In need of a little comfort?

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder

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(Freshly baked Breton Biscuits / Julie Cook / 2014)

Where do you go when you find yourself out of sorts, stressed, tired?
Where does your heart wander when it is wounded, sad, heavy?
Where do your spirits travel when your world is rocked, your day is shot, your feelings weary?

To the kitchen, that’s where!!

I confess that I’ve been feeling a bit blue and out of sorts as of late. . .blasé
—the trees didn’t help. . .
. . .but I don’t want to talk about that.
I was flipping though my most recent edition of Saveur Magazine when I found myself stopping on one particular page.
One word stopped me. . .
Butter

If there is one little thing that screams “let me comfort you my dear” it’s the real deal unctuous amalgamation of cream and salt.
Butter.
YUMMMMMMMM

The article was entitled Butter Queen showcasing a Brittany (region in France) specialty, Gâteau Breton or Gallettes bretonnes–better known as a light, delicate, sandy textured butter cookie.
That’s what I’m talking—-a light hearted version of a shortbread!!
Comfort is now a recipe away!!

So let’s make a little comfort shall we. . .

This particular recipe is originally from Le Cordon Bleu’s cookies edition as taken from the Joy of Baking
A recipe for Sables—the French Butter cookie (how many names can a little butter cookie have?!)
It’s a simple no fuss cookie. It can serve as a canvas for the adventuresome and creative, or simply as pure pleasure for the purist.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–10 tablespoons (140) grams unsalted butter, room temperature (Plugra, Presidents or other European brands)
–1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
–1 large egg (organic)
–1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (my homemade brew)
–2 cups(260 grams) all purpose flour (unbleached King Author
–1/2 teaspoon baking powder
–1/4 teaspoon salt (Real Salt Kosher)
Egg Wash–1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

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Is it just me or is red a dominant color on the pallet of my products of choice?
When you make something as simple as a butter cookie, it is key to have the very best ingredients in your repertoire available as there are so few ingredients involved. With butter being the primary , the best butter you can get your hands on is crucial. Plugra is a great US butter which is out of Texas and handcrafted in the tradition of European butter–meaning it has a higher butter fat content–making for a richer, more savory creamy product—
(see the previous post:
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/butter-and-lent/ )

I’ve chosen President, a French butter for a French cookie, mais non?

I’ve copied the original recipe here:

Sables: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash. Then, with the tines of a fork (or I like to use the end of a toothpick), make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12 – 14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
(using a 3 inch cutter gave me a larger cookie which numbered 18 total)

My organic eggs, since I’ve yet to procure “my girls” for the very real deal :

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The recipe calls for the use of a 2 inch cookie / biscuit cutter however I used a 3 inch cutter, making for a tad larger cookie. Instead of 3 dozen cookies I had 18. If you wanted to be festive, I don’t know why you couldn’t use fun cookie cutters, say pumpkins, or leaves, or turkeys, or snowmen. . .as these are not sugar cookies but a rolled and cut cookie all the same.

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I’m not a big fan of egg wash as I think it “yellows” the top of the cookie and “seals” the tops often allowing the cookies to get mushy after a day or so rather than staying nice and crisp–when I make these again, I won’t use egg. . .

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When you use a fork to crisscross the top of the cookies, use the back of the fork–the front of the fork will cause the soft raw cookies to pull–the back keeps the lines smooth.

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Not too sweet with a slight saltiness offering a clean buttery finish.
These could be fun little ice-cream sandwich base cookies or another type of filling sandwiched lovingly between theses thin little butter wafers of wonderment or even dipped in melted chocolate for a chocolate dipped sandy. . .skies the limit, but I prefer the simple buttery goodness.

Pure Comfort to be sure
Bon Appétit

If You’re Afraid of Butter, Use Cream
Julia Child

So Mrs. Landemare can cook eh?

“My idea of a good dinner is, first to have a good dinner, then discuss good food, and after this good food has been elaborately discussed, to discuss a good topic – with me as chief conversationalist.”
Sir Winston Churchill

During a visit to America, Winston Churchill was invited to a buffet luncheon at which cold fried chicken was served. Returning for a second helping, he asked politely, ” May I have some breast?” “Mr. Churchill,” replied the hostess, “in this country we ask for white meat or dark meat.” Churchill apologized profusely. The following morning, the lady received a magnficent orchid from her guest of honor. The accompanying card read: I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.”
One of the many Churchill stories

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I’ve just finished reading a most insightful, as well as, delightful book: Dinner with Churchill / Policy-Making at the Dinner Table by Cita Stelzer
As I truly adore Winston, I adore dinner as well–cooking it and eating it—what could be bad about a book which combines both?! The answer to that little notion would be absolutely nothing— as it was /is a great little read.

I have always been one to tout the virtues of feasting and fellowshipping, as I’ve often written about such, extolling the virtues of “breaking bread” with family, friends and strangers–because after the breaking of said bread, the latter will no longer be a stranger. It seems as if the Prime Minister and I were and are on the same page. Lest I remind you that great minds think alike—

As I was reading through this tasty little morsel for the mind, I came upon a description regarding the cook whom the Churchills had hired when Winston was Prime Minister. As the Churchills entertained a great deal, at either N0. 10 Downing as well as at their permanent residence at Chartwell, they were in great need of a great cook.

Enter Mrs. Georgina Landemare.

Mrs. Landemare was married to one of France’s more renowned chefs yet she, herself, was no stranger to the kitchen. Upon her husband’s early death, Mrs. Landemare decided she would take on some temporary work and job assignments cooking for some of England’s more prestigious events. The Churchills first procured her services for the occasional weekend gala or banquet at Chartwell. It wasn’t until the war broke out in 1939 that she actually offered her services full-time to the Churchills, as her part for the war effort—what a brave woman! Following the war, Mrs Landemare remained cooking for the Churchills for the next 15 years up until her retirement in 1954.

Imagine my excitement when I read in Ms Stelzer’s book that Mrs. Landemare had actually written a cookbook in 1958 on behest of Mrs. Churchill! Oooooo, I just had to find a copy! Imagine—me cooking dishes, the same dishes, Winston would oooo and coo over—I felt the excitement rising.

First I had to find the book.
And just as I pretty much figured—the book was long out of print.
But leave it to my trusty Amazon— there just happened to be a copy or two that could be found, for a wee fee no doubt, from a used book source. And in this case, one located in the UK.
Well, I’m a sucker for my quests and goosechases so I picked the copy I thought was in the better shape, pushed the order button and proceeded to wait with grand anticipation.

I had thought that once the book arrived, I’d pick a fun little recipe and give it a go here—you know, for you and me. I’d highlight a particularly Churchillian looking dish, preparing it step by step, taking photos all along the way, all for our fun—your’s and mine. That whole Julie and Julia thing but this would be Winston, Georgina, and Julie.

The book made it’s way from there to here, safely arriving at the end of last week. I was so excited. I practically ran back from the mailbox. I gently unwrapped it, taking in that musty old book smell, gently opening the marvelous little tome as I began to sift through the recipes.

Suddenly it dawned on me. . .
There will be hurdles.
Big hurdles.

There will be the wading through the “translation” as it were. I know, you’re thinking how in the world can you mess up translating from English to English—well, since we are talking about US English verses UK English, there are some very distinct and subtle differences. Also I fear we will run into a bit of trouble with the measurements. . . but thankfully this book does enlist, on the whole, the imperialistic measurement system, none of that metric nonsense I never could figure out in grade school (there’s a post there somewhere).

Plus certain items that may be called for, say in the UK, may not be called for here in the US or exist here in the US. Then of course there’s our love of the step by step, spell it out in plain simple terms, which is not exactly the mantra of this little book– or– maybe it is and that’s actually part of the problem. Then there’s the hunting and the procuring the right ingredients here in the US, which may not be as easy as anticipated—enter the world wide web. . .

And of course there was that whole rationing of food items as that was such a very keen part of the UK throughout the duration of the war and beyond. Cooking and substituting became a way of life to the intuitive cook—as is the mark of truly any great cook. And then there’s that whole modern take on things verses the not so modern. . .and with the book being written in 1958, we’re talking not so modern.

Just let me share a few examples with you. . .

The first stumbling block I ran across was Mrs. Landemare’s constant call for a “gill”
“A gill of cream”
“a gill of oil”
“a gill of water”
What in the heck does a fish have to do with any of this I wondered.

Then there was the call for “oiled butter” How does one oil butter—isn’t butter greasy enough?

Everything is to put into a basin. Would that be the kitchen sink or somewhere in the bathroom?

“Add a knob of butter”—now you’re talking. . . I wonder how many tablespoons the average doorknob measures.

Mrs Landemare will have us bake in “a slow oven”, “a medium oven”, “a cool oven,” yet “the oven should not be too hot”—no clue there.

When adding the butter to the flour, one is to “rub it together”—between my hands, my fingers. . .hummm

When mixing, one should beat things for 20 minutes or longer, be it eggs, sugar, cream—I’m thinking that is by hand so surely a mixer could cut that by at least half.

Measurements come in a wide variety: 1 teacup, 1/4 teacup, 1 coffecup full, 1 salt spoon, 2 breakfast cups or a dessertspoon full. . .hummmmm. . .but I do like the call for one wineglass of rum—my wine glasses are those rather large balloon types–could make for a little fun or a little disaster in the kitchen. . .

There is the “bare 1/2 oz of yeast” —bare? does that mean naked or minimal?

the 2 tablespoons of Kümmel —what is Kümmel?

dark foot sugar, caster sugar or Demerara—-still trying to figure out the dark foot business

a call for French sago or the 1/2 pound of nouille paste—again, what???

the need for the crushed ratafia biscuits–what??

the whole Vanilla essence verses Vanilla flavoring–whatever happened to good ol extract?

one should mask the top of the pudding with the jam—really?

pour contents into castle pudding cups–mine don’t look like castles

grated suet–I thought we fed that to birds

I need to increase my variety of flour as she calls for rice flour, potato flour, self-rising flour and good ol plain flour.

one example of say, I’m guessing, chocolate sauce is to:
“Melt 6 bars (yet she often calls for a slab–is a slab bigger than a bar?) of chocolate (would that be a hershey bar, milk, dark, unsweetened, bittersweet, 70% , 60%, 3.5 oz??) in a gill of water (again how much water can a fish gill hold?) add 1 oz of sugar and a knob of butter (again my happy place of excessive butter but I fear it might make things a tad greasy) Cook 5 minutes (cook on what, low, med, simmer? Should it be in a bowl over simmering water, over direct heat ???)

And just for fun I’ll offer her recipe for a wedding cake. No need here anymore for that but I was quite taken by, first the list of ingredients and then secondly by the “simple” preparation—

3 lbs. butter
4 1/2 lbs sugar
36 eggs
4 lbs of currants (tiny raisins for you and I)
4 lbs sultans (raisins for your and I)
2 lbs peel (I’m thinking maybe lemon?)
1 lb chopped almonds
4 1/2 lbs plain flour
1 lb glacè cherries (I think those candied types)
1 teaspoon spice and cinnamon mixed (I suppose it’s your call on the spice)
1 gill of brandy (I was hoping for the wine glass)
Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon (which takes me back to that whole 2 lbs of peel business)

Cream together the butter and sugar, preferably with the hand (hummmm—don’t wear your rings) until very light.
Beat in the eggs and sifted flour alternately (all freaking 36 of them and 4 1/2 hefty pounds)
Beat all together for 10 minutes (I’m thinking that is again, by hand)
Add gradually all the fruit (does that include the peel?), spice (remember, your call) and grated rinds.
Finally stir in the brandy (just a gill no wineglass?)

Cover a baking sheet with salt or sand ( whoa, sand??!!) Line the tin (would that be the cake pan?)
or tins ( layers or one giant thing) with greaseproof paper (hummm) and place three thicknesses of brown paper on the outside of the tin. (What?!)

Place cake mixture in tin, or tins, stand (how’s that work?) on the prepared baking sheet (with the sand) and bake in a moderate oven (not slow or cool, but moderate) for the first two hours, lowering the heat slightly for the further five hour. ( 7 hours to bake a cake??!!)

Once I settle on a recipe, I’ll let you know—it won’t be the wedding cake, but I’ll find us something tasty. . .
Until then I’ve got to find some dark foot sugar.

***PS–Please, all my UK friends, forgive my ignorance—I’m learning–it is obvious that Mrs. Landemare had the gift of the intuitive—she cooked and created by an innate sense and ability. A gift that can take others a lifetime to barely develop—hence why the Churchills loved her.
Thanks to a little internet research I am uncovering the secret identity to gils, ratafia, and oiled butter—but the dark foot sugar—still a mystery. . . .

Presents of purpose

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child

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I’m so excited!!
Do you want to know what my son and his bride to be presented me Christmas morning?! It was a basket–but just not any ol’ basket. This basket full of Christmas cheer was actually full of fun little knick knacks–knick knacks especially for the kitchen–or rather, knick knacks to use while in the kitchen–as that is the place in which I spend the majority of my time on this earth.

Julia Child, who I have written about before, was one of my hero figures while growing up. I won’t rehash the stories from the previous posts (“Butter to my Bread” 10/4/13 and “Feast and Fellowship 3/19/13) but suffice knowing that it was tops on my bucket list to meet Julia—but alas, Julia finished her bucket list before I began ticking off mine.

To say that she was an inspiration would be putting it mildly. My generation grew up, watching with our mothers, the original episodes of the French Chef. She became a mainstay in my world as she was the user friendly chef. She was not pompous or arrogant but very real and she very much wanted real women, real American woman, to learn how to really cook really good food. Food that to mom’s such as mine, which had only been seen in magazines or dreamt about but not something ever thought attainable, was now possible due to Julia coming on the scene in the early 60s.

Most mom’s such as my mother were not world travelers who wined and dined in fancy restaurants in such worldly places as New York, Paris or Rome. My mom was a stay-at-home mom in the late 50’s and early 60’s who was busy raising her kids. Sadly I remember the day when my mom discovered the cooking bag, minute rice and hamburger helper. May we just say right here and now my mom was not meant to be nor did she care to be a culinary wizard by any stretch of the imagination.

And maybe that is why I gravitated to the kitchen. Maybe it was the art teacher in me wanting to try the hand of creativity at an early age. Maybe it was the adoption thing (remember, it all comes back to the adoption–as in I am pretty certain that I am the missing love child of Sophia Loren–despite the fact she does not know she has a missing secret love child, but then I digress)—maybe it was simply my being named Julia too—but only after my grandmother, not the grandame of cooking.

Whatever the reason, I found my way to the kitchen and have enjoyed being there ever since. But it must be stated, for the record books however, that I am not some blingy accomplished little food blogger. I just love to cook–cooking for friends and family. . . and as Julia so aptly reminds us, for people who love to eat, as they are indeed the best kind of people. Indeed!!

And so it was on Christmas morning, to my delight, digging through the basket of kitchen knick knacks, that I pulled out the box for the DYI butter kit. OOoooooooo butter!! (do see that previous post won’t you regarding Butter to my Bread).

Now it should be noted that simple things, such as butter, are the mainstays, as well as success, to many a recipe and that any recipe is only as good as the ingredients involved–just as butter is as good as it’s ingredients—which is pretty much a good grade of organic, grass fed, cow’s milk / cream. Throw in a little sea salt and life just doesn’t get much better.

I couldn’t wait to try my hand at this marvel of transformation in a box. The taking of simple dairy cream, pouring it into the special little jar, and for this recipe, waiting 8 hours then proceeding to shake, shake, shake– pouring off the remaining “butter milk”, which leaves behind a ball of “fresh butter”—or so that is how it works in theory.

Now I did try something similar last year–a similar kit from William Sonoma. The WS kit, however called for non pasteurized cream–a commodity that I simple could not locate in my community without having to track down a dairy farmer. Something about the pasteurized cream not being able to totally transform from the liquid to the solid as readily as the non-pasteurized.

Maybe the sitting out at room temperature for the specified 6 to 8 hours helps this store bought pasteurized cream do its thing. Only time will tell.

First, however, I must go meet my aunt who has hitched a ride north from South Florida with a friend who is going to visit her daughter north of Atlanta. I’m driving a ways south to the interstate in order to find my aunt sitting on the side of the road with suitcase in hand. . . or so that’s what she fearfully thinks–(remember this is the aunt who is my world wide travel partner so a little jaunt 10 hours up the interstate for a rendezvous should be a piece of cake!) We are actually meeting at a service station at a specified exit. So as I journey south, then back north, my cream will have plenty of time to “sit”. I’ll shake this evening upon my return.

Stay tuned for Butter part II. . .

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Seeking Yellow

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Being the resident art teacher, I happen to know that the color yellow, which is the first color the eye registers, in small doses, can bring about a sense of happiness and/ or cheer.
On this oh so very cold, blustery, snow speckled day of late March–I had to find some yellow!!!!!
Use sparingly 🙂
(PS they are Meyer Lemons–an orange skin gives way to the deep yellow interior)