Well it has begun – Gail, Debbie and I have once again invaded some poor soul’s kitchen and baked the first part of our Christmas cookie collection. We started at about 11 am and ended about 7 pm - leaving our host’s house in somewhat good order, with only a couple boxes of cookies left in our wake to indicate we had even been there.
Well, I should say that Debbie and I started baking at about 11am - Gail was miserably late. Naughty, naughty Gail! But Gail also learned a very important lesson - bringing
First round of cookies, we made batches of refrigerator cookies - the “one dough will rule them all” cookies to be precise. I tackled the chocolate mocha stripes and the molasses spice rounds. Gail tackled the checkerboard cookies. Debbie stayed away from the whole fiasco and brought her favorite roll-out cookie dough.
I just want to clarify: I am not a real fan of any recipe that asks me to “knead in” flavoring ingredients after the dough has been put together. For the chocolate mocha stripes, the original recipe called for me to take one plain recipe of dough and break it into thirds, flavoring each third with the various components. Instead, I made the base recipe three times, adding in the flavorings as I added the other ingredients. I know, I know – that defeats the whole purpose of a “mother” dough – but guess what? I don’t care. I will post the recipe below and show you what modifications I made so you can cheat too.
I liked the recipe actually. The stripes were pretty if somewhat brown and the flavor was pleasant. The texture was crisp. I whipped up a batch of just the chocolate dough and made cut outs of piggies and bears; their heads tasted really good when I bit them off.
The Molasses Spice rounds on the other hand? Nope! Why make something that is mediocre when you have much better options? The spice flavor was very mild - and the molasses non-existent. Oh- and the texture was just like the other cookies. And my rounds look more like eggs, but that was a production error. I never could figure out how they get those beautiful round shapes shown in the pictures.
Gail was supposed to make these tropical checker board squares, but since she didn’t have the macadamia nuts or the rum flavoring, she reinvented them as raspberry stripe cookies. Personally, I think that with a hat shaped cookie cutter, you could use the dough for Cat-in-the-Hat cookies. Texture? You guessed it! Gail also brought some gingerbread men which we decorated as well.
Debbie’s cutout cookies were tasty. However, Deb and I both hate icing on cookies and decided colored sugar was the way to go! See the pretty colors? See the unhappy bears with their red eye and frownie mouths? Tiny candies are a bitch to work with, by the way. I just wanted you to know that.
The stars of the show, though, were Barb and Nick. Gail, Debbie and I all work with their son Frank. They were kind enough to let us come into their home and trash the joint. And as our reward, they made pizzelles and cannolis. Well, kinda cannolis. Cannolis are supposed to have deep fried shells. Since we were not deep frying a damn thing – Nick rolled the pizzelles into tubes and filled them with a fantastic ricotta cream. True, the cookies got soft fast - but that was not an issue as we ate those bad boys as fast as possible.
Here is a picture of the entire family working on making us some damn tasty treats. Thank you guys for taking such good care of us and letting us use your home as HQ for this week’s cookie bake-fest! (That is Gail's head in the lower left corner. She is kinda camera shy.)
Here is the recipe I promised you - more to come!
BASIC PATTERN DOUGH
This dough will be your starting point for all of the pattern cookies.
Prep: 15 min.
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Beat butter 30 seconds. Beat in sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Makes about 2 1/2 cups dough.
(My changes – I used the traditional creaming method. All dry ingredients shifted together. Butter whipped with sugar until combined - add egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients.)
TO STORE: Pack dough into an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Prep: 50 min. Chill: 1+1 hr.
Bake: 8 min. per batch
1 recipe Basic Pattern Dough
2 tablespoons instant Swiss-style coffee powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1. Divide Basic Pattern Dough into thirds. Knead coffee powder into one
portion of dough. Stir chocolate into another portion of dough (knead if necessary). Divide each dough portion in half. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or until easy to handle.
2. On waxed paper, roll a portion of chocolate dough into an 8x6-inch rectangle (keep remaining dough chilled); place waxed paper with dough rectangle on a cookie sheet, dough side up. On another sheet of waxed paper, roll a portion of plain dough into an 8x6 inch rectangle. Invert plain dough onto chocolate dough; peel off waxed paper. On same piece of waxed paper, roll a portion, of coffee dough into an 8x6-inch rectangle. Invert coffee dough onto plain dough; peel off waxed paper. Repeat with remaining doughs to form a six-layer stack. Press together lightly. Wrap and chill for 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Trim edges of dough stack. Cut stack in half lengthwise, forming two rectangles. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut sides down, 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack; cool. Makes 4 dozen.
(My changes – I made three batches of the "Mother" dough and added these ingredients to one of each of the batches. No kneading - no tough cookies.
For the Chocolate dough – I pulled out ¼ cup of flour and substituted ¼ cup of cocoa powder instead. Less mess-less fuss.
For the Coffee dough - I added regular old freeze-dried coffee because that is what I had in the cupboard.)
TO STORE: Layer between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
I love sights like this - they get the old brain cells jumpin'. Personally, I think the marshmellow cannon sounds like a great project! "Look out!!" - THUMP! There are even a few recipes - since this is supposed to be a food blog...
I can't wait!!!! I am as giddy as a school girl! We start our cookie baking on Saturday!!! This Sunday - we are having a cookie decorating party at a friend's house and the following Sunday, we are traveling all the way to Lancaster, Ohio to break in a friend's brand new kitchen. How new? Well, let me tell you that he is moving into the house as we speak. The last coat of paint went up on the walls last week- so yeah..that new!
If you really want to see how anal we have been in planning this - I can post my Excel spreadsheet listing ingredients, equipment and duties. Otherwise, I'll just take a ton of pictures and make you all hungry instead.
Some of the supplies laid in for this event:
- 30 pounds of flour
- 30 pounds of butter
- 50 pounds of sugar (give or take 10 pounds, Tony has been drinking sweet tea a lot this past two weeks)
- 6 pounds of dark brown sugar
- 10 pounds of light brown sugar
- 8 dozen large eggs
- More nuts than I have a right to own
- Double strength vanilla from Penzeys (Their store is right across from my work. Now my stalkers will know where to find me!)
- 6 new heavy aluminum baking sheets
- An extra bowl for my 6 qt Kitchaide mixer
Plus a lot of other stuff that Debbie and Gail have at their houses.
If you don't hear from me by next weekend - you will know I ate too many sweets and died happy.
Any parent knows this is true, but doesn't it occur to you that the only reason the kids love the bad stuff is because that is what they eat at home too? If you teach your kids what to eat and don't put up with "I don't wanna eat that!" then you can get them to eat what they should eat. A child is only slightly less intractable than a dog and with a little patience and training, you can get them to eat what they SHOULD eat. Unfortunately, most parents today are so worried about keeping the 'lil darlings quiet that they will compromise their child's health to keep the peace at the dinner table.
It seems to me its a case of the tail wagging the dog - as parents we are in charge and should not only lead by example, but also set dinnertime rules that encourage good eating habits. My favorite rule in our house: You have to eat one helping of everything presented for dinner. Even if it's sauted spinach and looks "gross". That means my hubby and I have to do the same. Once you've tried something once, THEN you can say you dislike it. And you better have a concrete criticism for not liking my cooking!
It doesn't mean we hate eating MickyD's or pizza - it just means we think twice before we pick up the phone and order carry out. It also means that, as head cook, I have to plan ahead so that I have healthy food that can be prepared quickly during the busy week. By and large, that requires more work than some people are willing to put into it.
So quit your bitchin'. Take some responsiblity for what your family eats. And don't blame the schools or the restaurants when they don't offer healthy choices. They are just giving your kids the foods that you have trained them to eat.
My hubby says he never knows what to get me for Christmas. Usually, I end up with a gift certificate - or even scarier – he goes shopping with me and proffers his credit card at check out. Subtle hints do no good, as he never seems to remember hearing me say that I wanted a new chef’s knife repeatedly in the six months preceding the holidays. I have even gone as far as leaving websites open on the computer and bookmarking reviews in his folder. There must be something in the makeup of male psyche that resists such manipulation.
Sigh - what’s a gal to do?
So now the gloves are off - and I am gonna pimpslap that man o’ mine into buying me something I want, wrapping it up and putting it under the tree!
Number one on the Rosie Wishlist
A New Kitchen Timer – my old timer used to live on the fridge. That was until someone (and he knows who he is…) slammed the door too hard while getting a beer and my beloved timer crashed to the floor and broke into a million pieces. Ok – may not a million - but it sure as hell looked like it.
A real live digital scale – My old scale is one I inherited from my mom - it is a Braun spring driven model that is so old the white plastic has acquired a yellow tint. My hubby asks why I don’t get back into bread baking - well here it is: buy me this and there will be no more excuses!
Replacements for my broken Pyrex Mixing Bowls – I love my old Pyrex mixing bowls. I have the remnants of two sets: my mother’s primary color nesting bowls and my pink and white Gooseberry bowls. Since my daughter has been big enough to “help” me by washing dishes, my Pyrex bowls seems to have sustained the most casualties. I do not care who you have to mug or how much you have to pay – I want my bowls back!
Chocolate – need I say more?
A New Car – Considering all the driving I have to do to keep us in kibbles, I think I deserve a new car. I just want something small that will carry all my groceries, respond to the gas when I go for the parking spot that just opened up and a kickin’ stereo system so I can ignore the cries and whines of the peasantry. A nice Caddy Escalade will do - nothing pretentious.
A New House – I have decided that I really need a new house - or maybe just an old house surrounding a new kitchen - yeah…I think that would work fine too. Of course, it would have to be in a better neighborhood. I just can’t have my new Escalade hanging around with Fords and Chevys. It might develop a complex. And of course, the most important part of a new house is the vault… for the chocolate. Did I mention the chocolate?