13. Where I Fell In Love With Baking & The Cookie Recipe that I Have as a Momento

In my first post in this series of #100morselsofjoy, I talked about the resort I grew up going to ever summer, and how all the owners of the resort were related, and how each one of them took care of a specific aspect of running the resort.  Well, while all the owners hold a special place in my heart, and my memories, my hands down favourite was Lillian.

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Lillian ran the kitchen – from that little room on the left with the white awning and flower boxes.  Every morning, Lillian baked.  And the smells that came out of that window could, and often did, make a person swoon.  Luckily, there were two ways resort guests could get their hands on Lillian’s baking; either you could put an order in for what you would like, or, you could wander down to her kitchen and see either what was just coming out of the oven, or what cookies she had packaged (on little styrofoam trays placed inside plastic bags and tied with a little wire tie) and stored in a large chest freezer.

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Yup.  That’s me (and the dog Rex that lived at the resort).  And right behind me . . . that’s the door to Lillian’s kitchen.  I’m about 5 in this picture, and I’m pretty much as happy as can be, because as soon as I’m done with my ritual patting of Rex, I know I get to go into Lillian’s kitchen and see what she has baking.  Even as young as five, I knew I wanted to know how she made such magic in her kitchen . . . and that when I grew up, I wanted to be able to spread happiness the way she did by making things in the kitchen.

As a young teenager, it became apparent that the resort owners were getting old and would be putting the resort up for sale.  My father, in a stroke of genius, asked Lillian if he could accompany into her kitchen and watch her bake.  She said yes!  I was on cloud nine.  I was finally going to get to see the inner workings of the kitchen where so much magic and so much happiness was created.

That experience, in that old cottage kitchen, with a woman who had been baking her entire life, is etched into my memory.  She had been baking for so long that she didn’t need a recipe.  She simply baked by feel.

Perhaps at this point I should note that while her cookies were out-of-this-world delicious, her “sticky” buns were even better – the secret she claimed being that she used maple syrup that had been made on the property.  And it was on sticky-bun day that I got to watch her bake (sticky bun day was Thursday, and resort guests were sure to put in orders for these as there were never any leftover to be put into the freezer for sale at a later date).

As the morning unfolded, I realized that my dad’s stroke of genius may have had more to do with attempting to obtain Lillian’s recipe for the aforementioned sticky buns and any secrets she might have had that made them taste so good.  Unfortunately, since Lillian could bake solely by feel, and didn’t need a recipe, it was difficult to pin down exactly how she made those buns (to this day, I’ve never been able to recreate them.  However, if you live in Toronto, and ever go to the Brickworks Market on a Saturday, there is a woman there who sells cinnamon buns that taste remarkably close to Lillians – her stall is in the north east corner of the market – they are laden with brown sugar and butter – and not the maple syrup that I prefer – but they are stupendously good nonetheless)

BUT, not all was lost.  She did have one recipe that she actually had written down, and that she was willing to share.  Luckily for us, it was the recipe for our most favoured cookie of all the cookies she made . . . it was a raspberry jam thumbprint cookie.  But the cookie itself wasn’t the traditional shortbread.  Nope.  It’s a brown sugar/oatmeal cookie with desiccated coconut mixed in.  A better cookie, you have never tasted.

And so, each year, when my family is assembled, I try to make at least one batch of these cookies for everyone to enjoy.  Today was that day.  It was another gloriously sunny day, and the perfect day for a picnic lunch, complete with Lillian’s cookies.

As the cookies cooled, I made myself a thick peanut butter and jam sandwich (strawberry) on freshly-baked white bread, a few sandwiches for the kids, sliced up some fresh veggies and lots of watermelon, and by the time the cookies were cool, we were ready for our lunch by the water.  And a better lunch, we could not have had.  Pure joy!!

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And that . . . in a nutshell . . . is where I feel in love with baking, and why I find so much joy when I’m in my kitchen and I hope, that by sharing this story, and this recipe, I can share some of the magic and happiness of Lillian’s kitchen with you.

Lillian's Oatmeal Jam Cookies

  • Servings: 80
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups lard (due to all the work I’ve done with the Coach, I just couldn’t bring myself to use lard . . .so I used butter.  Did they taste as good.  Yes.  But they also weren’t as crispy – was that due to the 100% humidity we had here today . . . maybe . . . so use whatever you have on hand/prefer to use)
  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups coconut (1 200g bag)
  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • raspberry or strawberry jam (about 1/3 of a cup)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, using the Convection Baking option if you have it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (although Lillian did all her mixing by hand in a big bowl with an equally big wooden spoon) cream together the butter and the brown sugar.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. In a large bowl, measure out the flour, oats, coconut, baking powder and salt.  Add half of this mixture into the stand mixer and mix until just combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until everything is well mixed.
  5. Roll the dough into about 1″ balls, if not a touch larger and place on cookie sheets (no need to grease/line the cookie sheets.  Using  your hands, flatten the balls only the slightest amount, and using your finger, make a small indent into the top of the dough ball.  Into this little well, place about 1/2 tsp of jam (I use 2 teaspoons to get this job done).
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes.  The cookies will spread and should crisp up nicely (unless of course you are making these in weather conditions that include 100% humidity!)

 

The Next 100 Days!?!

You know what I loved?  I LOVED my #100daysoflookingtothesky project.  I REALLY loved it.  But, like I said the other day, that project has run its course.  I’ll never look at the sky the same way again, and I’ll still reach for my phone every time I see something beautiful up above, but it’s time to do something different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I originally intended this blog to be, and what I’d like to spend my days doing over the next little bit, and how I could get a little more connected to my One Little Word this year as it’s already more than half over!  Over the next little bit, I’ll be celebrating a few millstones too . . . the 5 year anniversary of my surgery (the Husband thinks this is a bigger deal than the 5 year all-clear I just got) and soon after the start of the new year, I’ll be turning 40 (yikes!).  Never mind that there are about a million and one little things/projects that I’d like to explore!

So I’ve come up with this . . .

#100morselsofjoy

Yup.  Starting tomorrow I’m going to be embarking on another 100 day project.  And this time, I’m going to focus on one thing a day that brings me joy.  Could be something small, and mundane, or big and exciting.  Either way, I can’t wait to get started on this new project.  My intention is to post a picture of whatever my morsel of joy is that day and to do a quick blog post about it too.

Please feel free to join me on this project, and add any photos you want to #100morselsofjoy.  Or, just follow along as I find bits of joy here and there!

Now, to jump start this new project, I thought I’d share a repair that brings my family lots of delicious joy … while I am very much a proponent of clean eating, I have also aways said that there are times in one’s life for treats.  Summer holidays at the cottage are PRECISELY the time for a few treats.  And today, the kids and I got to a little baking in my favourite kitchen.  And we made . . . Smartie cookies.  I like to do a quick search before I post “old” family recipes – just to see if anyone has ideas on how to improve on my recipe, or to see if it’s something other people actually make.  A search of Smartie cookies yielded some interesting results – namely more recipes for cookies like this seem to come out of the UK than the US . . .

Anyway, these cookies are a cottage staple for our family for years.  Everyone loves them and it’s hard to keep them around for long!  I hope you enjoy them!

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Smartie Cookies

  • Servings: 50 or so
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • smarties (today we used 400g in total)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375.  If you can, use the “Bake Convection” setting on your oven so that you can put all the trays of cookies in at once to cook . . .cuts down on baking time!
  2. In the bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until everything is well combined.
  3. While the mixer is running, put the smarties into a large Ziploc bag and beat them with a rolling pin to smash them up a bit.  This step is totally unnecessary, I just like it when the chocolate inside the smarties gets melty and gooey . . .
  4. Add in the flour and mix until it is just combined.
  5. Dump in the smarties and give the whole thing one last mix.
  6. Shape the dough into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet.  These cookies don’t spread too much, so you can get quite a few on a tray (at least 20).  Using your hand, flatten them out (so that they’re about 1/2′ thick) and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!

 

Revised and IMPROVED Cookie Recipe

So, I’ve been making these cookies for quite a few weeks now, and the kids really do love them.  This week, I had the time to make the cookies, but had forgotten to set out the butter in the morning so it was soft enough to mix.  I really wanted to have the cookies made . . . so I just melted the butter.  While the butter was melting, I added the raw honey to the pot too – not sure if this made any difference or not . . .   I also had just a little bit extra vanilla left in the container – so I added that in as well, and turns out the cookies were even better!  So here’s the revised, improved and even more delicious cookie recipe.  Remember, you can use regular flour if you don’t have a gluten intolerance.  We seem fine in our house with gluten, so I don’t mind the kids having these in their lunch made from and organic wheat flour.  But feel free to use gluten free flour.

Revised and Improved Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 60 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

4 eggs

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup butter

3 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  If you have a convection setting, feel free to use this.  I do as I cook all three sheets of cookies at once.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter – you can add the honey to this pan as well and melt them both together.
  3. While the butter is melting combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and chocolate chips in a big mixing bowl.  You can also crack the 4 eggs into a separate bowl and mix them well with a fork to combine.
  4. Once the butter and honey have melted, add in the vanilla, mix to combine, and add this along with the eggs to the bowl with the dry mixture.
  5. Mix well to combine – you can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.
  6. Using a small ice cream scoop, or just 2 spoons, drop 1 tbsp of batter at a time onto cookie sheets (I’ve found no need to grease or line the cookie sheet with anything).  You should get 60 cookies, give or take, out of this batter.  I don’t bother to flatten or squash the cookies either – they will just rise up again anyway.
  7. Bake for 8-12 minutes – when I use convection and put all 3 trays of cookies in at once, they take about 10 minutes.
  8. ENJOY!

So Who’s Giving Up Bacon and Red Meat (‘Cause I’m Not) – But Really this Post is About Cookies

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(in case you’re wondering, after a wonderful day of celebration and reflection yesterday, life is officially back to normal today)

So . . .yesterday the WHO announced that red and processed meats lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.  I was amazed by just how many people were talking about this announcement yesterday – teachers at the kids school, people at the gym, random people I passed at the mall.  Although I suppose I shouldn’t be; it was a great headline.  And while the information that the report was based on and the conclusions that were drawn are a bit tenuous (I spoke with an expert on this subject yesterday and I’m awaiting his formal “statement” on the matter), that didn’t seem to matter to the people who were abandoning their bacon and processed meats yesterday.

What I’m trying to get at is this: how is it surprising that when we take the meat from animals raised with high exposure to chemicals, and then process the meat from these animals with more chemicals into “processed meats” that these processed meat products are carcinogenic?

In this family, we’re going to keep eating our red meat.  And our bacon.  But we’re going to keep buying organic / grass-fed / pastured meats.  And get our bacon either from my brother (who makes his own without the use of chemicals) or from our butcher who also makes it (without the use of chemicals).

Ok.  I think that’s enough of a rant for today.  Except for the fact that I will say, as much as I, and the family, avoids processed meats, we also avoid processed foods in general (I refer to my statement about adding more chemicals to already chemical laden ingredients . . . how can that possibly be healthy????).  This of course leads to some pretty big issues around snack time for the kids.  They want the “fun” processed foods that all their friends get.

So, my quest for healthy but still “fun” and nut-free snacks continues.  I was inspired today by a friend’s pin. It was for gluten-free oatmeal cookies.  They looked good, the recipe was nut-free, gluten-free, sugar free, and seemed like it would work.  So, me being me, went for it . . . but with a few modifications.  I think they’re pretty good.  And I think the kids will like them too.  Guess I’ll have my answer in about an hour!  Oh . . .and due to my lack of gluten-free baking supplies today, I just used regular flour (it’s raining cats and dogs, and I just didn’t feel like going back out for gluten-free flour).

But seriously, these aren’t crispy or chewy cookies.  They’re more like a cross between a mini muffin top and a cookie . . .if that makes any sense at all.  They were super easy to make, and I’d make them again for sure (even if I’m the only one that eats them).

Question is now . . . are the kids going to eat the cookies because they don’t want to do their homework?  Or are the kids going to do their homework because they want to eat the cookies . . .

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 60 small cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup softened butter

4 eggs

1/4 cup raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

1 cup oats

3 cups flour (regular or gluten free)

2/3 cups chocolate chips (I use the mini Enjoy Life brand)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a mixer, or a bowl, cream the butter and honey until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well so that everything is well combined.
  3. Add in the baking soda, baking powder, oats, and flour.  Mix gently to combine.  The mixture will be sticky (because of the honey), and quite stiff.
  4. Add in the chocolate chips and given one last mix to combine it all.
  5. I used my 1tbs ice cream scoop to make balls out of the dough.  I put 12 balls on each tray (I didn’t line the trays with parchment paper or grease them, and the cookies came out just fine) and used a fork dipped in warm water to mash down each ball.  With this size scoop, I got 60 smallish cookies out of the batter.  The cookies rose up, and didn’t flatten out much.
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes (cooking time depends on your oven and how many you cook at once – I kept mine in for all 12 minutes, but did them 2 trays at a time).  Let cool and enjoy!

Today is a GOOD Day or How I Discovered the Answer to One of the Universe’s Great Mysteries

After about 1,000,000 attempts to come up with a cookie that was paleo, nut free, gluten free AND that my kids would actually like, I had to cut my losses, walk away, and accept that my kids would snack on store-bought organic chocolate gingersnaps at school for their “treat” snack.

But today, I was oddly inspired to give it one more shot . . .I had pinned a recipe earlier in the week for chocolate cookies.  Based on all my previous attempts, I had a sense, just from reading the recipe, that they might work out.  And so . . . I gave it a shot.

The Husband had a hard time containing his laughter when he figured out what I was up to.

But then . . . the cookies came out of the oven . . . perfectly timed to the end of our lunch . . . and I was redeemed . These cookies are GOOD.  The Husband liked them.  The kids LOVED them.  And I thought they were fantastic!  I can definitely serve these at a girls night without anyone being any the wiser that they aren’t “real” cookies!  And the kids certainly won’t complain when I send them to school in their lunches.

The recipe comes from a blog called A Whole New Twist.  I changed the baking time, but otherwise, the recipe is pretty much the same.  It looks like she has lots of good recipes on her blog – I can’t wait to try her gingersnaps!!!

Anyway . . . make these cookies!  I promise you’ll love them!!  Just try to remember that they are a treat . . . and it’s probably not a good idea to eat all 24 of them in one sitting . . .

I also made one more attempt at the crispy rice squares today – this time I used puffed rice and peanut butter . . . so we’ll see how they go over with the family later in the day!

A Whole New Twist Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup coconut/palm sugar

1 egg

1Tbs raw honey

2tsp vanilla

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

3 tbs coconut flour

1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 325.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer.  Add in the egg, honey and vanilla and continue to beat on medium to high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the tapioca flour, baking soda, and mix on low until just combined – if you over-beat at this point, the tapioca flour will take on a gummy texture in the cookies (which is NOT good).
  4. Add in the coconut flour, and give a quick mix to combine.
  5. Then add in the chocolate chips and sea salt and give the mixture one last quick mix.  Make sure everything is combined, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well mixed!
  6. Drop about 1tbs of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  I put 12 cookies on each sheet.  You should get 24 cookies out of this batter.
  7. Put both cookie sheets into the oven and cook for about 22 minutes, or until the cookies are set.
  8. ENJOY!!!!

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