Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Bake

With the Cookie Bake-off in my rear view mirror I still had more baking to do for the tins that we give as gifts, so I sifted through books and recipes to see what else all of that butter could be used for. In the introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book that I got from Stephanie a few years ago I came across this:
     "Buy a cookie, and it's just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they're done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavour of home. For anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.
     Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts."

How great is that? As you may have guessed, I love  Christmas baking and this just seemed to explain everything perfectly. It also inspired me to take another look through the book and I found two new recipes to try.

These little Walnut Acorns were fun to try but I didn't assemble them using the 'two-spoon' method prescribed - just couldn't figure it out - so I shaped ovals instead.

And these Mocha Cookies - they don't look like much but they are D.I.V.I.N.E.!!! Soooo rich, but what a treat. They are about twice as large as I usually make my cookies but I couldn't get them any smaller.

My faves like Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread, Pecan Chocolate Shortbread and White Chocolate Gingerbread made the list. And then there were these Cherry Pecan Cookies that Linda pinned. The lure of almond and cream cheese was too much to resist. I haven't used Maraschino cherries in years but this was a good excuse to - they reminded me of a yummy cherry loaf that mom used to make.

Last year I missed making my Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D'Epice so they were at the top of my list. Actually, they were responsible for the browsing through my Gourmet cookie cookbook in the first place.

And these little Christmas Trees filled with raspberry jam have been AWOL for a Christmas or two, so they are back in the rotation.

It was another weekend of baking and a little bit of testing by The Official Cookie Tester; the fragrance of almonds, butter and chocolate still hang in the air, but I think I might now be done. So how about you - are you a baker?...M

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Little Bit of Hand Sewing

I did something this past weekend that I haven't done in ages - I picked up Minnie and spent a little time cutting more hexies and doing a bit of hand sewing. It seems that much of my quilt sewing this fall has been on the machine or sewing bindings and such, but now that all the little felt birds and other Holly Bazaar sewing are out of the way I've been dying to just sit and stitch on Minnie for a bit. I was so pooped after our baking extravaganza that it was about all that I could do.

There were a few strips of a pretty dusty mauve that I had cut so I cut them into hexies and then sat down to watch my favourite seasonal tear jerker, It's a Wonderful Life. About an hour in my lids were slamming so The Official Cookie Tester kindly taped the rest and we trundled off to bed.

We finished watching the movie on Sunday and I managed to get about half of the hexie diamond border sewn on. It felt good to be back....M

Monday, December 08, 2014

Eight Bakers Baking

Christmas Cookie Bake-off 2014 is now in the books and what a good one it was. All the fun started at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and the mixing, rolling, baking, filling and packing carried on 'til 5:30 p.m. - a full day with lots and lots of cookies to show for our efforts.

Both Emily and Meghan were sporting new holiday aprons bought specially and 'Auntie Betty' had hers decked out with red ribbons.

Betty's husband Steve is a bit of a card. He spent a little time online researching noise level at NFL stadiums and hockey arenas and posted this to the side of the fridge; he seemed to be betting that we might be able to best one of them as the day wore on. :)

We didn't keep an exact tally but there were at least 12 different recipes prepped.

With double batches of a few favourites made I'm thinking that we came away with at least 16, maybe 18, batches in total.

Most of the usual suspects were there but Jane and Frances didn't make it this year. It was Anne's first bake-off and Stephanie was able to join us again, so with Jen and the girls we had eight bakers working all out for the day. Baylea was in charge of quality control and kept a watchful eye on everyone.

Jen really found her niche in 'shipping and receiving' this year - dividing up the spoils five ways and carefully packing everyone's treats in tins.

Emily took some time out to capture a few photos on her iPad for posterity...

...another pan of Toblerone shortbread fresh from the oven...

Mother Bauer's Butter Rum Cookies ready to be baked...

and Stephanie quickly perfecting the art of buttered rum filling.

It was a full day but a wonderful time spent with family and friends - such a great tradition. Meghan had the great idea to film this short stop action video which will give you a sense of how some of the day went - take a peek.

I had hoped to get my tree up on the weekend too but we didn't get it until today. It's defrosting in the stand and filling the house with its wonderful fragrance as carols play. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....M

Friday, December 05, 2014

A Happy, Tiny, Little Fleet

Linda is expecting the arrival of her third grandchild early in the New Year so she's busy, busy, busy. After welcoming two beautiful little girls, this one she knows will be a boy so it's ships ahoy.

These saucy little vessels are just so much fun  that it's impossible not to smile as you look at them; you can tell that she's enjoying playing with the fabric combinations. It's all hand sewn.

The green and red ricrac waves set the whole thing off. Who says waves need to be blue and white?

And check out the tiny little ribbon flags atop the masts. She sews a couple of strips into the seam and leaves the ends flying loose. How cute is that? The colours and prints in this block are my faves, the vine print in particular.

I love the large polka dot sashing between the blocks - it's just the icing on the cake. What a happy little quilt this will be....M