Sunday, December 16, 2007

Day 16: Let the Serious Preparations Begin!

Day 16: Let the Serious Preparations Begin!

(Or, it's the time of year that thins the herd)

I’m exhausted! Days off are never off days. They are days that while interspersed with wild playing about of all sorts (to include knitting, but not exclusively so) you come to the end of them tired. Really. I can say that at least yesterday was fun and there was no laundry involved. It probably should have but, well, there you have it. None done.

I began Saturday knitting. I managed to finish the cute red lil’ scarflette for Mary who does the best hair ever. She will love it because she adores all things handmade, Mary will wear it in some fabulous and inventive way that I could never have imagined and yet want to imitate! Then I cast on for those seen everywhere pocketbook slippers. Casting on 5 stitches hardly counts as casting on but it’s done. And I did a strap. That would be 6 rows. Of five stitches. No counting please, it is not a Saturday marathon knit by any stretch of the imagination! Lisa has some really cute ones, with a personal twist over at her blog.

Those yummy little pretzelly cookies were made, two whole bags of kisses worth. You know, you put the unwrapped kisses onto a little twisty (the kind that have arms) pretzel and let a 250 oven do its’ magic for about 3 minutes give or take. Pop a little red or green M&M on those babies when the chocolate is all melty and you have delish! Salty and sweet, and easy. Did I mention easy? We have a running debate at the house as to whether or not they need to go into the fridge to set up. I say yes because I basically want to eat one faster and I don’t like them all smushy. That is not to say that a smushy one is not consumed during the time they are setting up all nice and hard. My rules are flexible when it comes to chocolate.

Marshmallows were next! Homemade, divine marshmallows! A mountain of fluff and magic that comes from basically sugar syrup into gelatin. Under half an hour later you have a 13x9 of the stuff sitting there waiting patiently. I on the other hand am not so patient. Last year we poured them into a pan that was lined with toasted coconut, and a layer of the same on the top. Fab! This year, we’ll dip some in caramel and some in chocolate. The problem is that they always have to sit out uncovered for 24 hours so they sort of glom together better. (Sorry Mom, that was a Home Ec education at it’s finest!) I tried Alton Browns’ recipe this year, not that the recipes for marshmallows are that different but mostly because he prepares the pan by using cooking spray and dusting on a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch 1:1 and uses that as well when the marshmallows are cut. I think this might well be genius. I'm going to cut these this afternoon, the first one always gets the place of honor in a cup of really good hot chocolate made with Godiva cocoa powder and whole milk.

The marshmallows don't look like much as schlumpy and patted into a pan do they? Never fear, when cut they will be absolute heaven!

The soap elves were busy as well. We made a veritable barge of soap. Some olive oil, some oatmeal, some lavender, some plumeria. Some striped, some not.

This holiday season there will be clean friends and family! :) I'm not wild about the peachy colored soaps, they might need to be melted down and more color added or something.

The kitchen is thankfully large. I adore my kitchen! We did a remodel in this 100 year old grande dame about 3 years ago and it is glorious. Fabulous maple cabinets with a glaze, great countertops, and a big Viking range as the centerpiece--gorgeous! As a matter of fact, it is my favorite place to sit and work. The kitchen at the moment is also wrecked, bits of marshmallow here and there and dribbles of soap that remain behind. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do a good scrub later on while looking out at the snow. Lots of snow, there will be shoveling. (I'm so glad that I went out last night about 11 p.m. and got the majority of it off.)

Remember when I threw up my hands in despair (or glee?) and said that I was not going to finish the Mystery Stole and that was just the way it was? Not that I didn’t love it, I did. Not that I didn’t think the design was cool and really inspired, it was. Basically I just ran out of steam and interest. It became stress and angst and all of those things that knitting (for me) should not be. I had a good point of the stole finished, I think I was maybe ¼ of the way or so through Clue Two. It sat around and aged a bit and then I knew I just had to bid it a fond adieu! I bound it off and set it aside to be re-purposed. Today was that day. I decided to make my birth Mom a pillow from it and wanted to use the knitted triangle as the flap on an envelope style pillow. I scouted around for the perfect fabric and finally found one last week. I chose a very subtle soft green in a twill weave, nice cozy softness to the fabric. I simply stitched together the pillow on four sides, sandwiching the knitting on the top and left an opening to turn and stuff. Turn and stuff I did, that pillow (which is a biggie) used almost two big bags of polyfil, I stuffed it quite firm, especially the corners so it would hold its’ shape. It turned out nice I think, I know I’d be pleased to have it in my home!! I’ll box it up and get it out in the mail tomorrow---- yay, the mailing will be done!

My baking today will be my absolute favorite holiday cookies in the world, Almond Spritz. The recipe was given to me about 20 years ago from my friend Eris when we lived in Minnesota. The Spritz came from her Mom who had been baking them for ages. I love them because the recipe makes a LOT, they are cookie gun easy, you can involve a lot of hands in the decorating so it is fun. Mostly I love the recipe because it is the best spritz cookie I’ve ever eaten. The bonus is that the cookie dough is really, really good. Because I'm not normally a raw dough girl, that is high praise indeed. I’d like to share this excellent with you as well! I shouldn’t be the only one eating all of this butter for petes’ sake!!!

Almond Spritz Cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Lay out some good cookie sheets, I like the double/insulated kind

  • 1 pound of butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Heavy cream (a small little container)
  • 5 cups of flour
  • 4 tsp. good quality almond extract
  • Cookie sugar sprinkles (a friend told me last night that she started stockpiling sugars in October using the 40% off coupon at the craft store--- brilliant!)
  • Mini cinnamon red hots

Cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks in an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.

Add the flour to the butter mixture a bit at a time. When you still have about half left, add in some of the heavy cream My recipe never had an exact measurement for whatever reason. I’ve usually found that about 3 tablespoons is a good starting point. You adjust the remainder of the flour up or down----- that is, you want a dough that is heavy enough to make a nice cookie but not so heavy that it is tough--- or won’t go through the cookie gun. Add the almond extract at the end, it always smells so nice!

Divide into batches if you would like to color the dough (red, green…..) but I usually skip this step preferring the natural colored dough and lots of sprinkles.

Load the cookie gun and off you go! I make trees, stars, hearts and whatever else stirs my fancy at the time. Decorate with the different sugars and cinnamon candies and bake for about 8-10 minutes. It really does depend on the kind of cookie sheet you have and your oven. Check at 8 minutes and increase if necessary. They should be lightly brown, very lightly. Let them stand a couple minutes and remove to a wire rack.

They keep very well, you can freeze them if you must (but I bet you don’t) and everyone loves them.


Whether you are seeing the snow fly or warm as can be, I hope that your Sunday is wonderful and full of knitting and holiday preparations!

1 comment:

Jenni said...

WOW! You've been busy! I love baking, but never have the time to plan ahead so I can do it when I get time, although I did make banana pancakes yesterday...mmmm!

And I have some pumpkin butter on order so I can make a pumkin/apple pie.

Thanks for the cyber snack.