Stay-At-Home Cookies

Normally I don’t do much baking after the holidays end, but if a pandemic isn’t a reason to depart from the norm, what is? We’ve taken our daily walk and want to be safe and respectful of social distancing and sheltering in place, and cookies seem like a good stay-at-home activity.

But what to bake? Unlike the holidays, I haven’t gone on a special shopping trip for unusual supplies — and an extended trip to the besieged grocery store for random baking supplies doesn’t seem wise under the circumstances. I’ve examined the cupboards with care, and figured I could make what we’ll call “Stay-At-Home cookies” in honor of our fight against the coronavirus.

Stay-At-Home Cookies

Ingredients: 1 1/4 cup margarine; 1 cup regular sugar; 1 cup brown sugar; 2 eggs; 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups all-purpose flour; 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1 tsp baking soda; 1 tsp salt; 3 cups uncooked oatmeal; 1 cup chopped nuts; 1/2 cup peanut butter

Combine margarine, sugar, and brown sugar and cream until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add in flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; beat until combined. Add in oatmeal, nuts and peanut butter and try to keep your spouse from eating the batter. Try some yourself and admit it is pretty tasty. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment, then bake at 385 degrees for 12 minutes. Have some more of that tasty dough. Drink a beer or other adult beverage of your choice while baking; preferably while listening to ‘60’s music. Let cookies cool on baking sheet while you enjoy another beer and find yourself dancing to Woolly Bully.

How many cookies this generates depends on how much dough you consume during the batter/beer/Woolly Bully steps.

Tin Time

The cookies and fudge have been carefully — and more or less equally — distributed to their respective tins, in the last step in the holiday baking process. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I baked just the right amount to fill up our tins, without a lot of tempting cookies left over or an egregious shortfall.

This year we’ll be sending out 24 tins to friends, family, and colleagues– the most ever. And I can fairly say that, after the last few days, I will be perfectly content not to see a cookie for a while.

Baking Day — 2019

We’ve been baking all day and making good progress on this year’s batch of holiday cookies. So far we’ve baked the cranberry hootycreeks, the peanut butter and almond cookies, the Dutch spice cookies, the sugar cookie cutouts, and the lemon ricotta cookies. I’m having some fun experimenting with some new toppings– like maraschino cherries — and have managed to resist spoon-licking temptation (for the most part, anyway).

Tomorrow we’ll tackle this year’s new cookies, make some fudge and bar cookies, and try to show some decoration flair with icing the sugar cookies.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019 (II)

The internet is a wonderful thing — at least, some of the time — but sometimes sifting through the mass of available information seems overwhelming.  Run a search for Christmas cookie recipes and you will get an avalanche of hits that leaves you no method, aside from random chance, to pick which website to review.  They all promise to offer favorite recipes that people will love.

That’s where the use of finer search terms become necessary.  I realized this when I happened across a website post that featured the best soft Christmas cookie recipes — just in case you’re baking for the toothless among us who must gum their holiday delicacies.  So this year I did a search for Christmas cookie recipes from the 1960s and ran across a treasure trove of options, including this gem, which is described on yellowed print as “Easy-to-make cookies for those who like a not-too-sweet dessert” that are “good keepers and shippers.”  I’m pretty sure Mom made these, by the way.

Swirl cookies

2017-11-18-holiday-pinwheel-cookies-coloradjusted-7Ingredients:  1 cup soft butter; 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour; 1/4 teaspoon salt; red and yellow food coloring

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light.  Stir in flour and salt until well blended, then divide dough in half.

Color one half with 1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring and 7 drops of yellow food coloring.  Leave other half uncolored.  Chill the dough.

Press together one level teaspoon of each color.  Roll into a pencil shape, then form in a coil on the baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2019

Taking Stock And Getting Ready

The holiday baking season is rapidly approaching, which means its prep time.

Prep time involves taking stock of what’s in the cabinet and what I’ll need to get from the store before the baking begins in earnest.  After I check on that’s in the cupboard, and how much is really left in that bottle of vanilla or that container of nutmeg, I’ll prepare a comprehensive list and then make a big trip to the store.  Prep time also means checking on the continuing functionality and status of the KitchenAid mixer, the Cuisinart, the cookie sheets, the mixing bowls, and the other implements that are a key part of the baking process.  And where are we on cookie tins?

Since I like to try to make a few new recipes every year, the prep process also means checking out cooking and baking websites to look for some interesting new recipes.  I’ll be doing that over the next few days, too.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Tin Time

Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.

There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!

Baking Day — 2018

We’ve gotten an early start on Baking Day this year. The necessary ingredients were purchased yesterday, I’ve got my baking/chilling/mixing plan laid out, the Dutch spice cookie mix is ready to go into the refrigerator to chill, and the Christmas music playlist is in full swing on the iPod. (I ‘m listening to Burl Ives’ bouncy Holly Jolly Christmas as I write this.)

I always really enjoy this day. Baking cookies is just fun.

Summa Cake Laude

Some stories are just too silly and delectable to ignore.

Take the story of the South Carolina family that wanted to celebrate their son’s graduation, summa cum laude, from a Christian-oriented home schooling program.  They ordered a cake from the local outlet of a large national grocery store chain to celebrate the feat, and wanted a sheet cake decorated with a mortarboard and faux diploma and icing to recognize that accomplishment.

publix-cakejpg-8caef864034a07fbAlas!  When the cake was retrieved and viewed at the party, the large national chain had edited out the Latin word variously translated as “with,” “along with,” or “together,” because it also is modern slang for a notorious bodily fluid.  So the cake came out saying “Congrats Jacob!  Summa — Laude Class of 2018” — even though the Mom who ordered the cake explained that the requested phrase was Latin and meant “with highest honors.”  Poor Jacob is quoted as saying, no doubt ruefully:  “The cake experience was kind of frustrating and humiliating because I had to explain to my friends and family like what that meant. And they were giggling uncontrollably. At least my friends were.”

Can it really be that a major grocery story chain that regularly bakes congratulatory cakes doesn’t know what “cum laude” means?  Maybe we all need to get our minds out of the gutter and onto a higher plane of baking.

Guest Batch

We have family coming in for the holidays, so I’m whipping up some cookies for people to nibble while we sit around and catch up on what everyone has been up to during 2017. I’m therefore making my favorite cookie — Dutch spice cookies. I like the brown sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg/clove flavor, which says Christmas to me, but they’re also fun to decorate. You can put anything from M&Ms to decorators’ sugar to nuts on these cookies, and they all seem to go perfectly.

Baking Day, 2017

Every successful holiday baking day starts with a carefully prepared shopping list. Preparing the list is, and should be, an involved process. You need to sift through your recipes, decide which ones you’ll be making this year, and take inventory of what you’ve got in the cupboard already — and whether you’ve got it in sufficient quantity. If you’ve made a good list, you won’t be caught short on a particular recipe and have to make an annoying one-ingredient dash to the store midstream.

The list is the first step on the journey.

Old And New Tools Of The Trade

We’ve turned the page on the calendar to December, and all the college football conference championship games have been played. (Go Bucks!) That means it’s time to start getting serious about holiday baking.

Part of the bake-prep process in the Webner household is going through my sprawling and ever-growing collection of cookie cutters to figure out which ones we’ll be using for the iced sugar cookies this year. It’s an assortment of old and new, some inherited from family members, some used for years, and some just recently added to the mix. These cookie cutters aren’t cookie-cutter!

I like trying new cookie cutters each year, just as I always like to experiment with a few new recipes. It helps to keep the process fresh and fun.

Tools Of The Kitchen

We inherited a lot of interesting stuff from Kish’s Mom, but my favorites are some wooden kitchen implements we keep in an old wooden bowl on our countertop.  They are worn smooth, with a warm patina burnished by hands of the past, and they have that evocative, somewhat mysterious element you often sense with older things.

I’m not sure exactly how old they are, but I’m guessing they date from the 1800s.  With all-wooden construction and touches like leather straps, there certainly isn’t a whiff of mass production about them.  And their precise use isn’t entirely clear, either.  Sure, there’s a cracked cookie press, and a dough roller that would leave leaf designs on pie crust, but the uses for the three items in the middle are less obvious.  They’re built to pound . . . but pound what?  Bread dough?  Meat?  Or something unsuspected that we now buy, pre-made and pre-packaged, at the neighborhood supermarket?

The three “pounders” conjure up a long-ago kitchen of hard work, sweat equity, and muscle.

Unbearably Enticing Brownies

As somebody who enjoys basic, recreational baking when the holiday season rolls around — that is, cookies of all kinds, but not much else —  I’m in awe of the really good bakers out there.  If you can craft light, flaky pie crust that melts in your mouth, I’ll be a big fan.  If you can bake an angel food cake that doesn’t partially collapse on one side, you’ve admittedly outdone the best baker in the Webner family, and I’ll sing your praises.

bear_1494327955157_9409774_ver1-0But if you can bake brownies that smell so good that a large black bear will scale your back porch, stand up on its hind legs, balance on the railing encircling your deck, and start banging on the patio door in an effort to get a taste, then in the baking world that really takes the cake.

OK, that was an incredibly bad pun, but the bear incident actually happened.  This past weekend, in Avon, Connecticut, a woman was innocently baking brownies when she hear a pounding on the glass patio door.  She looked up and saw a bear peering in, obviously angry that it couldn’t get at the baked goodies.  The bear actually opened the screen door, but it wasn’t able to open the sliding glass door.  The incident freaked the woman out, but eventually, after the woman and a neighbor made some noise and the frustrated bear wasn’t able to get in, it wandered away.

I can see how the bear incident would be disconcerting, but I think the woman in question should take it as a compliment to her baking.  And I want to know one thing that isn’t addressed in the article linked above — when is the woman going to publish that unbearably enticing brownie recipe?