Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Homemade Coffee Liqueur

Since we recently posted a cocktail, I thought this would be a good time to pass along this wonderful homemade "coffee liqueur" (sorta like a Kahlua-type flavor) which Diane graciously shared with me. This is much easier than other recipes, and can be enjoyed the same day, no hiding it under the kitchen sink and waiting forever. Gotta love that instant gratification. I make this liqueur around the holidays, to give as gifts, to use in baking, in desserts, and for our own enjoyment. One year, we made up half a dozen bottles, and only gave away two! It was that good. Depends mostly on the brand of instant coffee. I have used Tasters' Choice and Nescafe instant, which happens to be a brand widely used throughout the world. Another time I used an instant espresso, and it was so strong that it needed a simple syrup to balance the bitterness. Don't splurge on an expensive brandy, since you are already adding it to a coffee and sugar mixture. Make up a batch and enjoy it with friends and family this holiday season. Have fun!

HOMEMADE (Kahlua-type) COFFEE LIQUEUR - adapted from
Diane's personal recipe
makes two bottles - see note

One bottle 750ml E&J Brandy, or an inexpensive brandy
1/2 cup instant coffee crystals, Nescafe preferred
3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups boiling water, bottled water preferred
2 clean dry wine bottles, glass measuring cup, funnel, ladle
all equipment completely washed and sterilized in dishwasher or boiled
2 corks, boiled and cooled

In a large heavy stockpot, pour the boiling water over the instant coffee and sugar. Stir well to dissolve completely. Let cool at least two full hours. When completely cooled, add in vanilla and entire bottle of brandy. Stir well. Ladle into a clean glass measuring cup with a spout and carefully pour into bottles, using a clean funnel. Seal with corks. Serve straight, or with hot coffee, in cocktails, in desserts and baked goods. Makes a great hostess gift.
NOTE: recipe can be doubled.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ed Levine Eats Contest and Donuts

I don't live in New York City, but if you are in the vicinity, quickly head over to this blog and enter Ed Levine's contest. His blog is located at this address:


This blog actually makes me hungry. All those fabulous restaurants, so far away. Sigh!

One of Ed Levine's recent posts describes a "donut tasting" which included sampling from several local donut masters. There was also a "donut dessert" from one of the umpteen million NYC restaurants, at a cost of $9.00 USD per serving. For that kind of money, those donuts better get up and dance. Geesh, I sound like Grandpa! Still I envy New Yorkers, having so many wonderful restaurants to choose from. We have our own share of wonderful restaurants in Southern California, but we must drive over the river and through the hoods. Not like in NYC, where you walk down the street, jump in a cab, or ride the subway and there you are. How lucky is that!

Now, if you really want to try some great donuts, check out the recipe in James Beard's classic cookbook "Beard on Bread" which is one of my absolute favorites. His donut recipe was a real life saver last year, when our family was in the midst of a major crisis. Making up a batch of these homemade donuts made a terrible situation just a little bit easier to endure. If making your own donuts doesn't do it for you, there's a donut shop inside the Shell Gasoline station down the street from here that makes an incredibly light, non-greasy glazed buttermilk donut. Take that New York!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hot Chocolate for Grown Ups

Baking and posting all these cookies has me plum tuckered out. I have two more holiday cookies left to finish. Ah, time for a martini break. Did someone say cocktails? Yeah, baby! Keep this martini out of the reach of children. Do not operate farm or industrial machinery while sipping. You must be this tall to savor this cocktail. May cause serious enjoyment to spontaneously occur if unsupervised. This Hot Chocolate Martini may be enjoyed without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball. Ladies and Gentlemen and everyone else, start your shakers!

Hot Chocolate Martini - adapted from 101 Martinis
Serves One (so go ahead and make some more!)

3 ounces cooled Swiss Miss hot chocolate, prepared as directed on package,
OR homemade hot chocolate, cooled to touch, preferred
1 ounce Bols dark crème de cocoa
1 ounce Bailey's Irish Cream or Carolans Cream liqueur
3/4 ounce Stoli Vanilla Vodka
Crystal clear store bought cracked ice, please!
NOT that stuff in a dingy plastic tray from the back of your freezer
3 to 4 Kraft miniature marshmallows
OR a spritz of Reddi Whip, for garnish
(put away that darn cool whip!)

Combine the cooled hot chocolate, dark crème de cacao, cream liqueur, and vanilla vodka in a cocktail shaker filled with clear ice and shake moderately. Strain into a chilled martini glass. To garnish, drop 3 to 4 miniature marshmallows into the glass and carefully toast them with a crème brûlée torch, if desired. I love a man who can harness the power of fire, even if it's through a butane cigar lighter. OR if you prefer, SLOWLY spritz a shot of whipped cream on top. Careful, don't spray this martini all over the place. Now go make another one!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Congratulations to the Cardinals on their World Series win. Is it too soon to be saying wait till next year, and THINK BLUE? Nah!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Chocolate Macaroons

Here's a macaroon for our cookie marathon, but these are not the traditional coconut macaroons you may be accustomed to eating. We were very fortunate to make these last year in class with Chef Bob. These are light and delicious, filled with a decadent ganache, which is prepared the day before, and yet really not that difficult to make. If you are blessed with having a beautiful shiny new food processor, you are half-way there. For the rest of us, a small electric food chopper or a blender may also be used. The key to success is to get everything set up before you begin, all the equipment, ingredients, baking sheets, everything ready. If you have a friend or relative to help, the more the merrier. Once again, Chef Bob is the trend setter, because these little French macaroons are a big hit. You'll be seeing them in all the patisseries and upscale bake shops, available in a specatular array of flavor combinations. We offer a chocolate version here. More chocolate, why not. Enjoy!

CHOCOLATE MACAROONS - adapted from Pierre Herme
makes 24 cookies

3/4 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups whole blanched or slivered almonds, no skins
1 pound powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided in fourths
6 egg whites (about 3/4 cup)
Optional: drizzling of white and dark chocolate

To make the chocolate filling for these little bites, combine the milk and butter in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate. When smooth, pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

To make the macaroons, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment. Mix the sugar and almonds in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground. Add the cocoa and mix. In an impeccably clean mixer bowl fitted with a clean whisk, free of any grease, beat the egg whites until they are smooth and form stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the cocoa powder in fourths, ending with a thick batter. Spoon tablespoons of the batter onto the prepared pans, leaving about an inch apart. Bake for 11 minutes. Slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto the counter to cool.

To assemble these little delights, spread about a tablespoon of the ganache on the bottom of one macaroon and seal with the bottom of another, making a sandwich. Place on a tray and chill them for about on hour before serving. If desired, drizzle melted white and dark chocolate to garnish.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Florentine Cookies for Two

We are finishing up my cookie marathon with some fancy French cookies. Have no fear, the next few are beautifully simple. This lacy Florentine comes straight out of a new cookbook called "Cooking For Two or More" from Pampered Chef. These are really simple to put together and will definitely dazzle your dinner guests. Serve up a generous scoop of your favorite ice cream in a large wine glass, add a few fresh berries and place a Florentine on top. Viola! (yes I know, that's a family joke!) You have a treat that looks like the $9.95 desserts served in white tablecloth restaurants. From a cart, pushed by a indifferent server, and you still have to leave a tip! If you are blessed to have Silpats, these Florentines will turn out perfectly. To assure success, please do not make substitutions with the recipe ingredients. If you want to get seriously decadent, drizzle melted white and bittersweet chocolate over the cooled cookies or dip one side into melted chocolate for a beautiful dessert garnish.

FLORENTINE COOKIES - adapted from "Cooking For Two or More"
makes 2 to 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon light Karo syrup
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
Optional: one ounce melted bittersweet or white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment or, if you have one, a Silpat, you lucky baker! In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, Karo, flour, and sugar and mix well. Scoop mixture by spoonfuls onto baking pan, making either two large or four small circles, placing each at least two inches apart. These cookies will spread out quite a bit, so allow enough room. Spread the mixture evenly with an offset spatula or the back of the spoon. Sprinkle the chopped almonds on top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Slide parchment sheet from pan onto cooling rack to cool completely for flat Florentines. If you desire a curved cookie, then immediately remove from pan, carefully placing them onto a rolling pin to shape while still warm. When completely cool, decorate with the melted chocolate, if desired.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Doughnut Muffins

It's back to class again next week! Going through my syllabus from last year, while looking for another recipe, I came upon these delicious muffins. This is one of the best recipes Chef Wemischner gave us. Easy to make, these muffins have the flavor and texture of old fashioned doughnuts, but without the added soaking in a bath of hot grease. Calories saved---a ton! Mind you they do get brushed with melted butter, but only a bit. They make a nice weekend brunch treat, are no more difficult to make than other muffins, and require ingredients found right the pantry cupboard. With the cool fall mornings finally here, why not wake up the house with the aroma of freshly baked doughnut muffins.

DOUGHNUT MUFFINS - adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes about 24 muffins

12 oz. or 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
6 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 3/4 teaspoon plain salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 2/3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup buttermilk

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the middle. Grease and flour two regular muffin tins. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. On a sheet of waxed paper, sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg. In a glass measuring cup combine the milk and buttermilk. By hand with a wooden spoon, mix in one 4th of the dry ingredients, and then one 3rd of the milk mixture. Continue adding ingredients alternately, and ending with the dry. Combine until smooth, but do not overmix. With an ice cream scoop or a serving spoon, scoop batter into muffin tin filling each about 1/2 cup, so it comes up even with the rim. Bake muffins until firm to touch, about 30 to 35 minutes. While muffins are baking, melt the butter for dipping in a small saucepan. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. When muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove from tin. Brush each with melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar coating evenly.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Back in the early days of the FoodTV network, David Rosengarten and his show "Taste" featured many wonderful recipes. His show on the origins and creation of Tarte Tatin is one I will fondly remember. But this chunky cookie is also quite memorable. Rich, loaded with chocolate, huge, and delicious. Yes, we can always use another chocolate cookie! In case you were wondering.

CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES - adapted from David Rosengarten
makes about 2 dozen

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, King Arthur
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tablespoon light cream, not milk
2 cups or 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Onto a sheet of waxed paper, sift flours and soda. In mixer bowl with paddle attachment cream the butter and sugars till fluffy. Add vanilla and mix. Beat in egg and light cream. Set mixer at low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture about one-third at a time, mix well to combine. Stir in the chocolate chunks by hand, so as to keep them whole. Scoop out dough by huge tablespoons or use a large ice cream scoop, and drop onto parchement lined baking sheets. With a clean fingertip dipped in a little water, gently flatten the cookies a little bit. Don't smush them down flat. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, no longer, or just until the edges are lightly brown. Cookies will still be soft. Allow cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then place on racks to finish cooling.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Chocolate Biscotti

The first time we made this biscotti, back in 1998, we had nothing left, nothing to share---gone, all gone. Every last one. It was sad. So I went and made up another batch right away. But it was no trouble, they are very easy to make, no oil, no butter, no shortening. Seriously. It's wise to make a batch for keeping and then another for gifts. They look fancy wrapped up in those cellophane gift bags, tied with raffia or grosgrain ribbon. If you want to be generous, fill a large glass jar with these biscotti, and give a batch of them to someone you love. Enjoy!

makes 24 to 36 cookies SEE NOTE*

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, King Arthur is best
1 cup cocoa powder, use a quality brand
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups almonds or pecans or hazelnuts
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
For dipping: 12 ounces white chocolate, good quality

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine flours, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, salt and espresso powder in mixer fitted with paddle and mix at low speed. Add nuts, semisweet chocolate. In another bowl whisk eggs and vanilla, add to flour mixture at low speed. Mix only until dough comes together. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to incorporate any dry ingredients. Divide dough and shape into four logs about 2 inches wide and place on two parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Logs will be firm and dry to the touch, slightly cracked. Turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Allow logs to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet. Cut each log on the diagonal, slicing the biscotti about 3/4" wide, cutting straight down. Place cut slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the oven, baking for another 25 to 30 minutes. Place on racks and cool completely. While the biscotti are cooling, either nuke the white chocolate for a few seconds at a time to melt, or melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the biscotti into the melted white chocolate and place on sheets of waxed paper to dry. When finished drying, store biscotti in airtight containers.
*NOTE: If larger biscotti are desired, shape dough only into two logs, increase first baking time about five minutes, and slice baked logs about 1-inch wide.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chocolate Crackle Nut Cookies

I don't know where these come from, there are many chocolate crackle recipes out there, including the ones found in my favorite church and school fundraiser cookbooks. This one is simple to throw together and the process is fun for the kids to help bake. With all the separate bowls, there's enough for everyone to have a turn at participating in the baking process. The cookies actually take on a crackle effect, puffing up while they bake. Again, please supervise the kids in the kitchen.

makes 4 dozen

1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar on a plate for dusting

Melt the chocolate morsels in the top of a double boiler OR set a heat-proof bowl over a large saucepan with simmering water, do not let the bowl touch the water. In another bowl, mix the brown sugar and oil, then add in the melted chocolate. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Add vanilla. In yet another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir this into the chocolate mixture, add the chopped nuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop out cookie dough into one-inch size balls. Roll each ball in the powdered sugar and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for only 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff up, crackle and no longer look wet. Do not burninate. Cool completely on rack. Store the uneaten ones in airtight containers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

English Toffee Bars

I love the flavor of Heath Bars and See's Toffee, so when this cookie recipe showed up in the Food Section of the L.A. Times, I had to try it. Well, it became a holiday tradition because now I bake them every year. With a taste and texture more like a crisp candy than a cookie, you will be amazed by how fast they get gobbled up. The original recipe says it yields 24 bars, but these little guys are rich, so they are cut to yield 36 bars. This might be a good one to try with that new $5.00 USD Nestle Chocolatier bar, if you like your chocolate on the darker side like me, and you don't mind making the investment. Call your financial adviser first. Ay, mucho dinero, hombre! On the frugal side, try Hershey's Special Dark bars, available for far less dinero, Ralphs has them on sale for only a buck apiece. Using fresh ingredients is the key here, so buy a new pack of brown sugar, don't use that lumpy rock stuff from the back of the cupboard. And buy fresh unsalted butter, not the one that absorbed all the odors from the frige. But do save those wrappers, use them to butter the baking pan. Enjoy!

ENGLISH TOFFEE BARS - adapted from the L.A. Times
Makes 24 to 36 cookies

2 sticks or 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp.
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon plain salt
1 or more bars of milk chocolate---7 ounces total, broken
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds or pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With the butter wrappers, grease a 9"x13" baking pan. In a small dry skillet, lightly toast the almonds, moving them around over medium heat for only a couple of minutes. Do not burninate. If you can smell them, they're burninated. Set aside to cool. Break up the chocolate into small pieces, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the softened butter and brown sugar till light and creamy. Add egg yolk, vanilla, flour, salt and mix. Spread the cookie batter into the prepared pan. Bake until browned, for 15 to 20 minutes. Batter will rise and fall, do not be alarmed.

Remove pan from oven to a heat-proof surface and immediately sprinkle the broken chocolate pieces on top. Be careful working with the pan, it is still very hot. With either a dinner knife or an offset spatula, spread the melting chocolate evenly and gently. Do not tear up the cookie base. Top with the toasted almonds and let cool in the pan completely. When cooled, cut into bars. Store them in an airtight container, if you are lucky enough to have any left.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

OK, now we're back to our cookies again. We tried Martha Stewart's first, but Michael said they were too dry. I liked the firmness, but taste is what really matters, so it was on to another recipe. I found an old volume of Spirit of Christmas and this one added vanilla extract and salt. Maybe that's what it needed. They were much better than the first batch and I think the process of cutting out the cookie shapes after baking was great. I wanted a thicker cookie, so I used a narrower baking pan than the one listed.

CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD COOKIES - adapted from Spirit of Christmas
makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon table salt
additional powdered sugar for dusting

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. Blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture, combine well. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Press dough into a 15" by 10" jellyroll pan. Bake for 30 minutes, turning pan halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, about 2" wide or cut into squares or bars. Remove cookies from pan onto cooling racks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. When completely cooled store in an airtight container. (May also be decorated with an icing glaze made of 1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 3 tablespoons of milk, and a tiny drop of food coloring.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

News From Hawaii

I tried calling about the earthquake but couldn't get through. Then Monica called to say that she is fine. The power is out, but she was finally able to call on her cell. Her houseguest is fine. My furry grandchildren, (the dog and cat!) are fine. And my beautiful son-in-law will be returning from duty later this week. Then everything will be fine. Gracias a Dios.

Retro Recipe Challenge #3 - Macaroni Saute

Another cookie break! Laura Rebecca's Kitchen is hosting this challenge, making a recipe published within five years of your birth year. I chose a recipe from Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cook Book, Macaroni Saute. The cooking process is similar to making "sopa de fideo" which is a wonderful Mexican side dish using coiled vermicelli. The vermicelli is first broken into pieces, lightly browned in oil in a large skillet with some diced onion, then liquid is added, either plain water or a boullion cube added, and tomato sauce. Mexican restaurants rarely offer it and serve a side of rice instead, which usually tastes either too bland or too mushy. An informal survey found that 4 out of 5 diners preferred sopa de fideo to Mexican rice.

Mom actually made this macaroni dish, but she gave it her own flair. Her technique was to leave it uncovered, use canned crushed tomatoes instead of tomato juice, a tiny pinch of comino (ground cumin) and then she added grated Monterey Jack cheese to finish. If it got too dry during cooking, she added more water. It was one of our family favorites. Enjoy!

MACARONI SAUTE - from Betty Crocker's Good and Easy Cook Book published 1954
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup green bell pepper (I used red)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup cooking oil
3 cups tomato juice (I used crushed tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestshire sauce

In a skillet, saute macaroni, onion, pepper and garlic in hot oil till macaroni turns slightly yellow. Add tomato juice and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

This one tasted rather bland until I added Mom's touches.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Broken Cookies Have No Calories

Just a moment for a few random thoughts while I finish up with a baker's dozen posts on some basic cookie recipes:

Broken cookies have no calories.

Mom and Grandma made some pretty good cookies. Thanks!

Did you see that creepy commercial? No thank you, I don't dream about playing chess in the kitchen with a talking beaver and Abe Lincoln. Ever.

Maybe Starbucks should hand out information on how people can get a good night's sleep.

Kinda like a cigarette company telling you how to talk to your kids about smoking.

If he is the oldest person to have a number one album on the Billboard charts, why can't Bob Dylan crack a smile?

Can there ever be too many chocolate chip cookie recipes? I'll give you five seconds to answer that one.

Will the non-dysfunctional family please identify yourselves?

Once again, it's wait till next year. Hey, it could happen. THINK BLUE!

Why does chili, spaghetti, and cold pizza taste so good the next day?

If they are bringing "sexy back", then where has it been hiding all this time?

I am confused. Doesn't "farewell tour" mean you aren't going to be doing it anymore?

Nobody knows who ate the last cookie. Ever.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Russ Parsons' Snickerdoodles

OK, let me get this part out of the way first, then we'll move on to these yummy little Snickerdoodles. I LOVE THIS MAN! I have been a major fan of Russ Parsons for years. His "Lamb and Lentils to Eat With a Spoon" from the Los Angeles Times made me a devotee for life. And his "Chicken For A Crowd" is another killer recipe. I had the pleasure to meet him at a book signing and his recommendation for my practical final earned me a solid "B" in my culinary arts class. Watta guy! I have notebooks filled with yellowing newsprint pages, copies of his recipes from the Food Section. Thank goodness for sheet protectors and scanners.

These Snickerdoodles have a flavor and texture similar to "Bizcochos", Mexican cinnamon cookies. He gives a wide range for baking time in his recipe, a full five minutes to finish. Adjust to the desired crispness you prefer.
Thanks Russ, I love you!

SNICKERDOODLES - adapted from Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times
makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup Crisco shortening
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon plain salt

Cinnamon Sugar: mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly with each addition. On to a sheet of waxed paper sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to the shortening mixture, beat well. Scrape bowl and gather into a ball, wrapping in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm for one hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. With a small melon baller or an iced teaspoon, scoop out a piece of dough and roll into a ball about the size of a walnut. Roll in cinnamon sugar and place on baking sheet leaving two inches apart. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Grandma Lil's Chocolate Chip Cookies

My beautiful son-in-law comes from a family of wonderful cooks, and they have generously shared their recipes with Monica. One of their finest is this cookie recipe from Jim's grandma. Come on now, the world can always use more chocolate chip cookies!

makes about three dozen

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 bag or 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Cream shortening and sugars together, add egg and vanilla, then add dry ingredients. Last fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop onto parchment cookie sheets about 2" apart. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, checking and turning cookie sheets halfway through. Remove from pan and place on cooling racks.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rocks and Hermits Cookies

Since we are revisiting Granny's old recipes, I searched for her famous Rocks and Hermits Cookies to add here. As a kid I thought they were amazing, all those dozens and more dozens of cookies from only one batch. It was such a wonderful treat to come home from school and find freshly baked cookies with a cold glass of milk waiting for me. These cookies are simple to make by hand, and fun to make with the kids, a good way to teach math, among the many other benefits of cooking and baking together.

Since both recipes make TONS of cookies, you may want freeze half and bake them off later. To freeze cookie dough, scoop out individual cookies onto parchment and freeze separately for about an hour, then transfer to ziplock bags and place in freezer until ready to bake. Rocks are crunchy nuggets, while Hermits are more tender with a bit more spice. Both cookies keep well in tightly covered cookie tins and can be frozen to enjoy later. Thanks Granny!

makes about 8 to 10 dozen cookies

1 cup Crisco shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped raisins, or other dried fruits

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare several baking sheets with parchment, and have extra sheets of parchment on hand. In very large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. In a small bowl beat the eggs and add milk. Onto a sheet of waxed paper, sift together all the dry ingredients, except the nuts and raisins. Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, alternating with the wet ingredients. Incorporate the nuts and raisins, mixing well. Drop by teaspoons onto baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on racks and place in air tight containers, then freeze the rest in ziplock bags after a couple of days.

makes about 7 to 9 dozen cookies

1 cup Crisco shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
(OR subsitute 1 cup AP with 1 cup white whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sour milk *SEE NOTE
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chopped raisins, or other dried fruits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment. In a very large mixing bowl, beat shortening and then gradually add in brown sugar, cream together. Add beaten eggs and mix. Onto a large sheet of waxed paper, sift the dry ingredients, except the nuts and raisins. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternating with the sour milk. Add in the nuts and raisins and mix well. Drop by teaspoons on to
baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on racks. These will keep for a couple of weeks at room temp in an air tight container, or freeze in ziplock bags.
*NOTE - for sour milk add one tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice to one cup of milk in a glass measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes before using.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rum Balls

The first time we made these, I was a concerned about serving them to minors, the intense aroma of the rum filled up the whole room! But you'd have to be a little piggy and eat nearly the whole tray to get a buzz from these cookies. The ingredients easily mix together in one bowl and require no baking. Use fresh cookies for the crumbs, not leftovers, you don't want any stale after-taste. You may want to use the food processor to grind up the cookies into fine crumbs, but smashing up the cookies in a ziplock bag works just as well. Try to resist the temptation to unwrap these little munchies too soon and your patience will be greatly rewarded. They keep well at room temperature, and are great with hot cocoa or a steamy cup of coffee.

makes about three dozen cookies

2 cups finely ground galletas Marias cookies,
OR use vanilla wafers, freshly opened packages only
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup Meyer's rum or other dark rum, plus more
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
tiny pinch of salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. On a large plate, place 1/2 cup powdered sugar. In a large bowl combine the cookie crumbs, 1 cup powdered sugar, nuts, salt and stir. Add in the rum, corn syrup, melted butter and stir. If mixture seems too dry add a splosh more rum and continue kneading. It couldn't hurt! With clean hands, knead the mixture together or continue stirring. Using a melon baller or iced teaspoon, roll into a one-inch size ball. Roll each ball in the powdered sugar and place on the baking sheet. Wrap baking sheet tightly in plastic, completely covering and let tray sit at room temperature for 48 hours.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Crunchy Baseball Bars

These no-bake bars come from Granny's wonderful cookbooks, written way back when, before it became cool and hip to call it "retro" and "mid-century" instead of "old fashioned" and "corny" as I call it. It really is fun reading through these old recipes in fund-raiser cookbooks, recipe cards and booklets from the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Some of the writing is very silly by today's standards. Advice from one cookbook dated 1950 says "pork is always cooked to the well done stage. It is never broiled unless cured as ham." Huh? Another suggests when making a brown bag sandwich to "omit lettuce or other greens---they wilt." What? Yeah, things were different in the "retro" era, I guess. So were these Baseball Bars. YIKES! In one version they required 4 whole cups of candy morsels for the topping in a little 8" square pan! YUCK, that's even too DULCE for me. We played around with the original recipe and came up with these bars. Adding the crunch from "Honey Bunches of Oats" cereal and peanuts, then cutting back on the candies, it allowed us to keep the flavor of the "old fashioned" bars, while fending off a diabetic coma. We chose a larger size pan, to spread out the topping a bit thinner than the original. Leftover candy morsels can always be used in other cookie recipes, so please don't give in to temptation and throw in the whole bag. I like using salted peanuts with this sweet treat, for a contrast in tastes, but you choose for yourself. If you plan on allowing kid chefs in the kitchen, please supervise them at all times. The original Baseball Bars were designed to recreate the taste of the "Baby Ruth" candy bar, popular back when the Sultan of Swat ruled the sports world. These Crunchy Baseball Bars are a tip of the cap to "retro" ballpark concession stand treats. We present them here in honor of the 2006 MLB Playoffs.

Makes about 32 mini or 16 large bars

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 package marshmallows, about 10 oz.
1 cup chunky peanut butter, divided
NOT "natural" style, use a brand like Skippy or Jif
1 cup chopped peanuts, divided
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
6 cups Honey Bunches of Oats cereal

Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with a non-stick coating, like a canola spray, and set aside. Tear off a sheet of waxed paper longer than the pan, set aside. In a large pot on medium heat, melt the butter, add the marshmallows and stir with a big wooden spoon till completely melted. Add in all but 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter and stir. Add the cereal, 1/2 cup peanuts and toss quickly to coat. It will get all smooshy, but that's OK. Scrape into the prepared pan, cover it with the sheet of waxed paper and press the mixture down firmly into the pan in a somewhat even layer. Remove the waxed paper. Sprinkle butterscotch morsels over the top and press them into the mixture while still warm, use the waxed paper again if needed. In a small sauce pan over medium heat melt the 2 remaining tablespoons of peanut butter and the semi-sweet chocolate morsels to a spreadable consistency, stirring constantly, do not burninate. Pour over the mixture and spread with a spatula to coat evenly. Top with the remaining chopped peanuts. Allow to cool completely and cut into bars.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mexican Wedding Cakes

Not really a traditional cake, these are the snowy white cookies, the Pastelitas De Boda served at weddings, that nearly melt in your mouth. It is a familiar cookie also featured around the holidays and similar versions are found in other countries besides Mexico. Not exactly like the pfeffernusse, which has a bit more crunch and spice, these little nuggets hold up nicely in a cookie gift basket. Wrap in plastic and store in air tight containers to avoid getting powdered sugar all over the place. Monica gave this cookie her special touch with the addition of almond extract. Thanks Mo!

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup or two sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup finely diced pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup powdered in the middle of a sheet of waxed paper. Place the flour in the middle of another sheet of waxed paper. In the mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment combine the butter and the two extracts. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the sugar, holding the waxed paper like a funnel, into the butter mixture. Then add the flour slowly in the same manner, and add the nuts. If you have one, it's a good time to use that splatter shield on your mixer. Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula, mix to combine. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into one-inch balls. Place on sheet pans giving about an inch or so of space inbetween. Place remaining powdered sugar on a large dinner plate. Bake one sheet pan at a time, about 12 to 15 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking. Cookies should be lightly browned, do not overbake. Remove pan from oven and let cookies cool about 5 minutes. Roll each little ball in the powdered sugar. Allow them to absorb the powdered sugar for about one minute, then place them on racks to cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

More cookies? Oh yeah! This cookie was a big hit last Christmas, with kids and adults alike. They are easy to handle, hold their shape, are easy to cut out with your best fancy cookie cutters, and have a light subtle taste, which stands up to all the decorations you can pile on. Depending on the size of the cutters, you can easily get about four to six dozen cookies from each batch. The dough can be made ahead of time and keeps well in the frige for about a week. It makes for a fun afternoon with friends, grandchildren, your own kids of any age, neighbor kids, or be creative and design your own cookie art all by yourself!

CREAM CHEESE SUGAR COOKIES - adapted from the Pillsbury Doughboy (hee-hee!)
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
1 package cream cheese 3 ounce size, softened at room temp.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Cookie decorations: colored sugars, frosting, royal icing, jimmies, sprinkles, dragees, etc. as desired

In the bowl of a KA mixer with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl, combine ALL ingredients EXCEPT flour and cookie decorations. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix well. Be careful not to overheat mixer by adding in flour a bit at a time. Scrape the bowl frequently while mixing. Shape dough into three disks. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap twice and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, heat oven to 375 degrees F and remove only one disk from the frige. Leave the other two in the frige until ready to work. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough with a rolling pin, starting at the center and rolling out, north to south, east to west, to about 1/8-inch in thickness. Place about 1/4 cup of flour onto a saucer. Dip cutter into flour and then cut out desired cookie shapes. With an offset spatula, place the cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Decorate with colored sugar, if desired.

Bake for about 6 to 10 minutes, check about halfway through the baking time and turn sheet pan back to front, to prevent overbrowning and oven hot spots, do not "burninate" these cookies (but they still taste good!). Gently remove from parchment paper onto cooling racks. You can use the parchment over again, allow pan to cool first, wipe off any cookie crumbs, then place next batch ready for baking. If desired, decorate cookies with frosting, royal icing, etc. when completely cooled.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

George, my baking buddy, got me thinking about those packaged soft cookies that were all over the market and on TV years ago. I like crisp cookies, but these are tender and have a deep flavor, mostly from the addition of molasses and the use of both baking soda and baking powder. So here's another treat to include with our holiday collection. They're great for cookie exchanges, hostess gifts, office treats, or a late nite snack with a glass of milk from "Da-Iry" --- yum!

Makes about 4 dozen

1 lb. unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla or paste
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon plain salt
5 cups all purpose flour
18 oz. (1 pkg. plus 1/2 pkg.) semisweet chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Cream the butter, eggs, molasses, vanilla and water in mixer bowl with paddle attachment or by hand in a medium sized bowl, until well combined. In a large bowl, sift together the sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add in the chocolate chips and pecans, if desired. With a melon baller or iced teaspoon, scoop the dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment paper about an inch apart, to allow for spread. Bake for about 8 minutes, rotating pan about halfway through, until lightly browned on the edges, do not "burninate" and overbake. That will make them crispy instead of soft. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. These are similar to the famous Keebler cookie.