Thursday, May 20, 2010

Elevenses & Foursies

My mother's Great-Aunt Eugenia was, I am told, quite a character.  The lucky relatives who visited her throughout her life have vivid memories of the meals that she served them.  She apparently loved her rituals, and was very fond of tea time.  She regularly held elevenses and foursies (tea-time held at eleven and four) at which tea and cookies were served.  My grandmother still makes a cookie recipe passed down from her aunt Eugenia, which are a perfectly delicate and ladylike snack.  I was more than happy to oblige my mother, who has been wanting to try (the results of) this recipe for quite some time.  The sugar and butter form a fancy lacy sort of crispy caramel structure, and presence of oatmeal keeps them grounded and homey.  
Aunt Eugenia's Lacy Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 60 cookies

1 egg (beaten)
1 cup sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (melted)

Parchment paper

Pre-heat the oven to 350 (I like to cut up the stick of butter, put it in a pie tin and stick it in the oven to melt at this point).  

Mix the egg, sugar, oatmeal, salt and vanilla together.  Mix the flour and baking powder together and then mix with the melted butter.  Now mix the butter mixture in with the oatmeal mixture and stir until combined.

Line a cookie sheet (or two) with parchment paper.*

Put 1/2 tsp of the mixture on the parchment lined sheets, leaving plenty of space between each cookie (they spread).  

Bake for 6 minutes and check on them.  (I cooked them for 6 minutes, turned them, and cooked them for 1 more minute to get them evenly golden).  

Cool the cookies, sliding the parchment paper off of the cookie sheets, and then peel the cookies off and place them on waxed paper on a cookie rack to cool further.  Store them in a cool place in a sealed container, using sheets of waxed paper to separate the layers.  
*I tried various different butter/parchment paper scenarios.  Just butter and no parchment paper did not work.  Parchment paper worked really well, just let them cool for a few minutes on the parchment paper (but off of the hot pan), and peel them off.  Buttered parchment paper worked well also - the cookies came off equally well after cooling.  They seemed to spread thinner and were a little "lacier," but they were also a little more oddly shaped.  The verdict: definitely use parchment paper, buttering it is optional.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


For the time being I do not have my own kitchen.  To be honest, my old kitchen left much to be desired (the paint was peeling off the cabinets, it had no dishwasher for the mountains of dishes I constantly make, and worst of all the occasional cockroach paid an unwelcome visit).  But it had one really great thing going for it: it was mine.  

Cooking in other people's houses is always surprising.  My pantry staples are not my grandma's, my boyfriend's, my brother's, or my parent's.  I hoard yeast.  My mom stocks ice cream.   It always takes a little while to adjust, but there are always some exciting new tools and ingredients to discover.  

My first cooking project was making a batch of my favorite breakfast granola.  I feel a little more grounded now that I know it's waiting for me in the morning, just how I like it.  Recipes can travel, routines re-formed, and eventually, kitchens can be reassembled.  

Breakfast Granola
About the recipe: this was originally a recipe for granola bars from Ina Garten that smitten kitchen adapted (by removing the butter and sugar, if I remember correctly), which I then adapted a little further and made into granola.

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds (chopped are good too)
1 cup shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-  1/2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1 1/2 cup dried fruit (I like chopped apricots and cherries)

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.

Mix together the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut, and wheat germ and spread on a baking sheet.  Bake the mixture for 10 -15 minutes, or until lightly browned stirring occasionally.

While the oatmeal mixture is toasting, in a large bowl mix together the honey, syrup, vanilla, salt and fruit.  

When the mixture is golden, remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300. 

Stir the still-warm dry ingredients in with the sticky mixture, and mix well until everything is evenly coated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and place another piece of parchment paper on the top to cover and press down on it with your hands, or a flat object, like the back of a spatula, to get the mixture as uniform and compact as possible.  Remove the top layer of parchment paper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (sometimes it takes a little longer), until light golden brown.  Let it cool for 2 hours.  At this point you could cut it into squares to make granola bars, or, as I prefer, you could break it into pieces with your hands and put it back in the oven at 300 for another 15 or so minutes, until crisp (but not burnt).

I love to eat this with plain unsweetened yogurt.  It is sweet and a little salty and it is perfect with tangy-ness of the yogurt.