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LET'S COOK: Stirring up Christmas memories

November 30, 2018
Chuck Repnow , Pierce County Tribune

Now is the time to gather loved ones in the kitchen for an old-fashioned day of cookie baking, sharing baking tips, and telling stories. The passing on of stories is such a treasure. Blessed are they who still have Aunt Martha's flour sifter, Aunt Tillie's large yellow Pyrex bowl, and that vintage rolling pin. Who comes to mind when you think of cookie baking?

As you answer that question, realize how baking connects a family and the memories that are shared over the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and colored sugar. Everyone loves fresh-baked cookies, and holiday times makes it possible to have the better of two worlds. Irresistible cookies and time spent with loved ones creating memories and recalling treasured memories.

You may recall that in my home in Underwood the first two cookies prepared for the Christmas were Mexican wedding cookies, and honey cookies that were rolled thicker and frosted with a sticky frosting that was tinted from pale pink, coppery orange, grass green and many other shades. The star shaped cookies were sprinkled with so much sugar that we could not help making a wish on each one of them. Vincent Van Gogh would have approved of my star cookies--always frosted in shades of powder, to midnight blue, then dashed with yellow sugar replicating his cosmic sky is a simple way. I am sure the early picture of me featured in this column as a child was taken when I was helping my mom make honey cookies. So baking always takes me back to a time in our Underwood kitchen; Mom guiding us to be bakers and her singing her favorite Christmas carol, Silver Bells. It always feels good to recall this memory.

Article Photos

Victory Brown Sugar Cookies
Here is the recipe that I received while taking that class, and it is a good one. There is nothing prettier on a cookie tray than fancy decorated spritz cookies, Christmas wreaths, and frosted sugar cookies. How about cookies that look like small snowballs? To this colorful canvas can be added a plain, tasty cookie that completes the tray and these Victory brown sugar cookies are perfect for this addition.
- 1 ¾ sticks of butter
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups well packed dark brown sugar
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted and until butter is dark golden brown. Once this is done, set aside for 15 minutes. Next preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a pie plate, mix granulated sugar and ¼ cup packed brown sugar until well combined and set aside.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder in a medium bowl and once done set aside.
Add remaining 1 ¾ cups brown sugar, salt and cinnamon to bowl with cooled butter, mix well and scape the sides of bowl. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla and mix until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute. Check to make sure that there are not pockets of flour.
Roll dough into balls and toss into reserved sugar mixture. Set them on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until they are browned and puffy about 13 to 15 minutes. The edges will set first and the middle of the cookies will remain a bit soft. Cook cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them with a wide metal spatula to a wire rack.

I was an unusual child; when other buddies were collecting baseball cards I was gathering cookie recipes-and lots of them. It has been a lifelong adventure and one that still brings happiness to me. I never pass up a time to cook or bake in the kitchen. My skills as a carpenter are limited, as well as my skills in basketball or football--but give me a recipe, a well-stocked kitchen and my adrenalin rushes. Just for the record-my grade school pals surely didn't mind the end result of me being a cookie aficionado! Lydia is now taking an interest in baking cookies and these are some of the tips that we have shared with her.

Chilling dough aids in shaping and rolling out cookies. To speed up chilling of dough, simply place in freezer about 20 minutes for each hour of chilling time indicated in the recipe. If dough is to be rolled out in a rectangle or circle, shaping it into that form before chilling makes the process easier.

Butter that is unsalted seems to work best in cookies. If you should need to soften butter, simply place a bowl large enough to cover the butter in microwave and heat the bowl until warm. Then place the bowl over butter. You will soon have soft butter.

Greasing baking pans with a thin coating of vegetable shortening allows for easy removal of baked cookies. When recipes call for lined pans, a thin layer of shortening will keep parchment paper in place.

Cooling Cookies comes easy if cookies are immediately removed from pan--unless otherwise stated in the recipe. What to do if cookies stick to pan? Remain calm, check your appearance and then return pan to a warm oven for a few minutes to allow cookies to soften. This method allows cookies and baker to look great!

Chewy cookies can come about easier by adding melted butter. Butter is 20 percent water. Melting helps water in butter to mix with flour to form gluten. I learned this in a baking class I took several years ago.

 
 

 

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