Saturday, November 24, 2012
Baking with passing down the wisdom
Sweeney the elf has been visiting our family for about six years - long before the whole elf movement hit the big time. We look forward to him and his antics each year. This year, he arrived with sprinkles, flour and an air of cookie anticipation.
With the fig cookie filling cooling in the fridge, I moved onto preparing the dough. With some help from Jazz, we had the whole cookie operation ready to start very quickly. Each child had a chance to roll dough, add the filling, wrap the cookies and cut them to size. Zydeco opted to roll and cut shaped cookies because he says he doesn't like the fig filling. But he loves to eat fresh figs. Go figure....
Once cooled, we let the children add icing and sprinkles. We enjoy the first tastes of the season with cocoa and laughter. We write wish lists for ourselves and our friends/ family. And we rejoice in another year together.
The cookie recipe used is a combination of my grandmother's original recipe and one that my mother received at an Italian cookie class she took years ago. The resulting cookies are better than the ones from my youth. I remember spending one Saturday each November in my mother's hometown (a little Italian town about an hour from New Orleans) baking cookies with my grandmother and her sisters. As the youngest participating, I was always given the task of icing the cooling cookies. A task I loved because I'd eat as many as I'd ice :) We'd make traditional fig cookies (like the ones we made yesterday), dough cookie balls flavored with orange, anise, or cocoa, and seed cookies. The baking would go on for hours, with much laughter (and a liberal dose of family gossip) among the woman and girls present. Hence the choice of song lyric today.
So, for those who'd like to try these awesome cookies, I offer the following recipe:
Fig Filling -
1/2 lb dried figs with stems removed
1/4 to 1/2 lb dates
1 cup pecans, roasted 10 minutes at 350 degrees
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 T water
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind or 1/4 tsp lemon extract/ oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum extract
dash ground cloves
Use a food grinder or food processor to grind figs, dates, and pecans. Add cocoa and cinnamon. In a saucepan, bring marmalade, honey and water to a boil, then pour over fig mixture. Add lemon, vanilla, rum, and cloves. Flatten mixture onto freezer paper or parchment and refrigerate. (I attempted to use my processor but the motor didn't seem strong enough for the dried figs. I switched to the grinder.)
1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp each lemon and orange oils/ extracts
pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and extracts, mixing well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add gradually to the butter mixture. Final mixing may need to be by hand as the dough stiffens. Work dough on counter until smooth. Chill until ready. Using a small amount of dough each time, roll into an elongated rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Place strip of filling down the center of dough, then fold each side over and pinch seams closed, flattening roll slightly. Cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths and place on lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 18 minutes or until lightly browned. If desired, ice with traditional powdered sugar icing and add sprinkles.
Several years ago, my mother found a copy of my grandmother's handwritten, original dough recipe. My father made the picture frame and it hangs in a place of honor in our kitchen. It makes everyday we bake seem special.
Today's post title: Cece Winans' Mamma's Kitchen