Cookie Confab turned Cookie Bust!

This year – our plans did not gel. Not sure why -with this thing or that we just could never get the time together to bake. Debbie did stop over for a little while and dropped off some spritz cookies and have a little tipple.

Rose and Debbie knocking one back.
So Debbie's  sister can tell - Debbie is the one on the right.

Debbie helped me decorate these.. after the knocking back.
Not that I was going to let a lack of teamwork get me down! I had cookies to make dammit! I have people counting on me for their holiday excess!! I made Tony step up to be my kitchen bitch – roll this, wash that, where the hell do you think you're going – get me that flour out of the pantry. He cried like a little girl “But its 1 am!” Breakin' weak - marathon cookie baking is not for timid.

Here he is making the stroopwaffles... I cropped the picture so you can't see the shackles.
This is a new recipe from A Baker's Odyssey.
The are called Nuspatchen (or something like that).
They are a hazelnut and cinnamon topping on a spice cookie.
Next year...the bottom will be chocolate for that Nutella-like flavor combo!!

Every year I make a new cookie – I have to. If I made the same damn thing over and over where is the challenge in that? Lord knows that I am a glutton for punishment.

My first thought was to try a recipe I found in the LA Times. They took recipe submissions and I was intrigued by the recipe for Nana tea cakes. It seemed simple – the dough had three ingredients and the filling could be varied to give different flavors. However, the write up as provided in the original posting seemed a little too basic. Trust me – if there is one thing I learned, Nana never measures anything and she usually never describes the nuances of the prep work.

I make up a batch of the dough and let it chill up over night. I roll it out, cut and fill it, set to oven to 350 as instructed and tossed in the first sheet. Ten minutes later, I pull the cookies out and they are still raw. Where is the flaky goodness? I put them back in for five more minutes – still no love. I pull these out and toss them.

I pump up the oven temp 25 degrees and bake four cookies. 20 minutes later, too brown on the bottom, raw on the inside. Into the trash with those as well.

What the hell Nana? This is not working out at all...

I pump up the oven 50 degrees – take that cookies!!! Oooooo puffy action! They are rising!! They are bursting open!!!! Shit. Four more cookies not right- this time they are edible and we scarfed them up.

Last four cookies – what to do? It is a steam issue. Hmmmm...I'll try docking the jam pocket to let out the steam, bake at 425 and get them just the tiniest bit brown. Bingo!!

A couple hours of work for four good cookies. We ate them before I thought of getting a picture. Shit again.

The funny thing, this recipe made the final 10 best recipes and the LA Times test kitchen published the recipe with the same time and temperatures as the original submission. What the hell, LA Times? Are you sure you really test these? Tony says “LA Times is a lyin' bitch!”

I ended up not using that recipe.

Instead I pulled out an old mini fruitcake recipe. Oh before you start your bad jokes and bellyaching, this is one of the best fruit and nut filled, booze infused treats ever created. Tony, who hates fruitcake, begs for these. Of course, he also begs for oxygen when he can't remember the safe word.

This recipe comes from the Cookie Lover's Cookie Book by Richard Sax. I love this little book. It has been out of print for years and it's hard to find. It is worth the effort though – this recipe is a gem.

And no - there are no pictures of these. 1) they look lumpy and ugly but taste great 2) they are all gone!!!

You'll need miniature muffin tins for these guys, though a regular-size muffin pan can also be used. Paper muffin liners make this recipe easier to remove from the pan and store, but you can use non-stick pans if you have them.

The original recipe called for the neon colored cherries you usually find in fruit cakes. I substituted in dried cherries, but they do not look as festive. If you think they need a little color, you can add a glace cherry half to the top when you glaze.

Makes 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch miniature cupcakes, or 1 dozen muffin-size

2 cup of mixed fruit (mix and match from the following): raisins, golden raisins, dried currants, dried cranberries and chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped dried pineapple
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
3 tablespoons bourbon or brandy (or apple cider)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup flour
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup each coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, and almonds

2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons bourbon or brandy (or apple cider)

1.  Place the mixed fruit, pineapple, cherries, and crystallized ginger in a bowl. Toss with the bourbon and set aside to soak at least 30 minutes. It is best to not to let it set overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 300°F., with racks in the center and bottom of the oven. Place a pan of hot wa­ter on the lower rack.  Line miniature or regular-size muffin tins with paper muffin liners. If you don't have paper liners, butter the pan(s) generously.
3.  Cream the butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until light; then add the egg, mixing until smooth. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking powder, and baking soda onto a sheet of wax paper.  Using a spatula, stir in the flour mixture to the creamed mix­ture, mixing just until blended, no longer. Stir in the fruit mixture with its soaking liquid, along with the walnuts, pecans, and almonds, mixing just until incorporated.
4.  Bake the fruitcakes until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, about 30 minutes (or 35 for regular-size muffin tins). Cool in the pan(s) for about 5 minutes and remove from the pan(s) (leave the paper liners on). If they seem to be sticking, then run the tip of a knife blade around the cakes.  Placing them on a wire rack over a sheet of wax or parchment paper.

Bourbon Glaze: Place the corn syrup in a small pan and heat gently, just to thin it. Remove from heat, stir in the bourbon, and brush the tops of the fruitcakes with the glaze. Let stand until set; then store airtight.

These keep well for at least a week, and can be mailed.  I have also frozen them with great success. Just thaw at room temperature in their packaging. To brighten them up before serving, reglaze so the tops are shiny.

Adapted from the Cookie Lover’s Cookie Book by Richard Sax


The Anti-Food Porn Rant

We love looking. We can't help it. That smokin' hot construction worker, that sexy black dress in the shop window, those rows and rows of flaky, creamy pastries – we look and we salivate. We desire. And if we have the cash, it becomes ours. (Well, maybe not the construction worker, but we can dream, can't we?)

But how many times have we been mis-lead? How many time have you bought that luscious perfectly iced slice of chocolate cake only to find it is dry and flavorless? And that little black dress – you try it on only to find that it wasn't really all that sexy when lovingly draped over that pooch left by one too many pieces of mediocre chocolate cake?

And how many times have you been walking through the book store, pick up a beautiful cookbook full of stylish photos and recipes featuring trendy ingredients only to take it home and find out you were snookered? Taken in by a pretty face only to be left with a pot full of barely edible – and sometimes extravagantly expensive –  dog kibble? Or that the amount of work necessary to achieve the pictured item has left you drained and impotent for the rest of the evening? And that construction worker, even if you could afford him, would have been a another wasted purchase as you retire to the boudoir with a migraine.

Like the strategically placed silicon in an adult movie,  food porn is there to enhance your enjoyment of   your most recently purchased fantasy book. And like elective plastic surgery, food styling is an artificial enhancement. Few real women (most of us included) look like that busty sexpot in Pizza Slut 3, and most of the food you make at home will ever look like the pictures in the books.

Books, magazines and TV shows – there is a lot of lying going. True, lying can be a good thing. Some lies are necessary – From your hubby: “No your ass doesn't look big in those jeans.” To your hubby: “Honey, I don't miss those golden curls I used to run my fingers through.” To the kids: “Don't worry Heather, you'll grow out of it. It's just baby fat.” 

But we all realize deep down that lies are social lubricants. Like the Quarker State in your engine, it keeps everything moving along smoothly and prevents the unsightly build up of corpses along the highways.

In the modern media, food styling keeps the food industry looking fresh and sexy – its a necessary set of lies to keep Martha, Sandra Lee and Rachel on the cutting edge of  the current market. Without the pretty pictures, would anyone buy their products to see if there was any substance?

It also puts lipstick on that pig – a little light on content? Then slap some pretty pictures in there, send it off to China for some sexy full color printing and get it out in time for the holiday gift giving season. Grandma loves the pretty pictures...and the political prisoners in China need the work.

It's not to say that sexy food photography is a bad thing. Good photos will give you an idea of how brown the edges of your cookies should be, how thick you should roll the dough, but you have to remember that they are the stuff that dreams are made of. Your mileage may vary. Things in the mirror may be larger than they appear (and that includes your rump in that little black dress!)

So remember, there are some worthwhile cookbooks that don't have 8 x 10 color glossys. Pick up the old school Joy of Cooking, The Fanny Farmer Cookbook or if you want some fantastic cookie recipes, get yourself a copy of The Cookie Lover's Cookie Book by Richard Sax. No food porn in any them, but lots of solid recipes.

And for Pete's sake – stop staring at the construction workers while sitting at the light. You are holdin' up the rest of us.


Mule Train Ho!!

Been grabbing supplies for the Thanksgiving feast and cookie baking - wanna know the best deals on flour and sugar?

Aldi's! - whodathunkit?

Even cheaper than the Restaurant Depot.


Book Review: The Christmas Cookie Cookbook by Ann Pearlman

It's coming time for the big Cookie Confab – though once again this year it is going to be downsized. Gail, Debbie and I have no days off in common anymore. It's sad. I love getting together to bake cookies and chew the fat. And drink. And bitch. And eat.

I have been pouring over my cookie books and even asked to review one. So yes – being the cheap chiseling food whore that I am - I got another free book.

The book I requested was The Christmas Cookie Cookbook, from Atria Books. This book is written by Ann Pearlman,  who also authored The Christmas Cookie Club, a book about a group of women who get together every year to trade cookies and share their lives.

Now ya know me – I am not a chick lit kinda gal. My family was filled with evil harridans who smiled nicely at each other in public and cut each other to ribbons with their razor sharp tongues behind closed doors. Family gatherings were not the sappy sweet female bonding experiences that you find in so many books aimed at women. So needless to say I haven't read the novel The Christmas Cookie Club.

But I do love cookies and have been running The Cookie Confab for almost 10 yrs now so I was very intrigued by the premise for this book.

All that being said – I really enjoyed reading The Christmas Cookie Cookbook. Ann talks about how the club got started, about the women involved, and the deep bonds that have developed over the last 20 years – yes 20 years. That is some stamina right there!! Plus, you get concrete advice on how to start your own club, hints on how to make the event a success from setting the date to passing out the goodies.

There are recipes too. Now, do not expect any ground shattering breakthroughs in cookie baking technology. Many of these recipes have seen print elsewhere – including the recipe that I made as a test batch. (In fact, the Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookie is from the Ghiridelli website, modified to make the dough a little easier to handle when shaping into log. I, and my boss, have made a couple other changes which I will share below.)

Other recipes are included for appetizers and buffet dishes to keep everyone on the edge of sobriety, plus cookie making tips.

Oh yeah – and then there are the Rules. The Rules are brilliant. The Rules are awesome. They are the work of someone who understands how to organize and maintain.

This is my snarky non-chick lit interpretations of the rules. If you want the nice friendly PC version, then you will just have to go and buy the book.

  1. Cookie variety – no chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin – it's freakin' Christmas so act like it whydoncha?
  2. No Goo – cuz too messy is no good...
  3. Exclusive membership – No one wants to bake 20 dozen cookies for a party, so no – you don't get to come!
  4. Commitment - what?! You came one time and now you wanna back out!!!?? Bitch!
  5. Life Membership- well if we can put up with you, you can put up with us every year... or in other words the only way to leave the cookie club is feet first!
  6. Packaging – Thou shalt invest in something pretty to hold your cookies – no paper plates ya lazy ho!
  7. Share a dish – we need some food to soak up all this booze!
  8. Charity – spread the love – and calories – around!
  9. More Fun – do things that will be memorable - memorable enough to cut through the alcohol-induced haze.

I think the one thing I would have like to see with the cookie recipes were “keeping instructions” - a consistent addendum to each recipe talking about how long the product would keep, and the proper way to store them. One would assume that these recipes have been made and tested by the ladies who submitted them and those ladies would have some idea of how long these different types of cookies keep. Maybe that is kinda nit-picky but I'm just sayin'...woulda been nice.

Overall, I would say buy this book, especially if you have ever dreamed of running a cookie exchange or even another seasonal event every year. The advice is sound, the tone supportive and if you are lucky enough to have friends and family who actually like each other then I say give it a try!

Now your reward for putting up with my ramblings – the recipe!!!

Here is the recipe for Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies. They demand something like milk or, even better, the slight bitterness of black coffee.

Here is the recipe as it is written in the book.

Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies

12 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
11 1/2 ounces 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

In double boiler over hot water, melt bittersweet chocolate chips and butter. In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick. Stir in chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. Stir in chocolate mixture. Gently mix in semi-sweet chocolate chips and walnuts (dough will be gooey). Chill for 30 minutes to firm up.

On a sheet of plastic wrap, form dough into two logs, each 2 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long. Wrap tightly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm.

Shinny Shiny cookies...yummmy....
Pre-heat oven to 375°F. With sharp knife, cut into 3/4-inch slices and place on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 14 minutes or until shiny crust forms. Cookies should be soft inside. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.

Differences from the original recipe on the Ghiridelli sight:

  • The original recipe does not call for the 30 minute chill before shaping. This does make it easier to handle when shaping.
  • The shape of the logs is 2” in diameter and 12” long. Even though the recipe in the book says 8” - the logs did come out about 12” during the test.
  • The original recipe stipulates that you unwrap the logs before cutting. Duh.
  • The original recipe kept the cookies on the pan until cool. These are kinda delicate and I would cut the difference between the two recipes and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack.
  • The original recipe called for 12-14 minutes. 12 minutes did the trick for me.
  • The original recipe states that these will keep up to one week. I hid a cookie and just pulled it out. A week is kinda pushing it – they were much better the first couple of days, but I still would not turn my nose up at one of these that was a week old.

Changes that I made to the recipe:

  • I would say chop the walnuts into medium to small pieces. Larger pieces taste good but are a bitch to cut.
  • Use a serrated knife when cutting the log. This is for two reasons: first, the sawing motion means you do not have to press down as hard on the log so you do not flatten it out or cause the dough to crumble. The second is it will cut through the chocolate chips when they are cold.
  • I also froze one of the logs of dough, then thawed it in the fridge overnight before baking. Turned out just as awesome as the non-frozen dough.
  • Lastly – this can easily be made gluten free! My boss, Melissa, substituted ½ cup of commercial gluten free flour and they turned out fantastic.


My Life of Leisure...

This is all the excitment
that you get at a magic party...
  Yeah - it’s been almost 6 months since I posted. To be truthful, its been entirely selfish. I have been doing and being and not writing about it. And having a wonderful time with it too...
First - I got to go to San Francisco in June. Actually, I got to visit LA and San Fran. Scary part - it was 90+ degrees with 98% humidity in C-bus, but when we rolled off the plane in CA it was a cool 75 degrees with no moisture at all. Heaven!
We flew into LAX with its big spaceship out front and went to the rental car company to pick up our car. We had asked for a full sized model - since we are not compact car kinda folks - and was told they were out. Panic!! The gal at the counter says - we upgraded you to a luxury model. It’s in slot 42.
 Lo and behold - it a was a freakin’ land yacht! A huge caddy with all the bells and whistles. The perrrrrrrfect car for our PCH drive as it turned out. Just don’t try parking in the LA or San Fran though...
 After a night on a hard bed in an overpriced hotel in Hollywood, we hit the road. Being a Mid-west gal, my first impression of California - brown. Even in the middle of a drought here there are still vestiges of green, but even the trees looked dusty and brown on our way North out of LA on State Route 1.

The brown, brown hills of Southern California

The only thing that relives all the brown is the blue blue Pacific Ocean. As you think that all you are going to see are brown rocky hills, you come around a curve and BAM! the ocean hugs the coast and little towns are nestled along the edges. Then back up into the hills.
 The good news about those hills is that they hide little canyons filled with tasty, tasty food.


Where is the HELL is San Margherita, you ask? And why should I go there?

Last time I talked about Charlie and his unerring ability to find good food. This time I am going to tell you about another one of his finds - all the way over in San Margherita on the West side.

What is San Margherita you ask? According to Columbusite (an awesome resource for those of you who have never used it!), San Margherita was an outpost for the Italian laborers who worked the nearby quarries. Now it is home to a lot of people who want upscale condos and strip malls.

Still hiding on McKinley Road is a couple older buildings housing businesses like an auto shop and a carry out called the San Margherita Market. It's the Market we are interested in here.

One afternoon we were heading back from Charlie's house, when he said, "We are goin' someplace good for lunch." And then didn't say another word about where we were going. As he was driving, we were at his mercy.

We pulled up in front of this brick building with an ancient sign. It did not look promising. "Wait till you try one of their sandwiches - they are so damn big you can hardly get 'em in your mouth!"

Up front it looks like your average carry out with an above average selection of beer. As you get toward the back, you see the food section.

The menu reads like this.

Polish Sandwich
Ground Itialian (sic) Sandwich
Meatball Sandwich
Roast Beef Sandwich

I am sure there are other items - but I cannot recall... My mind boggles at the sight of the sandwiches...

First - let me tell you that the Polish Sandwich is made out of Polish sausage - and yet - its is not the sausage sandwich that you would expect. It is not the round meaty tube one associates with Polish sausage. It's more like meat spaghetti. The links have been shaved lengthwise so that the meat hangs in long thin strips. This is cooked in some type of liquid. But it's ok - don't be afraid. It is delicious. The owners pile mounds and mounds of this shaved sausage onto a soft white bun (from Audino's - synchronicity at work here folks!), along with cheese, onions, banana peppers and if you wish, yellow mustard and hot sauce.

Here is a picture of the large sub. I have put a King size Snickers next to it for reference. Not a little Snickers. A King size!

The medium is hardly any smaller.

Their meatballs are fantastic as well...tons and tons of them in sauce on the same soft bun...

And then there is the Ground Itialian. Yes - that is how it is spelled on the menu. This is a loose meat sandwich made with Italian sausage instead of hamburger. And yes - they are just as big as the Polish. I love these dearly, but they are a mess to eat. The last time I got one I stopped in a park on the way home and ate it on a bench hunched over so none of the meat would drop down my shirt.

Prices? Well they run like this - $6.25 for a large sandwich, $5.25 for a medium sandwich and a small is only $2.95. Personally, I would get the large even if you think you could not possibly eat it. We dropped off a Polish to our friend Eric who has been home ill for two weeks. He looked at it and said, "I cannot possible eat this big sub." When I got home there was a message on the machine from him. It said, "I called to tell you I can't believe I ate the whole thing."

Last but not least is the egg rolls. Handmade by the owners, they are fried up fresh and served with this fantastic dipping sauce that is sweet, sour and hot. At $1 each, they are a real steal.

So the next time you have a Charlie-sized appetite, or even think you might just want an egg roll - stop into the San Margherita Market and strap on the feedbag.

San Margherita Market
3255 McKinley Ave
Columbus, Ohio

Hot food served from 10 am - 8 pm

San Margherita Market on Urbanspoon


mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Doughnuts...

I have a soft spot for deep fried dough. I come by it honestly - my parents loved them too and there were always some type of cake doughnuts hanging around the house waiting to be dunked into coffee or a cold glass of milk. Occasionally, the local scout troop or some other fund raiser would bring around Crispy Cremes - and 20 secs in the nuke later we would have sinful glazed goodness.

Roll forward to my college years and its 3 a.m. on Campus and the only thing open was Buckeye Donuts. Staggering home from "the library", all it would take was a hazardous waste container of their strong "varnish remover" and a couple sinkers - man I was ready to tackle that sociology paper due in the morning...

Now in my dotage, it takes a truly magnificent doughnut to turn my head. While Crispy Cremes are good (especially when they just come rolling out of the glaze). Light and sweet - they have their place, but after one or two, they show their shallow nature. And the variety doughnuts they carry - so lacking in character they are not really worth the time it takes to mention them.

So the point of all this you ask?

Meet Rosa
Auddino. She is the matriarch of the family owned bakery Audinos. Locals in the food service industry will recognize the name - Auddino's delivers fresh baked buns and breads to customers all over the city. What most people don't know is they have a retail outlet. And inside that retail outlet - they have doughnuts. Good doughnuts. Did I say good? I meant - Fantastic Doughnuts. Well those and other really great baked goods as well.

Let me regale you with the story of how my hubby found

One of Tony's best friends is Charlie. Charlie owns a towing company. One thing you can depend on is that Charlie knows where to find good food - north, south, east or west he can point you to something that is truly delicious. So one day I asked Tony to hunt down some rolls for the Italian Beef I was making and he was having no luck. So he stopped in at Charlie's shop to get his butt whipped at gin and shoot the shit.

"So watcha up to, Tony?" Charlie says as he rolls his big stogie around in his fingers. (Charlie is a big guy - he makes my hubby look like an anorexic dwarf- and his voice rolls over you like a jet engine ready to take off. You know Hagrid the giant from the Harry Potter books and movies? Well Charlie would bitch slap Hagrid and take his lunch.)

"Rose has me running all over the city trying to find these rolls for dinner tonight and I just can't find what she wants. I tell you if she wasn't such a good cook, her ass would be out on the curb!" says Tony as he shuffles the deck and deals.

"Well why don't you go over to Auddino's?" Charlie starts sorting out his cards while chewing the hell out of his half lit cigar.


"Yeah, Auddino's. Over by the fairgrounds. We'll go over after I finish takin' all your money. They'll have what you want."

So after finishing the game in which Tony was forced to cough up his stripper tipping cash, they headed over to Auddino's. (He denys it, but why else would a man carry around $30 in ones? All men are dogs...)

And I'll be damned if they didn't have the prefect rolls. Plus a ton of pastries. We ate really good that night. I even forgave Tony for his stripper tipping habits - for the moment.

A week later, I made Tony take me over to the bakery so I could check out their wares for myself.

Underneath an ancient sign reading Auddino's Breads Cakes Donuts and Pastries lay one of the best bakeries in Columbus

Behold their bounty...

Fried Croissant -This is my favorite. Take a plain croissant, throw it in some hot fat, then drench in a glaze. It is sweet, flaky buttery and totally sinful. This is what Krispy Kreme wishes it could be.

Apple Fritter - Soft, with tiny apple pieces and lightly spiced with cinnamon, these are some of the best examples of this fried goodie I have ever found.

Cake Donuts - Paired with coffee or milk, cake donuts are that old fashioned midday treat.

And let's not forget the classic Italian treats!!

Amaretti - These are dense moist very sweet cookies made with almond paste. I had tried for years to make these at home but to no avail. Now - I just stop down and pick up a dozen of these to serve with coffee after dinner. And you have to serve these with coffee. The extreme sweetness make this the perfect accompaniment to a strong espresso or dark roast americano.

Cannoli - The real deal. Crunchy, creamy and sweet - these are a dream.

This is not all they offer, so I recommend you stop in and check it out for yourself ASAP.

In parting, here is some advice concerning your upcoming trip to Auddino's.

1) If you see a really big white pickup sporting a set of truck nuts parked out front, be prepared for gale force winds in the building - this means Charlie is there picking up goodies for his crew.

2) Go early. Their more popular choices sell out quickly and you may miss out.

3) Needing lots and lots of bread and goodies? Call ahead and place an order. They are professionals ya know...

Auddino's Bakery
1490 Clara St
Columbus, OH 43211
(614) 294-2577

Auddino's Bakery on Urbanspoon