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Preview: my little kitchen

my little kitchen

Updated: 2018-03-14T07:25:53.481-04:00




To those of you stopping in by way of the Wall Street Journal, welcome! Mondays with Maida, which Lee Gomes referenced in his column today, is a project I finished last November. Here are links to the full archive for the project, the cookie panel's top ten, and nutrition data for the recipes. You can always find these links in my sidebar as well. I can't recommend the book highly enough - Maida is great and her recipes are delicious. The book I used (which I refer to as the "old book") is out of print, but still available through Jessica's Biscuit. Nearly all the recipes from the book were also reprinted in a later compilation (the "new book") which is still in print and available at Amazon. I'm partial to the old book for sentimental reasons and because of the charming drawings by Maida's daughter.

To my old friends... I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal!! I still think there was some mistake :) The other bloggers mentioned in the article are tackling some truly challenging cookbooks including The French Laundry Cookbook and the Gourmet Cookbook. A weekly batch of cookies seems quite modest in comparison!

Happy Birthday Catelynn!



Catelynn turns one in a few days so family and friends gathered this past Saturday to celebrate. Catelynn was in good spirits all day and was happily passed from mom to gram to auntie to friend needing a "baby fix"...


I volunteered to make cake and cupcakes for the party. The theme was turtles and I got my inspiration from the invitation which had a cute stylized turtle on it. I decided to use marzipan this time (the gum paste I used for the decorations on Cassidy's first birthday cupcakes was tasteless - bleh!). I used chocolate jimmies for the eyes and little white non-pareils to decorate the shells.


David and Stephanie had beautiful springy shades of green and pink for the plates, cups and flatware which coordinated perfectly with the gorgeous tulips brought by Bob and Chuck. Even the green in my little turtles fit in nicely with the display!


Happy first birthday my dear little Catelynn!!!

No excuse...


So I tell you I'm going to post twice a week and then I disappear... completely... for a month. Sorry. I have no excuse - just an unexplainable reluctance to sit down and write lately.

So no more promises. Please keep me in your reader and I'll be here when I'm here. Though I'm having trouble getting the words down, you and this blog are often in my thoughts. I've toyed with the thought of quitting the blog altogether, but there's really no need to be that rash - Blogger is cheap. Even though the writing is harder than usual right now, I still enjoy being part of all this and there are still times when I have something I can't wait to share through my blog.

So what about State by State? I've obviously been having trouble getting going with it, but it is still a project that interests me very much. I'm not going to set a schedule - we'll just see what happens. There's still more to come on Maryland, but eventually (I hope) I'll get to the next state. We'll see :) In the meantime, I have a birthday party to tell you about...

State by State - Maryland: Smith Island Cake


I'm afraid you might begin to think I should have called this series State by State Sweets, but let me regale you with one more sweetie from Maryland - the Smith Island Cake. On Smith Island, these cakes are simply called layer cakes. They can come in just about any flavor, but they're stacked 8, 10, or even 12 layers high - perfect for those who want a little cake with their frosting ;)

Since I have no photo, before we go any further, you must click on over here to get a sense of the proportions. While you're there, take a look at that frosting recipe - doesn't that add up to four pounds of frosting?? Actually, other photos of Smith Island cakes I've seen look more like the tortes they're sometimes compared to, with relatively thin layers of frosting between the cake layers.

Tom Horton's, An Island Out of Time, describes life on the island and introduces the reader to some of its inhabitants, including Mary Ada Marshall. With Smith Island Cake currently in the running for Maryland's state dessert, Mary Ada and her 8-layer cake traveled to Baltimore for a spot on yesterday's morning news. I was thrilled to find this video of the segment - Mary Ada is charming. When asked how long it takes to make one she says, "Some women it might take an hour. I can make one in about 25 minutes." She's not exaggerating either - Tom Horton says he timed her and she could bake and ice an 8-layer cake, wash the pans and put them away in 20 minutes. I wish!

No word yet as to whether the legislature will bestow the title of State Dessert on the Smith Island Cake, but I promise I'll keep you posted!

State by State - Maryland: Berger Cookies



A Berger cookie begs the question, is there such a thing as too much chocolate icing? When my mail-ordered boxes arrived several months back, I wasn't so sure the answer wasn't yes. The dark chocolate icing certainly was enticing, but the size of the cookie was intimidating. Despite my initial skepticism, I had no trouble eating every last crumb of my Berger cookie and my officemates quickly polished off two boxes of them. Too much icing? Phhhhffft!

I barely remember the cookie itself, which is overshadowed in every respect by a generous half-inch of that dark fudgy icing, but it was a firm, cakey cookie. It much resembles the familiar black and white cookie from New York, but it has lots of black and no white.

I had not heard of them until I started hunting around for a cookie that hailed from Maryland, but they apparently have legions of fans. They have been made in Baltimore since the 1800's and according to DeBaufre Bakeries, which makes them today, the recipe is little changed from the original.


My attempts to find a recipe for the cookies were less than successful. I found a recipe for Suzanne Laubheimer's Version of the Famous Berger Cookie (scroll down - it's the second recipe), but the icing clearly wasn't right (just melted chocolate chips) and I was suspicious that the cookie wasn't close either when I read the instructions to shape the dough into one-inch balls and flatten with a glass. I decided to use a black and white cookie recipe for the cookie and the fudge icing recipe from a half moon cookie recipe. I ended up with a cookie in the spirit of a Berger cookie (lots of icing, though I didn't have the guts to pile it on to the degree you find on a Berger cookie), but just not the same. If I try this again I would use a cocoa-based fudge icing for a darker flavor and color.

Next time - A state dessert for Maryland?

State by State - Maryland


Well, I promised I'd be back in February to begin State by State... and I've only got a few more minutes to make good on my promise! We'll see how things evolve, but right now I'd say my plan is not to try to be comprehensive, but for each state to talk about a few food-related topics that catch my fancy for one reason or another. As I ease back into this blogging business, I'll probably be keeping the posts rather short... but I plan to post a couple times a week.

I'll be focusing on Maryland during the month of March. I've lived here since 1964, but I feel that I hardly know the state. When you think of Maryland, what comes to mind? I expect it is probably something to do with the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's vast coastline (over 7000 miles - can it really be?). I've only visited Maryland's eastern shore once and my only memories of it are sailing on a friend-of-a-friend's rickety trimaran, and stopping at a McDonald's that was across the street from a Perdue plant (feathers EVERYwhere). So this area that is so quintessentially Maryland is almost completely foreign to me. I hope to remedy that someday.

Oh my gosh... three minutes until March... must post!

Anyway, for this evening I'll leave you with this - a story I heard on the news the other day. It pleases me no end to hear about something like this happening where I live... Maryland :)

Next time - Baltimore's famous cookies

Out damn spot...


As you can see, my blog has a new look - no more spots. I have been wanting to update my template for a very long time and finally took the plunge. At the moment what I have is a bare bones template, but I'm planning to maybe add some color and certainly to do something about the header. At the moment, I'm just happy to finally have full use of labels!

If something looks funny or doesn't seem to be working right - please let me know. So far the switch has been relatively painless, which leaves me thinking that disaster will strike soon.

update: question - do you all see the little tools link below each page element in the sidebar? I thought they would go away when I signed out from Blogger, but they didn't.

101 Things in 1001 Days


This idea has been around for a while, but when I saw another mention of it on the Pink of Perfection along with the thought that we should put some fun into our resolutions, I was sold. I've got a good start on a list, but I'm not quite up to 101 things. I hope this isn't too much information, but my list is mostly about making and cooking, so it seems appropriate to put it here. Most importantly, posting it will (I think) help make it so - if I just made a list and didn't tell anyone about it, I could just as easily throw away the list and not tell anyone.So here it is so far. With my cooking "things", I want to push myself to try techniques or foods I've been avoiding (though I haven't worked up the courage to put mushrooms on the list). With books I hope to make a dent in the unread piles in my house and similarly with sewing and knitting, I'd like to make some headway in the stash I've accumulated over the years and finish projects started long ago. That fuzzy beige sweater you see listed below? I started it 28 years ago - yikes! I'm not fooling myself that every single thing is really going to happen, but if even half of it does I'll be thrilled! I have 23 more "things" to add to the list - any suggestions?Try tempering chocolateTry canning dried beans (I’m getting a pressure canner) Start building a pantry for the winter by canning some summer produce Cook with artichokesCook with avocadosCook with tempehCook with seitanMake puff pastry from scratchFind a tofu recipe I really likeWeave napkins for myself Weave a simple blanket with doubleweave Weave a project using 8/2 cotton from stash Weave another project using 8/2 cotton from stash (I have LOTS of 8/2 cotton) Weave and sew a project using 20/2 cotton from stash Try rep weave (sampling) Try summer and winter (sampling) Weave a gift for someone Get up to speed with Fiberworks PCW (which I’ve had for years now) and design/document all of the projects above with it Read Breathless in Bombay (and review for LibraryThing) Read Sitting Practice (and review for LibraryThing) Read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma Read The Amateur Marriage Read Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d’Orcia Read Happiness Sold Separately Read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse Read The Blind Assassin Read The Known World Read The Poisonwood BibleRead The God of Small ThingsRead Drowning RuthRead The Pilot's WifeRead Back When We Were GrownupsRead Animal Vegetable Miracle - finished 1/30/2008Finish Catelynn’s stocking - finished 1/18/2008 Finish fuzzy beige sweater Make another felted critter (maybe an original design this time?) Make Sock Monkey hat for CassidyMake Flower Power hat for CatelynnKnit socks for myselfMake a sweater using yarn from stashMake a felted purse or toteMake Christmas stockings for Waldo and Kitty (no angora Santa beards though!!) Knit at least one item to donate to charity from my stash Make a sock monkey for Catelynn Make a Cathy original - now that I’ve made a Christina original :) Try creating a pants pattern from my favorite (and best-fitting) pants Sew some more with Christina Sew a garment with fabric from my stash Sew a little gifty thing with fabric from my stash Make a miniature teddy bear Switch to new Blogger template - done 1/22/2008 Customize template with my own header, etc. - done 2/3/2008 Launch State by State (will check off once Maryland is done) Post belated review of The Breakaway Cook Post belated review of Educating Peter Post belated review of Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant Post about three “last chance cookbooks” Purchase floor lamp for study Clean and organize the basement Get dryer vented to outside Paint inside Finish bedroom curtains Window treatment for study Clean up and plant herb garden Make a list and get that nice handyman to come back Set up TreasuryDirect account - done 1/6/2008 [...]

Crochet: Betcha don't have potholders like these!


OK, just one more potholder post - I promise! After finishing with yesterday's post I remembered some potholders my mom had. Then it occurred to me I probably had them somewhere. I dug around in all the likely places (NOT the kitchen) and found them! My mom had pinned a note to them indicating that they had been made by her Great Aunt Emma and given to my mom at her bridal shower. I wish I could say more so you'd have to scroll down to see the photo... because they really should be revealed with a big TA-DA...


Yup - they're his and hers and they've got openings at the top and legholes just like the garments they're modeled after. They're a little two-dimensional, but that's sort of a requirement for potholders. I don't think these potholders have ever done duty in the kitchen, though with those handy loops perhaps I should hang them on the fridge just as a conversation starter!

Crochet: Old Fashioned Potholders


If you're looking for a last-minute homemade holiday gift for someone who likes to cook, how about some potholders? I grew up with potholders like this - they'd been crocheted for years by various women in my mother's family. I think some of the potholders we used (and possibly some of the ones I still use) may have even been made by my great-grandmother. The older potholders are typically yellow and white or red and white, but once my sister and I started making them we naturally gravitated to all kinds of colors and even those garish variegated threads.I made the pair above for Bob two Christmases ago and they pretty much follow the pattern of their predecessors - a dark center with a good-sized white middle enclosed by a dark border. I was running out of blue so I introduced a third color in the one on the right, but that's probably as heretical as using variegated thread :) The older ones in my possession have the remnants of little picots at each corner of the border, but I never figured out how to do those and frankly was never inclined - it's a potholder after all!I think I learned to crochet by making these potholders. It was either my mother or Auntie Bee that showed me how, though it's not a pattern that's written down (until now) or memorized. I don't know about the earlier potholder-makers in my family, but I can't make one without having a completed one to look at. I've never felt that I made the middles quite right, since I always end up with a little larger (often lopsided) hole in the middle, but I think these instructions will set you in the right direction and then you can refine them to your liking. Switch colors as you like - it's your potholder!I'll apologize in advance about this pattern - I'm not well acquainted with crochet patterns, so this may not be very clear. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!The potholder is made of two identical pieces (though the color patterns need not be the same) that are joined by one more round that is worked through both pieces. I use a size 7 steel crochet hook with regular (size 10) cotton crochet thread.Chain 7 (or less - I was just thinking that maybe there's a sneaky way to do this on just a loop of thread so you could pull it tight and close up that little hole in the middle) and join to form a loop.I usually join each round by pulling a loop through and then chaining two.Round 1 - work 10 single crochet (sc) in the loop and join.Round 2 - work 2 double crochet (dc) in each sc (20 dc total) and join.Round 3 - work 2 dc in each dc (actually it's really in the spaces between the dc) (40 dc total) and join.Round 4 - in this round you establish the "corners" of the potholder where all the remaining increases will occur. Work 4 dc in the space between the first two pairs of dc and then 2 dc in each of the next 3 spaces. Repeat this four more times and join.Rounds 5 - 11 (you can do more or less depending on the size potholder you want) - continue in the same way as round 4, always working 4 dc at each corner and 2 dc in the spaces.** Update 8/16/08 - I just made a couple potholders by following the pattern as I wrote it here and realized that 11 rounds is a little small. I'd recommend 12 to 13 rounds for each piece and then join with another round as described below. **When done, join, cut the thread and pull it through. Weave cut thread ends into the wrong side of the potholder to secure them and hide them. Work the other piece of the potholder in the same way, but don't cut the thread.To join the two pieces, put the wrong sides together and work one more round in the established pattern. For this round you'll need to work through both sides, being careful that they are lined up correctly. When done, join, pull the thread through and weave in the end.I think these potholders improve with age - they ten[...]

Finally...What's Next


I'm so sorry... I fully intended to write about my plans for after Mondays with Maida two weeks ago. But between Thanksgiving and being rather lazy, it just didn't happen. Part of the problem may be that I'm not feeling quite ready to get started on it, so let's consider this just a little sneak peek to tide you over until the "official" announcement - OK?

I've been thinking for several months that I'd like to examine American regional cuisine by looking at one state at a time and trying to figure out what foods are typical of each state. I started looking around some on-line and reading a little and quickly came to the conclusion that in order to get a grasp on the nature of a particular state's cuisine, I would also have to learn something of its agriculture and history. Throw in there an interest in food festivals, state fairs, and a wish to include food blogs, and you might begin to see my problem... maybe scope creep?

I obviously still need to sort out some details, but here's the general plan... I will focus on one state per month starting first with the states where I have lived and then moving on to those I have visited and finally on to those that are completely new to me. I'm calling the project "State by State" (and if you're familiar with Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, you'll know why). I plan to end each month with a post that is sort of a reference for the state, including a directory of food blogs based in that particular state, books I used, etc.

I'm going to start in February with Maryland. After that will come Massachusetts, North Carolina, Vermont, and New York. After that? We'll see :)

Between now and then I'm going to enjoy the Christmas season and I'm planning to take Zarah up on her invitation to "join the madness" as she calls it. I won't be posting daily as she is, but I would like to do a few seasonal posts. Then in January I hope to finally do a little redecorating around here: switch to a new Blogger template so I can take full advantage of tags, etc., and get a new look.

So that's what's coming - guess I'd better get busy :)

45 Pounds of butter later...



Honestly, I was afraid it was going to be more than that, but even at 45 pounds, that's 180 sticks of butter - more than one stick per recipe! Here's a few more numbers to marvel at:
  • 210 eggs
  • 256 cups of flour (and that doesn't even include whole wheat, etc.)
  • 178 cups of sugar (including granulated, brown and powdered sugar)
  • over 24 pounds of nuts
  • almost a pint of vanilla extract
  • over a cup each of baking powder and baking soda
  • almost a cup of cinnamon
There were five of you who took a stab at guessing the totals for butter, eggs, flour and sugar. The way I calculated a score for each contender was to divide the difference between the guess and the actual number by the actual number and then sum those results for each of the four guesses. The lowest score wins. Here are the results:

Lisa guessed 37 lbs of butter, 150 eggs, 250 cups of flour, and 150 cups of sugar, giving her the best score of 0.644

Nupur guessed 35 lbs of butter, 150 eggs, 200 cups of flour, and 250 cups of sugar, giving her a score of 1.131

Claire guessed 75 lbs of butter, 200 eggs, 300 cups of flour, and 250 cups of sugar, giving her a score of 1.291

Mari guessed 20 lbs of butter, 130 eggs, 130 cups of flour, and 70 cups of sugar (what an optimist!), giving her a score of 2.035

Elijah guessed 50 lbs of butter, 120 eggs, 500 cups of flour, and 400 cups of sugar, giving him a score of 2.740

So Lisa wins it! Congratulations! Nupur and Clare are the runners up. Clare is the only one of the three that wanted a copy of the book, so she wins the copy of Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. Since Lisa is had the best score, she can choose which of the other two prizes (the small appetizer tray or the pewter pushpins) she'd like and then the other prize goes to Nupur. Thanks to all the guessers! Winners - send me an email with your address and I'll send your prize on it's way!

Top Cookie


Nine of my personal top ten from Maida Heatter's Book of Great CookiesOh what a struggle! Limiting the list to ten was actually the easy part, ranking them was near impossible. I have a feeling if I did this again in a day or so, the order would be very different. The nine runners-up are pictured above and listed below. Top Cookie (which after all the angst was the one thing I was sure about) is pictured below. If there's one thing I've learned after making and serving all these cookies, it's that everyone has a different idea about what makes a good cookie. I doubt anyone else would choose the same cookies I did for their own personal top ten, but I'm certain any cookie lover will find at least one to love on this list...10. Austrian Walnut Crescents9. Plain Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies8. Tijuana Fiesta Cookies7. Chocolate Mint Sticks6. Hamantaschen5. Pumpkin Rocks4. Viennese Chocolate Walnut Bars3. Texas Cowboy Bars2. Cobblestonesand drumroll please! Top Cookie is...........1. Big Newtons!!!!!!!By the way, I just discovered that Jessica's Biscuit redesigned their site and all the links in my past Mondays with Maida posts to the "old book" are now obsolete. They still carry the book though, and I've put the updated link at the top of this post. For under $13, it's a steal - I think I can say that with authority :)Don't forget to post your guesses in the comments by Thursday night - see here and here for more details.Finally, huge thanks to the members of the cookie panel past and present. They did what I couldn't - rate the cookies - and in the process made it fun for everyone. So, thank you Phil, Suzanne, Denny, Laura, Terri, Drucie and Herman - I honestly couldn't have done it without you!! (And don't forget about their Top Ten list, which is quite different from mine.)[...]

My Favorite "Et Cetera" Cookies


Love it when I miraculously capture a curly wisp of steam. Love these tea bags from Bob and Chuck too. The Almond Tartlets weren't bad either, but didn't quite make it to my list of favorites.This is a chapter of cookies that didn't fit into any of the previous chapters, so it's sort of hard to characterize them as a group. There were several tartlets, several baked as loaves and then sliced, and a smattering of others. Many were beautiful to look at, but few achieved cookie greatness - or have I become jaded and hard-to-please when it comes to cookies? Others have suggested to me (and I think it is true) that the order that the cookies were presented to the cookie panel probably had some bearing on their scores. I'm sure the same is true for me - the first chapter was approached with great enthusiasm, this last with a sense of obligation.This chapter was heavy on the almonds and I feel to a certain extent that the almonds let me down more than the recipes. In almost every case I'd be inclined to toast the almonds if I were to try the recipe again. This chapter also had some of the most challenging recipes - the tartlets aren't difficult, but they do take time - lots of it. And there must be a trick to those macaroons that has escaped me.But in spite of my waning interest and technical difficulties, there were still a handful of recipes that I would make again in a heartbeat. So without further ado, here are my favorites...These moist and chewy, sweet and spicy Connecticut Date Slices are the pinnacle of cookie comfort!This is one of those cookies that gave me some difficulty, but in spite of my troubles these Fudge Délices truly were delights!On the other hand, making these Black-and-White Rusks really was fun and the resulting orange and chocolate cookies? Heaven! In fact, they narrowly lost out to the next cookie as my very favorite...Hard on the teeth and not much to look at, but these simple Hazelnut Rusks let all those fragrant hazelnuts shine through. Eat them plain if you dare, or dunk them in your hot beverage of choice - either way, I think you'll love them as much as I did.Almost done! All that's left is to name my own personal top ten from the book and reveal the winners of my little guessing game. There's still time to post your guesses about the total pounds of butter, number of eggs, cups of flour and cups of sugar (all kinds) required to make each recipe in the book once. I have one copy of the old book and a couple of other small prizes (a small maple appetizer tray from J.K. Adams in Vermont and a set of pewter pushpins with a culinary theme) to award to the closest guessers. All answers must be posted in the comments by midnight EST Thursday, November 15th.If you just stumbled here from Google or elsewhere, we're talking about Maida Heatter 's wonderful book of cookies called Maida Heatter's Book of Great Cookies. The book is out of print but still available as a remainder, used, or in your library. All but one of the recipes were also reprinted in the newer Maida Heatter's Cookies which also includes cookie recipes from a couple of her other books. Read about my little project here and start here if you're interested in exploring my earlier posts.[...]

Mondays with Maida - Cheese Pennies


Page 269 in the old book / page 287 in the new bookThis is it - the VERY LAST ONE!! But before the celebrating begins, I've got some business to attend to - these Cheese Pennies. I've seen recipes like this before and honestly wasn't all that excited about this one before I made it, but I wound up being nearly as enthusiastic as the cookie panel. First I like the size - despite the name, these are a generous 2+ inches across; second- the dough is easy to mix, shape and slice; and finally they taste great.I used 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne (actually, red chilli powder from the Indian grocery which I think is the same) and to my taste you would want no less. They had a warmth and spicy bite to them, but not so much to make you run for a glass of water. With 8 ounces of cheese and 4 ounces of butter, these are very rich crackers. The hot pepper heightens the cheese flavor and cuts through that richness - sort of like very nippy Cheez-it crackers.I think the instructions given for toasting sesame seeds are fairly standard, but I found the time and or the temperature were way too much. When you start smelling them you should watch them carefully. Instead of the recommended 15 or 20 minutes (at 350 F), I'd start checking after 6 or 7 minutes.The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, which makes this a great do-ahead recipe for a dinner or party. Slicing them is a breeze - the dough holds together really well and there is nothing in the dough (like nuts or seeds) to catch on the knife. Maida says not to put the dough in the freezer, but I think that is just because you don't want to slice it frozen. I'm guessing you could freeze it and then let it thaw in the refrigerator for a day or two if you wanted to mix the dough more than a few days ahead.I thought for sure Denny would cut me a break and not dock points for no chocolate in a cheese cracker, but nooo... Here's the panel ...Suzanne: "First of all I love anything with sesames and I also love cheese. So I was in seventh heaven with the crackers. Cathy used a sharp cheddar cheese with quite a zing to it. I needed a drink of water to cut the sharpness of the cheddar. I’d like to thank Cathy for making me famous by asking me to be a participant in her blog. I’m sure my prophetic words will go down in cookie history. Each week, the whole office lived in anticipation wondering what delicious cookie Cathy would bring in to entice our palettes. In sincerity, it has been a pleasure knowing Cathy and being part of the blog. I’ll be reading your blog from California. Rating - 5.0"Denny: "The taste really surprised me because I didn't know what they were. These were excellent - light and tasty. 4.0 which is the highest you can get with the -1 no chocolate penalty. Rating - 4.0"Laura: "Spicy and cheesy with a nutty crunchy sesame topping. Very yum! Rating - 4.5"Terri: "These would make a delicious appetizer. Cheesy, spicy and not too filling. I would love to eat them with a glass of red wine! The sesame seeds on top add a nice texture. Rating - 5.0"Overall rating by the panel - 4.6And that is all she wrote! But it's not quite all I wrote... tomorrow I'll share my favorites from the chapter and then Wednesday I'll compile my own top 10 list from the book.OK, Here comes the celebration part... just for fun, I'll tally up how much butter, nuts, flour, sugar, etc. I used during the course of this project. Anyone want to hazard a guess? Leave a comment with your best guesses to the answers to these questions: 1) How many pounds of butter? 2) How many eggs? 3) How many cups of flour? 4) How many cups of sugar (all kinds totaled together)? Also let me know if you have a copy of the book or not (or [...]

Mondays with Maida - Marshmallows


Page 267 in the old book / page 293 in the new bookNo more cookies, but Maida ends the book with a couple of lagniappes. First up - marshmallows. If you've never made marshmallows before, it's worth doing at least once. It's really not difficult, and the end result is very satisfying. Maida points out that few people know what marshmallows are made of, and my experience was similar. In fact, one person seemed to think I had made my marshmallows from... marshmallows!Marshmallows are made from gelatin and a sugar syrup (actually a combination of sugar and corn syrup). The hot sugar syrup is beaten into the gelatin, forming a dense foam that sets as it cools. Maida's recipe uses only vanilla as the flavoring, but Jocelyn over at Brownie Points gives a recipe for strawberry marshmallows along with lots of flavor variations. When you figure in coatings, etc., the possibilities are truly limitless.I have it on good authority that Maida Heatter's mixer of choice is an old Sunbeam, so I was a little concerned that the 15 minutes beating time would be too much with a Kitchenaid. I decided to use the paddle rather than the whip (the last time I made marshmallows the recipe called for a whip attachment and had a beating time of 5 to 7 minutes). Beware - there'll be hot syrup flying around at first, so I wouldn't crank it all the way up right away. I started at 6 and moved up to 8, then briefly to 10, but decided to keep it at 8. I didn't think about using the pouring shield until afterwards, but if you have one use it. I beat the mixture about 13 minutes and then started worrying about the mixer overheating and decided that was enough. In fact, it was probably too long - I had trouble spreading the mixture in the pan. Rather than using aluminum foil and shortening, I lined the pan with parchment and oiled the parchment lightly.Here's the panel ...Suzanne: "Yum! These were delicious. I could definitely have a few of these. The marshmallows had just the right amount of sweetness. I’d love them in hot chocolate or roasting them over a fire. Rating - 5.0"Denny: "I'm not a marshmallow person, except for s'mores, but these were very good. 3.0 with -1 penalty. Rating - 3.0"Laura: "Yummy and gooey... like a spoonful of fluff dipped in powder sugar. Rating - 4.5"Terri: "These are much better than the store-bought-in-a-bag type marshmallow. The difference is they aren't as airy and they're softer. Absolutely delicious! Can't wait to try them on hot chocolate tonight. Rating - 5.0"Overall rating by the panel - 4.4Next week - Cheese PenniesNutrition Facts[...]

Mondays with Maida - Palm Island Brandy Snaps


Page 264 in the old book / recipe is not in the new bookThere are still a couple more recipes in the book, but this is the last cookie! At first I was feeling a little let down with this recipe, but the next day my impression changed somewhat. These cookies are not satisfying in the way a crunchy/chewy cookie with raisins or chocolate chips would be, but they do have a pleasing, fragile texture and lots of flavor.These are actually drop cookies that spread out to an ultra-thin layer. After cooling for a bit, they are rolled around the handle of a wooden spoon to form tubes. I didn't try Maida's serving suggestion - rolling them around something wider like cannoli tubes and filling them with whipped cream - but they could easily be turned into a very elegant dessert. I think the whipped cream would be a really nice contrast to the strong molasses and ginger flavor of the cookies. Maida explains that the recipe is an old one from England and that the filled tubes would be served with satin ribbons tied around them(!)Maida also goes on that they are "fun to make". Welllllll.... if your idea of fun is handling molten sugar with your bare hands, then yes, these are most definitely fun! They may not make the cut as "fun", but they are easy, though I did end up with some sore fingers. They are also time-consuming, since you bake just five cookies at a time.What surprised me was that despite the difficulties of handling something so hot, the hot cookies were relatively sturdy, so rolling them wasn't the problem I envisioned. When properly cooled, they resemble (hot) fruit leather, so there is little risk of them tearing. The trick is giving them just enough time to cool. With my first batch I waited the prescribed one and a half to two minutes, but found the cookie was impossible to pick up. I assumed they were undercooked and put them back in the oven. Later, though, I realized that the problem was that they need more cooling (rather than cooking) time. I found the 8 minutes for baking was perfect, but that 2 minutes cooling wasn't enough - 3 minutes worked well for me. I suppose the cooling time may vary depending on how much heat your cookie sheets retain, so try them at 2 minutes, but then wait another minute if you can't easily lift the edge of the cookie with a knife or thin spatula. If the edges of the cookie become brittle before you've rolled them, you've cooled them a little too long.Here's the panel (don't worry, the panel WILL be back for the last two recipes despite what appear to be parting comments from Suzanne and Denny)...Suzanne: "I was really looking forward to the last cookie being extra special. Unfortunately, I don’t care for anything with ginger in it. The cookie was very attractive, tubular in shape and shiny. I took two bites of the cookie but wasn’t able to finish it since it has such a strong ginger taste. I know Cathy put a lot of time and effort into making the cookie and felt bad that my last comment couldn’t be favorable. I do think it’s fitting that the end of the book falls during the same week that I am retiring. Otherwise, I would need to come back weekly from California to taste the cookies and write my comments. This has been great fun, Cathy and I will keep reading your blog in my retirement. Rating - 1.0"Denny: "Very good. Light and fancy with an almost chocolate flavor. Great "show" cookies. Since they taste almost chocolate, I only gave them a minus .5, so my rating in 4.5. A great ending to a long arduous journey. Yuk Yuk. Thanks very much. Rating - 4.5"Laura: "These are yummy! They are light and crunchy and candy-like. They almost melt in your mouth.[...]

Mondays with Maida - Black-and-White Rusks


Page 262 in the old book / page 279 in the new bookThese two biscotti-like cookies - last week's Hazelnut Rusks and this week's Black-and-White Rusks - have left me wishing there were more like them in the book. I've had little prior experience with this type of cookie, but have especially enjoyed these two. Fortunately, there's a whole chapter of biscotti to be explored in Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies!These lovely two-toned cookies have two flavors as well. The outer layer has grated orange zest in it and the middle has some melted chocolate added to it. Forming the roll isn't difficult and the dough is generally easy to handle, though I did find the chocolate dough became somewhat brittle with time. This is another cookie for you former Play-Doh lovers :-) Both the middle and outer layers are rolled on a board into long ropes. The outer layer is flattened and then pulled up around the middle chocolate rope. The long oval shape of the individual slices is achieved by cutting on a very sharp angle after baking.These cookies are a little easier on the teeth than last week's, thanks to half a cup of oil in the recipe, but they are still quite crunchy. The combination of chocolate and orange is wonderful and their looks and durability would make them ideal for holiday gift giving and even mailing.Here's the panel (don't listen to Denny)...Suzanne: "Delicious! I love everything about this cookie. I love the smell of the orange and the crunchiness of the cookie. The cookie was so attractive with its thin, angular shape and chocolate in the center. I’m sure I will be eating more then one of these cookies. Rating - 5.0"Denny: "OK, but not much flavor. Maybe they should be thrice-baked with a real good cookie on top and another on the bottom. Even with the chocolate I could only give them a 2.0. Rating - 2.0"Laura: "Zesty orange flavor with a hint of chocolate. Yum! A little more crunchy than I usually like, but it works for this cookie. Rating - 4.0"Terri: "These are very much like biscotti and very tasty with the touch of chocolate in the middle. These are quite crunchy but would be perfect with tea or coffee. The slight orange taste adds a nice touch of flavor! Rating - 3.5"Overall rating by the panel - 3.6Next week - Palm Island Brandy SnapsNutrition Facts[...]

Blog Action Day 2007


Today is Blog Action Day - a day for bloggers to help get people thinking and talking about the environment. These days the environment is on everyone's mind as things like global warming become reality and not just a future worry. If you're not already convinced that you personally need to take steps to try to minimize your impact on the environment, I will leave the convincing to other, more eloquent writers (thousands of which you should be hearing from today). But if you like me have come to the realization that you must make an effort, however small, to minimize your impact on the environment, then let me toss out a few ideas. The basic goal is to use less. Most of these aren't terribly original, but it's a start...You've heard it before - eat local. Eating local reduces the resources required to transport your food. My produce purchases got a little more local this year... I used to make regular trips to the farmers market at Dupont Circle which took me about an hour each way by car and subway. I expect I'll still make occasional visits, but I've now started frequenting a nearby (3 miles from my house) farmers market and have signed up with one of the three farmers there for her CSA next year. I obviously do much better with this in the growing season than in the winter, but I'm trying at least to be conscious of where my food originates and choosing the closer location when possible. I weigh in other factors, including cost and whether or not it's organic, so I don't always go with the most local product, but at least it now figures into my purchasing decisions (which was not the case a year ago).Use a pressure cooker. Fond as I've become of Indian cooking, I guess it was inevitable that I would purchase a pressure cooker. The vegetarian cuisines of India make good use of beans and lentils in whole and split form (dal) and a pressure cooker makes preparing them so much easier. So what's the benefit for the environment? Pressure cooking reduces the cooking time (and therefore the energy required) by half to two thirds. I think many people my age regard pressure cookers with a little trepidation - my mother used hers (a gift from my dad) once or twice to make my dad happy, but feared it for its reputation of being prone to violent explosions of hot liquid. You can put those fears aside if you buy a modern pressure cooker - there are so many safety devices incorporated into the design these days that you'd have to work pretty hard to get the thing to explode.Don't pay for water in your food. No, I'm not talking about bottled water (but if you're buying bottled water, you really should reconsider), I'm talking about water in processed products. I remember talking with Nupur about coconut milk - she was using some in that marvelous pasta dish she'd whipped up and I brought up the subject of "lite" coconut milk. She dismissed the product saying that it was just watered down coconut milk and she wasn't going to pay for water. The more I think about that statement, the more I see the wisdom in it. When there's water added to a product in manufacturing, you end up paying to transport that water and maybe even for extra packaging to contain the water. For example, If you eat lots of beans, you can save a small fortune cooking dried beans (with your new pressure cooker! ) rather than buying canned beans. By purchasing a pound of dried beans you're purchasing a product that weighs (and costs) less than one can of beans and getting something that provides over three times the quantity of cooked beans.Don't pay for water in your cleaning produc[...]

Mondays with Maida - Hazelnut Rusks


Page 260 in the old book / page 277 in the new bookI guess Maida's cookie book was written before biscotti were all the rage. Maida describes this recipe as an old German recipe and there's nary a mention of those other twice-baked cookies we've come to know and love as biscotti. To head off any complaints that the cookies were too hard or lawsuits related to chipped teeth, I warned everyone that they were indeed like biscotti and advised they might want to dunk the cookies in their favorite hot beverage to soften them up. Some dunked, others braved dental disaster and ate them dry, but everyone (including me) enjoyed these tasty cookies.I had toasted the nuts very lightly beforehand because I was worried that they were bland. I had purchased them blanched rather then attempting to remove the skins myself (a task that I find particularly onerous). I'm not sure what process is used commercially to remove hazelnut skins, but my guess is that it is not toasting followed by rubbing the nuts in a dishtowel - the nuts I'd purchased appeared to have been mechanically abraded and sure didn't taste toasted. Anyway, five minutes in the oven perked them right up and perfumed my kitchen as well. Is there any nut with a more heavenly scent than the hazelnut?The cookies were very easy to make. The one step I worried about just a little was neatly slicing the baked cookie strips. I remember the first time I ever made biscotti I had a terrible time cutting through the nuts. That was thankfully not the case this time around, thanks to my bread-knife. The only trouble I did have was getting those half-inch slices to stand upright for the second baking - they were acting more like dominoes then cookies!Here's the panel...Suzanne: "The Hazelnut Rusks were delicious. They reminded me of the mandel bread cookies that my aunt used to make. They were definitely hard and yes, I did need to dunk them to soften them up, but the dunking was part of the fun. This was a great morning breakfast cookie. Rating - 4.0"Denny: "Excellent. Just a tad too crunchy. I considered suspending my No Chocolate penalty because they were so good, but I've got to be consistent. I'd give them a 4.0 with the -1 no chocolate penalty. I could even taste the hazelnuts. Rating - 4.0"Laura: "Very tasty, once dunked! (Without dunking, they are indeed very hard.) Rating - 3.5"Terri: "These are definitely like biscotti and were delicious dipped in my coffee! Since they're twice baked, they're crunchier than usual, but very tasty. The hazelnuts are delicious. Very good, but maybe not for anyone worried about losing fillings or chipping a tooth! Only kidding - they're not that hard! Rating - 3.5"Overall rating by the panel - 3.8Next week - Black-and-White RusksNutrition Facts[...]

Mondays with Maida - Basler Brunsli


Page 258 in the old book / page 276 in the new book

At times like this, I find myself wishing there were a few photos in the book. These cookies are supposed to be bars, but between my messy cutting and a dough that probably could have (and should have) been stiffer, they were more like squarish blobs. But I'm not going to complain much, because aside from appearance they turned out as advertised. They were indeed "light colored and crisp on the outside -- dark, moist, and chewy on the inside".

And sweet. Oh my gosh are they sweet. They have a lovely complex flavor, that tempers the sweetness slightly, but these cookies are still achingly sweet. Several ingredients contribute to their unique taste - chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, and kirschwasser. No one dominates, instead they meld together into something that is dark and delicious.

The dough, which is basically a meringue with ground almonds and the above mentioned chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and kirsch, is formed into a rectangle and left for an hour to firm up before being cut into bars. My dough was still pretty soft and gooey, so even though I managed to cut the bars using a wet knife as Maida suggested, I found they had generally healed up by the time I got around to transferring them to the cookie sheets. Next time I would cut a row at a time and move them before cutting more. Once on the cookie sheets the bars must sit for another four hours before baking, so this is a recipe you plan your day around :)

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The spices really threw me off. They taste like they should be in a pumpkin pie, but here they are in a meringue cookie with almonds and chocolate. This is a very interesting and different taste. Meringue cookies are not my favorite since they tend to be so sweet, but because they were so different I’ll rate them as a 4. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "OK, minus one for not tasting like chocolate with all the spices. Unusual taste - not bad, just unusual. Couldn't taste the almonds either. Rating - 2.0"

Laura: "Crunchy exterior with melt-in-your-mouth chew gooey nutty insides. Yum! Rating - 4.5"

Terri: "These are outstanding! These meringue type cookies are very tasty with a wonderful assortment of spices. Just the right amount of chocolate and almonds too. As with meringue cookies, these are on the sweeter side. Rating - 5.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.9

Next week - Hazelnut Rusks

Nutrition Facts

Mondays with Maida - Swedish Fried Twists


Page 256 in the old book / page 274 in the new bookIn spite of my dislike of deep fat frying, these cookies were actually fun to make. Rolling the dough was a little difficult (perhaps I kneaded it a little too long or vigorously), but other than that the dough was easily handled. Cutting the cookies is very simple - they are just rectangles with a slot cut in them. That little twist is easy enough - just pull one end of the rectangle through the slot. Best of all, though, is watching them cook. You drop that funny looking little bit of dough into the hot oil and up rises a puffy, beautifully shaped cookie.Now if only they tasted half so good. In spite of some mighty exotic ingredients (cognac and cardamom), these cookies are exceedingly bland. In fact in the header note Maida herself even calls them "extremely plain". Why then? Why does practically every country have a variation of this cookie to call its own? I don't get it and I'm a little bummed that I bought a bottle of cognac in order to put two tablespoons into a cookie where it wouldn't even be noticed. You know me though, I'll probably keep that bottle until the day I die (as well as that old bottle of savory), so it's bound to come in handy for something between now and then. If you don't have cognac, and are intent on making these, I'm sure you could swap in something else (orange juice, rum...) or even replace the cognac with a little extra cream.The fact that the whole world loves these cookies makes me wonder if I did something wrong. Maybe they were cooked too long or maybe something went wrong in the frying. I monitored the temperature of the oil closely, but used a fairly small pan, which meant that I could only cook two or three at a time and so had the oil heated for a quite a while. A dusting of confectioner's sugar perks these cookies up slightly, but not enough to make a repeat appearance in my kitchen likely.Here's the panel...Suzanne: "As I discussed with Cathy, the taste didn’t remind me of a cookie. Actually, the taste reminded me of Chinese food. I couldn’t taste the cognac or cardamom. They were very attractive with a twist and powdered sugar on top. The cookie tasted very plain and you could definitely taste the oil from frying the cookie. Sorry, Cathy, I know you put a lot of work into this cookie, but my rating is .5. Rating - 0.5"Denny: "OK. They looked a little like pizelle dough, so I was prepared for the anise which I don't like. I was pleasantly surprised when the anise wasn't there so that makes them better than pizelles. -1 for chocolate give them a 2.0 by my tastebuds. Rating - 2.0"Laura: "Okay flavor, but a little too oily for my liking. Perhaps if eaten just after being made (i.e. still hot) would have been better (though I know logistically that would be impossible). Rating - 3.0"Overall rating by the panel - 1.8Next week - Basler BrunsliNutrition Facts[...]

Mondays with Maida - French Sugar Fans


Page 254 in the old book / page 273 in the new bookI like these cookies, but I'm not convinced they're worth the effort. Don't get me wrong - they were very good and went over well in the office, but the dough was difficult to handle. They're basically sugar cookies with two big things going for them: their looks and their lemony flavor.I love the idea of the fan shape, which is particularly suited to serving with ice cream. I also really enjoyed the lemon flavor (from lemon zest). Beyond that, I didn't think they were any better than my favorite sugar cookie, Maida's Plain Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies. I think I would choose to modify that recipe slightly next time I'm looking for a lemony and/or fan-shaped sugar cookie rather than making this one again.The fan shape is achieved by rolling a portion of the dough just large enough to cut out a circle 8 inches in diameter (I used an 8-inch cake pan as a guide). You can use a pastry cutter to get a ruffly edge, though the dough for this recipe is so soft it tends to accumulate in the little notches of the cutter. The circle is then cut into 8 wedges and radiating lines are pressed into each wedge (I used a bench scraper to do this).The pretty little fan shape is definitely worth the trouble, I just don't think it needs to be quite so much trouble :-) Here's the panel...Suzanne: "Delicious! Without knowing the name of the cookie, I said to a fellow staff member, “how attractive; they look like fans”. I could smell and taste the lemon flavor in the cookie and they had just the right amount of sugar on top. The cookie was delightful. Rating - 5.0"Denny: "Surprisingly good. They are very nice-looking but I could tell they were just a sugar cookie so I was disappointed. The lemon zest changed my mind completely. With the minus 1 no chocolate penalty, I give them a 3. Rating - 3.0"Laura: "Light, buttery, and delicious! Lovely light flavor of lemon with sugar crystals sprinkled on top. Yum! Rating - 5.0"Terri: "Delicious and artfully beautiful! These would be the perfect cookie to serve with raspberry sorbet! Just the right amount of lemon zest (and I really like lemon in cookies). Rating - 4.0"Overall rating by the panel - 4.3Next week - Swedish Fried TwistsNutrition Facts[...]

Mondays with Maida - Connecticut Strippers


Page 252 in the old book / page 272 in the new book

I'd love to know why these (and last week's) cookies are attributed to the state of Connecticut, but searching on-line for information on cookies called "Connecticut Strippers" is futile at best. Clicking on a link in your search results is far more likely to take you to someplace you don't want to be than to enlighten you on the naming of these cookies. Oh well.

Anyhoo, while the Connecticut part of the name still puzzles me, the stripper part obviously comes from the way in which the cookies are made. As with last week's Connecticut Date Slices, these cookies are formed into long, flattened logs, baked and then sliced.

The cookies are flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar, and have currants and walnuts in them. I ran short of currants and so used a mixture of currants and raisins. They are also topped with a mixture of chopped walnuts, cinnamon and sugar before baking. I'd recommend that when shaping the logs you not just flatten them, but make a very slight depression down the middle. This will help keep the topping in place, which otherwise tends to bounce and roll off.

The cookies were very good, but I think I may have left them in the oven a minute or two too long - I thought they were a little on the dry side. They were still well received by all in the office, even Suzanne (!). Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "Actually, I liked the 'Strippers', even though they had raisins. I really didn’t taste the raisins and enjoyed the cinnamon, currants and nuts. This would be great with coffee. Rating - 4.5"

Denny: "Very good. Tasty and crunchy. I give them a 3.0 after -1 no chocolate penalty. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "These are delish! Wonderful and spicy with the hint of walnuts. Nice and chewy with a sprinkling of sugar on top. Rating - 4.5"

Terri: "These 'strippers' are delicious, but not as chewy as the last cookies from Connecticut. I prefer the spicier and chewier ones from last week to these. But the currants /raisins and walnuts were delicious. Both of these types are great fall cookies with coffee, tea, or hot apple cider! Rating - 4.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.0

Next week - French Sugar Fans

Nutrition Facts

Mondays with Maida - Connecticut Date Slices


Page 250 in the old book / page 270 in the new book

Though not the most photogenic of cookies, these date slices more than make up for their looks with a warm, spicy flavor that is complemented by sweet dates and raisins. Surprisingly, there are no nuts in these cookies, but if you just can't go without, walnuts or pecans would do nicely.

The spicing for these cookies is a little unusual. At first bite you might think the cookies have ginger in them, but instead they have cinnamon, cloves, and Maida Heatter's secret ingredient - mustard powder (this is the third cookie she's used it in). With the spices, molasses, dried fruits and sweet glaze, I thought these cookies were reminiscent of Maida's Hermit Bars.

In fact, these cookies are much like bar cookies, but instead of being baked in a cake pan, the dough is formed into long strips that are baked on cookie sheets (as for biscotti). The strips are then sliced after they've cooled. Easy, homey, and very good!

Here's the panel...

Drucie: "Spicy and moist, and best of all, no nuts! (Which makes them nice and chewy.) The sugary glaze bumps up the sweetness just enough. I like this cookie a lot! Rating - 4.5"

Denny: "Very good, but maybe a little too spicy. Kind of overwhelmed the dates. 3.0 with the minus 1 for no chocolate. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "These have a nice ginger spice cake texture and flavor, definitely enhanced by the dates and raisins. Rating - 4.5"

Terri: "Wow - these are outstanding! Very moist and just spicy enough. These are a combination of ginger, cinnamon, and just the right amount of raisins. Absolutely wonderful with coffee or tea! Rating - 5.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.3

Next week - Connecticut Strippers

Nutrition Facts