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.

Cookie Culprits

The kitchen at our firm is legendary for its cookies.  Some of our lawyers intentionally schedule their meetings in the afternoon so they can get a plate of cookies to munch on while the discussion is proceeding.

But when the scheduled meeting is ended, and before the conference room table is cleared by the staff, the office cookie culprits go on the prowl.  They might just be innocently passing by when the sight of an available plate of cookies in an empty conference room tempts them into action, or they might intentionally take a foraging swing past all of the conference rooms to see whether there are any cookie remains that could provide them with a sugar boost during the mid-afternoon lull.  Whatever the reason, the abandoned cookie plates don’t hold on to their cookies for long.

When I left the meeting in this particular conference room yesterday, the cookie plate was virtually full, but when I passed by a short time later, the cookie culprits had been at it in force, leaving only orphaned oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies — and another sugar cookie from which somebody had taken two huge bites.  Hey, and what’s with putting a half-eaten cookie back on the cookie plate?  I thought the cookie culprits were more genteel than that.

Boxed Lunch Roulette

Yesterday I went to a professional event over the noon hour where every attendee got a boxed lunch.  At such events, the boxed lunches are grouped and stacked by the kind of sandwich printed on the outside, and you make your choice, take your box back to your seat, and hope for the best.

lunch_boxI say “hope for the best,” because when it comes to boxed lunches there’s a significant element of risk involved.  Sure, you can choose whether you want “roast beef” or “chicken salad” or “Italian” or “a wreck” (whatever that is), but of course the sandwich descriptions barely scratch the surface of the important information you’d like to know in deciding what to have for lunch.  At a restaurant, you’d be able to make choices about the bread to be used, find out what is put on the sandwich and add or subtract as you see fit, and pick your side dish, but in the boxed lunch scenario you’ve got none of those options.  You’ve got a mound of closed boxes in front of you, and it wouldn’t be seemly to start opening them up and pawing through the contents to determine which box is best suited to you.

Yesterday I went for the grilled chicken sandwich box. The grilled chicken came on a sub bun and — inevitably! — had lots of sliced tomato and shredded lettuce and other vegetable matter on top.  In the boxed lunch world, the prevailing assumption is that everyone will want every conceivable vegetable on their sandwich.  Call it the highest, or lowest, common denominator effect.  I despise both tomato and shredded lettuce, so I had to figure out how to remove them.  Since there was no utensil in the box, I removed the offending items by hand, which was a messy operation that created a small mound of unappetizing, limp vegetable matter in the box.  Add to that the fact that once shredded lettuce is added to a boxed sandwich it can never be fully removed because it tends to adhere to the bread and hide in cracks and crevices of the meat, and you’ve captured one aspect of boxed lunch roulette.

There’s more, of course.  With a standard boxed lunch, you get a side and a dessert.  Usually the side is a bag of potato chips or Doritos, but sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s a small fruit bowl or edible pasta salad.  Yesterday it was barbecue-flavored potato chips, which equates to a losing spin on the wheel.  I’ve not conducted a scientific study, but I have to believe that barbecue potato chips appeal to only a tiny, tastebud-challenged segment of the American population.  Lacking the ability to appreciate delicate and nuanced food flavors and spices, this poor group must opt for chips coated in heavy, dusty, quasi-sugary artificial flavoring that stains your fingers red as you eat them.  I therefore passed on the chips and found myself wondering — if you’re making boxed lunches, why not just opt for regular potato or kettle chips, rather than pushing the envelope with something like barbecue or ranch or vinegar flavoring?  But although the side was a dud, the dessert was a positive — an oatmeal cookie that I saved and brought home to share with Kish.

Ultimately I got a pretty good sandwich after the vegetable removal process was completed, skipped potato chips that I shouldn’t have eaten anyway, and brought home a good cookie.  All told, I’d say I broke even in yesterday’s exercise in lunch box roulette.

Cookies For Crohn’s

IMG_5606My sister, Cath, is a very determined and persuasive person.  So when she asked me to bake some cookies for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation fundraiser being hosted by my nephew tonight at JT’s Pizza, I bowed to the inevitable.

If you’re in the Columbus area at 5:30 tonight and close to JT’s Pizza at 2390 Dublin-Granville Road, stop by!  It’s a good cause.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (VI)

After I finished my holiday baking, I received a fresh set of recipes from the Akron Samaritan.  It’s the Akron Beacon Journal Christmas cookie guide for 2013, featuring recipes from local chefs.  I was touched by the gesture and wish I had received the guide a few days earlier — but, there’s always next year!  This recipe, from chef Roger Thomas, looked particularly interesting:

Abracci Cookies

Ingredients:  For light dough:  4 ounces butter; 1/2 cup sugar; 3 tablespoons heavy cream; 1 tablespoon honey; 1 3/4 cup flour; 1 teaspoon baking powder; pinch of salt

For dark dough:  4 ounces butter; 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons sugar; 1 egg; 1 3/4 cups flour; 4 tablespoons cocoa; 1 teaspoon baking powder; pinch of salt

For the light dough, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add cream and honey and mix well.  Separately mix dry ingredients together, then mix into butter to make a smooth, firm dough.  For the dark dough, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add egg and mix well.  Separately mix dry ingredients together, then mix into butter to make a smooth, firm dough.

Wrap light dough and dark dough separately with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Reshape each dough into balls the size of a large grape, then roll each ball into a log about 2 1/2 inches long.  Press the ends of the different dough logs together in the form of a circle, with the light dough on top of the dark dough on one side and the dark on top of the light on the other.  Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before storing in a container with sheets of parchment or wax paper between layers.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (II)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (III)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (IV)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (V)

Baking Done

IMG_5546After two days of marathon baking, my work is done.  I’ve listened to countless Christmas songs, worked my way through several bags of flour and sugar, and filled many plates and cookie racks.  As is always the case, some of the efforts worked out better than others, but I’ve tried some new recipes and I’ve been happy with the results.  Whether the recipients of my baking agree has yet to be determined, of course

This year I’m sending my cookies off to a few more people.  They’ll be heading to Mom, Richard, and Russell, to Savannah, Akron, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Marysville, and the house next door.

Now that the baking is done and the tins and boxes have been filled, it’s time to sit back, eat a light dinner, and drink some red wine.  After a long day, the wine tastes awfully good.


Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (V)

Recently Kish got me some cookie stamps so that I can produce cookies with a design stamped on top.  This recipe came with a box of four stamps from Williams-Sonoma, and I’m going to give it a try today.  The recipe is simple, but the trick will be making dough that holds the pattern of the stamp design.

Lemon Butter Cookies

IMG_5538Ingredients:  6 oz. unsalted butter; 1 1/2 cup sugar; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 2 tablespoons milk; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 3 1/2 cups flour; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together until light yellow, then beat in the egg.  Add lemon juice, milk, and vanilla extract and beat.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and blend well.  The last of the flour must be kneaded into the mixture, producing dough that is stiff.

Roll dough between your hands to form round balls that are one inch in diameter, then lightly roll balls in flour and place on buttered cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  Dust the patterned surface of the cookie stamp with flour, shake off excess, then press the balls of dough flat with stamp.  Cookies should be thin, with just enough dough to fill the indentation of the pattern on the stamp.  Bake for 10-18 minutes until golden brown on the edges.

Williams-Sonoma suggests testing the dough first by doing one or two cookies to make sure that the pattern stays sharp during baking.  If it doesn’t, more flour should be kneaded into the dough.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (II)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (III)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (IV)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (IV)

As every faithful reader of the blog knows, I like to try at least one kind of cookie each year that is a little bit . . . different.  Why not mix things up for the holidays?  This particular cookie combines the classic taste of peanut butter and jelly with elements of Chinese food.  What could be more of a mix than that?

Peanut Butter-and-Jelly Chow-Mein Noodle Squares

Ingredients:  3/4 cup flour; 3/4 cup crushed chow-mein noodles; 1/2 cup sugar; 3/4 teaspoon baking powder; 1/2 cup softened butter; 1 egg, beaten; 3/4 cup peach jelly; 1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease nine-inch baking pan.

Combine flour, noodles, sugar, and baking powder.  Blend in butter.  Stir in egg.  Press half of mixture into bottom of prepared pan.  Spread peach jelly over mixture, then sprinkle half of peanut butter chips on top.  Crumble remaining flour mixture over the contents of the pan, then top with remaining chips.

Bake for 30 minutes, let cool, then cut into squares.

Calling for Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (II)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (III)

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013 (II)

Some Christmas cookies are staples — in the Webner household, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without iced cutout cookies — but I always like trying a few new cookies and adding them to the mix.  I found this recipe for this delicate concoction in the helpful King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, and they look fun to make.  Any cookie that you bake by flipping over a baking sheet and using the bottom is worth trying at least once.

Honey Crisps

Ingredients:  4 tablespoons unsalted butter; 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted; 3 tablespoons honey; 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger; 2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted; 3 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Flip over your baking sheet and lightly grease the bottom, so the rim of the cookie sheet won’t interfere with lifting the cookies after they are baked.

Cream together butter and confectioners’ sugar.  Add the honey and mix until smooth.  Add the ginger and half the flour and stir.  Whisk the egg whites briefly, then add half of the egg whites to the mixture.  Add the remaining flour and stir, then add the rest of the egg whites and mix until a smooth batter forms.

Drop the batter by teaspoonful on the back of the cookie sheet, then use the back of a wet spoon to spread the batter to circles about three inches in diameter, so thin you can almost see through it.  Bake for 4-6 minutes until cookies are golden brown.  Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for about a minute, until you can move them without the cookies wrinkling.  The cookies can then be shaped or served flat.  I’m going to try shaping the cookies, with a honey-nut filling or a fruit filling, to put a different shape in my holiday cookie tins.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2013

Summer Smorgasbord

IMG_3791Mom has issued another call for cookies, and she’s also made it plain that — with all due respect to my interest in baking experimentation — she wants iced sugar cookies, thank you very much.  No other cookies need apply!

So, with my recipes strictly limited, I have to let my creative juices flow with the icing and toppings.  This is why confectioner’s sugar, food coloring, and colored decorator’s sugar were invented.

A Mother’s Day Assortment

IMG_3689Mom asked for a new batch of cookies — just in time for Mother’s Day — and what dutiful son can refuse his mother?  She had a hankering for some iced sugar cookies, and I tried to choose icing colors that looked like spring, with pastel blues, greens, and pinks.  Of course, some chocolate-flavored icing made with Nestle’s Quik and some sprinkles can’t hurt, either.

Spring Cookie Update

IMG_3482After some serious baking and pathetic attempts at decoration, I’m ready to bring my cookies over to Mom.

What’s a spring cookie?  Got me!  I tried to make do with gingerbread men and gingerbread baseball mitts catching icing balls, Scottish terrier sugar cookies dusted with chocolate, bright orange and blue cutouts topped with candied cherries and rainbow-colored decors, and some peanut butter and chocolate cookies.  Oh, and I added some of those chewy Fritos corn chip and peanut butter bar cookies that my sister Cathy specifically requested.

I’ve made a plate full and a filled storage container, besides.  Now it’s time to deliver the goodies.

Cookie Cutters That Aren’t “Cookie Cutter”

IMG_3479Mom asked me to bake some more cookies that she could share with her guests, so yesterday was a baking day.  As I was figuring out a good assortment, I also had to consult our collection of cookie cutters to decide which cutouts to use.

Many of our cookie cutters have a distinctive Christmas orientation, but over the years we’ve inherited and acquired an eclectic collection — a grab bag of dogs, hearts, a gingerbread man, stars, a baseball mitt, and even the Statue of Liberty and the space shuttle.  They are variously made of tin, sturdy plastic, and a thin, highly bendable metal; some have handles and others don’t.  Predictably, I like the older, metal cutters that probably date back at least 50 years.

My favorite is the little Scottish terrier cut-out.  It requires a little care and patience to extricate the cookie; you need to gently put a butter knife through the handle and nudge the cookie dough out.  It’s worth it.  I’m confident that anyone who picks up a cookie in the shape of a little dog will have a smile on their face.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

IMG_3395Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of our friends who are Irish and Irish wannabes.  Although we have a touch of Irish ancestry on my Mom’s side of the family, I’m not a green beer drinker or a huge celebrant of the holiday.  I decided to mark the occasion, instead, with some cookies shaped like shamrocks and the gold coins found in the leprechauns pot of gold that I’ll be delivering to Mom today.