Monday, December 29, 2008

Belated Christmas Cookies!

Whew! What a busy month...not so much with the baking, but with work. The problem about working the retail shtick (even specialty retail) is the non-stop work work work nature of the Christmas season. It's been so hectic and exhausting that I had few chances to do much baking this year. Bummer, and now Christmas is come and gone...but that doesn't mean I can't get caught up, not does it? After all, Christmas cookies taste just as sweet, rich, and delicious after Christmas as they do at the height of the season! Therefor may I present to you, Mrs. Santa's Magical Cookies...

Now, these are no ordinary cookies, oh no, these cookies are truly of the magical variety; the recipe of which come not from a mere cookbook, but from the pen of Mrs. Santa herself. Allow me to regale you with the tale of how I came by this recipe...

About five years ago, in the month of December, my family and I were at the Heber Valley Railway Station enjoying the sites and sounds of the old rail station turned museum, when something amazing happened. A sky full of snow danced down from the heavens. "From outside came the sounds of hissing steam and squeaking metal. I looked through window and saw a train standing perfectly still."

Everyone rushed outside to the old platform to see a wondrous train, hung with the holly and the ivy, and garland. I looked at the engine and tried to read the big, white letters but could not make them out amid the steam. We all marveled at the site, wondering what to happen next? Was the train for us? Where would it take us? As we all talked and wondered at the mystery and the magic, a shadow, hidden in the steam, was seen to emerge from the front car of the train. Though most everyone stepped back, not knowing who or what it was, one little girl stood still without fear, looking with wonder at the shadow as it stepped out from the mist to reveal a nice old man, dressed in a conductor's uniform, a warm smile, framed in wrinkles, sitting on his face. He looked like he could be anyone's favorite grandpa. He patted the child on her head, then looked at the crowd.

"Well? You all coming?" he asked.

"Where?" the girl asked.

"Why, to the North Pole, of course!" He said, joy pulsing from his being. "This is the Polar Express!"

I would be lying if I said we all jumped on board without hesitation, but the conductor's warm smile reassured us. What followed is best documented in Chris Van Allsburg's "The Polar Express." As you may remember in the book, cookies and hot chocolate were served, and truly magical cookies the were, as they were made by Mrs. Santa herself. So delicious were those cookie that I could not help but ask for the recipe. After a few minutes, a grandmotherly woman, dressed in a red winter dress, trimmed in white, walked into the car. She came up to me, looked me over, and smiled.

"A cook's heart, pure and good, always striving for the perfect cookie and cake and showing his love and friendship with his cooking. Here you are, young man," and she gave me a red card with a recipe on it, and she walked away.

"The Polar Express is about faith, and the power of imagination to sustain faith. It's also about the desire to reside in a world where magic can happen, the kind of world we all believed in as children, but one that disappears as we grow older.” - Chris Van Allsburg

And it's all true, every letter! Well...most of it, anyway, and here's the very recipe she gave to me, which I have up until recently, kept secret. In the spirit of the season, however, I have decided to share it with the world!

Mrs. Santa's Magical Cookies
by Kay Shean

1½ cups white sugar.
The giggle from an elf

2 cups of brown sugar

Found high on a shelf.

1 pound of sweet butter

A reindeer’s shy wink,

Three eggs freshly chosen,

Fairy Dust colored pink,

1½ teaspoons salt

A wish from a child,

1½ teaspoons soda,

One griffin smile-wild.

6 cups of white flour,

One gallon of joy

The twinkle that’s found

in a small girl or boy.

2 cups nuts if you like them,

if not, leave them out.

4 cups chocolate chips.

Remove all signs of doubt.

2 tablespoons vanilla

A huge dash of love,

A sprinkle of peace

From the wings of a dove.

Cream the butter and sugars, ten minutes for sure,

Mix in the giggle and winks, add the eggs and beat more.

Add salt, soda, flour, fairy dust and the wish,

The griffin’s sweet smile and beat well - What a dish!

Add the chips and vanilla, and nut if you will,

Scoop with small ice cream scooper and your cookie sheets fill.

Bake 350 degrees, 7 minutes ‘til done,

Eat with love, joy and peace and have bundles of fun!

Joyeux Noël, everyone, even if I am a bit late in saying so.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Breaking cheese at Harmon's.

The best grocery store in the area is by far the Harmon's in Roy. An artisan bakery, excellent deli that has some great ready-to-go foods, a great selection of gourmet food stuffs, and, best of all, a gourmet cheese counter! I often find myself at Harmon's on my way home from work, where I loiter around the cheese counter, chatting with John, my favorite of the cheese mongers. And it was fortunate that today I happened up to the counter just in time to watch as John cracked open a whole wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, something I've wanted to see for a long time now.

What luck! And I gotta tell ya, there is nothing like biting into a fresh sliver of Parmigiano-Reggiano, just taken from the core of the newly broken wheel, to die for. ^_^

(You'll have to excuse the poor photos, all I had was my camera phone. It was better than nothing, but doesn't compare to a real camera.)

A whole wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, about to be opened.

John scores the wheel to ensure an even break.

In go the wedges.

It took some work, but he got them all through the rind.

Out comes, and in goes, the big knife.

Ah, a newly opened canyon of Parmigiano-Reggiano!

John, the big cheese of Harmon's. Sorry, I couldn't resist. ^_^;