Monday, November 29, 2010

Pepparkakor Cookies


It's nearly December, and that means I will be spending lots more time here in my Christmas kitchen. One thing I will be doing is to share a few recipes which I have neglected to post here, although they may very well be on my other blog, "Across My Kitchen Table" which I started a couple of years before this special Christmas one. I thought I would start with this wonderful cookie recipe. Bake these soon, and see if these cookies don't get you and your family in the Christmas spirit!

PEPPARKAKOR

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tblsp. dark molasses
1 egg
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tblsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. ginger
1 Tblsp. cloves
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
Red or green colored sugar if desired

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy; add molasses and egg. Mix until blended.

Sift flour, soda and spices into creamed mixture. Add orange juice and rind; mix until well blended.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into heart or reindeer shapes. Transfer to cookie sheets. Sprinkle with red or green sugar, if you like. I usually do.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until brown. Cool on rack and store in a covered tin.

Makes at least 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

I found this recipe many years ago in an old Country Woman magazine. The lady who submitted it said that these were the first cookies she baked each year to make her house really smell like Christmas. It works!

Of course, you need not limit yourself to hearts and reindeer; those are just the shapes I most often use. Some years I cut some pine trees and moose as well!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cookie mystery solved!



(At least in part...)

I've mentioned before how one of my mother's traditional cookie recipes for Christmas was called Chocolate Spritz. These were not made with a cookie press but instead were small molded cookies, shaped into balls and dipped in colored candy sprinkles before baking. We kids adored these cookies. They are very chocolatey and delicious. My mother used to store her bowls of cookie dough in our cold front entry or back porch to save room in the refrigerator. It seemed that at Christmastime there were always several bowls of dough, covered with plates, stacked up in these cold storage areas. We enjoyed all manner of raw cookie dough (and we all lived to grow up, too! Could the eggs have been safer back then?) but the Chocolate Spritz dough was our favorite. It tasted like chocolate ice cream.

One year I remember helping my mother prepare for Christmas by copying some of her most-used recipes onto lined paper, to be placed in her special Christmas notebook. Chocolate Spritz was, of course, one of them. I don't know if I thought, back then, to ask where she found the recipe. I certainly didn't know at that time (I was probably 9 or 10) that the term "spritz" usually referred to a pressed cookie.

Years later, though, I got to wondering about that. I believe I did ask her where she had ever found the recipe, and she said she had found it in a magazine. I don't recall if I ever asked why it was not a pressed cookie. I guess I thought maybe she had never had a cookie press (they were kind of a specialty item back in the 1950s) and so she had probably adapted the recipe to make molded cookies.

Well, the mystery of the recipe's provenance has been solved! Recently I was looking over some very old Christmas magazines which my mother had given me a few years back. She had been saving them for years. One of the oldest was a supermarket magazine called Better Living, from December 1952. This particular magazine was pretty much in tatters, so I decided to just go through it and see if there was anything worth salvaging -- for instance, some vintage ads or pics which I could turn into graphics, or a recipe or gift idea. Not far into the magazine I came upon an article titled "Our Christmas Cooky Swap". Who knew the cookie swap idea was that old? I certainly didn't!

And then, on the next pages, an article titled "20 Great Swap Cookies" with the subtitle "Over one hundred wonderful cookies were exchanged at the two Swaps. We selected and tested these for you." As I glanced over the picture of the cookies, lined up on glass trays, I spied something that resembled my mother's Chocolate Spritz. And sure enough, that particular cookie did indeed bear the name "Chocolate Spritz"! Eagerly, I turned to the recipes to see if it was the same. And guess what? Well, you've probably already guessed it. That recipe had been neatly clipped out of the article, leaving a small rectangular hole in the middle of the page. I will wonder no more where my mother ever found that recipe.

But I will probably never know why this molded cookie is called "spritz"!

Would you like the recipe? I thought you might.

CHOCOLATE SPRITZ

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted*
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tblsp. milk
2 cups sifted cake flour*
Multicolored candy sprinkles

Heat oven to 375°.
Work shortening until creamy. Stir in sugar gradually, then beat until
fluffy. Add egg, salt, chocolate, milk, and vanilla, and mix well.
Stir in flour gradually.

Shape dough into balls; roll or dip in candy sprinkles. Place on
ungreased baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen.

I've given the recipe here as I got it from my mother, but when I make them I change a few things. *I use 6 Tblsp. baking cocoa instead of melted chocolate, and *I use 2 cups regular flour instead of cake flour. Easier and cheaper, and they don’t taste any different.

Enjoy these vintage cookies!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Mint Crisps -- a favorite Christmas cookie!


I've mentioned before how much I love Christmas magazines. Only with great strength of character can I prevent myself from buying some new ones each year! Over time I have noticed that some of them are starting to repeat their recipes and ideas, so I've been better able to resist.

Often, though, I can't resist the Country Woman Christmas special magazines, and this recipe is from one of those, from 2006, I think. Often, when I visit my daughter Joanna in the fall, she will have one of these special issues waiting for me as a sweet welcome gift.

I love chocolate and mint together, and especially at Christmas time. Over the years I've tried quite a few recipes that feature those two flavors together. I can definitely say that this one -- Chocolate Mint Crisps -- is the best of the best I've tried.

They mix up so easily in a saucepan, and the swirled mint topping is so pretty. The cookies freeze well -- always important, to me -- and they are absolutely delicious. I think I would describe them as chewy, rather than crispy, and the topping/frosting helps to keep them that way.

If you're looking for something new and different for your cookie trays, I highly recommend these!

Oh, and by the way, the graphic at the top is one that I made from a very old --1952 -- Christmas magazine!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Simple paper ornaments


Here are some paper ornaments I recently tried making with the help of my granddaughters. They turned out okay, but I guess I will use them for gift tags or package tie-ons rather than enclosing them in Christmas cards as I had thought of doing.

I found these some years ago in a small Mary Engelbreit book -- I forget which one. The instructions were quite sketchy. Basically, one draws a heart on manila file folder or card stock and draws a little design in the center of the heart and decorates the edges of the heart. I used stickers for the center design because my drawing skills are not that great, and used markers for the decorating part.

Then you cut out the heart and trace a second, larger heart with ruffly edges from newsprint, and glue the smaller heart to the ruffly one. Then the entire thing gets glued to another, larger heart cut from red construction paper, and a hanger is added.

I don't have any of the fancy die-cutting machines, which would certainly make this project easier and more precise. I think, in retrospect, that red card stock would be a better choice than construction paper for the largest heart. (These already look pink in the scan, although the construction paper I used was most definitely red.) If I ever acquire one of those wonderful paper-crafting machines, I might give these another try. In the meantime, they will be cute on Christmas packages!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Clearing the decks for Christmas preparations



I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about preparing for Christmas. I want to simplify these last weeks before Christmas, freeing me up to enjoy crafting, baking, and decorating for this most meaningful of all holidays.

• It's always helpful to have some main-dish type meals in the freezer, ready for company or family. I plan to make 2 pans of vegetable lasagna, which freezes beautifully and goes over well with everyone I know. I'll freeze it in foil 13X9 pans so there'll be less cleanup as well. You can find the recipe :here.

Earlier this week, I made and froze five containers of meatballs, using this recipe:Make-Ahead Meatballs. These are a good basic meatball which can be used in a variety of ways -- spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs, meatball subs, soup, or anywhere you would use the purchased frozen meatballs.

Even if you don't have a lot of freezer space, you can do something similar. Each week you could do something like roast a small turkey, bake a ham, or make a large meat loaf. For easy, almost-instant sides, you could fix a large pasta salad or a large potato salad, bake a pot of beans or make a large casserole of macaroni & cheese. Along with things like frozen vegetable blends, bagged salad or baby carrots, you could coast along for a week's worth of simple meals. You can then use the time you saved to do some Christmas baking, crafting, or decorating. This type of meal will also get you out the door quicker (with less cleanup, too) for all of those family Christmas activities you're likely to be involved in.

• Some people take time to clean and organize their craft room or even their whole house in preparation for Christmas. I admire them, and I like the idea in principle, even if I can never seem to make it work. What I've done instead is to sort of clear the decks in my crafting areas, clearing the flat surfaces, getting the ironing caught up so the iron and ironing board are freed up for ready use, and put away any materials that won't be needed for my Christmas projects. As far as the whole house goes, I'll be doing my FlyLady routines to keep it under control and even improve things a little.

* As mentioned in the previous post, I've also taken some time to go through my Christmas notebook and do a reality check concerning my crafting. I've redone my list and, though it is still long, I think it's doable.

I also rewrote my Christmas list -- which includes both crafted and purchased gifts -- as the former one was just a jumble of ideas for various people.

I noted down what gifts need to be ordered online and where I will order them from.

I revised my list of what craft materials I still need to purchase for projects -- it's quite a short list at this point -- and also bought some of these this week.

I located all of the recipes I hope to use for Christmas and also noted down some new ones I want to try.

So there are a few notes on how I'm trying to prepare for the wonderful, busy season ahead. Maybe they will give someone else a few ideas. What are some ways you prepare for the season?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reality check ...

... for Christmas crafting


Today Mr. T had to run a work-related errand in a city about an hour from here. He asked if I would like to go along. It's a rainy, rainy day. Rain was steadily falling here when we left and it got much heavier as we neared the city. Now that I'm back home, the rain is falling heavily here too. I took along an embroidery project, but what I really wanted to do was work on something toward Christmas. So I settled on taking along my Christmas notebook and revising my Christmas crafting list.

I had reached the conclusion while we were out West that there was no way I would accomplish that long list I had written out earlier. Major revisions were in order. This little car trip with my hubby today gave me the quiet time I needed to sit and think things through with regard to my crafting list.

I tabled a couple of the big projects that simply weren't going to get done. My list now includes a few more simple sewing projects than it did. Can't share the list here as some of the recipients read my blog. But it is a great feeling to have revised that list. It looks much more doable now.