Tuesday, July 29, 2008

my kingdom for a cookie.....

ahhhhh..... love...... or is it? ... methinks she is dreaming of cookies... not just any cookie ... one of her special Empire Cookies......of the realm I suppose....

Delicate, soft, sweet ... with lovely berry jam sandwiched in every bite...... ohhhhhh how I wish I had one myself right now! Along with a cup of Earl Grey from this lovely teapot ...

Sadly...they disappeared very quickly .... pronounced every bit as good as the ones we used to get at a fav little bakery that no longer exists.

I tried to find out why they are called Empire but didn't see much except the vague suggestion that perhaps, since they seem to be very British, ... they being an Empire and all... so, if anyone has seen any info on this... please point me in that direction.

This particular recipe appears to have been clipped from a booklet of recipes using brand names.. Robin Hood flour... Crisco etc.. I have it in my Christmas Recipe Album that I've made up using my personal favs along with family recipes and pictures...a 3 ring binder type of thing. At the top of the recipe.. the great suggestion.... "this is a favourite at Christmas, but don't limit it to the holiday season"... somebody knew me well.

I only put little glistening cherries on a few for a photo... somebody was standing there grinning...waiting for the taste testing.....

At first I rolled them the suggested 1/8" thickness ... hahahahha...yeh ...right ... almost "see through" thin it was... and just try to get them off the counter! Next chunk..I rolled closer to 1/4"..but not quite. I had much better luck...but I also discovered a new trick at this late stage in life. Instead of just pressing down, turning a bit and lifting off with my flour dusted cutter... I turned it back and forth a few times and almost tried to lift it off at a bit of an angle.... .. so that it actually lifted a corner of the dough with it as I did the lift out of the dough. Hah! that really loosened things and I could then easily slide my floured spatula under each and transfer it the cookie sheet. Sigh... sometimes!........

Empire Cookies

3/4 cup golden Crisco shortening ( I used butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt ( I always omit because I use salted butter)

Filling and frosting

1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/ to 2 TBSP hot water

Cream shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl on med. speed of electric mixer until light and creamy. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. If desired, chill 1 hour for easy rolling. (I found this a must..it is pretty sticky) Roll out dough, a portion at a time, on lightly floured surface to 1/8" thickness. ( I went slightly thicker for ease of handling) Cut into 2" rounds..re-roll all leftover pieces at once to avoid over handling. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned around edges..(watch them like a hawk) .. Cool completely before handling.

Filling and frosting ::: spread half of cookies on the underside with jam. Top with the remaining cookies. Combine icing sugar, extract and enough hot water to make a thin icing. Frost tops of cookies. Decorate with small piece of cherry. Store in airtight container overnight. (At this point they were still sort of crispy and hard..not at all how I remember them being when I used to buy Empire cookies... but... left overnight... magically they became soft, delicate to bite into.... yes... finally almost the exact thing!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rhubarb apple cobbler...

When I was at my sister's a few weeks ago, we used some of her fresh rhubarb to add to apple cobbler.
We were not sure if it would be a bit woody as it was getting late in the season there and the stalks were huge. So...we cut up the stalks.. cooked it in a saucepan with a few tablespoons of water... and when it was soft..added some sugar...et voila... tasting time. It tasted soooo good. I ladled several huge spoonfuls onto the apples for the recipe..mixed it well and put on the topping. Wow !! It was the best apple cobbler I ever made. Bar none. We love it.

Rhubarb recipes are still making the rounds on some of the blogs.. .. even though most of us don't have access to any fresh rhubarb at this late date. However...I decided to give frozen a try...and you know what? Surprisingly good! did the same thing with my frozen chunks... stewed them... added it to some cobbler the other day and here it is. There was just some little thing different about this one.... not quite the same as the last one that was El Supremo...but still very good if I do say so myself...and I do. Something to do with the spices I think... perhaps I put a bit more ginger than I did previously... I do like to add some spices to my cobblers.

The colour is so pretty too...

A little dollop of vanilla frozen yogurt....mmmmm.....

Friday, July 11, 2008

conquered my fear....

Basic White Bread

1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 packages active dry yeast (or 2 tablespoons of granules from jar)
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F to 115 F (40C to 45C) )
5 - 6 cups all purpose flour

Combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. (I do mine in a bowl in the microwave..) I stir it well to make sure. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups of flour. Attach bowl and dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute. Continue on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes longer, (or more.. ) or until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Bake at 400F (200C) for 30 minutes, Remove from pans immeideately and cool on wire racks. Yield: 2 loaves.

(::: my risings seem to take only about 40 to 50 minutes. If a fingerprint poked into dough springs back slowly it is long enough. If it springs back immediately.. not long enough...if it stays indented...it is too long already! but, it is not the end of the world if it goes too long...I only just read that after leaving the full hour because the recipe said so.) (on the second rising let it rise only til dough is doubled in size or the sides of the loaf may begin to droop ... not that it is a problem..just doesn't make a nice shape loaf for cutting and sandwiches... straighter sides does seem a bit better for that)

(::: I have never had to add the whole 6 cups of flour... it seems it gets dry enough at about 5 to 5 1/4 where I live. )

(::: I now use 2 1/2 cups of multi grain flour and 2 cups of white flour to begin .... I add the next cup of whatever happens to be within reach... doesn't seem to make too dense a loaf with the multi grain ... either is great.) Right now I am also tossing in a small handful of extra flax seed as well.

(::: slice an end off as soon as it is not too hot to handle... slather with butter and honey...and ENJOY!! )

Until I found Lewis over at Table Bread...and this easy little recipe in my Kitchen Aid mixer recipe book....I was what I called a "yeastaphobe". Too afraid to try anything with yeast in it. Now I have done a total turnabout.... I love making bread!

Home made bread makes the best toast!! Oh, yum...!

UPDATE:: I have been wondering about the amount of yeast in this recipe and have now decided that one tablespoon is sufficient. Tested it several times and with the full amount..the dough seems to rise quickly and a bit too fluffy and then the sides tend to droop a bit. Besides... the bread slices are then too large for a toaster. So, for me now...the loaves are the perfect consistency and the perfect size if I use the one rounded tablespoon of yeast. If anybody tries this recipe... please let me know how yours turns out....

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Warm summery days....

When we are busy working on one of our renovation projects...or I know I might play too long in the garden..or .. well, just about any reason at all... I like it when Luigi helps me get supper ready. Yes, you are right... I don't have an Italian husband, or a houseboy (darn it on the houseboy part! ...okay.. just kidding.... ) ... and the husband is definitely a keeper; I wouldn't trade him for anybody...

I named my crockpot Luigi. Because it is a Bravetti.... well, I thought it was kind of funny.

Anyway.... early in the day or even around noon... saute some veggies... add some tomatoes or tomato sauce... a few chunks of pork... or chicken... toss in some spices... let it simmer on low for hours...supper will be ready when you are. A chunk of some yummy bread, perhaps even home made... ( I must get my easy recipe on here ..and soon!) or some nice fresh buns... and you have a lovely and simple supper.

For a quick light lunch .... enjoy a colourful fruit mix (pineapple, oranges, grapefruit and nectarine) to top some mixed greens.... red leaf lettuce and soft butter lettuce... then a drizzle of "honey-d" yogurt... and some fresh home made bread..toasted.......oh, yum.
Oh, and my little quarter glass of cold beer...yep..in a cute little plastic wine glass for patio drinks. It is my little nod to elegance in the midst of chaos....