I’ve been busy over the last few days– another batch of toffee because I felt the first one was overcooked, not even close to burnt, yet just a bit shy of perfect. When I mentioned this to Grace, she said “I’ve had what you think is botched toffee and it’s fine, but go ahea and give it to Kurt for his work. Those people (she means techies) have probably never had homemade toffee and it will be so much better than whatever store-bought stuff they access.” Kurt also thought the toffee was slightly overdone, but his greater concern was that he now felt it “needed more almonds.” SERIOUSLY?
Well, I upped the almonds from 12 ounces to 15 and I think it’s way too nutty and not sweet enough anymore, but he said it was way better. I forgot to ask Ken, but I’m SURE he’ll agree with me. However, it’s perfectly cooked, so I now need to test my thermometer which was nowhere near 300 degrees when I pulled the pot off the stove. <sigh> I don’t want to go out to mall land in search of a new thermometer, so I’ll just have to remember the difference, if there is one.
Another unforeseen time-suck, which wasn’t resolved until this morning, was the prolonged email exchange about the new Christmas menu; I should have known that my sister’s and Grace’s acquiescence was merely the calm before the storm. During the same toffee conversation, Grace asked me what the final Christmas menu would be; I told her again what I had made for the Mommy dinner and then added, “And I’m thinking about changing the flan from vanilla to lemon because that’s the traditional Filipino flavoring.”
Then there was the pause, followed by “Ew. Yuck. It has to be vanilla. And by the way, you are still making the popovers, right? That puff pastry is NOT the same as your popovers.” Just as I had predicted to my mommies during dinner, “Tina and Grace are going to rally for popovers, trust me.”
I could hear Grace typing on her phone and within seconds, an email alert popped up on my iPhone, sent to Tina with a copy to me:
Subject: LOBBYING NEEDED
Maria doesn’t want to make popovers because of the pastry on beef wellington!!!
And she wants to make LEMON flan instead of vanilla!!!!!!!!!!
Have I mentioned that these ladies, like me, are approaching the mid-century mark? Tina extended the lobbying effort on FB, and tried to lure in my mommy friends for support (they did not, they’ve known Tina since she was in grade school). When Kurt saw the FB blather, he texted me with the suggestion I respond that I had a great recipe for bran popovers and flan with skim milk. Despite my reputation among family members for escalating, I didn’t, but assured my sister we would have vanilla flan and popovers. Even when she’s 80, she’s still going to be the bratty younger sister…
What I’m actually going to show here are the molasses spice cookies, another Christmas 101 recipe (again, I really recommend this book, especially if you’ve never done Christmas cooking before). It’s an easy peasy recipe– you don’t even have to cream butter and sugar because the butter and shortening are melted. The only real time-consuming “task” is to refrigerate the dough so you can shape it into balls (and yes, use a spring-loaded scoop and parchment paper). These cookies are a triple hit because THREE GENERATIONS of Kurt’s family– Kurt’s dad, Kurt and Ken– devour these spicy sweet holiday gems! I may have to take a photo of them this year, munching away, before the tweenie totally refuses to go along with family photo ops.
My only change to the recipe is to up the spices, except for the cloves; I’ve listed the original amounts, leaving you to experiment. They are supposed to be chewy, which is how the guys like them, but I will often bake them longer since I like ’em crunchy! Note: I made a double recipe, so the quantities differ from the recipe (like the obscene amounts of flour and melted butter)!
Molasses Spice Cookies, from Christmas 101
- 2 c AP flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon (I do 1 1/2 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp ginger (I do 1 tsp)
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 TB unsalted butter
- 6 TB vegetable shortening (I like to use butter-flavored Crisco)
- 1 c sugar, plus more for rolling cookies before baking
- 1/4 unsulfured molasses (I sometimes use blackstrap)
- 1 lg egg, room temperature (I always use extra large eggs for cooking and baking)
Whisk the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a bowl to distribute evenly.
Melt the butter and shortening on medium heat (I microwave at my usual 8 sec high heat intervals), then transfer to a mixing bowl to cool til warm to the touch.
Add the sugar, molasses and egg,
and whisk thoroughly ’til well blended.
Work in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon; try not to over mix, but make sure the flour is fully incorporated. I add the flour in three batches. First batch:
When most of the flour is blended, like this–
I add the next third and mix until the dough looks like this:
The last of the flour may be harder to mix in, but in the end it will look like this:
Chill the dough in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until cold enough to hold its shape when formed. This will take at least one hour. You’ll be scooping balls, so find your (roughly 1 TB) spring-loaded scoop!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position two racks as I described in the previous post about the angel cookies (unless you have a convection oven). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour some sugar in a bowl or other container for rolling the cookie balls.
Using your scoop, form balls of dough, rolling them into shape with the palms of your hands.
Roll the balls into the sugar,
and place on your cookie sheet:
Bake the cookies, two sheets at a time for 10 minutes, switching the trays around (also previously described) halfway through the cooking time. The edges of the cookies should be just firm to the touch (what bakers call “set”) and the surface of the cookies will be riddled with cracks and fissures. You can bake them longer for crunchier cookies. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes,
then set them on racks to cool completely.
I’ll leave a few out for the boys, but the rest are going into the freezer ’til I assemble my boxes and trays. They can stay out for a week in a container, but I don’t trust them… As for Ken, he was home just in time for a cookie break, bursting through the back door shouting “Mom, I can smell my cookies from outside!”