Monday, December 04, 2006

sugar jones

I am having this obscene urge to bake. Cookies, pound cake, pies, apple turnovers.... 'Tis the season, I guess. It's not really the eating I crave, it's the making. The smells and textures of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The implements of baking--the pans, wooden spoons, spatulas; the cold fine-edges of cookie cutters in adorable little intricate shapes; the blunt smooth-grained weight of a cherrywood rolling pin, given to me by a mom who shared my passion for baking and is herself a champion bread-baker.

So I was scanning back through my recipe box and pulling out favorites, plus a few new things I'd like to try. Here's the litany of calories:

  • The family favorite is coconut-sour cream cookies, a cakelike little pillow of heaven with a very fine texture, dense but very soft and moist. You can really only make them at Christmas. Once when I was a pre-teen I made a batch in summer, and they sagged into a mound of sugary mortar at the bottom of the cookie jar. We had to keep them in the fridge and dig out a serving with a spoon. But in winter, they keep very well. In fact they are better after two or three days.
  • Almond cream sticks. These are fine-grained and slightly flaky, somewhere between shortbread and a pie crust. They are full of butter and cream cheese and are very rich, but oddly light. You can eat a whole lot of them before you realize the danger.
  • Brownies made with Baker's bittersweet chocolate and swirled with cream cheese. (Are ya seeing a pattern, here?) My favorite brownie recipe. Moist and rich. Make a thin layer in a broad flat pan, cut into small bites and freeze the bulk.
  • Chocolate- and butterscotch-chip cookies with oatmeal and pecans. I grind the rolled oats into flour and finely chop the nuts. That way they are more about flavor and texture than chunks. Most people will eat these, even those who claim to dislike pecans. Both additions are useful for upping the fiber contect and reducing the sweet, so you can tell yourself they semi-healthy.
  • Grandma Rella's oatmeal with raisins and pecans. Now these ARE healthy. They have about 30-40% less sugar in them than most modern cookie recipies, and you make them with old-fashioned rolled oats. They're cakey and chewy, filling and satisfying. In my mom's house there is no shame in eating these for breakfast or dinner, preferably with milk. Hell, if you broke them in a bowl and poured milk over, you couldn't tell the difference.

    I keep thinking I can do a variation on this theme, with dried apples, maybe some almonds, and cut into bars.
  • The perfect sugar cookie. Alas, I have not yet found it. I keep trying. I think there must be more dairy fat involved, somehow. (I have no interest in the dry cardboard-like cutout-type recipes. Blech.) A couple years ago I was experimenting with Madeleines: they kept coming out dry, so I added some sour cream. The Madeleines fell all apart but the batter was fantastic. It puffed and then sank into a wonderful chewy moist cookie-like substance. Must attempt this again.
  • Something involving cherries and almond flavor. I don't know what form it will take, yet... maybe the base recipe for the coconut sour cream cookies, which strongly resembles a poundcake. I just bought a bottle of Almond extract from Penzey's--the real stuff, made with bourbon. But what form should the cherries take? Dried? Fresh? Canned? Pureed? Preserved? Comfited? I don't know, but I am undaunted.


Shirley said...

*groan* Thanks a LOT, Holly! *G* And here I am, with no table and scant-to-no counter space. How the heck am I going to make my chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, and fudge??!? Argh!

Holly said...

Heh heh. I'd offer to let you come to my house, but the counterspace isn't much better.

AJ Milne said...

I was gonna make an entirely irrelevant comment that 'Sugar Jones' sounds like it would be an absolutely great name for a character in a Pam Grier-esque blaxploitation movie... but then I found out it's also already both (1) the stage name of a Louisiana-based singer/songwriter Southern rock guy, and (2) a new defunct Canadian pop band...

So I got nothin'.

(Well, except that the sour cream thing in the sugar cookies sounds like a very promising avenue for research. Does your lab trade its shares publicly?)

Anonymous said...

I must cease and desist reading this entry. Every time I do, I gain five pounds. I wouldn't mind it if the extra avoirdupois were muscle.

Holly said...

Now that you mention it, "Sugar Jones" sounds like a title for one of those contemporary "women's fiction" books aimed at African-American women. It's cutesy and tacky enough. I checked Amazon but there doesn't seem to be one. Maybe there's a niche.

I wish I were the first to think of sour cream in a sugar cookie, but fortunately others have done the dirty work for me.

I also found this one for sour cream chocolate cookies that looks even better.

Ugh. I can feel myself bloating at the mere thought.