Monday, December 14, 2009

Marathon of Baking

After my mom had so much fun with the tortellini fest, she decided to dedicate an entire day to baking Christmas cookies. She feigned reluctance, swearing that she would never be able to last as long as me in our culinary half-marathon (hello, everything I make is pan fried in olive oil--it takes less than 30 minutes because I get hungry and bored easily). I was right. When it came time to rolling out the lemon sandwich cookies and there were still two cakes to be made for weekend parties, I slumped over and nearly petered out, while my mom, Megan and Emily carried on without me.

We made quite a mess (my favorite part of baking) and ended up with four varities of cookies, one chocolate bar and two orange yogurt cakes. Exhausting and exhilarating.

The favorite were the succharinis. I believe the Italian wedding cookies were the inspiration for the day. My mom was convinced they were difficult because my aunt Jean said they were. But Jean also left the paper in between slices of mozzarella cheese when making lasagna for her boyfriend 20 or 30 years ago. Just saying.
My mom said the cookies tasted old, not like the too-sweet and heavily frosted sugar cookies you can get at the store. Their texture was a bit drier than you're typical cookie--dry in a good way--nearer in quality to a biscuit but a bit sweeter. They're flavored with anise and whiskey (Scotch in this case. My dad came up from the basement and said, "You're using my Scotch?!" "Only a tablespoon, dad.").
My mom rolled out the dough, just like she remembers her grandmother doing, and twisted the ropes into a knot. Once baked, we dipped the knots in a Scotch-flavored glaze and let them set. Before I left that evening I could hear her on the phone with one of her sisters, "They really taste just like Noni's. I can't believe it." I fear we're unraveling the mysteries of yore to reveal that old fashioned tortellini- and cookie-making was never the feat we thought it was and that there really is no excuse for us not folding thin sheets of pasta in on itself or twisting ropes of dough into hearty cookies in the company of friends and family.

Emily was in charge of making those icebox sugar cookies. We were implementing all sorts of old timey techniques. First rolling out the dough, then shoveling dough into those "guns" circa 1973. Even one of the standing mixers we used was incredibly retro (see top photo).

Megan was quite pleased with her output as well. She took on making a three-step-plus peppermint-chocolate cookie. The process involved baking the cookies and adding peppermint icing and chocolate drizzle, with crushed peppermints to top it off.

5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
6 eggs
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 generous tablespoon whiskey

For glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon whiskey

Preheat oven to 350. For the cookies, blend all the ingredients together using a mixer (being careful not to break your spatula (see below)). Divide into handfuls and turn out on a well-floured surface. Roll into a rope and tie rope into a square knot. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

For the glaze, bring the water and sugar to a soft boil on the stovetop. Add the whiskey. Continue until it forms a thicker syrup. Remove front heat and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Drop each biscuit into the glaze and remove with tongs. Let dry.


Anonymous said...

The girls did all of the prep work. All I did was pull things in and out of the oven. Our only mistake was making a half batch or succharines. Next time I will be a bold Italian and make a full batch!

Allison said...

make 2 mom! all the cookies look good and i can't wait to eat them in 2 days! also, i get no credit for bringing up the "cookie gun."

kiss my spatula said...

wow! that is indeed a baking marathon!!