I know that I’m very late on this posting and I really have no excuses as to why. I am finishing this up on a very very cold night here in Massachusetts. It is 8 F and this after yesterday when it was 50. Last week we had two frozen pipes and one broke at a join. I called The Fireman at work and my knight in fire bunkers came to my/our rescue. He talked/yelled me through shutting off the water and he headed home from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. He asked me to get the pipe cutter, measuring tape and flash light ready. Once he was home we determined that we needed to fix the pipe and off to Home Depot we go.
We discovered SharkBite products a couple of years ago and the makers of said products are geniuses! If you have not used them yet, I suggest you check them out. Took less than a half an hour to fix the separated pipes.
It is a tradition in our family to make cookies for Christmas. Usually it is a night of power baking (you know boatloads until we are done). Paramount is rolled sugar cookies so that they can be decorated. This year we made vanilla sugar cookies, chocolate sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies and a no-bake cookie bar called Nanaimo. So all in all we had made about 12 dozen of the sugar and peanut butter cookies and one pan of the Nanaimo.
I wanted to make a no-bake cookie so I looked where…. pinterest.com of course! I find an intriguing bar that I just have to try the Nanaimo. The cookie is pronounced “nuh-nye-moe,” after a town by the same name in British Columbia, Canada, from which the bar hails. You all have to agree that it looks delicious. This wondrous bar has been hailed as Canada’s favorite cookie. One of the ingredients is something that I had only seen when I was living in England, Bird’s Custard Powder. The recipe states that you could substitute vanilla pudding mix for the custard powder. I was sure that I would never find it. I had just recently been to the British shop in Newburyport, MA and there was none there. I had resigned myself to substituting the vanilla pudding mix. So I go to my local grocery store, the Market Basket in Seabrook, NH (remember I live on the border of NH) to buy all the ingredients for the cookies. Once there I go to the baking aisle and start to gather all of the needed items. Flour, sugar (granulate, powdered and brown), cocoa powder and peanut butter. I then go down the aisle and reach for the vanilla pudding mix because I was sure that I would never find the custard pudding, when I glance up and see Bird’s sitting right in front of me! I was really excited… ok I was, you did see the bar yes? I grab the butter, heavy cream, peanut butter and graham crackers and off to home I go. Once home I go about the kitchen and I grab the items we will need to make the cookies. I even have some empty cookie tins that we will bring. Assorted bowls, measuring cups, pans, and spoons. I also grabbed the ingredients that I already had to include the best vanilla I have found commercially made. Neilsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Extract is the best tasting vanilla that I have ever tasted, I highly recommend it. I can’t find my rolling pin and I am pretty sure that the kid has it. History proves that if I can’t find a piece of kitchen equipment it usually is at Cali’s house. The Fireman and myself load up the car and off we go. We had to stop at a few stores before we head up to Manchester to get to making these mountain of cookies. We finish up at the stores and I realize that we have actually left the cookie cutters at home. It really is easier to make cut out cookies with the cutters!
We arrive at Cali’s, get slobbered on by two exuberant pitty love bugs, and get to making cookies! I go through the kitchen and realize that we don’t have a rolling pin. Now who loses a rolling pin, well apparently I do! I officially have no idea where my rolling pin could possible be. We lay out the ingredients and look at the four recipes. All but the Nanaimo have to be chilled, so we start by mixing up the two sugar cookies.
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 cups of butter unsalted, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 eggs
- 5 cups all-purposed unbleached flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (see below for substitute)
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar (see below for substitute)
- In large bowl, beat 3 cups powdered sugar, the butter, vanilla, almond extract and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in flour one cup at a time, baking soda and cream of tartar (see below). Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
- Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
So I put together all these ingredients except for the cream of tartar. Why did I not get it out you ask? Even though it is clearly on the recipe. Well its the same old story, I did not have any! Does this happen to any of you? I swear some of the words disappear when I am reading the recipe and reappear when I go to make it! So I go on-line and look for a substitute for it and find just what I was looking for on About.com, Frugal Living – replace both the baking soda and cream of tartar with baking powder. One teaspoon of baking powder replaces 1/3 tsp of baking soda and 2/3 tsp cream of tartar. I make the substitutes and set the mixture in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.
My daughter has a problem at times on remembering the difference between tsp and tbs. This has led to chocolate chip muffins instead of cookies. So we came up with a rhyme: tsp tsp teaspoon teaspoon say it with me! I would ask her what tsp meant and she would say tablespoon and I would bonk her on the head with a wooden spoon, and we would sing the tsp song again. We would be laughing and covered in flour. She has it figured out now, I think. At this point Frankie, my son-in-law has come home unexpectedly early from work. Cali and I are making the cookies because there really is no room in their tiny kitchen for four people, or two pitt bulls even if they are adorable. So now on to the Chocolate Sugar Cookies, I use an recipe from allrecipes.com.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour unbleached
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter unsalted, softened
- 1 1/4 cups white sugar (I use an organic so its not really white in color)
- 1 egg
- Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients to form a soft dough. Divide dough into 2 pieces, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Dough is sticky so be sure to add more flour to the rolling surface as needed. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
This one went together smoothly and with no mishaps. So now on to making the peanut butter cookie batter. I love the recipe from Simply Recipes, the dough tastes like peanut butter fudge. Of course I taste it, don’t you? That one was pretty straight forward except the complaints from The Fireman about not having Hersey Kisses to put on these cookies and from the son-in-law about being hungry! So Cali and I kicked them out to get food so that we could cook in peace! So now on the the Nanaimo cookies.
These no-bake bars are built in layers and there are three. They are constructed and then put in the fridge to firm up. Making these are a perfect for they will fill the time while we are waiting for the other doughs chill.
For the bottom layer
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 1 1/2 cups (about 20 crackers) finely crumbled graham crackers
- 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (almonds are traditional; pecans or walnuts work well, too). The Fireman does not like pecans and everyone likes walnuts so walnuts it was.
For the middle layer
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder, or substitute vanilla pudding powder (instant)
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the top layer
- 4 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
Step 1: Prepare the bottom layer.
Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a double boiler until fully incorporated, but do not let the mixture come to a boil. Add the beaten egg and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, less than 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly into a greased 8″ by 8″ pan; try to make the mixture as flat as possible in the pan. Let this cool for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator. I did not wait the full 20 minutes and just had it in the fridge only as long as it took me to make the middle layer… about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the middle layer.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cream, custard powder and confectioners’ sugar together until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Spread over the bottom layer, taking care to spread it as flat and evenly as possible. Consider flattening with an offset spatula. Basically, the flatter this level, the flatter the chocolate will lie on the top. Return the pan to the refrigerator while you prepare the topping. Even though this cookie looks really involved, it is not and pretty straight forward to make. The layers go together easily and smoothly and in the fridge it goes to set-up. By this time the needy ones, oh I mean The Fireman and the son-in-law have returned with chinese food, drinks, more tins for the cookies and Hershey’s Kisses. We pause in our baking and eat.
Now on to making the rest of the cookies. Both of the sugar cookies need to be rolled out. Here is our dilemma, remember that I can’t find the rolling pin. What to do what to do? I often have to wing things, as I have pointed out that parts of directions/recipes hide from me. They really do. The glass as a rolling pin, has happened before. I am now teaching my descendants on how to use things in other than recommended ways. See always a teaching moment. Covering the glass often with flour really helps. Now the doughs are ready to go… we flour the counters and start with the classic sugar cookies and start rolling and cutting. This runs really smoothly and smell wonderful as they bake. The dough goes quite far and soon we have a couple of dozen cookies. Next the chocolate sugar dough and these go the same as the regular sugar cookies. Coming out nicely golden brown and sweet. I find that people often put themselves into one of two group; bakers or non-bakers. I seem to fit into both groups. I usually bake by smell. Cookies have a certain smell when they are done. A golden sweetness is the closest I can come to in words.
We are now going to start the peanut butter cookies. We just scoop these out and press them with a fork to give them that traditional criss cross pattern. Now I don’t know about you I often have questions about everything. Now, why do we do that criss cross patter? The best answer I could come up with was:
The Peanut Butter Balls recipe in the 1923 edition of Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes contains the first known written instance of instructing the cook to press the cookies using fork tines. The recipe does not explain why this advice is given, though: peanut butter cookie dough is dense, and without being pressed, it will not cook evenly. Using a fork to press the dough is a convenience; bakers can also use a cookie shovel.
Makes sense to me that we would need to flatten the cookie a bit so that it will cook correctly and why not the criss cross pattern. Just as we get these in the oven, the boys come back with Chinese (which is surprising because this is the least favorite of The Fireman), more tins and the missing Hersey’s Kisses to add to the peanut butter cookies. I would be fine if we did not add the Kisses, I’m one of those people that can really live without chocolate. I know, I could loose my charter membership to the “girls club”. In fact, I think I like subconscious like certain chocolate that The Fireman does not like just so that I have it when I want it!
We stop and eat and then get back to the cookie making. The first batch of peanut butter cookies come out and the next batch is in (with the Kisses) and now we need to decorate the sugar cookies. Usually we just make a frosting and use that, maybe next year I will do something fancier.
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup shortening***
- 5 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, cream together the confectioners’ sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in the milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about 5 minutes. Color with food coloring if desired.
*** substitute with butter
I made a triple batch of the frosting and separated it different mugs, added regular food coloring for different colors and we went at it. Making our way through a mountain of cookies, the slobbery advances of two very interested Pitty boys (one of whom is allergic to gluten) and the loud and long complaints of The Son-in-law. We were finished and they looked and tasted amazing! The Nanaimo were our favorite, although they are very rich!
This is how we do things at The Suburban Reaper. Next year we will get things together sooner. Of course, we say this ever year!
- Grandma’s Sugar Cookies (98percentvegetarian.wordpress.com)
- Grandma’s Sugar Cookie recipe (sarahnichter02.wordpress.com)
- Easy to Make Delicious Sugar Cookies Made Simple for Children and Adults (slewriter.wordpress.com)
- Cookie Decorating (fromashestobeautyblog.wordpress.com)