And baking for as many as I can. Yessirree, it's time to fire up that temperamental, "vintage" oven of mine and crank up the BAKING, y'all.
I just checked, and the local project (East Hartford, CT) for donating and packing some love and cookies for troops overseas is ON for this Sunday morning, 12/2 (cookies accepted until 2 p.m. at South Congregational Church, 1301 Forbes Street, East Hartford; for more info, email Frank Forrest at email@example.com).
So, my clan will be making cards and mixing a positive vibe into recipes old and new for those generous, brave folks so far from home. I'll toss on my Santa Hat to bring cookies for that project and then to some firehouses and a nearby soup kitchen. Hoping to spread goodwill through homemade cookies.
Ahhhhhh, baking! I've said it before, but it bears repeating. It's magical. The alchemical blending of some powders and some liquids and your own inimitable cachet, and VOILA. The house smells heavenly and you share joy with those around you--and far away.
If you're like me, you can even get into a transcendent state when you bake. Solutions to previously knotty problems often come to you as you're weaving your baking spell. You're a sorceress! It doesn't get better than that.
Although I enjoy all kinds of freshly baked creations, I've always loved cookies the most. If I absolutely had to pick just one cookie, though, my hands down favorite would be the Almond Crescents from the recipe of my great aunts Mamie and Libby, that my mom also made year after year. In my home, the Almond Crescents are the anchor to the holiday baking.
They are NOT the fastest or easiest treat to make, but they're incredible--buttery, light, not too sweet, crunchy with almonds and more delicate than their cousins in the nut shortbread category that I've tried (which are also delish). The dough can be finicky to roll into the crescent shape, maybe requiring some patience and flexibility--good lessons to practice.
Here's the recipe below in case you'd like to make them (Miss P, this is also for you, babe). I'll also be making the Chinese New Year cookies that are the easiest cookie I've ever made. The recipe for these no-bake clusters of chocolate lusciousness yields 3 to 4 dozen (see recipe in my post "I'm A Kid In A Candy Store (Recipe Included)").
My younger son voted for the sugar cutout cookies that you can decorate with sprinkles or icing (or both, as he said :)). I'll post that recipe next. I'll also be trying out Ina Garten's Orange French Lace Cookies from her new Barefoot Contessa "Foolproof" cookbook. Every recipe from that book that I've tried so far has been wonderful. I'll let you know what happens.
Till then, happy baking, happy munching!
Almond Crescents (makes about 3 dozen)
1. In a large bowl, beat together on low: 1 cup softened butter, 2/3 cup ground, blanched almonds (meaning without the skin), and 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
2. Sift into the butter mixture: 1 2/3 cups sifted flour and 1/4 t salt.
3. Beat the mixture on low till combined.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic or in sealed container and chill until the dough is cold but still somewhat soft. (If the dough is hard, you can try to soften it by working it a bit with the warmth of your hands, but not too much or the dough will get tacky. I wasn't kidding when I said this dough is finicky! But hang in there and keep rolling with whatever happens--pun intended :)).
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Roll pieces of the dough to pencil thickness and about 2" long and curve slightly to make a crescent shape. (Don't overhandle the dough as it will get sticky. If the dough gets too warm, it will not roll well, so return it to the fridge to chill.)
6. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden.
7. Cool cookies on sheet until set and only a little warm (I sometimes loosen them carefully after 5ish minutes, especially if the edges are ragged, indicating that they may stick to the pan a bit. But they're very delicate and break easily-- gentle, gentle).
8. Mix 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 t cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove cookies from the pan and roll them gently in the sugar mixture. Taste at least one while it's still warm :). YUM....