Monday, July 31, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Caraway Crisps

Page 147 in the old book / page 180 in the new book

I have to admit, I had my doubts about these cookies going in. I had never used caraway in cookies before and don't generally associate caraway with sweets. I envisioned a repeat of the poppy seed fiasco. But come to think of it, caraway seeds are really wonderful in Irish Soda Bread, and that's a little sweet, right? More importantly, these cookies have just two teaspoons of caraway seeds while those poppy seed cookies had one whole cup of seeds.

As it turns out, the caraway provides a lovely accent to the crisp lemon cookies. It isn't at all overpowering and is really only noticeable when you bite into a seed. I never would have thought to put lemon and caraway together, but it works very well.

One note about making these cookies: they're very easy to make, but don't be alarmed when after mixing all the ingredients together you have a bowlful of crumbly cookie dough! The dough comes together quickly when you squeeze it and knead it with your hands for just a minute or two. Even better, it is quite easy handle and shape into a roll.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I liked that the cookie was thin and crunchy with a lemony flavor. I even liked the taste of the caraway with the lemon. I actually liked the cookie until the last bite when a whole caraway seed caught in my back molar. All I could think of was that you can’t eat this cookie when you are with a group of people unless you don’t mind picking your teeth in front of everyone. Rating- 3.0"

Denny: "If I wasn't a Polack, I probably wouldn't have tried them. Caraway in a cookie! What!! Actually, the caraway blended well with the tartness of the lemon. Kinda smoothed it out. Very good, with only my normal 1 point deduction for not being chocolate. 4.0. Now, Chocolate Caraway Crisps might be a 5.0. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Yummy cookie, although I don't care for the flavor of the caraway seeds in the cookies. Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "These wafer-thin cookies have a delicious combination of lemony flavor and caraway. I'm not a big fan of caraway seeds (since they get caught in my teeth!), but these cookies had just the right amount of seeds. They're more on the crunchy side then chewy. Delicious! Rating - 3.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.4

Next week - Almond Spicebox Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Sesame Fingers

Page 146 in the old book / page 179 in the new book

I FOUND A MISTAKE IN THE BOOK! I am certain that this is an editing error, but I was still surprised to find it. What is even more surprising is that it appears in both the old and new books. I reviewed the recipe before I began and was amused to find the following instructions for shaping the dough before chilling, "With your hands press against the paper to mold the dough into an oblong 12 inches long, 3/4 inch wide, and 1 inch thick." Hmmm... if sliced 1/4 of an inch thick, that would make each cookie about the size of a piece of Bazooka bubble gum, wouldn't it? I think the desired dimensions are actually 12 inches long, 3 to 4 inches wide, and 1 inch thick.

I liked these cookies very much - they're attractive, they're sweet and crunchy, and they have an interesting texture because of the abundant sesame seeds within (3/4 cup). As some of the cookie panelists comment below, they are rather plain, but I don't think that's always a bad thing. In fact, I got into a bit of a debate with Denny on that very topic. (I promise I was not trying to sway his vote!) I guess it's to be expected that when you ask people to assign numerical ratings to cookies week after week, they will naturally compare one week's cookie to past offerings. The thing is, I think that these plainer cookies can be pretty great in their own right. Simplicity can be a virtue, but I think in this setting it's not usually seen that way. OK, I'll get off my soapbox now... all I'm saying is, you really ought to give these cookies a chance.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "I love sesames in everything, so I knew I would like this cookie. The butter, sesames, and vanilla almost gave the cookie a slight lemony taste. Also, the cookie's shape was attractive and reminded me of lady finger cookies. I also liked the crunchiness of the cookie with the sesames. Rating- 4.0"

Denny: "Bland and not much going for it. Wasn't bad, just not too good. Rating - 2.0"

Laura: "Very hard to rate objectively, since I do not care for sesame seeds. Rating - 1.0"

Terri: "These cookies are somewhat like a shortbread with sesame seeds. I really like the shortbread flavor, but they may be bland if served alone. These would be great along with a chocolate cookie or chocolate dessert. Also would be great with fruit. Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 2.5

Next week - Caraway Crisps

Nutrition Facts

Monday, July 17, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Icebox Nut Cookies

Page 144 in the old book / page 178 in the new book

I thought these were very good. They are lemony, very crunchy, and loaded with nuts. I used pecans, but walnuts could also be used.

The recipe gave several options for shaping the dough for slicing. I chose to make a single log, but there weren't any instructions about how long or big around the log should be. Based on the thickness and number of cookies the recipe was supposed to make, I guessed that the log should be about 12 inches long, which made for a very fat log. The cookies were large, but not overly so. The real problem was that because of the size of the log, I had trouble slicing them evenly. If I were to make these again, I would make the log a little smaller around.

I also had some trouble with the cookies running together when baked. The recipe indicated that they should be placed "1/2 to 1 inch apart", but I found that half an inch was too close.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The cookie was actually too crunchy and too lemony. The cookie did not soften as you ate it. I did enjoy the pecans. Rating- 3.0"

Denny: "Very good. Couldn't taste the lemon, but lots of pecans. 4.0, maybe higher. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "A crisp, crunchy cookie with the perfect amount of nuts and just a hint of lemon. Yummy! Rating - 3.0"

Terri: "These shortbread type cookies are delicious! The slight lemon flavor adds a mild lemony taste. Very crunchy with the pecans too. These would be great with a sorbet or sherbet. Rating - 4.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.5

Next week - Sesame Fingers

Nutrition Facts

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

Page 143 in the old book / page 177 in the new book

Another plain, but very good cookie. The twist here is that raw sugar is used, which contributes to the crunchy, crumbly texture of the cookies.

I used a natural style peanut butter again for these cookies. I made these once before and remember them having a firmer (not so crumbly) texture. Either I'm remembering wrong, or possibly the peanut butter I used made the difference. It was the same variety, it's just that it had been hanging around longer. If you've ever bought this type of peanut butter, you know that the oil separates out with time. You're supposed to stir it back in, but I always blot it with a paper towel or pour it off. I wind up with some very solid peanut butter (not exactly spreadable!), but I rationalize that it's healthier since it's lower in fat. Next time I'd be tempted to cut back on the butter a little to see what happens, that is unless I've got some old peanut butter hanging around!

Update - I just remembered the other difference. I was out of unsalted butter and used salted butter. Hmmm...

These cookies are a little difficult to slice - they tend to crumble on the bottom edge - but they can easily be mended with your fingers. In spite of these slicing woes, they always seem to bake up to near-perfect circles.

The panel was lukewarm on these cookies, but they did have their fans.

Suzanne: "Whole wheat must mean that the cookie is healthy and therefore we can have as many as we want. I also like anything with peanut butter in them and I like the crunchy texture. Even though the cookie was healthy, had peanut butter and was crunchy, it wasn’t anything special so I gave it a rating of 3. Rating- 3.0"

Denny: "My Aunt Josephine made the best PB cookies ever, so I'm not objective. Rating - 3.0"

Laura: "Tasty and crunchy and peanutty. A tad crumbly, but still delish. Rating - 3.5"

Terri: "Very tasty, especially if you like peanut butter. These remind me of a shortbread cookie with the peanut butter flavor. Rating - 3.0"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.1

Next week - Icebox Nut Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rainy Days in Vermont

I spent a few days in June with Bob and Chuck in Vermont. The rain seemed unending, with the sun making only two very brief appearances toward the end of our stay. Bob and Chuck refused to let the soggy weather slow them down, and carried on with their gardening decked out in yellow rain gear. I was not nearly so determined and opted instead to curl up inside with a book. When the rains finally slowed to a trickle I did eventually offer a little assistance outside.

One nice thing about those gloomy skies - they provided perfect lighting for some close-ups of Bob and Chuck's beautiful garden.



Lupine (and Thyme?)

Bleeding Heart


Can't remember the name of this one - but Chuck was very proud of it

This little baby woodpecker lost his momma. He was very patient with my picture-taking for quite a while and then let out a frantic little cry. I hope she heard him!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Peanut Butter Pillows

Page 142 in the old book / page 176 in the new book

These Peanut Butter Pillows were a hit at my office. Too bad it was such a small batch! The name may sound delicate, but these saucer-sized cookies are anything but. As Terri said, they resemble little pies with their crimped edges and peanut butter filling.

They were not at all difficult to make. The cookies are sliced from a roll like most other icebox cookies, but then a bit of peanut butter is placed between two slices. After sitting at room temperature for a couple minutes, the dough softens and sort of drapes over the peanut butter. You then seal the edge and crimp it with a fork.

I used a natural style peanut butter (just ground peanuts, nothing else) both in the cookie and the filling and was quite pleased with the result. Though it may be that this choice affected the texture of the cookie somewhat. The recipe says that the cookies are crisp, but mine were crisp only on the edges. The cookies were rich and peanutty, and very good.

Unfortunately both Suzanne and Denny were out this week. Herman filled in, but we're down one taster...

Herman: "Your peanut butter cookies are excellent … 4 out of 5!!! They remind me of real peanut butter and have a nice texture. Congratulations!. Rating- 4.0"

Laura: "Crunchy and peanutty delicious! Other peanut butter cookies only dream of being this good! Rating - 5.0"

Terri: "These are outstanding! These are delicious for us peanut butter lovers. This cookie looks like a 'mini-pie' with the peanut butter in the center. Moist and very tasty. Rating - 4.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.5

Next week - Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

Nutrition Facts

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Day of Picking and Pitting

A morning at Homestead Farm yielded just under 16 pounds of sour cherries



Update: Sorry, I got the recipe on-line, so I should have included the link earlier. Anyway, you'll find it here - it's very good!