Anyone in a creative field will tell you that it’s easy to get caught up in the thoughts and feelings that everything you think of has already been done. It’s a pervasive thought and one that can take over if you let it. The reality is, most things have been done and that’s okay, because if you haven’t done them, then it’s still something new that you’re contributing. Your lens, so to speak, gives a feeling and voice to creative things that no one else can. It’s certainly something I grapple with from time to time but you can’t let it dampen your desire to create, design, make, and share. I love Tiramisu, full stop. I love coffee desserts, as you know if this isn’t your first time here, but I also cannot resist the siren call of fresh strawberries in early summer. I did a recipe round up featuring strawberries a few years ago and I have since added several other recipes. So when the idea struck me to do a tiramisu/strawberry shortcake type dessert, I abandoned the classic coffee component, and instead looked to herbal tea to make a juicy, summery Strawberry Tiramisu. It’s an irresistible dessert and it’s also impossible to resist calling it Tea-ramisu. (more…)
When I was in my teens I worked the counter at a small bakery. They made some amazingly delicious things, one of which were birdnest cookies: a sturdy yet crumbly shortbread cookie covered in toasted coconut and a deep red jewel of raspberry jam in the center. As much as I am a fan of coconut in all sorts of dishes and sweets I always felt like those “nests” were too rich. This version is less sweet, more petite and still jam-jewel studded with raspberry and for a different twist: marmalade. The vanilla bean freckles add to the flavor and charm and they disappear as quickly as you can make them ie: FAST!
Vanilla Bean Thumbprint Cookies
makes 6 dozen 1″ cookies
1 lb salted butter at room temperature
1 Cup (packed) light brown sugar
1Tbsp vanilla bean paste
4-5 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup jam(s) of your choosing (I used raspberry and marmalade)
Note before you begin: you can mix this dough by hand or with a stand mixer but I would not recommend hand mixers. This dough is very sturdy and requires kneading that handheld mixers can’t manage.
Combine the butter and sugar and cream together. If you’re using a stand mixer, use the lower settings – the objective here is to specifically NOT incorporate air. Once the sugar is dissolved into the butter, add the flour one cup at a time. You will need slightly more than 4 cups and possibly as much as 5 of its a humid day. The dough should crack slightly when you press your finger into it but still be soft and pliable, not chalky. Once the flour is mixed in, knead the dough on a lightly floured board until it’s cohesive and smooth (about 3 mins with the dough hook on a stand mixer).
Scoop the dough with a 1Tbsp scoop and place flat side down on ungreased cookie sheets. I find I can get 2 dozen little scoops on each sheet. Using the end of a wooden spoon, press a divet into each lump of dough.
Load up a pastry bag with jam (or a zip top bag with a snipped off corner) and squirt jam to fill each divet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until the bottoms are tinged gold and the surface of the cookie looks matte.
Allow to cool on the pan.
Then, drizzle a glaze of 4 heaped Tbsp and 2 tsp lemon juice over top.
T-minus a week until the most over-manufactured, high-expectation-low-return “holiday” of the year: Valentine’s Day. That’s seven days until florists are ravaged of anything “long stem” and drugstores are depleted of all their heart-shaped candy. Greeting cards will clog up the mail system next week and classrooms everywhere will each host at least one sad, un-chosen kid who didn’t get a Valentine, or enough Valentines, or the Valentine that their little heart was waiting for. Now, before you go calling me a cynic or reaching deep into my psyche for why I hate Valentine’s Day, let me save you the time and effort: I don’t. (more…)
So, this happened.
I make no apologies. It was a rainy grey day, I was left to my own devices, and I wanted a snack that wasn’t fruit or baby carrots or hummus or anything even remotely healthy or responsible.
Want to be bad like me? Take chocolate chip cookies of your choice and sandwich them around slices of banana and a gob of peanut butter. No recipe needed! Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Banana Snack Attack!
In my defense, it was natural peanut butter and bananas are actually a fruit.
Great for a quick indulgence or dessert, and I made two, but one would have been enough.
Here we are on December 1st. Now that the last month of the year has begun, I feel like I can use the “C” word: Christmas. Every year time moves a little bit faster and the Holidays sneak up on me. Not so this year. I was ready to hang wreaths and wrap gifts in October! But I resisted.
I love Christmas. You wouldn’t think I would, but I do.
This year I am embracing Christmas like never before. I am ready, aimed and set to move, full-tilt, through December, drinking in all the bounty and beauty of the season. I love the lights, the gift giving, the secrets and surprises. I love the smells and tastes, and how everything is allowed to be a bit more sparkly, a bit more special. I love the idea of Santa Claus. I love hoping for a snowy Christmas, despite our predictable rain. I love how the whole month of December becomes a flurry of activity, and I love the quiet, still moments in between. I may be going full speed into Christmas but that doesn’t mean I will buy more, spend more or waste more. It means that I will think more, feel more, and love more. You see, this year is different, more significant somehow. This year is a milestone: this Christmas Eve is the 10 year anniversary of my mother’s untimely death. It seems like an impossibly long time that we have been without her, yet, she is with us everyday, and I feel that no more clearly than during the Christmas Season.
Ten years. Can it be? It’s true. A decade has passed since that bright, cold, sunny morning when she slipped quietly away, mid breakfast. My heart was broken, but I am so glad it was a sunny, clear day; she never liked the rain. Ten years seems like such a long time, yet it has passed in the blink of an eye. Despite my broken heart, still healing daily, I am consciously choosing to have a happy Christmas this year. My mother would be terribly disappointed if, after all this time, I sulked my way through Christmas. Besides, how better to honour her memory than by being joyful?
You could say that I am seeking solace in the traditional this year, and you’d likely be right. You could also say I’m taking comfort, distracting myself, even, and again, you may not be wrong. All I know is that the fun and beauty of this season is something I want to be a part of this year like never before. Perhaps it’s my heart’s way of saying, “Alright. Enough. Let’s get on with things.” I feel lighter, brighter, and at long last, not guilty for celebrating at a time that feels so entirely dedicated to remembrance.
Tradition itself is all about remembrance. It’s about looking back and honouring the people, things and places that have made us who and what we are. Tradition provides us a road map to fall back upon, creating markers in our lives that remind us of where we have been and how to get through things to arrive where we are going. More than that, though, tradition feeds us. It feeds not only the memories themselves but the desire to remember, the very human need to retain bits of the past long after we have let go and moved on. We need to remember just as much as we need to celebrate. Tradition helps us achieve both these things, in equal measure.
How does all of this bring us to gingerbread? Well, what could be more iconic and traditional than gingerbread at Christmastime? It is a treat that has stood the test of time and survived centuries of travel, (apparently it originated in the middle east before being brought to Europe), many changes with hundreds of ‘traditional’ recipes available, and a multitude of styles and names. Still, no matter where it’s from or who is making it, for many people, it means Christmas is near. I’m granting myself a very happy Christmas this year, and I am happy to ring in the season with this recipe in hopes that all of you reading it will make it, enjoy it, share it and maybe even incorporate it into your own holiday traditions, whatever they may be.
And so, without further ado, let the Christmas Season on Feasts for All Seasons begin!
preheat oven to 325° – makes 6 dozen 2″ round cookies
4 C all purpose flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cloves
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 C butter
3/4 brown sugar
1/2 C cooking molasses
1/4 C honey
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside. In an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and continue mixing. In a greased measuring cup, measure honey and molasses. Add to the butter/sugar/egg mix and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until well combined. Add the fresh ginger and vanilla. In 4 parts, add the dry ingredients to form a soft dough.
Halve the dough and place the 2 portions on sheets of parchment paper or cling film. Press the dough into rough discs. Cover with a second layer of parchment or cling film. Wrap tightly or put in a zip top bag. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, take the dough out of the fridge and let stand for 10 minutes on the counter. Then, working with 1/2 a disk at a time, roll to ¼” thick and cut with your favourite cookie cutter.
Place cut cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets (cookies do not spread). Bake for 10 minutes and remove to cooling rack immediately upon taking them from the oven.
I like to glaze these cookies with a quick milk glaze:
In a small bowl combine:
1 C icing sugar
1 – 1 ½ tsp milk
scant pinch of cinnamon
Pour or drizzle over the cooled cookies.