Well, I’d said I was participating in 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies, but after making my absolute favorite cookie, the hermit, I needed to take a few weeks off baking so I don’t blow up like a startled pufferfish J.
Seeing the first few week entries in the blog hop I was getting concerned. I only have so many favored cookie recipes and they were starting to show up before I baked and blogged about them. I thought about publishing my list – a sort of blogosphere dibs – neener, neener, neener, I dibbed shortbread on week 5. But, I decided that was more childish than the person I like to be. Besides, blogging is about my experience with a recipe and if there are 15 others of the same, so be it. Once I got past my hissy hurdle I considered a list for me would be useful. I’ll have some plan of which cookies/candies to write about when. For instance, since I’m pawning them off, generously sharing the delicious treats with neighbors, I won’t do Christmas decorated cookies until December.
I dragged out favored cookbooks, bunches of Americas Test Kitchen (they’re by year), Martha, Julia, Jacques and a few specifically for tea time that would be heavy on cookies and browsed through them. The notes also give me shopping lists, a smart move on my part as might otherwise hit a “rainy great baking day” and not have all the ingredients on hand.
Decided this week’s cookie will be from Boston Tea Parties, recipes from the Fine Arts Museum (side note I started collecting cookbooks when I was in Junior High). It’s a fun little cookbook – instead of pictures of food you get pictures of museum tea sets, paintings about tea and so forth. It’s copyright ’87. Some of you may have read my food nazi post where I discussed that I was a vegetarian and healthy whole grains only kinda gal for 15 years, during which time my extended family was not enamored of my cooking (understatement). Some recipes in this cookbook reminded me of those days –I may have a taste for such concoctions as carrot drops (only cooks for 10 minutes so the grated carrot probably still tastes like, well, grated carrot), whole wheat drops (what chocolate loving kid won’t jump for joy when presented with these?) and my favorite, hard boiled egg cookies (yep, cut up some hard boiled yolks and toss them in). I chortled out loud thinking of the strongly negative reaction I’d get showing up at my brother’s for the holiday with a box of only these. It would be like showing up with stockings of coal and nothing else.
But, I LOVE cranberries. Tart homemade cranberry chutney from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, cranberry tea bread from the OceanSpray wrapper, cranberries in stuffing, in pies, in scones, dried cranberries – it’s all good. And, this book had a recipe for Cranberry Spice Squares. Love spice cookies, love cranberries, however I remained cautious in thinking anyone but me may like these cookies given the book’s other inclusions.
I’m an Irish soda bread kinda gal – you know, flour, soda – toss it in the oven and if you don’t eat it in the next few hours it makes a great doorstop. My sister referred to it in our Ireland trip as akin to eating sawdust. So, I know baking soda has a rather distinct taste. These cookies call for soda – I considered substituting it but the references I found said 3 times as much baking powder for baking soda and I knew that would throw the flavor off – I decided to bake them as instructed.
The long and short of it? These things are GOOD! They’re better than good; they’re one of my new favorite spice cake recipes. Took every ounce of my willpower to not devour at least half of it warm from the oven. Even now, the day after at room temp, I have to carefully allot myself a certain amount and wrap it up out of sight. I could just finish the darn thing for dinner. It calls to me – the marvelous heady spice (I added ¾ tsp allspice to the recipe), the perfectly tender and moist crumb, the delectable cranberries. It’s my ideal tea cake and it’s one I can share with my family – sans disdain and disappointment.
You will notice I’m calling it a tea cake. The book called it squares and listed it as a cookie. I’d been imaging something much denser and, well, cookie like. This is a scrumptious tea cake cooked in an 8 X 8 pan that can be cut into squares. The book offers a recipe for cream cheese frosting (see recipes above) to go with it; I opted out of that one. For a dinner dessert try it, for a brunch/breakfast cake – skip it. If you too don’t want to blow up like a pufferfish, be sure to have a few folks on hand to help you devour it. With or without assistance, it won’t be around long.
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