Tag Archives: cookies

Dorie and I calmly brainstorm.

“For years, I wanted to make a cookie that would go with beer. From the start, I knew I wanted it to have pretzels and some cheese. I worked on the cookie on and off and never really got what I wanted. Then one day, when I was making a shellfish recipe that called for Old Bay Seasoning, I had that eureka moment: Old Bay was what was missing. A couple of spoonfuls of that blend, which relies heavily on celery salt, and the cookie came together. Is it good with beer? Yes. But here’s the bonus: The Old Bay makes the cookies a winner with Bloody Marys too.” -Dorie Greenspan, in Dorie’s Cookies.

Frontispiece of Dorie’s Cookies

This fall, I am revisiting my old self of, say, twenty years ago, that woman who would start many weeks in advance to stock the freezer with cookie tins, the contents of which would be revealed in all their corporate glory beginning on Christmas Eve. The first visible sign of the revisit was me taking Dorie’s Cookies off the shelf this morning and perusing a few recipes. I think it is the only book here that is devoted solely to cookies, and when I read the stories of Dorie’s creations I feel that I have a friend in my kitchen. She’s always telling me to “play around.” Yes!

Two pots of ginger broth were simmering on the stove and the aroma lent its warmth to visions of Christmas feasting. That would be the culinary sort of feasting, but its purpose, we must remember, is to celebrate The Feast of the Incarnation; if not for the real presence of the Son of Man among us, we have slight reasons for bothering.

Neapolitans

I don’t drink beer or Bloody Marys, but I hope to make Dorie’s Old Bay Pretzel and Cheese Cookies. I do drink wine occasionally, so some of her other recipes are worth considering, if I were to start up a wine-and-cookie snack tradition. She claims her Garam Grahams are good with beer or red wine, and tells us to bake the Triscuity Bites “with a sprinkle of salt, and start mixing the cocktails or pulling the cork on some sparkling wine.”

Both of those are in the “Cocktail Cookies” section of the book, but also in chapters such as “The Beurre and Sel Collection” or cookies for “Every Day, Any Day,” drinks other than my own traditional milk or tea are suggested as an accompaniment; for example, the Italian Torta Sbrisolona, which Dorie thinks go well with strong drink and a hunk of cheese.

I noticed years ago that reading recipes is for me incredibly relaxing and calming (and it doesn’t make me sleepy the way wine does). It might be that this is partly because it is the first step in that creative process of cooking, and specifically right now, Christmas cookie-baking, that I find so satisfying. I’m brainstorming about this year’s cookie platter, and in this stage of the project there is little effort required, no timers buzzing and no mixing bowls in the sink. No real commitment, only a vast palette to dream over.

Pippin gave me the book several years ago. At least sixteen pages have post-it notes stuck on by me, suggestions to myself, and there is a note about Kit having made the apple bars when she lived here. Dorie’s Cookies has provided hours of fodder for musing and researching — but I don’t think I have used one recipe! 2021 just might be the year to begin.

Salted Toffee Cookies

Here they are, Bakers, the cookies you have been waiting for! I’m sorry it’s only a recipe; I’d have liked to give you each a cookie with a glass of milk. As it was, I barely finished them in time to give a few (12th Day of) Christmas cookies to two neighbors. Today most of the Eastern Orthodox begin their celebration the Nativity of Christ, so I may prolong my cookie baking in solidarity with them.

You may recall that I created this recipe more than five years ago, to make use of part of a bag of mini Heath Bars. Normally I’m not attracted to recipes using brand items of that sort, and I doubt that I personally will make another batch of these; I have too many other true favorites, and new recipes to try. But I wanted to get them just right (not too salty) in case one of my children wants a repeat performance enough to need the recipe — and for those of you who expressed an interest. They are yummy, there’s no denying that!

Salted Toffee Cookies

1 cup room temperature butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons hot water
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
A bag of mini Heath Bars, chopped; or a bag of Heath milk chocolate toffee bits – (1 ½ cups)

For topping mix in a small bowl:
2 tablespoons coarse raw or Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 – Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2 – Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat more. Scrape bowl.
3 – Add 2 cups of flour. Dissolve the soda in hot water. Add the baking soda mixture, the last cup of flour, salt, and cream of tartar to the bowl.
4 – Add the toffee and mix until just combined. Make little balls and dip the tops in the sugar-salt mixture, and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
5 – Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes. Let cool before eating.

Our Glad people eat cookies at Christmas.

This Christmas I may not bake anything, though when I look over this post I start to think that if Trader Joe’s has their cranberry relish in stock, I might make the cranberry jellies… maybe just half a batch….

I do love cookies and cookie-baking, and am loving the memories of them in this new era when there are other things I want to do instead. It’s likely I’ll get excited about baking again some Christmastime in the future, but for now, I want to share this post that I hope I haven’t republished too recently. If you like special cookies at Christmas, you might check out the recipes I’ve shared on my Recipes page, because over the last nearly 50 years ! I’ve collected some great ones. Last week my son-in-law mentioned a Lemon Poppyseed Sandwich Cookie that I served only one Christmas, which he said remains his favorite years later.

Trader Joe's Sugar Iced LebkuchenOn the platter below are a few of Trader Joe’s Pfeffernusse which they didn’t carry last year. They were very different from my own peppernuts but awfully nice. I did think of buying a few cookies at Trader Joe’s to eat when the actual feast of Nativity arrives. Pippin had their Lebkuchen at our early Christmas when I was up there, and I’d eaten them last year as well; they remind me of honeykuchen that Mr. Glad’s German grandmother and aunts used to bake at Christmas. While looking for a picture of them to show you I found this site with reviews of Trader Joe’s products.

But now, here is the post from the archives; I hope it might be useful to you in some way:

The new favorite cookie this year was Salted Toffee. This was a happy accident sort of thing. We had come by a bag of mini Heath Bars, not something we normally would buy, and I didn’t want to end up eating them one-by-one, so after we ate a few I thought I would make cookies with the rest.

 

 

I’d seen recipes online for Heath Bar cookies, and I used one of them that didn’t have nuts. My version had a little less Heath ingredient, since we had snacked it down. The specialness I added was to combine some large-crystal sugar (Demerara) and coarse sea salt and roll the tops of the cookie-dough balls in that before baking.

Everyone loved these cookies. If that bird were real, he would have eaten the whole cookie by now. But he is painted on a pretty tray that May gave me for Christmas.

Soldier’s Joy brought the darlingest delicious thumbprint cookies that were filled with strawberry and rhubarb, and some chocolate-dipped dried apricots that combined to add to the visual appeal of the cookie platters.

Those bright-white round cookies are our only store-bought item, Pffernusse from Trader Joe’s that Mr. Glad wanted to try in memory of the cookies his German grandmother used to make.

The coconut-y balls are Date Delights, for which I’ll give you the recipe here. They are another chewy toffee-ish experience we have been creating ever since my grandma gave our family a tin full of them one Christmas past.

Date Delights

1 cube butter
1 cup cut-up pitted dates
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups Rice Crispies
sweetened coconut flakes, about 7 oz.

In a 9×12 baking pan mix the walnuts and Rice Crispies. Set aside. In another bowl put the coconut flakes. 

In a saucepan melt the butter, and add the dates, egg and sugar. Stir all together in the saucepan and boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla, and immediately pour the candy mixture over the walnuts and cereal. Stir well. As soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle, form into balls and roll them in the coconut flakes. Cool.

The red squares in the foreground are Cranberry Jellies. I adapted a recipe from a past Sunset Magazine to make a treat that Pippin and I especially like. It’s refreshingly lacking in any fat except for walnuts, and is a nice chewy way to get your cranberry fix and add color to the display.

Cranberry Jellies

3 cups Trader Joe’s Cranberry-Orange Relish (2-16 oz. tubs)

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
13 envelopes plain gelatin
3 cups chopped walnuts

Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl (I used a stand mixer) and while the paddle is turning, gradually add the gelatin. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a saucepan and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the walnuts and pour the mixture into a 9×12 pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces and dust lightly with cornstarch. I don’t refrigerate them after this point.

Many times I’ve told myself that I must make fewer cookies at Christmas, but this year I realized that it’s one of my favorite things to do. I have so much fun thinking of the collage of different flavors and forms of the little sweets that I don’t even feel the need to eat them. It was long after Christmas Day that I even tried one of the new Peppermint Cream Cheese cookies I made this year.

But now by what is the Seventh Day of Christmas, as I finish up this post, and also New Year’s Eve, I’ve expanded the festive feelings by eating lots of cookies, too! They all taste as good as they look, or better. The last red plateful will go out of here this evening — I wish I could bring one to your house when I say Happy New Year!

What a springtime it is!

Warm days and blooming flowers are pulling me outdoors, to pick more peas or to sit and read. I should be planting something in my vegetable planter, but I can’t figure out what. It’s raining today, so I can put off those decisions a little longer.

At the same time I seem to be cooking more this month. Ginger broth has been a favorite drink for a while now; I like it hot with a little cream and honey, or mixed with pineapple juice over ice. Just this morning I discovered that after I boil pieces of fresh ginger root for three hours and strain off the strong “tea,” the leftover pieces still have a surprising amount of flavor. I made my own crystallized ginger with them!

An experience I haven’t had for ages: While I stirred the ginger in the syrup with one hand, I read this book from the other hand. I guess it is just the right size, weight and genre to fit the situation.

Likely it was one of you bloggers on whose site I read about The Daughter of Time, and I bought a used copy years ago; it went to my shelves where a hundred other books wait to be opened. And last week, suddenly, I was in the mood for Tey and the mystery of Richard III.

Reading the first couple of chapters, I began to wonder if being in the mood was enough —  maybe I should have brushed up on my Kings and Queens of England first. But I pushed on, and with the help of family tree diagrams in the front of the book I began to get my historic bearings. I love this story because the main character Detective Grant likes to read letters and other primary sources, and to look at pictures of faces, all the while using his common sense and imagination to “write” what is probably a more accurate history in his mind. It is so much fun to think along with him.

Some other things I’ve made recently are two types of grain-free cookies. One of the recipes starts with a can of garbanzo beans. It has chocolate chips, and was yummy. Today I made up a recipe that included carob powder, walnuts and cinnamon, also good. I still haven’t found the perfect cookie in this category.

Asparagus season coincides with Lent, so it wasn’t until the very end of my harvest that I could make cream of asparagus soup to eat immediately. It was quite lovely. I think I squirreled some of that away in the freezer.

So, I have let the asparagus go to fronding and photosynthesis. You can see the tall twiggy foliage (it will become more ferny) in the picture below, behind the hedge of teucrium that is getting ready to burst into its glory of purple and accompanying bees. Stay tuned for that.

Many of the images from the front garden are pretty scruffy; the California poppies that grow out there go mad for a couple of months and begin to get leggy and messy. I pulled out dozens of plants and cut the rest down to the ground. They will keep coming up and blooming for the rest of the summer. The lamb’s ears are sending up their flower stalks.

I don’t mind tearing out the poppies, even though they were still blooming their hearts out, because now the yellow helianthemum can take center stage for a while.

At the moment I can’t remember what these purple perennials above are called. [Shoreacres in the comments helped me find it: Verbena bonariensis] They are very tricky to photograph because of the airy, widely spaced arrangement of their blooms, the profile of which is seen against my car farther above. I got two of them last year to replace the two wallflowers that died an early death.

The  next two flowers are both new, but in different ways. The irises are in their fourth season, but this is the first time they have bloomed, so I’m very happy, and pleased to see “who” they are after all this time since I chose them. And the friendly yellow flower is on a yarrow [Nope! The reason it doesn’t look like a yarrow flower is that it is actually a type of marguerite, a cousin of yarrow, both of them in the tribe Anthemideae, in the Aster family. This one might be Anthemis tinctoria, or Dyer’s Chamomile. Thanks to my friend May for helping me get straight.] plant that I only planted last fall; it has grown big plant over the winter and is now brightening the walkway. Thinking it was a yarrow, I was startled at its round and sunny face.

On a warm day last week — one of them was 90 degrees! — I sat just baking a bit and noticing things happening… The tiny white flower buds on the olive tree next to my new icon stand, and below them, delicate lavender stems with swelling evidence of blooms in the making. Mostly bumblebees are in the back garden; I wonder if the honeybees are out front waiting for that teuchrium.

One evening I was having a FaceTime visit with two-year-old Raj who is in D.C., high in an apartment building where he can’t have his former daily routine of playing in the park a few blocks away. More frequently of late we have had these virtual visits that are keeping us connected in an odd way. He likes to look (on his mom’s phone) at my collection of toy trucks, and my fountain and playhouse.

On that particular day we were just about to say good-bye, because it was his bedtime, when I had the idea to look in my birdhouse while he was watching. I knew that some bird or other had been making a nest a while back, and I didn’t think it was so long ago that the fledglings would have left the nest. I stood on the bench and leaned over, and stuck my phone in as far as I could…. and we saw this:

So it was bluebirds making a home in my garden this year! What a springtime it is.