Idle Hands Make…

This afternoon’s ‘to do’ list contained nothing pressing. Tuesday I hard boiled eggs to include in our dinner salad and to make egg salad Wednesday. Today I baked a loaf of sandwich bread because I love egg salad on fresh baked bread. And as long as I was making bread I decided to replace the hamburger rolls I froze a few weeks ago. (I wasn’t happy with the rise of those whole wheat buns.) Today I mixed a double recipe of bread dough and shaped half into a loaf to bake at 425 deg and the rest into hamburger rolls to be baked at 375 deg.

To make a softer crust I coated the top of the loaf with melted butter before baking (hence the darker crust) and once again after it was baked, but still hot.

I also had a cup of heavy cream to use before it expired, and as long as the oven was on, I dropped the temperature and made some multi berry scones, baked at 400 deg.

Remember the hamburger rolls that baked at 375 deg? Well, as long as the oven was going to be dropped to 375 deg and as long as I had some frozen chocolate chip cookie dough that also bakes at 375 deg, I figured, what the heck.?

I have to find more chores to add to the ‘to do’ list. Today was exhausting.

The best part of the day was participating in the Grandparents Drive-Thru Car Parade at Grace’s school! (Unicorn car. You can’t see the fuzzy pink tail.)

Speaking of Grace, here we are making the aforesaid chocolate chip cookies.

Like Molasses in… September

Before teeing off on the 8th hole yesterday, I flashed back to my mom’s molasses cookies. I don’t have her recipe, but as she was always a Betty Crocker kinda gal I found Betty’s recipe, made some this morning and they were exactly as I remembered!

(Betty’s recipe didn’t say, but I flattened the sugar coated balls a little. They may have flattened on their own, but I was concerned the centers and the edges may not cook evenly. Whatever the reason, they were excellent!)

Now, this may be childhood folklore or faulty memories, but growing up I had a neighbor named Betty Crocker. That was her married name after she and George wed. As a single woman her last name was Taylor, and of course her formal first name was Elizabeth but was known as Betty. Even without this celebrity, I was raised in a fabulous neighborhood and remain friends with MOST of my classmates from that time. So fortunate.

Soft Molasses Cookies

INGREDIENTS

• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• ¾ cup shortening
• ¼ cup molasses
• 1 egg
• 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

METHOD

  1. Heat oven to 325°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar.
  2. Shape dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into 1 ½ – inch balls. Dip tops into granulated sugar. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls, sugared sides up, about 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or just until set and cookies appear dry. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

Expert Tips From Betty Crocker

o Purchase shortening formed in oblong packages marked for easy cutting and measuring. It eliminates messy measuring in cups.
o There are reasons for using shortening versus butter when mixing up a cookie dough. Shortening has a higher melting point, so cookies will hold their shape longer in the oven before the fat melts in the dough (and shortening doesn’t release any steam like butter) so results in moist, chewy cookies. While butter melts more quickly and releases some steam so that cookies will spread more and be crisper, with a distinctly buttery flavor. Some recipes use a combination of the two fats.
o There is enough fat in these tender cookies that they won’t stick to the baking sheets. But for easier clean-up, line the baking sheets with baking parchment. The parchment can be used several times before composting or recycling it.
o What type of molasses should you keep in your pantry? Choices include light, cooking, unsulphured and blackstrap. Each style is a by-product of the sugar making process and offer mild to robust levels of flavor in baked goods. A good all-purpose molasses is an unsulphured one, made from sun-ripened sugar cane; it has a full, smooth flavor without being bitter.
o Measuring flour accurately is key in baking. Stir flour a bit before spooning into measuring cup then level off top using a flat-edge utensil such as a knife.

The Long and Shortbread of It

We love shortbread cookies, and we love chocolate. Combining the two is a step from ecstasy. Also, this gave me the excuse… I mean opportunity… to use the hexagonal cookie cutters Fran (aka QC) bought me.

Using hexagonal cutters reduces dough waste as there are no gaps between each cut.

Hexagonal Cookie Cutters with the one used on the lower right.
Shortbread Cookies surrounded by Raspberry Hand Pies.

Shortbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS
• 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl place over a pan of boiling water. Turn the burner down to simmer and heat with stirring until the chocolate is nearly all melted. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
  6. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

Meringue Cups, Not Hwy 66 – Revisited

I had the occasion to make a batch of meringue cups today and thought I would try a variation to the ganache filling I typically use. While researching another recipe on Allrecipies I saw that if, after the unsweetened, grated chocolate (4 oz) is melted in the just barely boiling heavy cream (1/2 cup) the mixture is allowed to cool to room temperature, then whipped soundly (about the head and shoulders), it will become a lighter whipped ganache which is easy to pipe into designs, or as in my case bitter kisses. The sweetness of the meringue cup paired with the bitter chocolate results in a well balanced treat.image image

(After taking the picture i decided to add some blue sugar crystals to sweeten the meringue cups up a bit. Obviously, it’s up to you)