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Archive for December, 2009

This is for all of my fellow students out there!  As a precursor to finishing my last week of classes this semester, I decided to make some delicious cookies for classmates (teammates, y’all!) and professors.   I invited two girlfriends from Denver to assist in my self-proclaimed Cookie Festival.  The menu consisted of the following: sugar cookies from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook, snowballs, chocolate-covered peanut butter balls, snickerdoodles, and Mimi’s icebox cookies.  Except for Mimi’s cookies,  everything went off smashingly.  I made my grandmother’s cookies not once but twice and botched them both times…down the sink they went!  However, I think I figured out the problem and will give it a third try in the very near future (and of course post the recipe and photos).

In the meantime, here are some photos and recipes for the cookies that managed to stay out of the sink starting with the sugar cookies:

Thomas Keller’s Sugar Cookies (Biscuits Au Sucre)
Makes around 36 small cookies

  • 8 tablesppons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The cookie dough can be made in a standard mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer.  Combine the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat until blended.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with a paring knife, and add the seeds to the bowl, and mix until combined.  Continue to add flour until the dough comes together in a smooth mass and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to firm up slightly.

Dust a pastry board with flour.  Halve the dough and roll each piece into a log 6 1/2 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice.  (Hint: The dough can be frozen up to a month).

Put a rack in the center of the over and preheat the over to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  If the logs have been frozen, let them stand at room temperature until soft enough to cut without crumbling.
Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Cut each log into 16 to 18 slices about 3/8 inch thick.  Coat each slice with the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheets.  Bake, in two batches, for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Transfer to racks to cool.  Store in airtight container.

Next we made some snowballs…

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Depending on the time in my life or the parental (or grandparental) figure in question, I was raised either Christian, agnostic or atheist.  We had a big ole Christmas tree every year and an Easter egg hunt, and I read Old Testament (Dan insists on Hebrew Bible) stories in little illustrated books that Mimi gave to us.  I spent hours imagining what it must have been like for Jonah to live inside a whale and marveled when Sampson regained his strength even after cunning Delilah cut off his power-giving locks.

Rachael and I also both attended a Jewish pre-school at Tallahassee’s Temple Israel.  There I spent hours on the playground with my best friend Gabe, a lovely boy and with curly, dark hair.  Clawing at the red clay just below topsoil, Gabe and I were sure that we were just on the verge of making it all the way through to China  – or the red-hot center of the earth, whichever came first.  Every year at Channukah I looked forward to singing, “Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay…” and gathering in a circle on the floor with my classmates to play the game.

Homemade curry powder blended by the lovely Von Diaz

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that when I met Dan, I slipped pretty easily into some of the traditions of Judaism.  Neither one of us is particularly religious in any way, but we like the ceremonies and traditions – and of course, no surprise, I’m most interested in the traditions that involve food!

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This summer we cleaned out my grandmother Mimi’s house, a herculean task (though it seemed more sisyphean at the time) which took a team of eight working in shifts a week to complete.  Mimi now lives with my aunt, but she started life 93 years ago on that same parcel of land – and though her first home is long gone, the bricks from its fireplace are still amongst the camellias up by the highway.  This four-lane highway now runs right through the middle of town but when Mimi was born it was a dirt road marked by hoof-prints and wagon tracks on the outskirts of town.

Many of the azaleas and camellias that bloom in technicolor each spring were planted by Mimi’s mother, whom I never met, but to whom I feel perennially connected.  If I close my eyes I can remember so many parts of that land: deep inhales of the jasmine tree by the corner of the house; stepping down the hill toward the vegetable garden, looking for wild spring onions and four-leaf clovers; Mimi on her ladder, obscured by dense leaves high up in the fig tree; the secret cave-like spot she showed us inside the shrubbery; the impatiens, azaleas, camellias, lilies, roses, hydrangeas and ferns that she tended so carefully; all the good spots for hiding an Easter egg.

Food also invokes the sensuous, deep memories of time with Mimi and helps me feel connected to her even when I’m not with her.  Countless times, I sat by the little outcropping of formica countertop where Mimi did most of her prep work, watching her chop onions, de-bone a chicken, roll out dumplings on torn-up brown paper bags, and stir together whatever magic she was working on.  If I was lucky, what she was stirring together was homemade pimento cheese.

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