onto rack and remove paper to cool completely. Makes 4 1/2 dozen.

Swirl with a spatula. 

This recipe is being featured in the Hearth & Soul blog hop, sponsored by 21st Century Housewife and Savoring Today.

It also was shared on the following blog hops:  Everyday Food & Drinks, Jam Hands' Recipe Sharing MondayMelt in Your Mouth Monday and Flour Me With Love.

Monday, 11 February 2013

2006 - Good Things Come in Care Packages

Last week, Charlie and I made a batch of Pumpkin Bread and came up with eight fragrant loaves. As usual, he could hardly wait for them to cool so he could have a slice or three! We nearly ate one loaf in one day. We wrapped up two loaves to give to his teacher and her assistant (Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Hunt). And we gave a loaf to our neighbor, Linda. As of today, Nov. 16, we're down to one frozen loaf! We'll have to do another batch this weekend.

Fortunately, I have 10 cans of Libby's pumpkin to tide me over through next year. I usually get it at Waitrose but they've discontinued it this year! However, when I questioned them, I discovered they had a case in the warehouse! So, I snatched up what I needed for bread and pie through next year. Maybe by then Skyco will carry pumpkin and not just pumpkin pie filling (the two are not interchangeable, and I prefer pumpkin, so I can add my own spices). Otherwise, I'll have to get Mom to send a few cans over.

Goodies from a typical care package from Mom.

The curse of the Chex Party Mix continues this year! Aaarrgghh! Since Skyco had only Corn Chex this year, I asked Mom to mail the cereals, Bugles and pretzels about three weeks ago (plus about $75 worth of other goodies). But so far, it hasn't turned up and Parcel Force is saying it's lost. I was SO unhappy and disappointed over it! And since I really must have Chex Mix before Thanksgiving, I asked Mom to resend the cereals and pretzels, and a few other things in the lost box. She mailed it this morning, so maybe I'll have it by Monday or Tuesday. But it won't contain my box of chocolates, or my new jammies, or Charlie's T-shirt, or the treats Mom added to the first one.

WAIT A MINUTE!! Unbelievable! It's HERE!! Mark's here with my package! I gotta call Mom! (And lay out the paper towels for the Chex Mix to cool on). Yay!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Kung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

I hope that old saying holds true in the blogosphere: better late than never. I made some Butter Cookies this morning using a recipe from Blog With Yan, in honor of Chinese New Year. It's the year of the Snake, my son Charlie's sign. According to Chinese horoscopes,  he is keen and determined. That's for sure. Snakes are also said to be calm and not outwardly emotional — we're working on that.

Yan's cookies appealed to me because they didn't require many ingredients and most of them are in the average person's pantry. The dough is piped onto lined baking sheets — sounds easy too. And they bake for about 10 minutes; quick. 

The bottles didn't work that well for these cookies.
I decided to try out my Kuhn Rikon Cookie and Cupcake Set that I got for Christmas. The set is used for decorating with icing and contains 5 stainless steel nozzles, 2 large bottles, 3 small bottles, lids and a spatula. Wrong. The dough, while light and fluffy, wasn't coming out of those plastic bottles with small nozzles. Fortunately, I had one, single disposable bag left from Christmas, so I got down to piping little pinwheel shapes and vertical bars. I am rubbish at that kind of piping, though. I can outline and flood; I'm steady-handed and I like detailed work. But I'm not very good at petals and shapes, so these taste better than they look! Be sure to check out Yan's cookies — they're beautiful!

They taste yummy — honestly!

The dough's airiness comes through in the cookies' bite. They nearly melt in your mouth. That's down to the cake flour, and the use of both granulated and powdered sugars. The results are buttery and tender. Several were nabbed off the cooling racks before I could plate them — that's always a good sign! 

I'll give the decorating set another bash the next time I use Royal Icing, but I'm feeling doubtful. I know it's better for the environment to use the bottles. I just don't think I'm going to be able to get the same control as I do with a bag. I could use cloth bags but I really appreciate the convenience of the disposable bag (in all its different sizes) when I'm using a variety of colors. Also, with plastic, it's easier to pry the coupler free and I don't have as much mess to clean up. The jury's still out on this one.

Seems a shame not to try them again with icing.

By the way, I didn't have cake flour on hand, so I made my own. To make 1/2 cup, put 1tablespoon of cornstarch in a 1/2 cup measure, then fill with all-purpose flour. To make two cups, add 1/4 cup cornstarch to a 2-cup measure, then fill with all-purpose flour. (Obviously, for this recipe, I put 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch in a 3/4-measure and filled with flour.)

Yan's Butter Cookies

200 grams (3/4 c) cake flour 
130 grams (1/2 c) butter, softened
35 grams (2 Tbsp) caster sugar
65 grams (4 Tbsp) powdered sugar
1 egg, whisked
1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cream butter until smooth. Add sugars, and continue to cream until fluffy.

Add one-third of the whisked egg into the butter mixture at a time. Stir and combine well between each 1/3-addition, as the volume increases and the color lightens. Add the vanilla essence and combine.

Sift flour into the egg mixture. Use a spatula to combine, careful not to over mix. Transfer the batter into an icing bag. Pipe the batter onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-13 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack completely. Store in an airtight container.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

2005 - Where Did December Go?

Ah, here it is Jan. 1, so I had better add a postscript to 2005's Christmas baking. Christmas always comes faster than you expect and I was too busy baking and wrapping and shopping to make any more diary entries.

My brother, Michael, went out to Mom's house and made Whoopie PiesBuckeyes and Nestle's Chocolate Chip Cookies. He's becoming quite the baker!

Lisa made Poor Man's CakeSnickerdoodlesMagic Cookie Bars and Pillsbury Sugar Cookies (ready-to-bake rolls). Poor Man's Cake has been in our family's recipe box for years.  It's a chocolate quick-bread, studded with raisins, that is traditionally made in a tube (or Bundt) pan. My great-grandmother used to make it, back in the 1940s, when sugar, butter and eggs were rationed. It was a "poor man's" fruit cake that was served at Christmas time. She once accidentally made it with cayenne pepper and the family teased her for years! The recipe itself dates back to the late 1800s.

I've written the recipe down, even though I don't usually make it because Lisa and Aunt Catherine do. The recipe is strange because it's the one Great-Grandma Berghaus used (so I copied it just as she had it). So it doesn't read like a contemporary recipe at all. Still, the results are satisfying.

Mom made loads of cookies and Pumpkin Bread. She and I both love the new Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons we found in Martha Stewart's Cookies magazine. 

I don't think I'm going to make the Snickerdoodle Pinwheels again. I love making them and they look great — but they're just not cinnamon-y enough for me. I say that about all the Snicks I make. One day, I'll find one that's perfect.

I can't believe I didn't make Sugar Cookies this year. I'll have to get going just as early next year so I can be sure to make them. They need to be made first thing, though, because they take so much time and effort. But they are certainly worth it; and kids love them!

Poor Man's Cake

4 c water
1/2 c oil
1 box raisins (12 oz)

Cook until the raisins are soft.

Sift together:
4 c flour
2 c sugar
3 1/2 tsp spices (ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves)
4 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 c cocoa

Mix the raisins and the water/oil mixture into the dry ingredients.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour. 

Obviously, some steps aren't described as well as they could be. For instance, boil the raisins, oil and water for about 3 minutes and let cool completely before adding to the dry ingredients. The measurements for the spices aren't  precise. I should think 1 tsp each of the first three; and 1/2 tsp of the cloves. You should grease and flour (or spray) the cake pan generously. Watch the cake when it's in the oven; it could be done in as little as 30 to 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack.