Just Baked

December 26, 2009


All of the holidays requiring gifts and distant travels are over for the time being, and I'm back with a new recipe: biscuits.

I managed to convince myself that fresh out of the oven biscuits were only meant for people who were willing to mix up batches of floury doughy goodness before getting down to the business of cooking the main portion of the meal, or those with an impeccable sense of kitchen timing. Luckily for me, I recently discovered that I could freeze batches of pre-cut biscuits and just pull out one or two when I wanted. I'm still working on the "timing" part of it, unfortunately.

Like many of my grandmother's recipes, this is super simple. The hardest part of making these was trying to decide what size glass I should use to cut the biscuits out of the rolled dough. I ended up settling on some wide mouth shot glasses, which seemed cute at the time. In retrospect, I probably should have used my sweet Return of the Jedi glasses, since they have a slightly wider diameter, but now I know for future batches. I would recommend using something with about a 2 1/2" diameter.


December 20, 2009

Butter Paddles and Excuses

Hey everyone! Look at these neat butter paddles that I found hidden in the back of a kitchen drawer at my parents house. According to my mom, my grandmother gave them to her, but was Not Happy about it. I'm not really sure why this is, because:

1. I know I saw several more sets of these sitting in drawers at my grandmother's house over the years.
2. I only remember seeing balls of elegantly rolled butter once or twice at my grandmother's house.
3. I can't really imagine a situation where my mom would be asking my grandmother to please, please part with some of her butter paddles so that she too can grace her table with beautiful balls of butter.

Anyway, the butter paddles are mine now, and you can rest assured that some day soon I will try my hand at making pretty balls of butter to impress my guests with.

I don't have a recipe for you today. I'm sure you're very disapointed. I'm going to employ the Standard December Excuse, and say that I've just been totally busy with holiday related things. You'd think I would know better than to decide to handmake 80% of the presents I'm giving this year, but I promise you: No, I don't know better.

A large percentage of what I'm making is candy. "But Temma! You're making candy! Why aren't you making candy from your grandmother's recipies?" Well, I can't find any candy recipes in the boxes. If I didn't remember yesterday that she and I used to make a delicious peanut butter fudge, I would tell you that candy was something she never bothered to make. As it is, I can't find the fudge recipe, and the closest thing in the boxes to candy is a "tutti frutti ice cream" recipe-- I'm going to save that for when it's warmer out.

So my grandmother didn't really make candy. Her house was always, always full of chocolate, and she had some for anyone. For young folks, she always had a variety of Hershey's Kisses and M&Ms sitting out in elegant glass containers-- if you looked very solomn and promised to be careful, you could go and lift the heavy lids off of the containers yourself and choose the Kisses that looked the most appealing.

In the dining room there was another glass container, often full of Ferrero Rocher chocolate balls or chocolate covered mints. There would also be a little container of hard candies nearby, normally those old fashioned ones that had wrappers that looked like strawberries-- I always felt that the hard candies were there for the benefit of my Poppop, since he seemed to prefer those to my grandmother's fancy chocolates. And oh, the fancy chocolates!

The fanciest were kept in the kitchen, just a few steps away from my grandmother's favorite kitchen chair. There was always a box or two of chocolates sitting there, boxes full of elagant candy that my relatives had discovered in hidden shops around Philadephia or New York, and then brought for her to taste. She would always offer them when you were about to leave- "for the road"- or when you were about to go up to bed - or after dinner - or after dessert. She was very free with her candy, probably because she knew she would always be showered with more, so there wasn't any need to hoard it.

Or for her to make it. I had to track down some candy recipes online. It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, although without a candy thermometer I'm sure it would have been the most frustrating thing ever. Here is a recipe for some Fleur de sel caramels I've been making, and here is a quick photo of mine:

Not nearly as pretty, but what can you do.

Anyway, I'll be back with more recipes after the holidays, as I'm currently preparing to be up to my elbows in marshmallows.

December 05, 2009

Zucchini Tomato Pie

I've always categorized anything my grandmother would cook as "oh my God unhealthy." This might be true of her baked goods, but I'm discovering that I was wrong about some of her entrees-- for instance, this one. Sure, this isn't something that would be considered "diet food," but if my grandmother was trying to make something for weight loss, she would probably just feed you some melba toast and be done with it. This certainly has more calories in it than some melba toast with cottage cheese, but that's mostly due to the 1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese and 3 eggs that it calls for.

The only non-fresh ingredient that this recipe includes is some bisquick. Yes, I know. As you'll discover, my grandmother was certainly not above using pre-packaged mixes to cut out some steps in her recipes. In any case, there's only a little bit of it used, and I'm sure you can substitute it for any non-sweet pancake mix that you prefer. 

Recipe time!

November 29, 2009

"Deluxe" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fact*: Everyone has a grandmother who knows the best chocolate chip cookie recipe known to man. That's just how it is. But make no mistake, my gram could bake the best chocolate chip cookies around.

*This is in no way an actual fact; I have done no research of any sort to back up my claim.
Until I went searching through her recipe box, I had no idea how many variations of the chocolate chip cookie that she had collected. In fact, I couldn't find the exact recipe we used every time that we baked cookies, although I did eventually find a card that was nearly perfect. She made her chocolate chip cookies so often that she didn't need to refer to a recipe card for them. Any references to recipes while making the cookies were solely for my benefit, so she would just point me to the ingredient list on the back of the chocolate chip bag while we gathered up the ingredients, but then say "But we're really going to use a little more of this, and add in yy and zz. Those are what make the cookies so good." A typical kid, I decided that what went in to my grams cookies was highly classified information, and would make a point of telling people that I knew what the secret ingredients were.

For awhile it seemed like we made these cookies every time I went to her house, something that I'm sure my nutritionally concious mom loved. Then, I started visiting less often, and for shorter times. We stopped making cookies, since you can't very well make a batch of 7 dozen cookies in a 45 minute visit. I think at that point she had stopped baking for the most part, anyway, except during fits of insomnia. Then, one morning, I woke up to flurry of ringing phones and my parents racing about. Due to some construction on the house, I had been sleeping on a couch downstairs. At some point, my dad poked his head into the room and announced "gram is dead," before he disapeared again, gone to who remembers where.

The next thing I remember is standing in the kitchen creaming together enough butter and sugar to make a gigantic batch of chocolate chip cookies. I must have gone to the grocery store and gathered up baking supplies, because there's no way that we had adequet cookie supplies in the house. I don't know what made me decide that baking chocolate chip cookies was the right thing to do at the time; it just seemed like there wasn't anything else that made sense. I'm not sure if all of the cookies ended up being eaten or not, because I certainly wasn't in the cookie eating mood, but I know my dad distributed some of them to people. At least they were there if anyone wanted one, and things can't be entirely hopeless if there are family recipe cookies around.

This was the first time I've made chocolate chip cookies with this recipe since then, and I don't think I'll go back. I had forgotten how good they are. A word of warning, if you like fat, cakey cookies, this won't become your favorite chocolate chip recipe; these cookies have golden brown edges and a chewy crunch to them.

Cookie time!

November 20, 2009

Brandy Swirl Cookies

I'm sorry for not posting a recipe this week. Between trying to figure out the best dish to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck (a variation of sweet potato casserole, thanks mom) and spending a few days down and out with a cold, I haven't had time.

OK, I'm lying, a little. I have had time. In fact, I baked a huge batch of "brandy swirl cookies." I hate to reveal this to you, but the cookies were terrible. I'm sorry Gram.

The recipe card itself looked promising. Neatly written, stained various shades of brown with what I assumed to be frequent usage- but when I mentioned the recipe to my parents, neither of them were familiar with it. I should have realized that this was an ill omen. Perhaps the reason that the recipe card looked like it had been soaked in brandy was that my grandmother was trying to destroy it, but was interrupted before she got around to lighting it on fire- who knows.

In any case, the cookies seemed like a potentially promising variation of a butter cookie, but turned out to be pale flat swirls that melted in to a buttery floury mess on the tongue, and not in a good way. Yuck. I took some photos of the unbaked cookies, but it seems pointless to post them.

In order to restore my faith (and my tastebuds), I've decided that next week I'm going to bake her classic chocolate chip cookies; complete with her "secret ingredient."

Until then...

November 13, 2009

(Potato) Corn Chowder

To be honest, this isn't something I ever remember my grandmother making. Fresh cooked sweet corn on the cob as a side dish? Sure! But corn chowder? Not that I recall. I don't remember ever eating soup at her house, to be honest, although I'm sure she must have heated up a bowlfull of something at some point.

I don't remember her making soup, but I do remember eating soup with her. Some nights when I was staying over, she would decide that we were going to go out to one of the local diners. This was never for the early bird specials that my dad is so fond of; it was just for a change of pace. I know what else anyone ordered, or if we would just get the salad bar, but I remember that this particular salad bar always seemed to have big tureens full of cream of brocolli soup, and my grandmother and I would always each eat at least one bowl of it. She always preferred creamy soups over ones with a clear broth, unless wontons were involved.

Because of the dreary weather that we've having, I really wanted to find a soup to make today, instead of the cookies and cakes that the recipe boxes are full of. Ok, full disclosure, I ate a huge brownie yesterday and then chowed down on a good amount of ice cream,  so the desire to make soup was also influenced by not wanting to look at anything sweet today. Anyway, I found several variations on corn/potato/corn and potato chowders, and this one seemed the most appealing and also the one with the most basic ingredients- I'll save the soup calling for "6 freshly grated ears of sweet corn" for when sweet corn is in season.

And, off to the soup!

November 04, 2009

Custard Rice Pudding

Rice pudding gets a bit of a bad rap. Maybe it's that rice pudding seems like something you only order if you've shown up to a restaurant for early bird special, or maybe it's that it bears the stigma of looking a little bit like another lumpy white food, cottage cheese. Personally, I like them both, no matter how lumpy they may look on a plate. Then again, I don't think that Nattō looks all that gross. Uh, moving on...

Anyway, rice pudding with raisins in it is something my gram used to make on occassion. It's one of the few desserts that both of my parents enjoy, which is probably why it never seemed to last too long in her house. When I was really little, I used to pick out the raisins in my bowl with my fingers and put them on a napkin; this would normally result in my being told that "that isn't something a nice young lady would do." Now, like a nice young lady, I like raisins in my rice pudding, and leave them be.

On to the recipe!

October 26, 2009

Tillie's Cookies

These cookies go by two different names in my gram's recipe box; there are cards titled "Tillie's Cookies" and also cards reading "Mother's Cookies." These are the cookies that my great-grandmother would make. It's probably because of this that these cookies were ever-present in my gram's house, whether they were freshly baked or take from the giant bag of them that was always waiting in her freezer, just in case.

I won't lie, when I was little, these weren't my favorite thing to come out of my grandmother's oven. It's not that I didn't like them, because I certainly did, it's just that there were normally other treats around to nibble on as well, and those other things often contained chocolate. Even so, I always managed to eat at least a few of these during each visit, carefully inspecting each cookie on the plate before deciding on the ones that I felt had the best jam-to-cookie ratio.

Even if Tillie's Cookies weren't my all time favorite to eat, they were always one of my favorite to help make. I liked getting to squish the thumbprints in the center of the cookies and then over-fill them with jelly, much of which would end up melting over the sides and burning on to the cookie sheet. My gram would always make sure that there were enough of her perfectly shaped and filled cookies to counterbalance my sticky cookie monstrosities.

Ok, enough storytime! Let's just make the darn cookies!

October 18, 2009

Origin Story

Whenever I picture my grandmother, she's in her kitchen. Not only was it the room that she always sat in when she watched TV or ate casual meals, but it was where, well, all the food came from. And there was always food.

Within minutes of arriving at her door, she would be offering up a variety of treats -- she was just about to sit down with some tea and toast, but would you like some cookies? There's also some pound cake under the dome if you'd prefer that, or half a pie sitting in the fridge. Oh, there's some fresh fruit salad next to the pie, and biscotti in the cookie jar, as well. Would you like some whipped cream on the pie? Let me put on a pot of coffee.

She always showed her love for her family with food. Whether it was a favorite cake on your birthday, a plate of fried flounder at dinner or a bowl of chocolates while watching Jeopardy. Needless to say, once I started having weekly sleepovers at my grandmother's, I wasn't the skinniest little kid.

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Honey Never Spoils by Temma Hankin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.