Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

Food Legends

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Family food legends have a way of nourishing body and soul. 2011 marked the Minnesota State Fair’s inaugural Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance’s Heirloom Recipe Contest. I  joined in the judging to honor slices of cherished Minnesota family history. Eighteen women and men, aged 24 to 70, each displayed a story and a prepared recipe. The judges tasted potato soup, chocolate cake, ginger cookies, butterflake rolls , and perfectly cooked spare ribs with homemade sauerkraut.

Four stories and recipes broke out of the pack as the winners.

1st Place: Roberta Casey, St. Paul, MN. We laughed out loud at Roberta Casey’s story of her grandmother’s Pretzel Cookies and the lengths to which Roberta and her cousins went to get more than their fair share. Casey’s display was accurate right down to the layers of plastic wrap she described as being essential to her grandmother’s storage method. Hilma Cherney Rivan passed away at age 97. The family served Pretzel Cookies at her funeral reception.

2nd Place: Gwendolyn Swenson, North Branch, MN. Swenson used peaches for this version of Fruit Upside-Down Cake, presented on a Depression glass plate on a vintage doily. The crumb and flavor of the cake were excellent. Swenson noted: “I have been making the recipe for nearly 50 years. Mom is nearly 84 years old. So between the two of us, we been making this recipe for over 70 years.”

3rd Place:  Natalie Tangen, West St. Paul, MN.  Tangen told her grandparent’s touching love story and described the hard-working life Louise and Fred Paez shared. Members of the family still make Louise’s Spanish Rice and eat it rolled up in homemade tortillas. “Her rice with tortillas was simple fare, but lovingly made by her beautiful hands.”

4th Place: Josette Repke, Plymouth, MN, Wash-Day Supper. Josette remembers this  surprising delicious Wiener Hot Dish with Boiled Potatoes (or, if you prefer, Hot Dog Casserole) from Mondays of her childhood, the day the wash was always done.

Read the winner’s essays and try their recipes and read about previous contests.

The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, based in Chicago, debuted the competition in 2009 in Illinois and has since expanded to Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and this year to Minnesota and Missouri, with plans to take the contest to more state fairs next year. FeedstuffsFoodLink.com–From Farm to Fork co-sponsors the event. Watch GMFA for information about 2012 participating fairs and information about how to enter.

“All this and krumkake, too!”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I grew up in a small community, Irene, South Dakota, with many people of Danish and Norwegian descent. Most of the year this fact was most evident by the number of last names that ended in ‘son’ and ‘sen.’ At Christmas, this was most obvious in the plates of krumkake, rosettes, fattigman, and spritz at holiday tables. (A krumkake (CROOM-kah-kah) is a sweet crisp wafer rolled to a crescent as soon as it comes off the griddle. It’s first cousin to the Italian Pizzelle, the delicious flat wafer cookie that uses the same kind of griddle.)

Krumkake

Minneapolis, where I make my home, has more than a nod to the Scandinavian tradition, but it’s more likely that I’ll see krumkake and rosettes in boxes at the grocery stores than on the plates at friends’ homes.

Thus, I’ve become a krumkake maker, purchasing an electric one just before Christmas from Bethany Housewares in Cresco, Iowa, via Minneapolis-St. Paul’s premier kitchen store, Cooks of Crocus Hill. There’s a traditional version that fits over an electric or gas burner. I chose the electric appliance that makes krumkake making almost fool proof.

The recipe adapted from Bethany Housewares:

Krumkake

½ cup butter (1 stick)

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. crushed cardamom seed

Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly.  With mixer or whisk, beat eggs and sugar until thick, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in melted butter and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

Spoon flour into measuring cup and level—this prevents adding too much flour making the krumkake tough. Sift in cornstarch and stir in crushed cardamom. Stir into egg mixture. Batter has a dough-like consistency.  Spoon 1-inch mounds of batter onto hot griddle. Close lid. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions or until krumkake is light golden brown.

Need some work on my krumkake technique, but oh, the results are sweet anyway!

My next-door neighbors enjoyed krumkake for the first time this year and loved them. Friend Karen, steeped in things Norwegian and Danish, took her gift of krumkake and filled them with lemon curd and whipped cream to share with friends.  Friend Kris, of Danish descent, remarked, upon receiving the expected bag of my biscotti along with krumkake: “All this and krumkake, too!”

Alchemy: Christmas Cookies

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

The recipe is both precise and vague.  My Grandmother Mae wrote it in her hand and noted it was from P.V. Hansen, which P.V. Hansen’s wife, grandmother of my classmate, Alice.  There’s a teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon. The leavening is “4 teaspoons of vinegar in which put 3 teaspoons of soda.”  Flour:  ‘Plenty of’ she wrote.

Grandmother—she was quite formal and demanded to be called ‘Grandmother,’ never Grandma or Gramma—was known for her wonderful pies and crust and her ginger cookies.

Grandmother Mae's Ginger Cookies

Grandmother used one round cookie cutter with scalloped edges for her entire batch. Her cookies were thin and crisp, and in my memory, never jagged or tough.

My Mom, Grandmother’s  daughter-in-law, taught me to make them. We branched out into many, many shapes with Mom’s family cookie cutters including lions, sheep, fish, and birds.  I’ve added buffalo, tiny bears, and angels.

Mary Gunderson' 2009 Ginger Cookies for Christmas

The number of cookies depends on the size of the cookie cutters, the eating habits of the cookie makers, and how many times to re-roll the dough. My best cookie rolling secret is this:  mix equal parts sugar and all-purpose flour for the rolling medium.  The mixture lessens the chance of adding too much flour, which will make the cookies tough.

My 5th grade neighbor rolled cookies with me this year. She especially liked to knead the cookie dough and found it easier to roll that way.  The trade-off is that the cookies will be less tender.

Grandmother Mae’s Ginger Cookies

Adapted from the original

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 cup molasses

About 6 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

4 teaspoons vinegar

3 teaspoons soda

In mixer, cream sugar and butter.  Beat in eggs and molasses.  In separate bowl, combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Stir flour into molasses mixture.  Mix vinegar and soda and add immediately.  Stir just until combined.

Chill dough about 1 hour.

Remove dough and with a small section at a time, roll in half flour/half sugar mixture to desired thickness.  Shape cookies with cutters.  Transfer to parchment-paper lined cookie sheets.  Bake in 350° F oven for about 10 minutes or until set.

Continue with all cookies.  Cool on wire racks and store in air-tight container.

Makes 80 to 100 cookies, depending on cookie cutter size.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, 2009