Ah yes...Cookie time!
It's tough being a cookie lady. Everyone asks if you are bringing them a sweet treat - and could you just do one special kind - just for them, of course. "Please - just one little batch - and if you have any of those wonderful pumpkin rocks - ooooooooh those too...and maybe...."
Well guess what? The cookie ladies aren't working this year. No cookies for you..or you..or you! So don't ask! No! I won't make chocolate chip cookies for the last time!!!
It is not as though we lacked Christmas spirit - Gail had her Santa hat on all week, and Debbie and I were heard humming Christmas tunes the last few days. It's a money thing folks - pure and simple. We have no dough - literally and figuratively!
So in contrast with years past - we only baked a few of our favorites to share with our families - plus a few select outsiders.
Sunday the 16th was the big payoff for the cookie conclave - I had to do the lion's share my baking at Gail's since my oven was down until the Thursday before Christmas.
As with every Cookie Conclave, the morning started off with mimosas - to properly lubricate the cookie makers. You can't get in the cookie making spirit without a little bit of social lubricant! Then, as we baked up some of the dough Debbie brought, we sat down and started going through all the new cookbooks we had purchased over the last year.
It was relaxing. We talked, we laughed and we ate a leisurely lunch of chicken and dumplings that we made from scratch. We had so much food that we ended up sharing it with some of the older ladies who live in Gail's complex.
After lunch, Debbie and I started a recipe for candy. They were called Kentucky Creams. It sounded good. Like creamy pulled caramels. So we boiled and boiled -then we pulled and pulled. Here is a pic of me and Deb pulling ourselves some new muscles. And guess what? Having never pulled candy in our lives- we over-pulled it. I had no idea you could. Here is what happens to candy when you over-pull it. It literally went from being sticky and stretchy to crumbling off my hands in a matter of seconds. Well so much for the great candy experiment!!
After that I went back to something I knew - pecan diamonds. I keep trying new recipes every so often because I lost my favorite one years ago. So far none of them have lived up to the memory of my beloved diamonds. Aren't they pretty though? Almost like candy on a crust. They are a bitch to cut though if you don't have a long sharp knife. Gail went to look for her son's pizza blade and came back with - um- something different instead.
We also made some of Debbie's crack corn, "Pay Day" cookies, brown sugar shortbread, Gail's pecan sandies, peanut brittle, spritz, and toffee. I made these awesome chocolate short bread cookies with a nice huge chunk of candy coated dark chocolate. The thing that made these really great? Gail knows a lady who is a product developer for Godiva. (Am I connected or what?!) This lady was kind enough to give us the better part of a 5 pound bag of Godiva coco powder. It is much higher in coco fat than most powders and has to be kept in the freezer to prevent rancidness. It makes a simple cookie like these really shine. The simpler the recipe, the more important the ingredients.
So where was Gail all this time? Was she slacking? Was she just sitting on her behind swilling mimosas and ordering us around? Oh no - Gail had a special responsibility this year. She was the stroopwafle specialist. While Debbie and I were ruining candy, Gail was risking life and limb filling these fantastic cookies with homemade caramel.
Wait? You don't know what a stroopwafle is?! Well we better take care of that situation right away. It is not a command given in the German army. "Drop and give me 20 stroopwafle!" Nor is a the castle where the vampire resides - "Good evening. I am Baron Stroopwafle.". Or in the original Stroopwaflian tongue it would sound like this - ""Guten Abend. Ich bein baron Stroopwafle" In reality, a stroopwafle is a Dutch cookie. It takes two crisp cinnamon scented wafer cookies and sandwiches that around a rich buttery caramel. They are meant to be eaten with coffee. According to "a source" (meaning I can't remember where I read it!), they are supposed to be placed over top of the coffee cup where the heat of the coffee softens the caramel. I got hooked on these from Trader Joe's. They have blue bags of these little tiny ittie bittie stroopwafles. Man - are they good! But driving to Trader Joe's isn't always an option, so I found a recipe in a magazine about three years ago. After playing with it some, we gals felt that it has become our own. The cookies themselves have become a permanent part of our repertoire and waistlines.
There are some special requirements for making these treats. The first is a pizzelle iron. That's how the cookies are made. I will be truthful here - I was never really crazy about pizzelles. They were an "ok" cookie. So I never purchased an iron. Gail and Debbie both have irons - thereby doubling our production. The second is a candy thermometer. Yes - these do require you to actually make caramel. We tried cheating with caramel sauces and melting ready made caramels. It just doesn't give you the proper results. If the thought of handling hot gooey syrupy luscious caramel frightens you - make friends who are fearless - like Gail!
I hope everyone had a great holiday - with or without cookies...
So without further blathering - here is the star of this year's conclave - Stroopwafles!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1. Stir together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon; set aside. Beat eggs on high speed about 4 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in sugar on medium speed. Beat in butter and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture on low speed.
2. Heat up your pizzelle iron according to the directions that come with it. You can either make large cookies or smaller ones based on the type of iron that you have. Place a tablespoon or more of the batter in center of each grid. You will have to experiment to see how much will work with your iron. Close lid. Bake according to manufacturer's directions. Use a spatula to transfer warm cookie to paper towel; cool. Repeat with remaining batter. How many finished cookies you will get depend on the size of your iron and how many you can resist eating fresh off the griddle.
3. Prepare Caramel Filling. Immediately spoon about a tablespoon or so filling onto a cookie then quickly cover filling with a “blank” cookie.
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
This recipe makes a lot – no way around it. You can do what we do and double the batch of cookies or you can make candy.
To prep for making candy line 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil. Butter foil; set aside.
To prep for filling cookies, you are going to need to find a way to keep the caramel liquid while you are filling cookies. Gail uses a glass bowl and a hot water bath, replacing the water every so often to keep everything hot. And speaking of hot – this stuff will burn you if you are not careful! I bought Gail a large spatula to hold the bottom cookie while she was drizzling the caramel over it. Saved a lot of wear and tear in her fingers.
In a heavy, 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in packed brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil at moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 248°F, firm-ball stage (about 15 minutes). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil. Remove pan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer mixture into heatproof cup to use to fill cookies.
If you are making candy, immediately spread remaining mixture evenly in prepared pan. When firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan. Using a buttered knife, cut caramel into 1-inch squares. Wrap each caramel square in plastic wrap. Makes 64 pieces.
TO STORE: Layer sandwich cookies between waxed paper in airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 3 days. (I’ve kept them up to a week and they really didn’t seem to suffer) Or freeze unfilled cookies up to 3 months; thaw and fill.