Let’s have a cookie swap. I mean a virtual cookie swap, although if you want to drop off cookies at my house, I will certainly eat them.
Just don’t expect any cookies in return because I’ve been cooking like a maniac and I need a break. My sister had a shoulder operation two days before Thanksgiving, so I cooked two complete Thanksgiving dinners and delivered one to her the day before the feast.
Anyway, back to cookies. I plan to make several batches this month and send them to Mama-san and Papa-san to share with the whole clan in Japan. I want to make delicate, beautiful, refined cookies, which will be difficult because I’m a million-calorie-gooey-cookie kind of person. Those cookies do not appeal to Japanese tastes. The cookies my mother-in-law prizes look like miniature works of art.
They are crisp and thin, with a see-through bit of candied fruit or flower lacquered to top, then slipped into individual cellophane sleeves. She buys them at a century-old artisan bakery in the town where she lives. How can I compete with that?
I can’t, but my cookies were warmly received last year so I’ll give it another go. This week I made crisp lemon cookies from a recipe in my friend Bev Shaffer’s “Cookies to Die For.” Bev, who lives in rural Medina County, was the cooking school director at Mustard Seed Market and before that, she and her husband, John, owned the What’s Cooking? Cookware shop in Bath.
I don’t know how Bev keeps whipping out her “To Die For” cookbooks. The fourth in the series, “Chocolate Desserts to Die For,” was published in September (more info can be found here: http://www.bevshaffer.com/books.
Her Lemon Wafer Crunch cookies are icebox cookies, which means the dough is rolled into a cylinder, refrigerated and sliced for baking. The dough is easy to make, and lemon juice and grated zest give the cookies a powerful lemon punch. Bev coats the edges with coarse sugar crystals for an understated but lovely presentation. I didn’t have coarse sugar on hand, so I got out some gaudy red sanding sugar. And what the heck, as long as I was getting trashy I figured I’d add a bit of leftover whole berry cranberry sauce to half the dough and create spiral cookies. What was I thinking?
My cookies don’t look bad, although there’s no hint of a spiral. I suggest you make the cookies the way God and Bev intended.
One batch down, many more to go because I’m also making cookies for my sister’s family. They like all kinds of cookies, so I’m looking for all kinds of recipes. That’s where the recipe swap comes in . Please send me your very favorite cookie recipe, and I’ll share it next week in my newsletter. Describe the cookie in a couple of sentences. If you have a photo, even better.
With your help, my inlaws and sister will be happy, and the rest of us also can have a very caloric Christmas. I’ll start things off with Bev’s recipe.
LEMON WAFER CRUNCH
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. (10 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp. loosely packed, finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Coarse sugar
Cream together butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Blend in vanilla, zest, and juice, stopping once to scrape sides and bottom.
Mixture will look curdled. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing until blended.
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into an 8-inch-long log and roll in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Twist the ends to seal. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap dough and roll the cylinder in the coarse sugar, pressing gently so sugar crystals adhere, and rocking cylinder back and forth to keep its rounded shape.
Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or just until the edges are a light golden brown. Cool 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.
HELP U COOK
Do your cookies spread too much during baking? The cookie sheets may be too hot. Allow the pans to cool between batches or use different sheets for alternate batches of cookies. Skipping the cooking spray and using parchment paper instead will help, too. One piece of parchment may be used several times, so don’t toss the sheets in the trash until the baking session is done. You’ll know it’s time for a new sheet when the parchment becomes brittle.
From Ellen McIntyre:
I would love to make your brine for my Christmas turkey, but what do you use for a non-metal container? All my large pots are metal. Can I put a brining bag into a metal pot?
Dear Ellen: If you have a food-grade, leak-proof plastic bag, by all means use it. A bag is the best container for brining meat because it allows you to use a smaller amount of brine. When you use a rigid container, you need enough brine to cover the meat. When you use a bag, you need just enough brine to be held against the meat by the bag.
Non-metal containers are recommended for storing salty foods such as brine because salt can pit some metals. Foods that contain acid can discolor some metals, so those foods should be cooked in enamel-clad, cast iron or non-stick pans, and stored in plastic, glass or pottery containers.
From Penny, Medina:
I’m really interested in how you make the cornbread for your stuffing recipe. I’m trying to produce a gluten-free product and not use a wheat-based flour to combine. I do have gluten-free mix if you do not use total corn meal.
Dear Penny: I’m sorry that I didn’t see your e-mail until after the holiday. I’m sure others face the same problem, though, so let’s try to find an answer for future reference (maybe a Christmas turkey). I use the cornbread recipe on the cornmeal box, and it contains wheat flour. An all-cornmeal bread would be very dry and dense. Hopefully, someone else on a gluten-free diet has solved the problem and will let us know.
I have decided to do a turkey breast this year. Can that be brined and if so, for how long?
Dear Sherri: Gaaaa! Another question I missed before Thanksgiving. I’m going to pretend you will roast the turkey breast for Christmas. Maybe you will. Even a couple of hours in brine will improve the texture of turkey. One day is better, and two days is best for a bone-in turkey breast.
OK, Jane, since you asked, here is the recipe for Chocolate Cream Facial Mask from “Chickens in the Road” by Suzanne McMinn (sorry, I can’t personally vouch for it as I haven’t tried it! Sounds good enough to eat!):
“This facial mask is deliciously moisturizing and well worth it. It’s a fun and easy beauty trick to create —right out of you cupboard.
Cocoa powder is for the antioxidants along with honey for nourishment, cream cheese for moisturizing, and oatmeal for conditioning.
CHOCOLATE CREAM FACIAL MASK
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp. cream cheese
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tsp. oatmeal
Combine all the ingredients in a blender for food processor and blend till smooth. It makes a dark, rich concoction that looks like you could frost it on a cake. Transfer to a container.
Use a small spoon or mini popsicle stick to dip into the container and spread it all over your face with your fingers. Let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep several weeks.”
Dear Cheryl: Very interesting, although at my age, using a face mask would be like sending a platoon of Amish to fight Al Qaeda.