Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy days are here again. . .I think

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.

Alan Alda

At the beginning of 2006 life got a little dicey: Dave was laid off from his job in February, Erica had open heart surgery in March, Audrey moved back to Chicago and took her wonderful cat, Squirrel with her in April at about the time Dave moved to the Twin Cities for his new job. So what would a woman in mid-life do in this minefield but get a mondo case of HIVES which lasted for several weeks. Looming in the future was giving my notice at the law school to leave a job I had enjoyed and preparing the house to be sold after 14 years. Erica left for med school in August, the house went up on the market in September after hours of lonely cleaning, sorting and hauling to the curb. So from August 'til October I was alone with the pets, bowl after bowl of ice cream, Without a Trace reruns and realtor visits. When I moved up to St. Paul in October last I spent the time before the holidays unpacking, adjusting and trying to make the holidays happy in a one-bedroom apartment with noisy neighbors above us, up to my ears in heart palpitations and EKGs and stress tests, all magnified by a nagging loneliness. Long story short, I couldn't bake cookies for various reasons for a few years, mostly due to this unsettled-ness. This fact came back to me as I was cutting biscotti yesterday along with the joyous realization that I was happily baking cookies again! Thus, the recipes that follow.

So the baking continues in between wrapping and cleaning. I found this recipe on Martha Stewart Living to use since I had bought dried currents to try a steamed pudding for Christmas. They are sturdy, sweet little cookies and I would definitely keep this recipe on hand. Alongside is an addition to my pitcher collection in bright yellow-green glass filled with this season's lemon verbena I grew.

Lemon-Currant Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for baking sheets
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (I used whole milk yogurt)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried currants
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter two baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and egg.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until they are well combined. Stir in currants and lemon zest.
Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are puffed and golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool completely.


Yesterday I made chocolate shortbread, also a Martha recipe. I have only made the traditional shortbread but this chocolate variety is really delicious. I did use the fork tines to make the 'rays' in a circle because I read recently that in Scotland that has been a traditional cookie embellishment for centuries. They resemble the sun's rays and have been made to coincide with the Winter Solstice.
Chocolate Shortbread

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add flour, sugar, and cocoa; mix just until combined. (Chill dough in the refrigerator 10 minutes if it is too soft to handle.)
Pat dough into an 8-inch round cake pan; press edges down with the tines of a floured fork. Bake until firm, 30 minutes. Immediately score into eight wedges; cool completely. Turn out of pan; break wedges apart.

Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance; each beautiful, unique and too soon gone. Deborah Whipp


Yolanda said...

I hope you and yours have a Wonderful Holiday Season.

Inland Empire Girl said...

Amazing post. I had no idea all that had happened in a short time period. The recipes look amazing. Thanks so much.

Marianne said...

MMMMM, I'm gonna have to make some of that!

Marianne said...

sheesh..... BOTH those recipes, and the oatmeal pecan cookies!

I'm just so happy that YOU'RE happily baking cookies!

Old Wom Tigley said...

A beautfil heart-felt post.
I NEED to make those cookies;o)

I'd like to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Tom, Jane, and our friend Big Peter

Annie said...

Dear Noni, This post reminds me that no matter how difficult life can be, no matter how many swipes and disruptions it can bring to us, there is always an up time. Just as you are getting back into YOUR groove, so am I. Thanks so much for the reminder. Blessings and Merry Christmas.

Granny Smith said...

I love a story with a happy ending. I'm glad that some, at least, of your troubles are behind you. Thank you for the delicious-sounding recipes = which I can't try until I'm in my own home again.

Have a very happy Christmas!


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