I’m not, as Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes once insisted, having the time of my life. Aside from the absence of Patrick Swayze, things here are a bit topsy turvy.
We just got word that our landlord will be selling the flat in June so the hunt for our fourth flat in three years must begin soon if we want to find anything decent. I’m not in the mood to move. In fact, the cold greyness of March is insisting that I stay inside and drink tea and eat cupcakes. Alas, I have work to do outside and there are no cupcakes to be found. Hibernation must wait.
After moping around the flat today, wrapped up in thick sweaters and felted watermelon slippers, swearing at the spinning rainbow wheel of death on my laptop (the Great Firewall has kicked it up a notch and the internet was practically non existant, with no proxy ports connecting), I decided I needed comforting.
However, I didn’t want to make a whole cake or a big batch of anything because I’d just have to eat it all. That wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted…just one or two. Of whatever. But you can’t bake a batch of, say, three cookies. It just doesn’t work.
Unless, of course, you regress to childhood and remember the sort of cookies that grandmothers baked. You know, the kind that the freaking Pillsbury Doughboy co-opted and corporatized. Icebox cookies. Freezer cookies. The thaw-n-slice cookies.
You make a batch, divide it into dough logs, wrap them up individually and freeze them for later. When you need a micro batch of cookies, you just take out a log, let it thaw 15 minutes or so, slice them and bake them. Easy peasy.
So I did that.
And now I have a manageable little batch of really lovely, buttery, not too sweet cookies that go very well with strong tea and 2 layers of blankets and a book.
After a bit of Google research, I decided to go with this recipe, as it was borrowed from Canadian Living magazine, which tends to have lovely, reliable comfort food recipes.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) white granulatedsugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 2/3 cups (345 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoonbaking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) candied red cherries, chopped
As always, I made a few modifications.
- My butter (from Jiadeli supermarket) was only 200g and it may or may not have been salted. I couldn’t read the label.
- My sugar was that lovely date and pepper sugar that I often use in baking.
- I think I may have accidentally used 1.5 tablespoons of my gin-vanilla.
- Because my butter was 23g shy of the required amount, I only used 2.5 cups of my triticale/black wheat flour
- Because I loathe candied cherries (and have no access to them anyway), I used 1/2 cup of chopped up dried haw fruit (see also here), which I’m a huge fan of. If you haven’t tried it, you should- it’s sweet-tart and almost plummy and has a wonderful intense flavour.
I let the butter sit out for about 15 minutes to soften, hastened by a gentle dismemberment using my spoon. Smaller chunks of butter soften faster than one big lump.
Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl (or rice cooker insert or whatever) and go find yourself a sturdy spatula. You have a lot of work to do now.
If you don’t have an electric mixer, this part is, um, time and energy consuming. I look at it as an excellent alternative to the sweaty, manly weights room at the gym. You need to cream the butter and sugar together until it’s not only smooth but also kind of light and fluffy and vaguely whipped.
My technique was to smash the lumps of butter into the pockets of sugar and then smear them together across the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, a bit like applying drywall mud. It takes a while, but it really does the trick.
Once the sugar and butter are integrated, use your spatula to whip it up a bit. It doesn’t need to be inflated like a meringue (I mean, it’s freaking butter, after all) but it should be lighter and fluffier than when you started.
This is what it looked like when I started the drywalling process:
And this is what it looked like after the fluffing. Insert Ron Jeremy joke here. Note the tiny pile of haw bits to the right.
Below is what the butter-sugar spackle looked like after I added the egg and shot of gin. I mean, vanilla. I whipped that too. Whipped it real good. The specks in the batter are the flakes of pepper from the date-pepper sugar.
In another bowl, off camera, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the batter, working the puffs of flour into the wet mix. This will take some time and energy if all you have are your own arms and a pink pig spatula. It’ll be a rather thick dough by the end. At this point, add whatever goodies you have- the cherries, the haw, nuts, whatever. Stir it in well.
Once all the flour is incorporated smoothly into the wet mixture, form it into 3 roughly equal dough balls. They’re pretty easy to handle at this point, thick enough to mold with your hands.
Get a length of, say, plastic wrap or parchment paper or waxed paper and lay it out on your counter top (or precariously balanced cutting board or whatever). Shape one of the dough balls into an adorable little cookie brick, like so:
Wrap that brick!
And repeat for the rest of the dough.
According to the recipe, they can be kept in the freezer for about a month or in the fridge for up to three days. Mine went into the freezer.
After about an hour, I hauled one brick out to bake. Chilling makes it easier to slice neatly.
Pre heat the oven to 190/375 and go get yourself a cookie sheet. I lined mine with foil again, as the sheet is reeking a bit of roasted garlic these days. I lightly greased it with a hint of oil, just in case– however, in retrospect, I’m not sure it was needed. They’re pretty buttery.
Slice the log into 1/2 cm thick pieces (1/4 inch) and arrange them on the cookie sheet so they aren’t touching. They don’t spread out when cooked, so you needn’t give them too much elbow room.
Bake them about 10 minutes on the middle rack. They’ll look a bit pale and soft even at 10 minutes but that’s okay. They’ll firm up just enough when cooling.
See? This was tonight’s comfort food. A big mug of strong Irish tea (from Bewleys- thank you, Selly) and two Haw-filled buttery cookies fresh from the oven.
I almost feel better. Almost.