Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mission Accomplished

Scandinavian Almond Bars have been created and the word is they were (key word) very good!! My official taste tester approved of them and I brought them in to work also. I, of course, was commenting on what I thought was wrong with them. It is in the genes.

I was procrastinating Sunday a.m. as I was nervous to start baking. You would have thought I was on the Food Network Challenge. Marcel entered the kitchen and started talking to me and I instructed him to leave promptly as "this baking thing requires my attention as I have to measure stuff!" I told him he would be allowed back in to test the end product. A few funny things to note:
  • Note to self: When putting the mixer fixture you want to use on the Kitchen Aid mixer there is a handy little button you press and the hardware comes right off from the mixer. No need to try to maneuver the bowl to fit around it. Also, another handy button is the one that lifts the mixer up and down. Lastly, if you put the mixer in "lock" position it will no longer sound like it is going to dance across your counter.
  • When you cannot find your rolling pin, a bottle of peppercorns is a suitable replacement.
  • Form into a 12" roll really means to roll out so the dough looks like a 12" log.
  • The note in my Mom's recipe that says flatten the dough to 2" means wide, not thick. Fat cookies take longer to bake. You should flatten with a roller, not your fingers. I had flattened with my fingers and was thinking, "Mom's cookies were always flat. They never had these ridges."
Test run successful. I think the only thing I will adjust is the amount of almond flavoring. This weekend I am going to try the Fudge Puddles and Maple Logs.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing family and friends a wonderful Thanksgiving. Sometimes we all get caught up in the "what needs to be done" for this day and forget about the true meaning. Take some time today today to reflect on what you are thankful for and don't forget to say a little prayer for me because.....

Tomorrow is Day 1 of the Kate's Cookie Extravaganza and I will be starting with: Scandinavian Almond Bars. Check in tomorrow to see how I am doing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And the list goes on

I am still organizing the list. Did I not say I was going to start slow with four different types this year? I am going back and forth on different years in "the Book" along with analyzing the photo that was in the paper to decipher some of these cookies. I should have paid more attention over the years to what they were called instead of shoving them in my mouth so quickly. Who was I kidding? I cannot just make 4 different types. I think that may be worse than making none.

Excel works for everything

A lot of what I do in my job each day involves utilizing Microsoft Excel. I put everything in a spreadsheet. So, when starting to review the recipes and make a list of what ingredients I would need what better place to list everything out than in excel. Columns and rows galore and then just sum it all up and that's what I need. Here I go again in excel.


My mother and I were extremely close. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast and lung cancer in November 2005 that had metastasized to her brain. To say that family and friends were shocked is an understatement. We put our shock aside and did everything we could to help her. My Mom died on February 6, 2006 surrounded by my me, my husband, and my brother in her home.

A few weeks after her diagnosis, I know my Mom was stressed about the cookies. She was undergoing daily radiation treatments and very tired. Her will to live was very strong and never a peep out of her mouth about her devastating diagnosis. That is who she was. "Que sera sera" is what I heard her say so many times growing up. This was no different. I told her, "Just don't make the cookies this year." I can still vividly see the look on her face. There was not a response, but if looks could talk that one said, "Yeah, whatever." My Mom's neighbor and I decided we would attempt to make the cookies that year. Maura saved the cookie trays that year - not me. I made 4 cookies (easy ones that were not even part of Mom's recipes). Maura made many of Mom's. She did an awesome job on the trays!! Mom was very pleased.

Last year the cookie trays were not produced. It was a tough year and during the Holidays we were busy packing up Mom's home and getting ready for the sale of it. Need I say more.

For the past few months I have been thinking about the trays. My Aunt helped me sort through all of Mom's recipes. She must think I am crazy as I would not let her throw away one. Who cares if there are three copies of it. Her job was to organize! Being the wonderful person she is, she did as directed by her bossy niece. So now I have all of Mom's recipes organized. Time to dive into the cookie recipes. While going through one of the many boxes in my basement I came across "the Book". "The Book" contains a listing of the names of the cookies and how many made each year. I was sure I was doomed. 2002 had 12 different kinds of cookies and 95.5 dozen cookies. Yes, you read that correctly. NINETY FIVE AND A HALF DOZEN COOKIES. Deep breath... I knew I had big shoes (ha ha sorry Mom) to fill and wanted to succeed so I was thinking I would pick four types and that would be my goal for year one. After starting to organize what I need to do over the next few weeks I am stuck at around eight. Am I crazy??? I have never baked one of these cookies before. I better get practicing!!!

The Attempt

This blog is an attempt to capture my first year of continuing my Mom's tradition of baking Christmas cookies. This is no small order. First, My mother was a perfectionist when it came to baking and even more so when it came to her Christmas cookies. She started baking cookies for family and friends many years ago. Second, I have never blogged before and am doing this by trial and error so please be patient!! To follow is an article that appeared in the local paper a few years back after her neighbor interviewed her:

A December state of mind

With one week left until Christmas, Katy Duffus' kitchen is a mini-bakery. The retired nurse is in the thick of her holiday baking extravaganza - no less than 10 kinds of cookies for family, friends and neighbors.

Fortified with a third cup of hazelnut coffee, Duffus on Dec. 16 started the morning making Swedish ginger cookies, using a star for cutouts.

Counter space had been scoured, 10 cookies sheets sat in a pile and dough made earlier in the month and frozen was molded into wafer-thin stars with a light sprinkling of sugar.

She began baking cookies as gifts years ago to cut back on spending, when her extended family decided not to exchange individual gifts.

"I didn't like the idea of that. I like to do something," she said.

Each year she bakes different recipes. One mainstay is a sugar cookie handed down by her mother, the late Charlotte Karrer Powers.

Besides the sugar and ginger cookies, this season's production is fudge puddles, shortbread, maple logs, almond bars, pecan sandies, cappuccino flats, pressed spritz cookies, a brownie cup and lemon poppy seed and Neapolitan cookies.

"I always make way too many, but my son is always happy to take them to work and my daughter too," she said.

She makes the cookies small so that a wide variety can fit attractively on a tray. For cookies in the shape of a wreath, Duffus uses a straw to poke a hole that will later have a red bow tied on.

Duffus melts chocolate, dipping one end of some cookies. Others are frosted with icing or colored sugar.

"My feeling is they can look lovely, but if they don't taste good they aren't worth it," she said.

You now see my challenge.....