Tag Archives: christmas

Cooking with Love: Giving Tuesday

Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, but almost just as exciting is the day after.

No, not because Black Friday deals. No, not because the ban on politics at the dinner table is over. It’s because NOW, we can sing CHRISTMAS CAROLS.

And make HOLIDAY FOOD.

And all the lights in our dorm rooms have purpose again!

But let’s go back to that second point…and think about what it means as we go into finals season.

Soon, some of us will start spending our lives (or more of them, if that’s possible) in Butler. Others will resort to leaving passive agressive notes to Butler seat-savers, or crying alone in our rooms. We’ll get more stressed, more tired, and more feeling like why are we doing this again than we have for most of the past semester.

The bright spot?

29 November is Giving Tuesday! Just in time to kick off the giving spirit.

And what better to give than…food?

More than that, food from the heart.

There are lots of ways to do this. First off, there is the GS Student Council Food Bank, which is conveniently collecting donations every Tuesday for the rest of the semester. Despite Columbia’s millions of dollars in endowment, many of our classmates face food insecurity on top of the stress of class and finals. It takes maybe a dollar to donate something – stop by Lerner from 11-2 on a Tuesday with some cereal, pasta or something else on their suggested list! It’ll take maybe 10 minutes, and we all probably need a study break that long anyway.

If you’ve got about 50 more minutes and want to bring more joy into people’s lives, I’ve found cookies are surprisingly effective at doing so. One batch of the recipe below makes THREE DOZEN. Two cookies each for EIGHTEEN people.

What are you waiting for?

BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES RECIPE

Special thanks to my mom for making them and to the Crisco shortening package for the inspiration.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Crisco® Butter-Flavored Shortening (or 3/4 cup + 1.5 tbsp butter)*
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (1 package) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2. Cream shortening/butter and brown sugar. Mix milk and vanilla until well-blended; beat in egg.

3. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into other ingredients until jussstt blended.

4. STIR IN THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS (a bit at a time works best!).

5. Taste some.

6. Roll the dough into whatever size you want your cookies to be, and press them onto an ungreased cookie pan.

7. Taste one.

8. Bake 8-10 minutes for chewier cookies, or 11 to 13 for crisper ones!

9. Taste one.

Well, there you have it folks – how to spread the love on Giving Day and beyond.

tl;dr: Give to the GSSC Food Bank on Tuesday, then make cookies to brighten a few more people’s days.

And remember – soon we’ll see the light again! Be they for Christmas or just all we’ve been missing from the sun while in Butler.

*Buy the shortening, you won’t regret it.

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Lost in Translation – Spain

‘Tis the season. Fifth Avenue has unveiled its windows, blocks of the sidewalk have sprouted evergreen forests, and, way uptown, Columbians face the mounting tension of finals.  Taking all this into consideration, I decided that there was no better way to spend my Friday night than flipping on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and embracing the absurdity of baking cookies from a recipe I can’t really understand.

This month’s Lost in Translation comes from Spain.  Polvorones are crumbly holiday shortbread cookies.  I first encountered these confections under the name Mexican Wedding Cookies, which usually include pecans. Their name comes from the Spanish polvo, meaning powder or dust, which I had no clue about because I only took two years of Spanish in middle school.  However, the recipe I found for polvorones online seemed simple enough, despite the slightly worrisome “Dificultad: Media” rating.

I figured that “harina” was probably flour, based off the word “farina,” which I knew from my cereal cabinet at home, but I had no clue what “trigo” meant.  So I went with the same method that I used for the bread experiment; I ignored it and moved on.  Everything else seemed pretty clear, once I sounded out “almendras” and determined that it meant almonds.  Guessing that azúcar meant sugar was a combination of process of elimination and references to “azúcar glacé.”

Actually, because of the plentiful cognates, translating the recipe wasn’t much of a problem.  In fact, I found the preparation rather enjoyable, since “tuesta”-ing the flour and almonds on the stove released lovely smells that mingled with the Muppets Christmas Carol songs drifting through the air.

The bigger problem, however, came when I tried to form the sizable mound of crumbling dough into little cakes for baking.  The recipe recommends that you “corto” the “masa,” which I supposed meant cutting out the cookies, rather than trying to knead them together, but any attempts to cut the crumbly mountain of dough was futile to say the least.

In the end, I added a bit more butter than the recipe called for in an attempt to force some cohesion.  After a brief ten minutes in the oven, my little spheres of buttery, sugary dough were ready to eat.  After looking at a few more recipes for polvorones – in English this time – I can safely say that, in any language, these cookies are simple, sweet, and an ideal way to spend an hour’s study break.

Polvorones

Tiempo de preparación: 30 minutos + enfriar

Raciones: unos 24 polvorones

Ingredientes:

300 g de harina de trigo

150 g de azúcar

150 g de mantequilla

100 g de almendras tostadas molidas

1/2 cucharadita de canela

la ralladura de 1/2 limón

azúcar glacé para espolvorear

Tuesta la harina en una sartén o en el horno, procurando que ocupe toda la superficie y no haga montoncitos, a fuego lento, tardará como mucho 10 minutos al horno/5 a la sartén. Si lo haces en la sartén tendrás que moverla con una espátula para que se tueste por todas partes. Debe quedar de color marrón claro, no negro ni caramelo. Deja enfriar la harina.

Pon la harina tostada en una superficie lisa y seca, forma un hueco en el medio y pon las almendras, la mantequilla,  el azúcar, la canela y la ralladura de limón. Amásalo bien hasta obtener una masa compacta. Es un poco quebradiza. Estírala con un rodillo hasta que quede una lámina de 1,5 a 2 cm de espesor como máximo. Utiliza un cortapastas redondo u oval y corta la masa en porciones. Engrasa ligeramente una placa de horno con mantequilla y ve colocando los polvorones. Precalienta el horno a 200ºC.

Mete los polvorones al horno a 200ºC aprox. 10 minutos. Vigílalos y sácalos cuando se doren un poco (no dejes que se pongan negros!). Déjalos enfriar sobre una rejilla y después espolvorea azúcar glacé por encima.

Variantes: se pueden hacer polvorones con otros sabores añadiendo otros ingredientes a la masa, como cacao en polvo, canela (más cantidad), vainilla, almendras, anís, etc.

Holiday Icebox Cookie Recipe

Hi all! So here’s the recipe for my shortbread cookies at our Holiday Cookie Study break. I’m not a huge fan of candied cherries by themselves, but they impart a really lovely taste, and moist texture with the shortbread, and the red flecks in the cookie make them look super festive. It was adapted from JoyofBaking.com, which actually has alot of great, simple classic dessert recipes, I highly recommend checking them out.

I’ve actually never been a huge fan of cookie baking. Whenever I would attempt to make a batch they almost always turned out really crunchy, despite my almost obsessive cookie checking. Also, I’ve discovered a really annoying trend about cookie recipes: they almost always over-estimating how many cookies the recipe will actually make. The recipe I used here said it would produce about 6 dozen cookies…I squeezed out about 40-45. And they were small. In any case, over the years I’ve develped a few tips that have made my cookie baking experiences a bit more successful:

Cookie Baking Tips:

1. Slice and bake: No not the store bought kind (though I’ve always loved the little sugar cookies with the christmas tree centers…pure nostalgia). I mean making your dough in advance, rolling it into logs, and refrigerating them for later use. Wrap the logs with plastic wrap, or aluminum foil to keep the dough moist. Keeping the logs cold until just before baking ensures that each batch will will come out uniform, and really simplifies the whole process. This really only works with fairly dry cookies, like shortbread, and sugar cookie recipes. You’ll be able to tell by the consistency of the dough whether rolling it up is the best option.

2. Multiple baking sheets: One cardinal sin of cookie baking is placing cold dough, on a hot baking sheet, as it begins to cook the dough prematurely. If you’d rather not drop the cash on a second baking sheet, make sure to rinse the cookie sheet in cold water between each batch to cool it down more quickly.

3. NO Microwaves: So you’re all set to bake a batch of cookies when you realize you completely forgot to set the butter out in advance to let it soften. You think, “I’ll just pop it into the microwave for a few seconds to soften it”.  And inevitably a bit of it melts. You think, “No big deal, its not that important.” WRONG. It completely changes the texture of the dough, and your cookies will bake unevenly: some crunchy, some thin, some thick.  Just try to be patient, and let your butter come to room temp before baking. And set your eggs out too. Your wet ingredients should all be the same temperature.

4. Vigilance is key: Don’t trust baking times. One of my favorite quotes: “Telling someone to bake anything for 10 minutes is like telling someone to make a right, drive for 10 minutes and make another right.” I don’t know who said it, and its completely misquoted, but it makes a good point. Ovens differ so drastically in how the heat is circulated and distributed, that you really should always take exact baking times with a grain of salt. Always pay attention to the progress of your cookies, look for color, puffiness, and smell. Take your cookies out just before they look fully baked in the  center in order to get perfectly moist, crumbly cookies. The cookies continue to bake for a few minutes even after you take them of the baking sheet, so always try to err on the side of under-done. Also, one rule of thumb: if you can smell em, they’re done.

5. Use a cooling rack: If you’re cooling them on the baking sheet, they’re not cooling, they’re still cooking.

That’s pretty much it, if you have any cookie-related issues I forgot to address just shoot me a question in the comments section! Here’s the recipe:

Holiday Icebox Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200 grams) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups (345 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) candied red cherries, chopped

Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar. Make sure the butter is at room temp; soft, though not melted. This job is much easier if you have an electric mixer, however a wooden spoon works fine.
  2. Add egg and vanilla. The egg should also be at room temp.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together, making sure that the baking powder is fully incorporated.
  4. Add the flour/baking power mixture to the wet ingredients in small amounts, making sure that the flour is fully incorporated before you add more.
  5. Mix in cherries
  6. I separated the dough into about three even portions and rolled out three logs with about a one inch diameter. I shaped them into long rectangles so that I would have little square cookies. Wrapping them in tin foil, compared to plastic wrap actually made it a bit easier to make the flat edges.
  7. The next day I pulled them out of the fridge and sliced them into about 1/4 in thick slices and placed them on a cookie sheet about a 1/2 in apart. The dough doesn’t spread or rise much so you don’t really have to worry about them melting into one giant cookie. Keep the other logs in the fridge until you’re just ready to slice them so the dough stays cold.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for about 6-10 minutes. You really want to keep an eye on them, take them out just as the bottom edges begins to look brown.
  9. Let them cool and you’re done!