Cooking Mistakes To Avoid

Have you ever had a tried and true recipe that just refused to cooperate one day? (Hint: That’s your cue to leave an answer in the Comments section at the bottom of this page. :)

I find these experiences so frustrating, because there are often several factors that could contribute to the challenge, and sleuthing them out isn’t always so easy.

I had a little mishap with falling berries in cake batter today while working on the photo shoot for our next column in The Forum. I was making a recipe for little almond cakes called Friands, which I’ve made dozens of times with success. They’re very pretty little cakes, and I love to showcase them with berries floating on the top.

However, this was the first time my berries decided to take a dive for the bottom, leaving me with a plain cake top. Normally, I wouldn’t be so bothered about this, because the cakes still tasted great. But I needed the berries to be visible for the photos, so I had no patience for their refusal to make an appearance. These Friands were not my friends today. See what I did there? :)

When the photo shoot ended, I started to search Google to see if coating the berries in flour first would have helped – I’ve done this before with chocolate chips and had good results.I stumbled across a terrific article from cookinglight.com called “The Most Common Cooking Mistakes,” which has 61(!) great tips for success in your kitchen adventures. Some of these I knew already from past experiences (i.e., failures), but many of the tips were new to me.

The article did confirm my suspicion that a little bit of flour might have helped prevent today’s earlier stress – but how was I to know beforehand that my berries would decided to play hide and seek?

I’m still not sure why they fell in the first place – I may have mixed the egg whites a little too long, thus resulting in a less-dense batter. The size of the berries could also have been a factor, as they were really big raspberries. But then again, my blueberries fell straight through, too. Hmm…it’s a little food mystery. I think I’ll have to do some experimenting this weekend. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate these reminders, tips and shortcuts to help you avoid those darn kitchen pitfalls. Just click on the link below and take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in your kitchen exploits.

“The Most Common Cooking Mistakes” from COOKING LIGHT MAGAZINE

Sue Asp’s (Grandmother’s) Date-Filled Cookies: A Holiday Heritage Contest Recipe

The entry phase of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest has come to a close, and it’s time to start narrowing down the selections. Tony and I will be spending the next 48 hours +/- reading through each contestant’s entry and story to choose our favorites and with almost 40 recipes entered we know that we have our work cut out for ourselves.

Add to that the hectic pace of the holiday season, especially in the restaurant world, and some days it’s a challenge just to remember my name. We received several new entries in the days/hours leading up to the deadline, and we will get those recipes and stories posted by the end of Saturday, at the latest. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate our way through the fluid waters of blogging and all that goes with it.

In the meantime, we will continue to feature recipes from our contestants here on the blog, and today the Contest Spotlight is shining on Sue Asp of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and her Grandmother’s recipe for Date-Filled Cookies.

Sue has a long-standing holiday tradition of baking with her sisters and her mother each season. While they bake a great variety of goodies each year, these date-filled cookies remain a constant family favorite, and Sue gives credit for this to an unusual source. You’ll have to read on to find out what that is but, as a baker who cherishes a good old-fashioned recipe, I totally get it, and hope you do too.

Thank you for sharing your special recipe and story with us, Sue, and GOOD LUCK!

Sue Asp’s (Grandmother’s) Date-Filled Cookies

THE STORY
The original recipe for these date-filled cookies must be at least 75 years old. The yellowed newspaper clipping, carefully taped to a 3×5 card, belonged to my grandma, Mathilda Alsop. There are notes, too, scrawled on the card beside the newsprint. Some in Grandma’s writing (12 min. @ 350=GOOD!), others in my mother’s (Use Betty Crocker Filling!). Grandma rolled the dough and chopped the dates by hand each Christmas until she was well in to her 80s, then passed the card and the tradition on to her daughter-in-law.

This year, my mother, who is approaching 90, will gather her three daughters for our 26th annual mother-daughter Christmas cookie bake. Grandma worked alone, but after more than two decades, we four have settled into a routine: Mom mixes the dough, I make the filling, Marilyn crimps each edge (she’s good with the putzy stuff), and Karen takes the cookies out of the oven when they’re perfectly golden brown.

We mix up a dozen varieties each year—from spritz to peanut butter blossoms—but the date-filleds have stood the test of time. Sure, they’re delicious, but I think the true draw lies in that old, yellowed card.

DATE-FILLED COOKIES 

For the Dough:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter (may use margarine)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup soured cream*
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in the cream
1/2 teaspoon baking powder sifted into 2 1/2 cups white flour
2 1/2 cups ground oatmeal

*Sour cream by adding 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup cream

For Date Filling:
3 cups cut up dates
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes). Cool.

Directions:
Cream sugar and butter together with an electric mixer and add eggs. Combine flour mixture and oatmeal. Add dry ingredients and soured cream mixture alternately to creamed mixture. Mix to form dough.

Roll out cookie dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into circles with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place about 1 teaspoon of date filling onto dough and fold dough in half to cover the filling. Press the edges of the dough together with a fork to seal and prick the top with a fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Submitted by Sue Asp of Fergus Falls, MN

Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies: A Holiday Heritage Recipe from Susan Hanson

Today the Contest Spotlight is shining on Susan Hanson and her mother’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies.

When Giovanni saw the photos Susan sent us of these colorfully festive holiday sweets, he put his hands to his cheeks and with wide eyes proclaimed, “Award-winning cookies!” While he alone will not determine our contest’s winner, he will be making Susan’s cookies with a school buddy and me next Wednesday. We’ll see what he says once he tastes them, but he’s already a fan of this entry.

Susan’s love for her mother is evident and endearing, and we love the idea of packaging up these pretty cookies to give as gifts. Who wouldn’t love getting that present?

Many of you have shared photos of your special recipes being made by the newest generation in your families, and we have had so much fun reading your stories and seeing the tradition being passed down to the children. Christmas baking is such a part of our own holiday tradition, and we love knowing that we share this ritual with so many others.

Thank you for sharing your special recipe with us, Susan and Mary, and GOOD LUCK!

The entry phase of our contest is coming to a close, but you still have until 11:59 PM TONIGHT, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 11, 2013 to send us your recipe and story. We have received several new entries this week and will be posting them to the blog as soon as we get a free moment.

Tony, Gio, our Sarello’s Staff and I will be reviewing all of the entries over the next few days to select our favorites, and PUBLIC VOTING for our winner will commence online next week, so stay tuned to the blog over the weekend for updates.

If you have a special holiday recipe that has passed from one generation to another, we would love to have you share it with us!

Please send your recipe, along with a short story about its heritage to us via email to dine@sarellos.com. Photos are highly encouraged, but not required. Top Prize is a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!
CLICK HERE for CONTEST ENTRY GUIDELINES.

CLICK HERE to view the RECIPE ENTRIES for our Holiday Heritage Contest.

Susan Hanson’s (Mother’s) Old-Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies
I was very excited to hear about the holiday baking contest. I am entering this on behalf of my mom ~ the best mom, grandmother, wife, friend and baker out there. I knew instantly when I saw the contest I had to enter her homemade sugar cookies.

The recipe actually comes from my grandmother who unfortunately passed away back in the late 70’s when I was young. My mom was quite a bit younger than her 5 brothers and we didn’t get to spend as much time with my grandmother as I would have liked. However, I remember going to her house when I was a kid and the cookie jar was always full.

My mom has made it a tradition to take her mother’s recipe and pass it down to her kids and now her grandkids. However, nobody makes them quite like she does (my kids would agree). I think it is the love that she puts into every batch she makes.

She makes the dough ahead of time and we get to have all the fun! She makes her own homemade frosting and then anything goes… My kids love to put frosting, sprinkles and glitter all over their cookies. She has a day with them every year where they just make cookies. Each grandchild gets to take home a special creation to eat.

When my mom visits my sister and her kids in Georgia that is one of the first things she is asked to do.  I remember when my sister was in college and had no money – all her friends would ask for was these cookies. She was always happy to comply.

We often buy her a new cookie cutter every year for Christmas so we have another excuse to make the cookies. However, my mom still has the original cookies cutters from when she was married over 45 years ago (and probably still works the best). She tries to make everyone’s favorite shape even though they all taste the same. I actually am not a big fan of frosting so she keeps a few cookies for me without frosting.

To me, this is what the holiday is about. It is the traditions we have, the friends and family we surround ourselves with, and grandma’s homemade sugar cookies. I cannot imagine the holidays without these cookies and the woman who has made them for the past 60+ years for us…

 Grandma’s Old Fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
½ cup soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg (unbeaten)
2 teaspoon vanilla or almond flavoring
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt

Directions:
Mix butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together. Add sour cream. Then add flour, soda and salt. Mix well. Chill dough for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and roll out and use your favorite cookie cutters.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Leave on pan for 5 minutes after baking.

Frosting

Ingredients:
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond flavoring
Milk as desired

Directions:
Mix ingredients together and add mild until you get desired consistency. Add food coloring for added holiday sparkle.

Submitted by Susan Hanson of Fargo, ND on behalf of her mother, Mary Fornes

Elsa’s Spritz Cookies: A Holiday Heritage Recipe from 12-Year-Old Astrid Axtman

Twelve-year-old Astrid Axtman of Fargo, ND is sitting in the Contest Spotlight today, with her Great-Grandma’s recipe for Christmas Spritz Cookies. Astrid shares her recipe, story and photo with us, and now Giovanni is insisting that we buy a cookie press so we can try out Astrid’s (Grandma’s) recipe!

We loved reading about Astrid’s Swedish Great-Grandmother Elsa, and her creative method for learning English. Between all that sugar and comic books, Elsa must have been one fun and interesting woman to know – and we’re betting she was a pretty good baker, too. This tradition has been in Astrid’s family for at least four generations, and we know that Astrid will make sure Elsa’s spritz cookies are a Christmas favorite for generations to come.

Thank you for sharing your special recipe with us, Astrid, and GOOD LUCK!

If you have a special holiday recipe that has passed from one generation to another, we would love to have you share it with us!

Please send your recipe, along with a short story about its heritage to us via email to dine@sarellos.com. Photos are highly encouraged, but not required. Top Prize is a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer!
CLICK HERE for CONTEST ENTRY GUIDELINES.

CLICK HERE to view the RECIPE ENTRIES for our Holiday Heritage Contest.

My Great Grandma Elsa immigrated to the United States (from Sweden) in 1920.   She taught herself English by reading the back of sugar sacks and comic books.  I’m fortunate that one ten pound sack of sugar has made an impact on the following generations. With that sack of sugar, my Great Grandma Elsa started a tradition of making spritz cookies, dying wreathed shaped cookies green, and garnishing them with red icing, or sometimes even sugar dyed red!

My Grandma Elvie remembers how these cookies were a staple around the holidays. As my grandmother shares, this was passed down and by the time she started making them, sprinkles had become popular thus the icing was replaced. My mother says they go back as far as she can remember; sometimes her mother would even shape them as trees.

Grandma continues to make them for us grandchildren, and that’s where I come into the picture. Even though I’m only 12, I have enjoyed learning family baking from my Grandmother. I would really enjoy making many batches of cookies with the KitchenAid® mixer and passing on this tradition!

Astrid Axtman’s (Great-Grandma Elsa’s) Spritz Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted flour (all-purpose)
green food coloring
red sprinkles

Directions:
In a stand mixer or large bowl; cream butter. Gradually add sugar; cream well. Add egg, salt, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat. Gradually add food coloring until it turns a nice green color. Blend in flour. Once it forms a dough put the dough through a cookie press.

Bake to a delicate brown at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

Submitted by Astrid Axtman (age 12) of Fargo, ND