I am starting to develop my own baking recipes and adding them to my vintage cookbook if they pass the family. If they like it and want it again, it passes, if they don’t – total fail and it is left out. I cleaned up the pantry and needed to do something with some raw pecans and hard raisins.
I liberated a bottle of spiced rum from my son and poured about 1/8 cup over the rest of the raisins, 1/2 cup. I let the raisins soak for about an hour. It smelled so good.
I melted 1/4 cup of salted butter in a sauce pan and added the rest of my raw pecans. I let the butter foam and I watch it closely because I didn’t want it to burn. It took about 2 minutes on medium heat. Make sure you remove it once you can smell roasty toasty nuts. I poured everything through a sieve and reserved the butter.
Preheat your oven to 350F I whisked together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg. I then added 2 cups of quick oats. Whisked it together and set it aside.
Pull out your mixer either a stand or hand beaters because you need to whipped the butter and sugars until it looks like frosting. Cream together the reserved 1/4 of browned butter – it has a pecan flavour and smells fantastic. (scrape in those brown solid bits because it adds the best flavour) Add 1/2 cup of salted butter – room temperature, 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 egg , 2 tsp vanilla, 2 Tbsp of maple syrup (the real stuff. If you don’t have it, leave out the fake and carry on) Mix this until it is light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the flour and mix until almost combined. Add the plumped raisins (I didn’t drain the rum, I added it to the cookie batter – because RUM IS DELICIOUS!) and the buttered pecans. Combine and let it sit for 5 minutes to let the flour hydrate. This makes a huge difference. Take the time.
On a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet, drop 1/4 cup or a ice cream scoop of batter on the sheet. My tray holds 6 scoops nicely. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.
They taste best warm out of the oven, or room temperature or frozen. These are good and yes there is a rum flavour to them. The alcohol bakes off so you don’t need to worry if that is something that concerns you. There is alcohol in vanilla too – that bakes off and you don’t seem to mind that so please refrain from harassing me about alcohol. I like it, now you know.
If you do give the a try, let me know what you think!
I have started to enjoy waking up early on Sunday mornings to find the new basically recipe in my inbox. The email has the ingredient list and an equipment list. I scroll through to see what I need and what I already have. Then I link to the directions and read through the entire page to see what I need to be aware of and how much time I need. The recipe for the week was Roasty Toast Pecan-Caramel Shortbread Cookies and you can find it here. Mmmmm caramel. As I scanned through the list I noted I didn’t have dulce de leche but I did have a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I had never seen dulce de leche in the grocery story here, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. A quick google search showed a recipe for Compliments (Sobeys) brand squares with Compliments dulche de leche. I could buy some if I needed it. But making my own is easy enough.
ET Note: This entire recipe was a fail at various steps along the way. But the end result was tasty.
To begin the procedure for dulce de leche, I filled my dutch oven with water and set it to simmer. I then transfered my sweetened condensed milk into a mason jar. I do this for two reasons.
cooking in tins can created explosions and is not the best choice for health reasons.
I can see when the caramel it the right colour and done to my liking.
I kept a watchful eye on the pot over a three hour period. I added water every hour to keep the milk submerged.
Would it have been easier to purchase dulce de leche? Absolutely. Should I have? Meh… I didn’t want to go to two different shops and Molly from Basically said “even better if you make your own”. I needed to go to Bulk Barn to buy pecans and nonpareils (Who among you knew what nonpareils are? I only know them as their common name, sprinkles so that took some research). While this was simmering away, I left the hubs in charge of it and left for the Bulk Barn. I learned from the Bulk Barn gurus, I can bring my clean containers, have them weigh it and mark my jars, then I can fill them with all my bulky items! This makes me happy because of my quest to reduce single use plastics! I filled a jar a quarter way with pecans and another jar with turbinado sugar, white nonpareils were empty and I am not enamoured with food dye, so I chose the sugar which is an option in the recipe, so far not cheating.
I came home to this.
And submerged the jar into cold water to cool it down. While that was happening I toasted the pecans for the 3 minutes as directed and promptly burnt the pecans. I had bought the perfect amount so I needed to go back to the store. Was I happy about this? Not a chance. Plus we were doing taxes and that also made me angry.
I toasted the new bunch and chopped them finely because I do not have a food processor. This was apparently not a problem for the recipe other than I needed to assemble everything is a different order. I will get to that in a minute.
This was about 10 minutes of chopping.
I went to the BA forum and looked up the order of the recipe when not using a food processor. I needed to cream the butter, sugar and the dulce de leche.
Then add the flour, salt and add the nuts.
Getting this into a log and into the fridge was fussy.
Wrapping up in the parchment and leaving it in the fridge for 90 minutes was oddly specific.
When it was time to pull it out, I basted more dulce de leche on it and rolled it in the sugar.
Somehow I didn’t read the part where I needed to chill it again. So I sliced it up and baked it.
These looked NOTHING like the Basically version so I went to the forum to see what I did wrong.
Chilling a second time reduces spreading.
Using parchment instead of silpat also reduces spreading.
Silpat helped to melt the dulce de leche and everything ran off the sides of the cookies.
The recipe didn’t say what to bake it at. I make a guess at 325F because the pecans were toasted at that and that is also the temp I bake my shortbread at. Turns out I was right. I was slightly annoyed they made an error this huge in the instructions – this is a test kitchen after all. But I work in communications so I completely understand how this happened. Always send copy to fresh eyes people, always.
All in all, the cookie tasted good. Would I make this again? Not on your life, however, I would add dulce de leche to a different recipe because it is so darn tastey.
The Basically Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookie test went off without a hitch and boy, did I learn a few things. I am a decent baker and my family loves what I make. I (humbly) brag that baking is my superpower. But wow… way to make me feel like I am a rookie Basically… Let me tell you what happened.
The very first thing the instructions say is to read through the recipe so there are no surprises. I learned that from my mom when I was 10 and starting out as a rookie. It is super important in this recipe because you need to chill the cookie dough for two hours. This isn’t a quickie.
The second thing I did wasn’t in the recipe but I have watched enough Bon Appétit to know that room temperature eggs are important. I have never ever EVER used room temp eggs until this recipe. I put 3 eggs in a bowl and covered them in hot tap water while I melted the butter. It took about 5 minutes. While it was melting, not browning, I weighed my flour.
I had a scale that I received as a gift from my ex. To weigh my food. This was the beginning of my eating disorder. I have used the scale for cooking but I know the scale was a cheap thing and worked well enough for Weight Watchers but it isn’t precise. I bought the scale the BA test kitchen recommended on Amazon and it arrived two days later in a snow storm. I also purchased an oven thermometer. This was eye-opening as well, but I will get to that later.
Where were we? Right, the scale. It has a tare feature which is essential. I put the bowl on the scale, set the tare (which means it cancels out the weight of the bowl and the other ingredients so you can precisely measure the next ingredient), filled and levelled 1 cup of flour like Martha Stewart taught me. I needed 125g of flour. My one-cup measure was 150g. 25g MORE THAN I NEEDED. Ohhhkaaay… scooped out the extra flour. until it read 125g. Set the tare and added the buckwheat flour along with the rest of the dry ingredients. Set this aside.
Normally I would mix the wet ingredients and then sift the dry overtop. But I followed the instructions exactly as written. That meant separate bowls for everything. I put a new clean bowl on the scale, tossed in my melted butter. set the tare, added the sugars and whisked. This was also new for me. I would normally pull out the Kitchen Aid stand mixer and over beat until light and fluffy. The instructions called for 30 seconds of whisking. I set the timer and began. at the 15 sec mark, I thought I was done. but the timer said otherwise, so I kept going. It made a huge difference. It went from combined to glossy. This is the point where I thought I had whisked enough – nope.
I added one egg and mixed until combined, then added the yolks one at a time.
Here is what I learned about room temperature eggs.
They are easier to separate, the white breaks free almost instantly.
They break up like a dream.
They combine almost instantly without the extra fuss of smashing the yolk to break the membrane.
Room temperature eggs make a huge difference!
Then I folded in the flour and gently combined to minimize gluten production. The batter felt light and delicate, never have I ever had delicate cookie batter. I folded in the coarsely chopped chocolate (I never would have bought good bittersweet chocolate before either. WOW is the only adjective that fits.)
The batter is still wet at this point but is said to chill for two hours. I put a plate over the top of the bowl (please stop using single-use plastic) and popped it into the fridge.
Two hours later…
I hung the oven thermometer in my oven and preheated it 350F. When the oven reached the temperature I checked the thermometer.
Ummmm yikes. I did some more reading and the thermometer recommended I wait for two cycles of the oven before checking again. My oven clicks as the elements turn on and off. I waited…
Hoorah! I don’t know what I would have done if it didn’t work. Notice the elements are off and not red.
I rolled the cookies as directed and added bonus chocolate to the cookie balls. I didn’t use parchment because I am trying to reduce my use of single-use items. I put two sheets into the oven as directed and set the timer for 4 minutes. After four minutes passed, I switched the racks in the oven and checked the thermometer. Leaving the door open for a few short seconds dropped the temperature back down to 300F! Did everyone but me know oven temperatures were fickle? I pulled the cookies out at the 4-minute mark and decided they needed two more minutes because they were still wet looking.
This was the point where you were supposed to sprinkle more salt. My kosher salt is not delicate nor do I have flaky salt. I live in Canada and don’t have the same brands the BA test kitchen suggested, Morton’s or Diamond salt, my salt would have been chunky so I omitted the extra salt. Good thing too. These cookies had enough salt/sweet contrast for me.
I had enough batter for two more cookies. So this time I baked them for eight minutes without opening the oven to achieve the soft chewie cookie. It worked! The cookie was much lighter in colour with two minutes less.
But look at the oven temperature!
When I bake my cookies I place one tray in at a time and keep the oven closed at all times. My first tray is 10 minutes, then I reduce the time, the last tray is 7 minutes. So I instinctively knew my oven was not consistent. It is 20 years old. After I replace my roof shingles, I think this is the next new purchase.
I learned so many new things! Not all sugar is created equal unlike what Chef Michael Smith said. Dark brown sugar will react differently to baking soda than light brown sugar. Plus it has a deeper molasses flavour. If that is what you want, do it! But the science of the dry ingredients changes, so be aware. Room temperature eggs are where it’s at and give your oven lots of time to preheat.
To recap, these are mine on the left and Basically on the right. The buckwheat gives an earthy nutty quality that is fine but not my favourite. I love the bittersweet chocolate more than I thought I would and the sweet/salty ratio is delicious! Would I make these again? Absolutely. These are not a snack cookie, its a one and done for dessert kind of cookie and the recipe only makes one dozen.
The recipe teaser for next week looks like some sort of quick bread. Perhaps banana bread. I am here for it! Let me know if you made this and how it turned out fo you.
Not everyone has a brother, but everyone knows someone with a brother. I have one brother, grew up with a couple of foster brothers and I have friends who I feel as if they were brothers. A brother relationship is much different from my sister relationship. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender, it has everything to do with personality and preferences.
My brother has been my nemesis, my partner, my adversary and standard that I judge by (I know judging isn’t preferable, but we all do it.). But mostly my brother has been my friend, the kind of friend I don’t talk to every day, but when I need to I can call. He always calls me right back. He is turning 50 in 19 days.
Why is it that I am okay with me being 52 but it bothers me that my baby brother is 50? I think of him as the little kid that was into everything. My grandmother called him busy and that was an understatement. My brother was busy x 10. But I sure did learn a lot from him. He would dehydrate frogs in his jean pockets and then stick them in water. It would take a bit, but those frogs always perked up and he would take them back to the pond. At the age of 9, he quietly sent part of his allowance every month to the Humane Society. We discovered this by the monthly subscription newsletter and thank you cards. He had our little sister on the back of his bike and he couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to pedal. Her leg was caught in the spokes and it broke – the leg, she was 3(?) maybe older? He abandoned his beloved bike and carried her home. He was always rescuing birds, dogs, cats and people. His room was a pet sanctuary filled with rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish and dogs. It smelled like a farm.
He is a lot of things. He has no time for fiction, except Star Trek – but I think he thinks it’s a documentary. It has to be true or it’s wasting his time. This includes liars and fake people. He is fiercely protective of family and friends. He never complains about anything that happens to him or the cards life has dealt him. He doesn’t let what other people say or do bother him. Life is too short to get involved with drama and it has to be his biggest pet peeve. He wants everyone to just get along.
I am fiercely loyal back. I will always choose him.
This guy hates homemade food. Make him homemade cookies, and he rather have store-bought. Make him bbq burgers and he rather have fast food. This guy loves going out to eat so it surprised me when he said I make the best shortbread he has ever had. I am flattered. For his birthday I will make him 50 shortbread cookies. My recipe is here. He will likely hide them under the sofa cushions with a dirty sock on the bag to protect it. He will snack on these during Star Trek Discovery in case anyone wants one.
Happy 50th Birthday Brother, I could have asked for a better one… but you’ll do.
I think I prefer to have fond memories of sugar cookies rather than eating them in real time. I loved making them, sneaking tastes from the bowl and licking the beaters of buttercream frosting. My aunt made the absolute best cookies. Sometimes she would make a million dozen for my dad’s classroom (give or take 100 000) and sometimes she would make some with me after my music lessons. The cookies were always hearts and always had pink frosting.
My embossed rolling pin arrived this week and I was super excited to try it! I had made all the shortbread and ginger cookies I needed for Christmas but I hadn’t made any sugar cookies yet. So, I dug out the best recipe and decided to try the rolling pin. I discussed technique with a gal at work, who bakes amazing creations, the best way to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. We thought flour would make the cookies too tough, icing sugar too sweet, but thought cornstarch might do the trick.
That was my first fail.
Let me start at the beginning.
Sugar cookies are a familiar friend. I roll them and cut them and frost them. I would make hippy daisy flowers for my daughter’s birthday treats in elementary school. I know how to make an excellent sugar cookie.
I pulled out my favourite recipe where you don’t have to chill the dough because it rolls best at room temperature and is not crumbly. Very important things. I mixed the batter and placed it between two pieces of parchment paper so I didn’t have to handle the dough too much. It makes for a more tender cookie the less you manhandle it.
It rolled out beautifully. A lovely rectangle the right size for my new pin which is weirdly small. Thanks, random store on Amazon. I then put cornstarch on my pin to get it in the nooks and crannies. The detail is very fine and I wanted definition.
I tried using the handles, but my hands are too big – I don’t have large hands fyi. The I rerolled the dough to a flat surface. I ended rolling using the French pin method – with my hands on the long wooden dowel. I pressed too hard and I pressed too light. In true Goldilocks form, three tries was just right.
I pulled out my cookie press for comparison. The grooves in the press are deeper than the pin. The pin was too shallow. So the design which is gorgeous on the pin is too faint on the cookie dough. My dream of having the cookies look like a sweater was dashed. I cut them into hearts because that is what shapes sugar cookies are supposed to be. And in the right light, you can kinda see if you squint – the outline of the deer and snowflakes. All that fluffing around and I have shaggy hearts.
The next step in my plan was to sandwich these with buttercream frosting. Crave Cupcakes in Edmonton (and probably Calgary) make these amazing sandwich cookies. I always get one for my birthday and by always its been two years in a row because I only just found out about that place.
The cornstarch gave a weird texture to the top of the cookies – so don’t use cornstarch.
The embossing was too shallow for the cookie dough. It might work better on shortbread or gingered bread. It’s too close to Christmas to experiment now. Thanks, Amazon for taking six weeks to get here. I am pretty sure a Keebler Elf whittled it thus explains the length of time getting here from some distribution centre – probably China so it likely came by barge. Then dogsled. Then an obscure white van with the mirror attached with duct tape.
White cookies and white frosting blend together in whiteness. I am opposed to food colour because is it necessary? Also, is it good for me? Also, have you seen me use glue? Food colour is problematic for me and I don’t need to have it all over my face when I am going out for breakfast Christmas Eve morning.
Hearts aren’t very Christmasy.
I have terrible pipping skills.
My cookie recipe is outstanding.
The buttercream is delicious.
I dolloped loads of buttercream on the cookie and it squirted out the sides. If I had been thinking, I could have dipped the sides in peppermint shards (broken candy canes) or mini chocolate chips or BOTH. (I am grasping at straws for a win people, just give it to me.)
Here is the recipe, don’t do what I did, just roll them and cut them using hearts or whatever you fancy. I have Ninja shapes I should have used but I was nostalgic for my auntie’s cookies. Also, Merry Christmas from me to you.
No Fail (see the irony?) Sugar Cookies
1 cup salted butter (room temperature. I think its an American thing to keep the butter in the fridge. It’s useless in there.)
1 cup sugar – white granulated in case it isn’t obvious
1 tbsp. vanilla – the really good stuff, mine is imported from Mexico (is anyone going and can bring me back more?)
2 tsp. baking powder
6 cups flour
Add butter and sugar to your mixer. Cream it together until lighter in colour and the sugar is dissolved.
Add vanilla and egg and mix until completely incorporated.
Add baking powder and mix. – this step is weird, usually, you put baking powder in with the flour. Don’t this time, mix it first. It makes a big difference.
Mix in the flour two cups at a time, then one cup. (if doubling the recipe – do it two cups at a time)
Do not chill the dough, the cookies will bake better if the dough is at room temperature.
Roll a handful of the dough out on a prepared surface until it’s about 3/8″ thick and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes depending on the size of the cookie. Do not over-bake. I do it for 9 minutes. They are done in that magical stage between translucent and golden.
Frost with buttercream and sandwich together.
In a mixer combine:
1/2 cup butter – salted
2 cups of icing sugar or powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla or more or add orange or peppermint or brandy – whatever floats your boat.
I drizzle in no more than a tsp of milk – just to smooth it out.
They taste way better than they look.
Any tips for embossed rolling pins people? I may just stick to stamps, I have that down pat.
Who was the person that taught you to bake? I had many teachers. Mostly my mom was my teacher. Sundays were spent in a high volume extreme bake-off. We would make a list the previous week and then shop for all the ingredients. The list would include dinners for weeknights and several batches of tarts and cookies. You could easily find 20 things in the freezer before nightfall. Organization skills were my mom’s superpower. I take after her. I can knock off 150 cookies 4 dozen tarts and a pot of soup before noon. Well, that was today. I drove home from a Red Deer work thing, called my mom and rolled up my sleeves to power bake. I was done by 1:00 pm and started at 11:00 am.
Fast paced was not something that described my grandmother. She was slow and methodical. She did one thing at a time. Multi-tasking was not something she was interested in. Where my mom taught me how to knock off a lot of things to save time in the future, my grandmother taught me about relaxing as you do one thing. Both methods have a place in my life. I have to admit to following my mom’s method at work and at home the most. But every now and then a slowed relaxed baking session is delightful.
My grandma made little step stools from mandarin orange boxes that were available at Christmas. We used them for sitting in front of the TV, standing to reach things in the pantry but I used it to raise me up at the counter so I could ‘help’ bake.
My mom let me use tools like beaters, crack eggs and measure milk. Grandma never let me do those things, but she did let me watch. Mom let me lick the beaters or sample the batter. Grandma didn’t but I stole batter when she wasn’t looking. Mom let me open the oven door so she could put trays of cookies in the oven. Grandma made me stand back far from the hot oven. The experiences were polar opposite but there was one thing grandma let me do and that was to press cookies.
Very carefully she rolled out peanut butter cookies on a baking sheet. they were all the exact same size and evenly spaced. It always looked as if she used a ruler to measure the distance for consistency. Once all the round balls were on the sheet, it was my turn. She had a set of glasses that my aunt thinks were duralux. Small juice glasses with a starburst pattern on the bottom. It was my job to dip the glass in flour and press the cookies evenly – not too hard and not too soft. When I made these cookies with my little gram, we used a fork dipped in flour. I pressed the fork into the dough, dip in flour and press again in a cross fashion. This was more fun than eating the cookies. I have been searching ebay and vintage glass sites forever trying to find that particular pattern. My aunt told me they shattered easily so maybe there are none left in existence? At any rate, in my mind’s eye, all peanut butter cookies ever made have that pattern. I made some today using grandma’s recipe. Because I love you, I am sharing the recipe – and all the variations with you. This isn’t the Kraft Peanut Butter recipe that uses egg, sugar and peanut butter. My recipe has flour to make it a proper cookie with a subtle flavour of peanut butter because let’s get serious, too much peanut butter is too much is too much peanut butter and who needs that?
Grandma’s Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup salted butter (does anyone use unsalted?)
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (smooth because my son always thought the crunchy part was bees – save the bees people!)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar – I use dark, not golden.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Pre-heat oven to 375F
Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together in a bowl; beat in eggs. (I use a mixer to get the right texture. Mix until it looks fluffy and is lighter in colour than when you started.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir into butter mixture. Put dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (I sift directly into the butter mixture. I don’t usually refrigerate unless the dough is too soft and I can’t roll into a ball,)
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and put on baking sheets. (I use an ice cream scoop and don’t roll) Flatten each ball with a fork (dipped in flour to prevent sticking), making a crisscross pattern. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. (Forget the brown part – 10 minutes or until you can smell them.) One sheet at a time please!
This recipe makes 110 cookies. So I like to mix it up. The first tray of 35 is traditional with fork pressed method. The second tray I roll the balls in sugar then flatten with a flat-bottomed mug or cup. The third tray I add chocolate chips and drop without flattening.
Pirate Cookies were a favourite of mine, to recreate those, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter and 2 cups icing sugar for a buttercream frosting and thin as needed with milk. Sandwich the cookies with the frosting in the middle. So sweet but extra decadent. Serve with milk and a splash of tea unless you are an adult, then its tea with a splash of milk.
Apparently, I am not the only person in the world who loved to eat their Christmas baking directly from the freezer. I wrote about eating my shortbread that way and I received so many emails and messages telling me I wasn’t alone. I guess its a thing, here in Canada anyway.
One gal told me how her mom kept all their Christmas baking in a box on the porch. That’s the thing about Canada, you don’t have a shortage of freezer space at Christmas time. My family has stored food in the trunk of the car, in a cooler on the deck, in the unheated garage and believe it or not, an actual freezer.
When my dad and his four siblings lived on Evergreen Street, there was a bedroom in the basement. My dad shared it with his brother and when they moved out, my two aunts moved into that room. I remember that room because I had sleep-overs in there. Outside that room was a 1960’s style rec room complete with bar stools and a pool table. Behind the bar area by the stairs was a storage room with a freezer. This was easily accessible to the bedroom. Midnight trips to the freezer we common because that is where grandma stored her baking.
Fast forward to my childhood.
My brother and I lived in our basement on Georgian Way. We had a 1970’s style ‘rumpus room’. It was aptly named because a lot of rumpusing occurred in that room. We watched cable tv, played intelevision and atari, build forts and goofed around on the piano. We didn’t have a bar but we did have a fireplace. I never remember sitting on the sofa to watch tv, we would stack cushions on the floor so we could recline and snuggle under blankets as we watched Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Women, or Charlies Angels and sneak in a little Soap after everyone went to bed. It was as if we had our own apartment with mom, dad and our sister living upstairs.
At Christmas time our freezer would be stocked with Christmas baking for parties. Dad would often have his fellow teachers over for a Christmas party, we would invite Santa over for a family party and we always had Christmas brunch where everyone we knew would come for breakfast. After all the savoury food was consumed the baking would come ut on three-tiered cake plates for dessert service. Provided my brother and I had left any in the freezer.
Here’s the thing. Imagine a gripping game of Frogger, Donkey Kong or Galactica late on a Friday night when suddenly you are hungry. The ‘hangry’ kind of hunger that needs to be satisfied so you can beat your little weasel of a brother who will cheat as soon as the opportunity arises. Anger bubbles up with such intensity that food is the only thing that will sooth that beast. Its a thing, the Snicker’s commercial proves it.
Luckily, the deep freezer chest was located in the next room beside the laundry. It was deep. When we were small I would hold my brother’s legs so he could reach the bottom. As we grew taller, I could bend at the waist with my feet dangling so I could reach those Tupperware containers that were located on the bottom, hidden under roasts and loaves of bread in an effort to conceal the baking intended for guests.
I could always find the Butter Tart or Shortbread.
The secret to not getting in trouble immediately was to leave evidence that made the containers appear full. For example, the layers of wax paper that separated the cookies were never removed. That way when you opened the container to take a peek, it appeared as if the cookies were still on the bottom. With the butter tarts it was even easier, leave the foil tins in the container and none would be the wiser…until it was party day.
Mom would ask dad to bring the containers upstairs to the kitchen. He would leave stacks of containers on the counter. Mom had been busy all fall building up the reserves. Anything with coconut or cherries would still be there because … ew. The butter tarts and cookies were not. just empty packages. This is when mom would
My brother and I were always accused of the crime. He would deny it and she would believe him. I got the blame. To be fair, I was the mastermind behind the cookie caper, and likely did eat the majority of the baking but he often got away with things because he was an expert level liar. As soon as his back was turned and mom couldn’t see him, he would smile at me and stick his tongue out. A sure sign that he was lying to her and mocking me at the same time.
Until recently I assumed everyone ate butter tarts and no one ate frozen baking. I had no idea butter tarts were a Canadian thing. I did a little research on the confection and some regions put milk or cream in the recipe. All I can say is you are wrong. That is not the way to make them. My dad says a good butter tart must drip on your chin while eating it. I agree. That is the way to do it. I feel so strongly about this, I will share with you my family recipe. Do not put the following in your recipe and say it came from me. These ingredients are WRONG and belong in some other recipe I do not have to eat.
Coconut – just don’t
Raisins – my daughter says it’s like eating old people, save a senior and keep raisins out.
Currents/cranberries/fruit in general
Nuts – especially walnuts. WRONG
Butter Tarts are syrupy and gooey. The better the pastry the better the tart. Here you go:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter cubed
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vinegar
In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.
In a separate bowl – I use my pyrex measuring cup – whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Remove from fridge and let it come to room temperature. Roll very thin, like 1/8″ – this prevents pastry folds in your in and you can get more filling in the tart – and cut with a 4″ glass, can or cookie cutter. My grandma used an empty tomato tin, I have a cookie cutter. $1.25 and lasts forever. This makes 12, place in a muffin tin or tart tin.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup raisin
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup shredded coconut
In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended. Pour the filling into a measuring cup with a spout or scoop with an ice cream scoop into the tart shells. Back at 450F for about 12 minutes. I always place my tarts on a cookie sheet that has been pre-heating in the oven. This ensures the pastry is fully cooked on the bottom because no one wants to eat raw pastry dough, ask Mary Berry or Martha Stewart.
Send one to my dad and you can eat the rest. I recommend freezing them because they will taste like my childhood. Or eat them they way my kids do, straight from the oven because it tastes like their childhood.
My former life and marriage had a lot of dark moments, but… I learned a lot of very useful and important things. I can operate a backhoe and chainsaw. I can peel logs, do a full scribe notch and build walls for a log home. I know how to leave space for windows so the settling won’t break the glass. I missed the part about raising the ridge pole and putting the roof on, but I bet I could find someone to do that for me. I learned to grow all my fruit and vegetables and preserve them for winter. I can pickle, make jam and jellies and can fruit and veg until you think you will never run out of food. I can make quilts, sew clothes, knit and crochet sweaters, blankets and slippers. I know how to change oil, dig a trench (to run power and services from the road to the back of the lot) plus I can water ski, paddle a canoe down rapids and weld. All random things that I now have in my arsenal of skills. If there comes a time that the world might seem to be ending and everything is destroyed, I got you. I know what plants with keep scurvy away and you won’t starve. I can build you a home but not a roof – I am sure I can figure that out. Come find me, we can start our own village.
My favourite thing I learned during that time is the recipe for shortbread from the exhusband’s mom. I still make it every year and it is the one thing my brother loves, so I make sure he gets a generous batch.
I was flipping through Amazon and looking at embossed rolling pins. They are so beautiful I decided to buy one for my shortbread this year.
It hasn’t arrived yet. It might take another 3 weeks. It looks like this:
I was taught to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with coloured sugar or red and green cherries. I did that once and decided …ew. No thanks. Plain is fine. So I use a cookie stamp. I roll the cookie out, stamp it and then use a cutter to get the perfect shape. I have a pottery stamp that I slipped into my suitcase when I left home. My mom wasn’t a huge baker, she is a French style cook and I baked. So I figured she may not notice it was gone until now, Hi Mom!
The stamp itself isn’t particularly beautiful but it is fun to stamp out designs. and I don’t know why I never bought a prettier pattern. But here were are. Now I wait for my new rolling pin. It is not a Scottish Style shortbread, that is heavier and denser, also great but different. This is the classic whipped shortbread recipe found on the cornstarch box, or rather you used to find it there, I haven’t seen it for years but I still have a copy taped to the inside of my cookie book. My cookie series has been so popular with you asking for more secrets. Since this recipe is not a family secret, this is for you.
Idiotstick’s Mom’s Shortbread Recipe
3/4 cup softened salted butter – this is important – or add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Sift together cornstarch, sugar and flour. beat together with butter in the mixer or by hand – mixer makes it lighter. I mix it for a long while. You think it will never come together and them, boom, it forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl. Then it is done.
I roll out on a clean surface, do not flour.
I stamp and cut the shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. It helps to have an offset spatula to loosen the cookies from the counter. Alternatively, you can form balls and press with a stamp or fork. I bake for 20 minutes. take out just before the start to go golden on the edges. You want white cookies, not brown cookies. These are shortbread but if you over bake them, its not the end of the world. Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry are not in your kitchen.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. I like to freeze them and eat them cold, but I realize I am the only person on the planet who prefers this.
See? Not the prettiest stamp but they taste amazing.
Grey Cup Sunday came and went without any fanfare in my home. As a child, I spent the day at the movies with my mom and aunty taking us to the local theatre to watch Old Yeller, That Darn Cat or a multitude of other Disney movies at the Capilano Cinema. After the movie, we went back to my grandma’s house where the rest of the family was watching the game. Food was laid out on trays and plates for everyone to nibble. The adults had Black Lable or Lethbridge Pilsners in their hands while cheering for the Rough Riders or Eskimos. We would enter and would go to the closet to pull out the basket of lego or pencil crayons and build or colour until the half-time show where grandpa would call us for a roast dinner. The table was set up buffet style so everyone could get back to the game. I can still smell the spiciness of the roast and the aromatics of the beer bread. I loved his Sunday roasts.
This was Grey Cup to me. Not a football game. I began watching football as I grew older and my team was in it every year. It was something that became expected, Edmonton would be in the game and would win…always. It was comforting.
When I became an adult with children of my own, Grey Cup parties became less appealing. Edmonton was not in it as frequent. Managing children among non-child friendly events were stressful. Eventually, I decided to stay home with my kids and let the hubs decide if he wanted to go or not. Grey Cup Sunday became a day filled with Christmas baking. Both my children have commented to me how great it felt to have me in the kitchen with the cookie smells wafting from the kitchen and they were close by on the sofa reading or playing and sampling the food coming out of the kitchen. It was comforting.
Now that my kids are adults and I can only tell you who is playing in the Grey Cup this year because it is in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa – FYI, and I can tell you it is still the day I do the bulk of the baking. I make less because I don’t go to Christmas parties so I don’t feel the need to bring things to people’s homes. I made a batch of shortbread for my brother. A few mincemeat and butter tarts because on Christmas Eve it is a nice treat. Ginger sparklers and chocolate chip were the main event this year because I only make what my children will eat. I may still make honey popcorn because it is my favourite, but I eat fewer sweets now than I used to but it is a great treat to mail away to friends to let them know I am thinking of them. It is always comforting when you know you have someone far away who thinks about you.
It was a long week and I pampered myself with comforting things. I pulled out a book that I only read when I need an escape. I first read this book during Christmas break in University back in the day. I read it again when I went back to work after my kids were older and I hated every second of my day and longed for an escape. I read it again when I was in the hospital after having surgery and needed to get my mind off the pain. This book came out again this week to help me relax and transport me away to England where I like to think I want to live until I am actually there and remember I love it here in Canada best. Books so comforting to me.
My daughter gave me a box of bath bombs from Lush last Christmas. I love a good soak in a hot tub with a book. Wednesday, my day started at 5 in the dark in a parking lot setting up for a work event. It was dark but surprisingly mild for a November morning. By Noon I was done and went home. I was so glad I saved that last bath bomb. It was a Dragon’s Egg. It hissed and sizzled and stained my body blue. The fragrant steam relaxed me and I read my book for four hours, only moving to add more hot water. It was so comforting for me! It was the perfect way to end my day.
I have a teapot that my little gram used. When I think of her I like to make a pot of Red Rose tea and sip away from the Royal Albert petit point patterned cup. Sipping from the set she used always made me feel grown up and sophisticated. It is a ritual I share with my kids and hopefully one day any grandchildren I might have. Tea Parties are a guilty pleasure of my childhood that I still indulge in today. I am happy to share this ritual with anyone who is interested. Cookies and tea are my favourite comfort food.
One of my best pals lives in California. They celebrated their birthday this week and I called them to say ‘HEY! You are old now!’. I find long newsy phone chats comforting. My mom called this morning from England and we video chatted. I saw my dad and my daughter hopped on the call. We caught up on the weekly things and reminisced about older things and then we made plans for future things. My dad misses family rituals and I think I will recreate Christmas breakfast for him when he returns because it isn’t about the day, it’s about the event itself. Sweet and savoury with coffee and juice is how we always ate breakfast Christmas morning. We don’t know when that will be because they decide last minute when they will be home. But when they do arrive, Christmas breakfast will be waiting because it’s comforting for my dad.
I think that is what relationships are all about. Finding comfort in our day to day and enjoying it.