LET’S COOK: Stirring up Christmas memories
Now is the time to gather loved ones in the kitchen for an old-fashioned day of cookie baking, sharing baking tips, and telling stories. The passing on of stories is such a treasure. Blessed are they who still have Aunt Martha’s flour sifter, Aunt Tillie’s large yellow Pyrex bowl, and that vintage rolling pin. Who comes to mind when you think of cookie baking?
As you answer that question, realize how baking connects a family and the memories that are shared over the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and colored sugar. Everyone loves fresh-baked cookies, and holiday times makes it possible to have the better of two worlds. Irresistible cookies and time spent with loved ones creating memories and recalling treasured memories.
You may recall that in my home in Underwood the first two cookies prepared for the Christmas were Mexican wedding cookies, and honey cookies that were rolled thicker and frosted with a sticky frosting that was tinted from pale pink, coppery orange, grass green and many other shades. The star shaped cookies were sprinkled with so much sugar that we could not help making a wish on each one of them. Vincent Van Gogh would have approved of my star cookies–always frosted in shades of powder, to midnight blue, then dashed with yellow sugar replicating his cosmic sky is a simple way. I am sure the early picture of me featured in this column as a child was taken when I was helping my mom make honey cookies. So baking always takes me back to a time in our Underwood kitchen; Mom guiding us to be bakers and her singing her favorite Christmas carol, Silver Bells. It always feels good to recall this memory.
I was an unusual child; when other buddies were collecting baseball cards I was gathering cookie recipes-and lots of them. It has been a lifelong adventure and one that still brings happiness to me. I never pass up a time to cook or bake in the kitchen. My skills as a carpenter are limited, as well as my skills in basketball or football–but give me a recipe, a well-stocked kitchen and my adrenalin rushes. Just for the record-my grade school pals surely didn’t mind the end result of me being a cookie aficionado! Lydia is now taking an interest in baking cookies and these are some of the tips that we have shared with her.
Chilling dough aids in shaping and rolling out cookies. To speed up chilling of dough, simply place in freezer about 20 minutes for each hour of chilling time indicated in the recipe. If dough is to be rolled out in a rectangle or circle, shaping it into that form before chilling makes the process easier.
Butter that is unsalted seems to work best in cookies. If you should need to soften butter, simply place a bowl large enough to cover the butter in microwave and heat the bowl until warm. Then place the bowl over butter. You will soon have soft butter.
Greasing baking pans with a thin coating of vegetable shortening allows for easy removal of baked cookies. When recipes call for lined pans, a thin layer of shortening will keep parchment paper in place.
Cooling Cookies comes easy if cookies are immediately removed from pan–unless otherwise stated in the recipe. What to do if cookies stick to pan? Remain calm, check your appearance and then return pan to a warm oven for a few minutes to allow cookies to soften. This method allows cookies and baker to look great!
Chewy cookies can come about easier by adding melted butter. Butter is 20 percent water. Melting helps water in butter to mix with flour to form gluten. I learned this in a baking class I took several years ago.
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page