Friday, December 23, 2011

Peace and love and warmth and calm to you.

Take a few moments to be still and enjoy this beauty from the incomparable Michael Hedges.

(If you need it, the direct URL is here.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened ...

Every so often, I write something that makes me laugh.

Mind you, I am not the toughest audience. And sometimes I think I'm pretty clever.

But mostly, I'm awed by folks who can write funny.

David Sedaris sends me into fits.

And today, David Leite did, too.

"David who?", you may be asking if you are not obsessed with all things food. David Leite, kids. Check out his bio. The man collects James Beard awards like I collect, well, I don't really collect anything. Except, these days, too many empty bottles from wine.

But his recounting – his confession – of this Thanksgiving's mishaps and mayhem in rural Connecticut had me in tears each time I read it. And I read it three times.

He and I are friends on Twitter and I wrote to tell him that with his fabulous voice, he really needs to podcast this sucker, because for food lovers, this tale is the Thanksgiving mashup of " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries." (If you haven't read it, do.)

I thought about including an excerpt, but truly, it needs to be experienced from beginning to end.

Take all necessary precautions. Visit the restroom first. Do not read while consuming a beverage. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thanks, David. You're a gem.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cookies Away ...

Tonight, Angelo hosted a chat on's Facebook page, answering all manner of holiday questions. So many questions, so little time.

Julie, one of the chat attendees, posted: "I need to know how to send cookies 600 miles away arriving un-crumbled and fresh."

Well, hello there, idea for a post.

For all I've written about cookies over the years, I haven't written much about shipping them, mostly because I hand-deliver most of the cookies that I give away.

But there are some simple things you can do to get them to their destination at their cookie best. From the outside in, then.

1. Ship overnight or two-day delivery

Yes, I know: Duh. But time is not a baked good's friend. Wine, yes. Baked goods, no. And since the post office or other shippers can sometimes delay a package, the more you pony up to post it, the likelier it'll get there when it should. Also, if it doesn't, you probably warrant a refund.

2. Seal every edge of the box or shipping container

Just as time is not a baked good's friend, neither is air. Use a few extra inches of shipping tape and seal that baby up to the point where the recipient will curse you for the effort it'll take to open it.

3. Cushion, cushion, cushion, tight, tight, tight

Have you ever seen how packages are handled? The more cushion you have in the box, and the more the cookies are surrounded by that cushion so that the contents of the box don't shift, the better your chances that your cookies will arrive intact. Some folks use air-popped popcorn for packing material. That's a nice idea, as it can be tossed outside for critters at the destination. I keep a stash of packing peanuts from past shipments and use those. Most these days are biodegradable. (Really. They dissolve in water.) Fill the box so that it looks a bit too full. You should have to press down slightly to tape it shut. If you shake it and feel the contents shift, add more filler. It should ship as a solid mass.

4. Wrap, stash, and suck

Wrap cookies in waxed paper in pairs, back to back, so that they support each other. Stash them in a zip-top bag in rows. Stand them up along the bottom of the bag, like a roll of pennies. Then stash another row on top of that. Then another. Most gallon-size zip-top bags can accommodate three rows of cookies. Nestle them in next to each other snugly. Don't cram them if they won't fit, but don't leave excess space for them to move around. Then, lay the bag flat on the counter, seal the zip top almost all the way shut, and stick a drinking straw into the bag part of the way. Suck out as much air as you can, and while you're sucking, pull the straw out (yes, with your mouth) while you finish sealing the bag.

5. Bake cookies that will travel well

Not all cookies are made for travel. Delicate cookies that like to crumble are best enjoyed locally. Heartier cookies – oatmeal, sugar, any cookie with a bit of body – will travel well, assuming the steps above.

Don't be daunted. Bake and ship. Nothing heightens a holiday like tastes from our childhood homes or little bits of decadence.

And as corny as it sounds, cookies baked with love taste infinitely better than anything anyone can buy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Good Times, The Year In Review ...

In November last year, Angelo asked me if I'd like to contribute to his blog, which was very kind, and we hatched a plan. We'd begin in January, after the holiday hubbub, and I could submit posts as frequently or infrequently as I'd like, about any kind of baked good.

My brain settled on cookies, as they're kind of my thing, and monthly, as that felt like a good frequency.

We did indeed hit the ground running in January, and this morning, he posted December's cookie. A year's worth of cookies, done.

Thirteen cookies, which I love, as 13 is my favorite number. I created two cookies for May, hence why a year's worth of cookies does not add up to 12.

In 2012, the cookies may continue. Or I may take on yeast. Many folks think making bread – and all its yeast-risen friends – are too difficult for them to even attempt. But that's simply not true. I learned how to make bread when I was 8. And here's the big secret to yeast doughs: so long as you don't kill the yeast, you really can't screw anything up.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For fun, I thought I'd compile all of the cookies from this year-long escapade into one post.

Angelo is an oh-so-gracious host and I'm happy to bake for someone who has such a deep fondness for the magic that happens when flour and sugar combine. He's my fellow kitchen alchemist.


Shortbread Ottomans


Componentized Chocolate Chips


Liz Lemon Cookies


Walnut Cheese Cookies


Dark Chocolate Espresso Biscotti and Sablés


Sesame Cookies with Roditis Cream Cheese Dip


Parmesan Toffee Cookies


Drumstick Cookies


Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies


Pecan Crispies with Pumpkin Bourbon Cream Cheese Dip


Bittersweet Baci


Almond Spice Drops

Good Times, December Edition ...

The December cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Almond Spice Drops, a take on windmill cookies, but in softer-cookie form.