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Happy-Gourmand

Tasting old memories

With the snow on the ground, it really feels like Christmas is coming, so I peeked at old food magazines to see what might inspire me for a column. 

Nothing fuels the festive spirit like visions of homemade cookies.  

As I looked through the mountainous pile of pages and clippings, I realized I didn’t need to come up with anything new. 

The Internet is full of new twists on old favourites, and there are Facebook pages spewing non-stop videos with new trends in cooking and every other kind of domestic pastime. 

Perhaps the best thing would be to go back to basics. I was lucky enough to do some holiday baking with my mom this year, and we made the first recipe she ever taught me – shortbread cookies. 

They tasted full of memories, just the way I like them. Sharing them with my mom before she journeyed to Mexico for the winter was a special treat. 

My mom used to say there wasn’t much a cookie couldn’t cure, and she was right. Maybe that is why cookie exchanges and bake sales still work.

There is a small community in Pennsylvania where many of the women get together every Christmas to bake thousands of cookies for the church fundraiser. 

They are three generations into their history and the money they raise they admit is no more than what is raised by passing the collection plate, so why do they do it? 

The answer is simple: it is a way to bring the community together with a common goal. 

By now you know me well enough to understand I love the corny nature of small town logic and old fashioned morals. Well, this one is about as close to the centre of the universe as you can get, if you ask me. 

Baking cookies (or sewing quilts or building a barn) was a way everyone could help out and be a part of something bigger than themselves. 

That is a wonderful feeling and we are often too busy these days doing our own thing to have that anymore.

You might be thinking I am trying to start a grassroots, cookie-baking movement here. 

As much as I think that would be cool, all that really needs to happen is that you invite one friend or relative over. 

Maybe, like a friend of mine, you invite someone who is not very handy in the kitchen and you let them make a mess. 

Then you smile when the mixer finally gets turned off and take a picture so you can both laugh about it years later.

That is a great memory and a great friendship. Or perhaps you set the kids loose in the kitchen. 

My brother and I used to discuss which decorations were right on shortbread as if the fate of the world depended on it. 

My mother had comments for both of us on why each of our designs was appropriate. 

My father would even eat them, and he claimed not to like shortbread (I think that was just for added effect).

If you do have the time to make a whole mess of cookies, then they might even come in handy for the school bake sale or an office treat or even a special holiday offering for a mission or other charity. 

It’s amazing what a bit of butter and sugar and flour can become with some love mixed in.

Have you seen the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life? If not, you might want to rent it and sit down with a cookie or two to watch. 

Jimmy Stewart does a great job of reminding us and himself that life is truly a wonderful thing.

The best way not to forget is to share it with those we love, and having a tangible reminder helps us to keep doing that. Not all of us have Zuzu’s petals, but we can all have a cookie.

Here is that shortbread recipe we used when I was a kid – it’s a bit different than the usual shortbread but still melts in your mouth. 

Decorate them with candied cherries, chocolate chips, sprinkles, coloured sugar, almonds… as inspiration strikes you.

BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD

  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups flour, divided
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional, but really tasty)
  • Decorations (see above for suggestions)

Preheat oven to 325F.

Cream the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add extract(s) and mix well. Add flour ¼ cup at a time, stopping after 2 cups are mixed in. Save the last ¼ cup or so for the rolling. 

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Place one portion on a well-floured surface. Pat it down and turn it over.

Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. (Do not roll too thin or the cookies will burn.) Cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet by lifting them off with a metal spatula. (If you have a silicone baking sheet it works wonders to make clean up easier.)

Decorate cookies on the sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden.

Store in a sealed cookie jar or tin.



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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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