Thursday, December 26, 2013

Simple Almond Strips

Almonds are Nature's candy! Ever eaten a big handful of raw almonds? They taste sweet, just like almond paste or marzipan. A delight known only to gluttons who dare to eat a big enough handful. For years, my Dad used to make something he called "Banquet" (pronounced Bahn-ket), a pastry strip with almond-paste filling. A confirmed Europhile who is fluent in German, he would make it in the form of a P with X through its base, an old symbol for Christ. These little cookies aren't symbolic, but they are so simple to make compared to, say, sugar cookie cutouts. They also adapt well if you add some whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour the recipe calls for. This recipe comes from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, where it goes by Almond Strips.
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat), milk to brush on the cookies, 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Method: Preheat oven to 325 F. Beat butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar and baking powder, beat till combined. Beat in egg and almond extract. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in the remaining flour. (When I made this, the dough was so dry that I had to knead it a bit with my hands to get the last of the flour to go in.) Divide dough into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a 12-inch long roll. Place rolls 2 to 5 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using your hands, slightly flatten each roll to 3 inches wide. Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds, pressing slightly to get them to adhere. (Go ahead, crowd those almonds on there! They will spread out during baking.) Bake at 325 F for 12 to 14 minutes or till edges are lightly browned. (I had to bake them for closer to 20 minutes, but don't start with that.) While the cookies are still warm on the baking sheet, take a big knife and cut them diagonally into 1-inch strips. Cool on wire racks. If desired, drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dilly Potato Salad Again!

Ingredients: 8 - 10 spuds, 3 or 4 eggs, 1 jar of dill pickles, 1 bunch of green onions, 1 packet of fresh dill, about 2/3 cup mayo, 1 T dill seed, 1/2 t salt, 1/8 t pepper. Method: Boil spuds and eggs; cool. Open jar of pickles. Peel and chop spuds, one at a time, placing pieces in a large bowl. Every so often, ladle some of the juice from the pickle jar into the bowl, stirring occasionally, so that the cooked spuds marinade in the pickle juice. You should use more than half the jar's worth of juice. Chop three or four of the dill pickles. Wash and chop the green onions and fresh dill. Mix with the potatoes. In a small bowl, whip the mayo with the dill seed, salt, and pepper. Add to the potato mixture; stir till coated. Peel the eggs, slice each egg in half, and place on top of the salad. For best taste, chill overnight before serving.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Buried Cherry Cookie Fail

Ingredients: 1 10-oz jar maraschino cherries ... 1/2 cup butter ... 1 cup sugar ... 1/4 teaspoon baking powder ... 1 egg ... 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla ... 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ... 1 1/2 cups flour ... 1 6-oz package semisweet chocolate chips ... 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Drain cherries, reserving juice. Halve any large cherries. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter. Add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat till combined scraping bowl once in a while. Beat in egg and vanilla till combined. Beat in cocoa powder and as much of the flour as you can. Stir in the remaining flour.
Shape dough into balls. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. I ignored this warning and got cookies that were baked together on the sides. Press your thumb into the center of each ball. Place a cherry in each center. ... For the frosting, in a small saucepan combine the chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. This step can be done while preparing the dough, if you are well organized. Then stir in 4 teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice. Spoon one teaspoon of frosting over each cherry, spreading to cover. (Frosting may be thinned with additional juice, if necessary.)
Look at how much there was left. What I am I ever going to do with all this extra frosting? I'm sure I'll think of something ... Bake in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Transferring them is tricky. They tend to rip around the cherry area. I guess 1 minute must be the optimum cooling time on the sheet, not that I followed that. If any do come apart, it is your duty to eat the mangled pieces as soon as they cool.
So why do I call this a fail? They just don't look like my Mom's. Her frosting is nice and thick and chocolately, not flat like this. I used the Better Homes & Gardens recipe. Maybe I should get hers. Maybe she doesn't bake her frosting.