Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

My parents don’t cook with pumpkin.

My mom only makes one cookie recipe.

That recipe is for chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know the recipe because she memorized it, and never remembers to write it down.

I haven’t made my mom’s cookies since I lived within shouting distance of her.

So, I make other cookies. Lots of cookies. Lots of different kinds of cookies. Recently, I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and a guest could not stop telling me how they were a taste of home. While his mother doesn’t bake much now, she used to make them as a treat for her kids when they were young.

So, while I can’t have a taste of home without going there, I’m glad to try someone else’s home instead. Though really, I’d rather have my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

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Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipes are meant as inspiration. You don’t like almond extract? Skip it. It calls for margarine? Halve it. You ran out of rosemary? Use oregano. At least, that’s how I interpret recipes. Except, sometimes, I want to make sure that the cookies I’m making are guaranteed to turn someone’s day around. At those desperate times, I need to make sure that the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies – because those are the one thing that we can all agree make the world a better place – turn out the way that the general public thinks they should. So, I follow the actual recipe. And each time I follow a recipe, I am shocked by how well it turns out. It turns out that I’m not the only one. I recently learned that there’s a small but strident group that don’t follow recipes except for the rare occasion – rare occasions on which they’re inordinately pleased by the recipe-following results. However, while I simply can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, other people are taking a stand by refusing to be dictated to by a list of ingredients and instructions. So this recipe goes out to those who believe:

I have enough people telling me what to do. I’ll put as much baking soda in these as I want to, thank you very much.

Hear their rallying cry, and fear their wanton disregarding for your baking soda beliefs. But don’t worry about how the cookies will turn out; these ones are nearly error-proof.

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips

Cream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape/drop cookies on to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.

Tu B’Shvat: A Holiday for Cookie Eaters

Tu B’Shvat: A Holiday for Cookie Eaters

From Special Correspondent Dena, here is the Tu B’Shvat Cookies recipe that can’t be beat. You will have to use your judgement regarding exactly how much of each ingredient use, since Dena doesn’t feel bound by recipes. Oh, and she also add chopped dates and/or figs to these. Moral to the story: go to town with the seven species and you probably won’t go wrong.

 

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Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

I came with an agenda, but I needn’t have bothered. Innocently, I glanced at Bubby’s bookshelves and remarked “Oh, is that New Kosher Cuisine?” As the conversation had been tangentially related to food, the comment wasn’t totally off the mark. Though the reason I asked was because I intended to leave with her copy of the cookbook in my possession.

“Yes,” said Bubby, “Do you want it?” No beating around the bush needed.

Possibly because she hasn’t used the book in my lifetime.

There was just one condition – Bubby – who claimed she’d never met a mandelbroit recipe she couldn’t ruin and who hadn’t cooked with sugar in decades, wanted that recipe copied out before she handed over the book.

Here’s the secret: bake the mandelbroit loaves at 350 for 20 minutes, then remove them from the oven, slice them up, and broil on each side for 30 seconds. Or more, if you prefer your mandel burnt. And since you have that, there’s no need for you to walk off with my copy of New Kosher Cuisine.

California Grapefruit Cookies

California Grapefruit Cookies

I was invited to two parties on my birthday; neither was for me.

The morning was set to start with a bridal shower. I declined.

The nighttime engagement party was supposed to cap off the day. I intended to decline, but something got the better of me.  Rather, someone got the better of me. The hostess asked if I could bring someone sweet with me to the party. When I wavered, she told me that I should bring any sort of baked good at all, because everything I bake is great. I laughed. She didn’t.

She bribed me with flattery, and I caved like a fallen souffle. Having agreed to bake, I wanted to make something right for the occasion. Cookies were the obvious choice, since they’re perfect for parties – no need for utensils or being seated. But what kind of cookies would be appropriate for the Californian bride? Ones that had a zest for life, sweet, and were unexpected.

Grapefruit Cookies
1 c unsalted margarine
2.5 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
4.5 cups flour
zest of two grapefruitsCream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs, vanilla, and zest. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Drop cookies onto cookiesheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for about 10 minutes.

Once the cookies have cooled, add Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
juice of 2 to 3 grapefruit segments (1 tbsp)
mix together. drizzle over cookies.
and if you’re me and making this for an engagement party, put sprinkles in the glaze before you begin the drizzling.
 
Perfect for a Californian.
Summer Cookies

Summer Cookies

It was hot and I wanted a cookie. A cookie that would help me to cool down. A summer cookie.

I asked Google to help. Google gave me sugar cookies dyed in shades of neon.

So I went back to the drawing board. I flipped through my recipes – the only cold cookie recipe I had on hand is a refrigerated oatmeal blob, held together by chocolate. I looked at my cookbooks, and they looked back at me. Then I contemplated, and considered what ingredients would be refreshing.

Lemon. Mint. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I thought I was on to something, but needed independent confirmation. Special Correspondent Ellen thought it sounded good, though she believed sugar cookies with mint icing would be best. I was leaning toward lemon cookies with chunks of mint. Ayelet broke the tie by siding with me, though she did recommend attempting both.

One thing at a time. I tried my version first, and it hit the spot. The best part of this experiement is that next time I get a craving for summer cookies, Google won’t gave a chance to let me down. Ellen’s Summer Cookies are on my to-do list.

Lemon, Mints, COOKIE.
Lemon, Mints, COOKIE.

My Summer Cookies

1 stick margarine

1 1/2 c sugar

3 eggs

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 c apple sauce [this replaces margarine and an egg I decided were excessive. Quantities are variable.]

3 1/2 c flour

1 tbsp baking powder

zest from 2 lemons

10 oz of peppermint candies, hammered to smithereens

Combine margarine and sugar. Add in eggs, lemon juice, apple sauce, and lemon zest. Stir in flour and baking powder together. Sprinkle in crushed mint  candies and mix until combined. Bake at 375 for 10 – 15 minutes. Makes 3 to 5 dozen.

To make them even more summery – freeze. While you’re at it, take some ice cubes from the fridge and pour yourself a glass of water. Hydrate and enjoy.

Sugar Cookies by Hillel Academy, or Hamentashen by Hannah

Sugar Cookies by Hillel Academy, or Hamentashen by Hannah

One year, Hillel Academy gave out recipes with their shalach manos. I think it was supposed to make everyone feel like family – every single family would have a neon-green recipe card for Sugar Cookies which would unite us for years to come. I’m not sure it worked out that way.

However, last year I sat contemplating my hamentashen. Those hamentashen, a dark brown color due to a strong dose of cinnamon, were supposed to be perfect. The recipe promised that they’d be the best. Yet, I sat and munched, and thought them too dry and plain. Thinking of Purims past, I remembered the recipe cards, and called my mom. My mom had kept her recipe cards, and organized as she is, pulled out in moments. We discussed, I adapted, and the results are below. According to taste-tester Special Correspondent Perel, Hillel and I have a sweet thing going.
Sugar Cookies, or Hamentashen Dough
3/4 c sugar, or less as desired
1/2 c margarine
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour [this one is a personal touch; Hillel recommended all white flour. Then again, they wrote the recipe in a different era when whole grains were not appreciated as the heart-healthy alternative they are today.]
1 tsp baking powder
optional: 1 tsp salt
Cream together sugar and margarine. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Separately, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt if desired.  Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, stir until smooth.
Roll out dough on floured board [rolling pins are recommended for this sort of thing. I use a hard plastic water bottle picked up for free from Starbucks by Tzippora.] Cut out circles [cookie cutters are recommended. I use a glass cup, a gift from grateful guest Alisa]. Put small amount of filling in the center, and crimp edges so that you’ve made a three-sided cookie. If you have trouble keeping the edges together, dip your finger in water, and brush the circumference of the circle with your finger. It’ll work like a charm.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
According to Hillel, this recipe makes 4 dozen cookies. According to me, this recipe make 4 dozen hamentashen.
Wedding Report: Where Have All the Cookies Gone?

Wedding Report: Where Have All the Cookies Gone?

First they took the cookie out of Cookie Monster. Then they took the cookies out of weddings.

I understand that Cookie Monster became Vegetable Monster to teach children healthy eating habits. That was a misguided move, but with an honorable aim. However, what possessed people to take the cookies out of weddings? Growing up in Pittsburgh, I knew that all weddings came with cookies. They were served at the reception, which doubled as a  meet and greet of everyone you’d ever known.  You would have some raw veggies while chatting with your principal, a cracker as your mother introduced you to your first babysitter, and as the reception ran late, you’d have a cookie as you chatted with your friends. By the time the chuppah started you would be fortified; when the glass was broken you’d be hungry, but not ravenous. The cookies acted as a light and sweet start to a positively sweet and homey affair. Or as homey an affair as you can have at a 250-person wedding in an impersonal hotel ballroom.

Then I grew older, left behind my principal and first babysitter, and the cookies disappeared. Sure, there were carving stations and sushi rolls at these New York weddings, but there was not a single cookie.The light reciption grew into a meal which left people groaning. This was no light affair; it was a serious business of gorging on food and expense. What had happened?

Nothing had happened, is what I was told. the error was mine; New York weddings don’t come with cookies. Occasionally crackers and cut vegetables  make an appearance, but they are not required fare. Cakes were acceptable, though mainly in the outskirts of Brooklyn. I don’t know why.

New York wasn’t the problem, I was told – it was Pittsburgh. Somehow that small town in the foothills of the Alleghenies had developed a serious cookie problem. At every wedding in the district, there is a cornucopia of cookies. I know this is true, beyond my experience, because the New York Times says so. And if you don’t believe those big town papers, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette backs it up.

Yet I must disagree – a reception without cookies, but including a full-blown meal, is a piteous waste. It is time for all of us to stand up, refuse the meal, and claim a cookie heritage as our own. Do away with the reception meal; serve fruit, vegetables – and throw in some cookies. Your guests will do justice to the sit-down meal you’ve paid for, but none will faint from hunger or low blood sugar in the interum.

Weddings should be like cookies: sweet, short, and enjoyable. Be reasonable: bring back the cookies.