15 batches of Christmas cookies!

When I was a girl, we had Christmas cookie day at my house. We’d get up in the morning and fill the kitchen table with every ingredient we’d need to make all the cookies we wanted, as well as the necessary bowls, measuring devices and recipes. Mom would then assign recipes, the type and number dependent on age and skill, and bowls, based on the size and number of batches we were to mix. Some of us would have two or three bowls in front of us.

We’d then begin the mixing, Mom had divided the recipes up into stages that had us all adding the same things (if out recipe called for them, of course) at the the same time, i.e. we’d pass around butter and shortening, everyone getting what they needed, then we’d pass around the sugar, e.t.c. We kept going in this manner until they were all completely mixed. We’d cover them and label them with type, temperature, and baking time. Batches that need chilled would be placed in the fridge or on the front porch and we’d turn our attention to the others.

There were several stations, dropping/rolling and cutting, decorating (if the cookie called for it), baking (you were to rotate trays/shelves and make sure they were done perfectly), and cooling and removing from trays. When I was little, I remember Dad being on oven duty most of the day, but as my two younger sisters and I aged, we would rotate through with Mom, at least per batch, more frequently if it was a “fun” batch, say rolled sugar cookies.

We’d have most of them baked by the end of the day, and filled most of Mom’s larger food storage containers with cookies. Most common were chocolate chip, party, rolled sugar, dropped sugar, sand tart, pecan crispies, chocolate peanut butter chip, oatmeal, and snickerdoodle. The days that followed would find us sharing them with neighbors and people at church.

Since I moved out six years ago, I’ve only made more then one batch once. I’m only one person and living with lots of cookies isn’t great for my figure (plus I feel terrible if I end up throwing any away), plus the idea of doing it all solo was slightly overwhelming. Anyways, it was after my last move, as a thank you for the friends who helped (and when you have 3,000 books, you really do owe them!) I did it similarly to the method described above, moving around my table and adding each ingredient to all the appropriate bowls, then stirring. I tried out several new recipes and found a few favorites. It worked out rather well for being just me.

Now, my fiance’s mother has, for as long as anyone can remember, made batches and batches of cookies over several weeks and frozen them until she needs them. Then, assuming they’ve survived the “human mice” who know they’re there, she can assemble trays and have plenty at her disposal. (Oh, I can’t wait to get a freezer!) However, this year, she was experiencing a great deal of back pain, later revealed to be due to several cracked vertebra, and didn’t manage to make any. She’s mending well, but prayers are appreciated, especially as it gets cold and icy up this way.

In light of this, he asked if I would make a batch of one of his favorite kinds, peanut butter temptations. I said sure. The day before I went to the store, I asked if there were any other kinds he’d like, already planning to make another of this favorites, auntie Marys. He responded with another seven or so, including some I’d never tried to make. Now this was more then I’d originally thought I’d be baking, but he had a lot going on at work and I wasn’t going to see him for several days, meanwhile I had off work for Thanksgiving, so I thought, why not?

Made a master list of all the ingredients, and just how much of each I’d be needing, and set out to the store. Home again, I began mixing, using both my six quart and four quart stand mixers, I bounced back and forth between the two and two mixing bowls with the dry ingredients in them. When I finished a batch, I’d pack it away into the fridge, wash the bowl and beater and start in on another batch.

Baked the ones that didn’t need to be chilled at all right away, then saved the rest for the following morning. Over the course of the weekend, I made the following kinds of cookies:

Chocolate Chip

Oatmeal Scotchies (New to me)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pinwheel (New to me, and neither as good looking or tasting as I wanted. I shall either modify or drop this recipe next time)

Chocolate Surprise

Auntie Marys (a bit trickier then I remembered, but I got them made eventually

Peanut Butter Temptations (really

Snickerdoodles

Peanut Butter

Chocolate Truffle Tart

Molasses

Chocolate Lava

Packing them all up, I found myself out of storage containers, but what a lovely tower I had.

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Upon reflecting though, I didn’t have the variety I found myself wanting. Soon, I was plotting to make more the following weekend, all of which I’d never tried before:

Linzers (with Red Current Jelly)

Lemon Thumbprints (with Black Raspberry or Wild Blueberry Jelly)

Spoon (with Four Fruit Preserves)

Russian Teacakes.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of the first two, passing over them every time. They tend to be dry and bland, so I set out to combat that. Made sure that I had good jellys and paid attention to the baking time very closely, pulling them out when they were just done.

The linzers took forever, you have to rechill the dough after rolling and cutting them, before baking. Then once they’re out, you have to dust the tops with powdered sugar before putting jelly on the bottom halves and assembling them. Of the four I made that day, these were my least favorite, though they were better then any others I’ve had.

The thumbprints were quite good, surprising the fiance, who been dreading having to tell me he didn’t like them. Fortunately, he liked all of them.

Made up trays to give to neighbors, friends, pastors, and so on. I was pleased with their presentation, like something from a bakery…

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After two weekends in the kitchen I was tired, but had a lovely time and so many tasty results!

S’mores Cookies

It was my birthday a little while ago and a friend gave me 3 s’mores cookies from a local convenience store, which was perfect, for I was hungry for some good, chocolate, cookies, but didn’t want to bake them or have an abundance to eat later.

They were better than I expected, given their origin, and I thought, if they’re this good from a store, I should be able to make some that are even tastier! Plus, I’d gotten a 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday and it seemed like the perfect thing for its maiden use.

Found a recipe online that was similar to what I’d eaten, a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips, marshmallow bits, and graham chucks, and set about mixing it up. It said it served 12, but not how many cookies I should expect from it, so I made a triple batch, wanting to have enough for several events over the weekend. It nearly filled my new mixer bowl,  see?

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And it looks so chocolately too!

Used my largest cookie scoop and baked them just until the wet look was gone from the top. They looked good.

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Three batches might have been too many though, I started running out of containters.

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Tasted one, the big moment… They were full of chocolate flavor, no complaints there, but the graham flavor didn’t come through at all. You could see them, but not taste them! The marshmallow could be found, but nowhere near as much as the chocolate.

I’m thinking maybe some sort of graham cookies will add some of the flavor I’m looking for, but I’m stumped on the marshmallows. In the cookies that were given to me, they weren’t as melted, how? Does anyone out there have a tip they’re willing to share? I want to mix them in, not add them on to at the end… please help!

Chocolate & Caramel Ombre Cake

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

This is the cake I made for my family’s Easter gathering last Sunday. I’d never made such an ambitious cake before. I was done with work early on Friday, around 1:30 and found myself with plenty of time to bake and assemble, thinking everything through twice, since I wouldn’t have time to start over.

It took me two hours to mix and bake the first two layers, which would end up being layers 1 and 4 in the end product. I followed Cook’s Illustrated instructions for mixing it together, since my family hasn’t had much success with white cakes in the past (but then, we hadn’t a stand mixer then either). Feel like I should have prehaps sifted the ground almonds, but the recipe wasn’t very specific with those sorts of details. Also, I maybe should have used granulated sugar instead of raw… to make it more white. Washed up the dishes I’d made up to that point while they baked.

Once the cakes were cool enough to remove from their pans, I started on the second batch, which went quicker. Used various shades of brown sugar, since I don’t have all the British ones (at least not at prices I could afford right now). So at this point, one could find this on my kitchen table,

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Looks good already, right? Let them cool for awhile while I washed the dishes and ate some dinner.

Frosting went smoothly enough, though it took a while for the ganache to cool. I’d delayed making it, not wanting it to set up too much before the cakes were ready for it. I’d never used canned caramel before and was surprised by how thick it was, but I managed.

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As you can see from the picture on the left, the gradient layers were working on the outside, at least…. That’s what ‘ombre’ means in this instance, by the way, gradient layers.

At this point, I just had to sit back and wait until Sunday afternoon when it was time to serve it. I had a very hard time waiting for all my nieces and nephews to finish finding eggs! But, once they had, I carefully, ever so carefully, cut into it and found this:

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I’m rather happy with the results and my family seemed to be as well. The two-year old niece said ‘yum’ with every bite and her father had three pieces. For me, it was moist and rich, but, the texture was a little odd (maybe the almond flour) and it could have had more flavor. Still, the family was happy and I got to stretch my baking skills, so that works for me!

Easter Cake!

I now know what I’m making for my family’s Easter get together. I found recipes for a pear and blueberry cake, vanilla cupcakes with ‘surprise’ bunnies inside, a strawberry layer cake, and a four layer, chocolate and caramel ombre and submitted my ideas to the sister in charge of planning the menu. She choose the last one (my family loves chocolate), so there you have it.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1161646/chocolate-and-caramel-layer-cake

After a trip to the local Wegmans last night, I’ve found all I need, except for the exact sugar, but then, I don’t live in Britain, so I’ll make do.  There will be several new experiences in this process, i.e using almond flour and yogurt in a baking, so here’s hoping it all turns out. Stay tuned!

P. S. (Off Topic) I also bought Malt Syrup last night and will be using it in my bread this weekend. I’ll post about that once it’s done.