By now you know I am obsessed with the book “Edible Selby“, a super stylish, globe-hopping, sketchbook tour of some of the world’s tastiest eateries. I’ve been staring especially longingly at the feature on Linnéa Thomsen and her gorgeous bakery nestled in the equally gorgeous Stockholm Park, Rosendals Trädgård. Everytime I see those photos, I want to jump right into the pages and grab a cardamon bun and a hunk of one of her wood-fired breads. Heaven! But until my family makes it to Sweden, we can at least make these lovely crackers. They’re super light and crisp and perfect with any sort of cheese, jam or cracker topping you can think of…. or do as the Scandinavians do and have yours with a bit of good butter. Continue reading
With the holidays around the corner, we definitely have cookies on our minds. Baking with kids is a fun way to get the little ones in the kitchen and teach basic skills like measuring, math and making a mess (and then hopefully cleaning it up)!
Consider hosting a “kid-friendly” cookie swap or attending one with your children to help you get in a festive mood. We guarantee this is a party your kids will remember for a long time to come. You can throw a cookie swap party with minimal effort and get the children involved in all aspects of the party—planning, set-up, baking and clean-up. Hosting a party with your children encourages children to learn generosity and develop organizational skills, and it teaches responsibility.
If you are a baker, it is a wonderful opportunity to show off your cookie-making skills and enjoy the compliments that come your way. If you are baking-impaired (like me) and can make only one type of cookie, you end up with a bounty of cookies you could not even dream of making yourself. Last year, we hosted our annual holiday party right after a cookie swap at Seesaw we attended and people were totally blown away by the platter of cookies that was presented after the meal. Yes, I took credit for it!
Tips for a hosting a fun and successful “kid-friendly” cookie swap:
- Pick a date earlier in December, before things get very hectic for everyone. Children can help with making/designing the invitation
- Keep guest list to a manageable number (8-12), so people are not overwhelmed by the number of cookies they have to bake
- Consider exchanging recipes in addition to cookies. The kids can help you design the recipe cards and older kids can even make them. Also, knowing ingredients for cookies will ensure no one takes home a cookie with ingredients they are allergic to
- Tell everyone to bring containers to take the cookies home
- If sampling is allowed, have everyone bring some extra cookies. Regardless, have some healthy snacks and drinks on hand for everyone
- For another twist on a cookie swap, try a cookie dough swap. Many cookie doughs can be rolled into logs, wrapped in a few layers of plastic wrap and stowed in the freezer, providing you and your friends with stash of homemade “slice and bake” treats at the ready throughout the holiday season. Make sure to include the name of the cookie and baking instructions with the dough
Here is a wonderful recipe from Stacie – cookies with lemon and thyme (a bit unique but quite delicious).
Lemon Thyme Crisps – adapted from Gourmet Magazine
I’ve been making my version of these lemon butter cookies for years and years. They are simple to mix up, the dough freezes beautifully, and they have a surprise kick of lemon thyme which gives them a wonderful, complex flavor that pleases kids and adults alike. Chocolate is usually well represented at most cookie swaps, making this a nice choice to round out a cookie platter. It’s also an excuse to celebrate herbs from the garden that we are so lucky to be able to grow all year. If you don’t keep a pot of lemon thyme growing in your garden or by your back door, this recipe is a great reason to get one going!
- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
1. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. With a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until they turn pale yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. To the creamed butter and sugar mixture add the lemon zest, egg, lemon thyme, lemon juice and ginger. Mix well.
4. Mix in the sifted flour mixture one large spoonful at a time until well incorporated.
5. Divide dough in thirds and roll each piece into a log about 1 ½” in diameter. Wrap each log in several layers of plastic wrap and freeze. Dough will keep in the freezer, wrapped well, for several months. [Each log will make approximately 40 cookies.]
6. To bake, unwrap the dough and slice into ¼” thick rounds. Place the cookies on a parchment or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet, allowing several inches of space between each cookie because they will spread as they bake.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown.
I am not really fond of baking. I wish I was but somehow most of my creations end up “not-so-good.” It might be because I don’t really fancy measuring when I cook. Nonetheless, since having Ria I have been baking more regularly. It is easier to involve children in baking (maybe, because the end product is more desirable to kiddie tastebuds?). Measuring is fun with kids and teaches them not only cooking, but basic math as well.
We took a stab at a clafouti with strawberries (traditionally made with cherries) recently and it was a pretty simple and turned out OK. The batter is like a pancake batter which is then poured over fresh fruit and baked till puffed and golden. Easier than pancakes – which made me think this could be made for brunch/breakfast with whipped cream and possibly even syrup since it isn’t very sweet. The addition of ice-cream or some cream fraiche would make this a divine dessert. Perhaps, peaches and plums are next.
Strawberry Clafouti – adapted from Sunset Magazine
As easy to make as a pancake (and less work), this is a classic French dessert from the Limousin region. The fruit rises to the top, leaving a soft layer whose texture falls somewhere between custard and cake. Ria made me add some chocolate chips to half of it….for some of us, dessert must have chocolate!!
Serves 4 to 6
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I might add a little more next time I make this)
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar (for dusting on top)
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 2-qt. baking or gratin dish with the butter. Toss strawberry halves with cornstarch until evenly coated, then arrange berries, cut side down, in bottom of dish and set aside.
2. In a blender, whirl eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt 15 seconds. Pour batter over strawberries. (We just used a whisk – more fun for kids and easier clean-up)
3. Bake until puffed, golden brown, and set in the center, about 50 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, here’s a post by Erika Mooney about her family tradition of baking a cake for July 4th. I love the idea of passing family holiday traditions to our children and having them make those traditions their own as her daughter, Daisy has done below. Erika is an amazing chef and has worked at some pretty awe inspiring establishments like Mario Batali’s Babbo. She might be as close as I will ever get to one of my favorite chefs! 🙂 She has promised me a recipe in the upcoming months and I am going to hold her to that promise. For now, what I like best about this post is that Erika, despite being an amazing chef, doesn’t really fancy baking. That’s the two of us, sister!
I am not a Baker by Erika Mooney
I am not a baker, plain and simple. This usually comes as a surprise to those who know about my culinary background – for a 10 year portion of my life I was a professional chef. I graduated from a prestigious culinary school and worked in the kitchens of some amazingly talented (and thanks to the Food Network, amazingly famous) chefs. I can whip up a paella or a soufflé at a moment’s notice but the thought of baking sends a quiver down my spine. All of the exacting measuring, temperamental dough and temperature controlling are all my worst nightmares! I usually turn the heat up as high as it will go and throw stuff together until it tastes good, with one exception…my 4th of July cake.
The cake consists of a Pillsbury red, white and blue fun-fetti cake mix, some cream-cheese frosting (yes, I make that myself) with strawberries and blueberries placed on the cake to look like the American Flag. My mother always made it and even though I helped with the stirring, berry placing and batter licking, it was always her cake. Until the year I turned 7, I was visiting my Grandma Grace and her husband Max in St. Petersburg Florida for the long weekend. Max was a war vet and needless to say the 4th of July involved the bbq at the VFW. I implored Grandma Grace to allow me to make and bring this cake with us. The reaction at the VFW was amazing! Applause, praise and I seem to remember a standing ovation (this could have been added in later years, but let’s go with it). Never had a cake of this magnitude graced the tables of the VFW and it’s members simply could not believe that the talents of a 7 year old had created such a masterpiece.
As you can imagine this cake has been the centerpiece of every 4th of July since. Who would pass a chance to relive the glory? My daughter Daisy volunteered to make our cake this year. At the ripe old age of 5, she has seen this cake and feels she can raise it to the next level, just as I had done to my mother (funny how that seems to happen). So this past weekend she undertook the task. Instead of the fun-fetti mix, she insisted on vanilla cake, the cream-cheese frosting could stay but it needed to be sweeter than I usually make it. The rectangular cake was turned into a round one and strawberries were replaced by raspberries. Even though I helped with the stirring, berry placing and batter licking, it was her cake, from start to finish. The end result was spectacular; there was applause, praise and a standing ovation. And it is now it is her cake to make!