Tag Archives: cookies

Not codes, but cookies!

This morning I started gathering and measuring ingredients for a few of the cookie recipes I like to make at Christmas. I was afraid to start mixing them and actually cooking, afraid I would make a mistake, with so many distractions of carpenters and tile-setters coming and going, asking questions.

The truck that brought the new sheet rock had a boom so long and mighty that it reached all the way from the street up to the second-story window, which was the easiest route in. The delivery was two hours late, so it arrived about the same time as the contractor and the inspector.

While the inspector was here I was on pins and needles from the suspense; she was returning to inspect the “corrections” she had noted on Monday. I opened the door to the wet back garden and looked out there without seeing, and prayed. It is scary what power these inspectors have, and in California the building code provides a endlessly shifting and growing body of regulations to draw from so that it is easy to find lots of things that need correcting, which translates to extra hours and money fixing things that aren’t broken. But enough about that — I started out wanting to talk about cookies!

And sugar. I know that sugar is BAD, but I find it hard to come down too hard on the stuff, partly because I have a historical family interest in C&H (California and Hawaiian) Sugar Company, for which my great uncle was a chemist.

Have you heard that cane sugar is better for you (or, more precisely, not as bad for you!) and makes better-tasting baked goods than beet sugar? I don’t know if either or both of those are true or myths. But I do always buy C&H cane, when I am buying white sugar.

When I poured a fresh bag into my sugar jar today I noted how pretty it is. I wonder if I ever showed you the jar that I have kept sugar in for decades; it came from my husband’s family’s cabin where I think they were using it for sugar when I first saw it.

Do you remember this picture from when I was in India,
of women buying coarse sugar from bulk bins?

This year I’m experimenting with making a few of my traditional cookies gluten-free, for the sake of a family member who I’d like to be able to eat them. But when it comes to sweetening, I don’t worry whether it’s fructose or sucrose or honey or beets — I just try to keep the sweetness to a minimum so we can taste the butter and other interesting flavors.

I eventually got the dough made for the Ginger Spice cookies, but I haven’t got one cookie into the oven yet. The kinds that I’ve started measuring out ingredients for are:

Chunky Ginger Spice
Double Pecan Thumbprints
Apricot Macaroons

I was going to link you to the recipes…. Oops — I’ve never transcribed the recipes here! But the link on the Thumbprints above will take you to the recipe eventually. The photo of a cookie platter at top is from a few years ago. I hope tomorrow I can make a little more progress. It soothes my nerves to bake Christmas cookies.

The inspector signed off on all the corrections. She was surprised that “we” were able to get them done so fast. 🙂 I wish I’d had a plate of cookies to give her as she went out the door.

What to say about a cookie?

This one is certainly the Cookie of the Year, though I don’t know which year, because I started the dough in 2018 and finished them in 2019. A new recipe, from the current Bon Appétit, which means you can find it on epicurious.com:  Double-Pecan Thumbprints.

The layer of flavor-rich frangipane tops off (even though it’s in the middle) the oh-so-toasty-pecan everything of this thumbprint. It instantly became my favorite cookie of all time. I spent hours over several days browsing recipes and planning this year’s cookies; that brainstorming was the easy part. Shopping, baking, then giving and eating took any remaining energies, leaving little for describing or promoting. But I wish you might try baking these so you can taste for yourself. Now that you’ve seen the picture, take a look at that recipe, and if it calls to you…

(I’m sorry if you recently resolved to eat no more cookies. 😦 )

pecan thumbprints 2018 cookies

 

A gathering of godmothers.

As I was scrubbing and shining the windows on a brisk afternoon, I made peace with myself over the tea party. Housemate Susan and I had planned one since the middle of Advent, but as the date grew closer the argument played in my mind, about whether it was ridiculous to take on another project right now, or perfectly sensible.

Now I knew it was worth it, because otherwise I don’t know when I’d have gotten around to the windows. And cleaning around the lower reaches of the kitchen, etc. The day before, I remembered that I like to use my vintage white napkins at tea parties, and I actually located them upstairs, where every room but Susan’s is dreadfully chaotic for reasons I’ll go into later. I ironed about ten soft cloths with help from a spray bottle of water infused with lemongrass oil. Happiness.

What about a centerpiece for the table? I was using my birds-and-forest table runner, which made me think to check by the creek for some berries and conifer branches, of which I brought home a bagful. All of that had been washed by rain, but was still fresh enough that not one berry fell off.

In the early stages of our idea, the party had been named a Godmother Party. I wanted very much to have the female members of Susan’s goddaughter Gigi’s family, and then it followed naturally to invite my three goddaughters who live in the area, and my godmother, and the godmother of my goddaughter’s sister… and so it went. Not everyone could come in the end, but it was a beautiful time. The little girls got to play outside in the playhouse a bit; the grownup ladies enjoyed a relaxing cup of Christmas tea, near the cheery fire of oak logs that Susan carefully tended. No rush.

Of tea, we had three pots full. “Joyous Jasmine” green tea came from Brewlette, a hipster sort of Indian source you can find on Facebook, in a gift pack from Kate. That was the most flowery, aromatic tea I have ever experienced.

We had a strong black tea from Russia, which came in this churchly tin, and another delicious and festive blend named “Nutcracker Rooibos” — The children drank that as it is caffeine-free.

Cookies, peanut brittle, mini-quiches, chocolates, fancy nuts, and thick slices of my dense Swedish sourdough rye, with plenty of butter. I haven’t mentioned yet the lemony Greek butter cookie twists that Susan made, but you can see below how cute they are.

‘Twas a Fifth Day of Christmas feast!

In the kitchen on St. Stephen’s Day.

Today was a cooking day, mostly. I baked a few more of the cookies I already showed you, and started in on several more kinds…

1) Rich chocolate cookie from the Fine Cooking website. The best flavor, but overly tender and crumbly for my use. I wanted a cookie to fill with the Ghirardelli peppermint chunks I had bought. Did a lot of experimenting, baking three or five cookies at a time.

2) Spiral Green Tea Cookies that turned out kind of blah, in both color and flavor. Maybe they would be a brighter green if my matcha powder were newer?

3) Black Walnut Icebox cookies from Linda of The Task at Hand blog. These are really good!

4) Peanut Brittle from Suburban Jubilee. What drew me to this recipe was that it didn’t require a candy thermometer. It was easy and delicious.

5) The first batch of Licorice Meringues were a product of the kitchen last week; I didn’t get to making a second today. The recipe is from Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, a cookbook that Kate gave me.

The flavor depends on dried licorice root powder, and the color comes from stripes of black food color gel that you paint on the inside of your piping bag. I want to make more of these because I think they could use more of the licorice element, and because I hope to get closer to making my cookies resemble the gorgeous ones in the book.

 

Oh, and I did cook three sweet and stripey squashes that came in my farm box. My next farm box is coming soon so it’s good to clear out the shelves. I ended my dinner with one of them, and they are pretty enough to close out my foodie report.