Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bread, Pies and Cookies

Days don't get much better than ones like today; we're preparing food, lots of it, with some variety, for dear ones both friends and family, young and not-as-young.  The day is special as we go beyond the routine making tasty foods that are more seasonal and special.  The day started long before today with planning, making lists, gathering supplies and doing preliminary tasks.  Last evening I baked the traditional and sought after Gramma cookies.  While Gail is a grandmother and the cookies could be named after her, if she actually did the baking, or they could be named after my mother who was a grandmother and did bake these cookies later in life, but actually the name was coined when I was a youngster and my grandmother Marie [Saxowsky] baked them.  She probably did them more than just at Christmas but I remember them particularly at Christmas.  This batch turned out really well; some of the best I've ever done, lightly brown on the bottom as well as the top, plump and soft but didn't sag from being under-baked.

So today started by running hot water over the metal mixer bowl so it would be warm when I put water, yeast and honey in it to proof.  Then sift the powdered sugar and cocoa together for frosting the cookies.  Actually Gramma cookies are pepper nuts or as they were called in German, Pfeffernuss.  As I was putting some ingredients back into the cupboards I wondered what ingredients my grandmother had to work with back in her day, especially when she was young.  Thinking first about chocolate chip cookies, when were chocolate chips first available.  The answer is that the first chocolate chip (Toll House cookies named after the Toll House Inn where they were first made) cookies were made with chopped up Nestle's chocolate bars in the mid 1930's.  The "chip" was made starting in 1941.

The ingredients in Gramma cookies were all available throughout her life; flour, lard, coffee, eggs, spices, sugar, molasses, honey, cocoa, powdered sugar, vanilla.  She probably made chocolate chip cookies after the word about their goodness got around.

Gramma made her frosting thin enough to dip the entire cookie in the frosting, dip them out with her hand and place them on wax paper.  I vary a bit from that in that my frosting is a bit thicker, I dip only the top into the frosting and spoon off the excess before putting them on wax paper, or newspapers.

By now the yeast is proofed and we mix up the batter in a nice mixer, knead it on a wooden chopping block and place in a bowl with a towel over the top to rise.  That aside, we combine shortening (lard would have been used decades ago) and flour, blending them until they are uniformly combined.  I use the wire wisp attachment on the mixer.  Then I switch to the regular blade and slowly add the water, letting it mix only a short time until the water is integrated throughout the mixture.  Then it's squeezed together into a uniform ball before I cut it in half and roll it out as a pie crust.  Gail makes the pumpkin mix from pumpkins from the garden that we cleaned and cooked last evening.  Soon the pies are in the oven and setting up.

Back to the bread dough which has doubled, it's kneaded and separated into a small ball to be rolled out, spread with butter, cut into small pieces and rolled up into crescent rolls.  The last ball became cinnamon rolls.  Yummy.

It's time to move on.  The cookies are frosted and the frosting is setting up.  The pies are out of the oven and cooling.  The bread rolls are on the cooling rack waiting to serve their purpose tomorrow along with the turkey, all the trimmings and the side dishes.  Okay, maybe tomorrow with be a better day than today.  Two great days in rows is quite grand.

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