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Surprisingly enough, this is my first attempt at frying chicken. Standing over a pot of oil has never been my favorite way to cook, and the mysteries surrounding the crisp skin and moist meat was something I happily left to other people. But, yesterday my husband announced that he was craving fried chicken and I figured I should make it for him since he’s been pretty good about helping out around the house lately (nothing like encouraging good behavior with naughty food). Besides, I figure it’s high time I fry myself a chicken.

I decided to use Martha Hall Foose’s recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea. I chose this one because it seemed to be pretty beginner-friendly. She has a lot of  helpful notes in the margins, and admits up front that there are a million different ways to fry a chicken, none of them wrong. She recommends that beginners use an electric skillet, which of course, I don’t have. I can really see how it would help though; keeping the temperature constant was difficult. You can see in the picture that some of the pieces ended up rather dark. It didn’t affect the taste as much as I thought; these were some delicious pieces of bird. I added a brining step, which I always do with chicken when I have time. It adds so much flavor and moisture. Usually I’d brine for 8-12 hours, but I didn’t have that much time on this one. So, I brined it (1/4 c. of kosher salt to 1 qt. water, mix enough to cover chicken) for 3-4 hours.

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Foose recommends soaking in buttermilk and  hot sauce, so I figured I’d try it. It didn’t seem to make the chicken spicy, but I’m sure it added something to the final taste. I soaked the pieces in 1 1/2 c. buttermilk and 2 tbsp. of hot sauce for about 3 hours. Then, I was ready to fry. After letting the pieces drain on a wire rack, I patted them dry and put some flour into a ziplock bag, along with salt and pepper. I shook one piece at a time in the bag so that they were fully covered and placed them back on the rack so that they would be ready to go once the oil was hot enough.

I melted the last of the neutral lard I rendered in my dutch oven. It wasn’t quite a cup, so I added about another cup or so of vegetable shortening so that the melted fat was a little over 1/2 ” in the pan. Then, you have to use a thermometer to make sure the oil stays a constant temperature. Bring it up to 365 degrees then gently slip the chicken into the oil skin side down. I fried in two batches; half of the chicken at a time. I didn’t want to overcrowd the pan, and figured if I messed up the first batch I might do better on the second. As I said, it was very difficult to keep the temperature constant. You really have to keep turning the knob up and down. I don’t know if this would be easier or harder with electric burners.

So you put the chicken in skin side down, and cook partially covered for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes are up, rearrange the pieces, but don’t flip them. Cover and cook for 6 more minutes. Turn chicken over and cook for another 8 minutes for white meat and 12 minutes for dark meat, rearranging halfway through. Chicken will be deep brown and should be cooked all the way through. Season with salt and pepper if needed (I didn’t feel like mine needed additional seasoning, maybe b/c of the brining). I had to add more shortening between batches to make sure that the fat comes halfway up the chicken.

Turned out delicious! I served it with steamed broccoli, macaroni and cheese, and tomato gravy.

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These are the best brownies in the world. I’m not kidding. This recipe, so decadent and simple, was handed down to my mother from my paternal great-grandmother, Mama Nola (whose gumbo techniques you learned a month or two ago). These are perfectly crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, with nice chewy corners.

There’s a catch though. They are really much better the day after you bake them. If  you eat them just after they’ve cooled (like I usually do) you will still get great brownies, although you might question whether you cooked them long enough. They’ll be really gooey and yummy, but not quite set. I don’t know why, but if you put them on a cooling rack and walk away; muster all your strength and wait, you will be rewarded with the perfect brownie.

MaMa Nola’s Brownies

2 sticks butter
2 c. sugar
a little vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. cocoa
1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter, mix in sugar and cocoa. Add eggs and vanilla, then flour last. Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 8×8 in. pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out relatively clean (it’ll leave a little bit on the toothpick, but won’t look like batter).

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My in-laws arrived in town last weekend with an SUV packed to the gills with stuff from Mississippi. Along with some rugs and furniture they brought two boxes of my grandmother’s cookbooks.

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I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of books; I didn’t realize there would be so many! She says she has more, but they couldn’t fit them in the car. So, I’ll just start with this. They’ll keep me busy. It’s probably half community cookbooks, half more popular, “classic” books, like Simca’s Cuisine, Joy of Cooking, Beard on Food, etc. Looking through these cookbooks made me realize that food really does go through fads; just like fashion. And unlike fashion, it’s not really easy to get nostalgic about them. Some of the stuff in these books makes me feel kind of gross. Among the recipes you’ll see a great many that call for tuna, cottage cheese, cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Many of them are then formed into a ring. Although I scoff at some of these recipes you have to admire the hard work that went into putting them together. I love this one, that has an introduction by the author. Like any good Southern cookbook, the lion’s share of recipes are for sweet things, cakes, cookies, frostings, and pies. Entrees are shoved in the middle almost as an afterthought, and Vegetables and Salads are tacked onto the end after “This and That.”

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My friend Jen loves cooking and we have decided we are going to make some of these recipes. One of the first ones we’ll try, although we haven’t worked up the courage yet, is the Vegetable Jello Salad. You never know, maybe we’ll love it! The recipe comes from Jen’s favorite of the bunch: The American Oil Chemists’ Society Cookbook, 1977.

Vegetable Jello Salad

1 package lemon Jello
1 c. hot water
1 lb. cottage cheese (small curd)
3 medium sized carrots (grated)
1 tbsp. minced onion (grated) how do you grate an already minced onion?
1 tbsp. green pepper chopped fine
1/2 c. salad dressing does this mean Miracle Whip? or vinaigrette?
1/2 c. cream or dream whip (whipped)

Dissolve Jello in hot water. Let cool to the setting point. Mix whipped cream with salad dressing and combine with Jello then with cottage cheese, grated carrots, onion and green pepper. Pour into mold and chill until firm.

If you decide to try this before us PLEASE let me know how it goes. I know you can’t wait!

This post is part of a series on cornbread; the simple yet widely variable staple of the Southern table.

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I decided to change the name of this series. “In Search of the Perfect Cornbread” had a couple of issues; the first, and certainly not the least, being that it kind of reminds me of that show with Leonard Nimoy where he goes in search of Sasquatch and things like that. The second problem I have with the title is that I quickly realized that finding the “perfect” cornbread recipe is in fact a bit like looking for Sasquatch. You’ll never find it because “perfect” is different for everyone. Who am I to say that this recipe is more Southern than that one? Food cultures just don’t work that way. Instead, they are ever-evolving systems that work with individuals’ tastes. So, instead, I’ve decided to look for my perfect cornbread recipe. Who knows if I’ll ever find it, but like searching for Sasquatch, the searching is the fun part.

My friend Aggie posted a comment to the last cornbread post. Unlike me, she grew up eating cornbread at every meal and knows a thing or two about it. So, I decided to put her recipe at the top of my list. It definitely comes much closer to the “real thing” as I know it. She brought up a few excellent points in her comment; one of them being that you can in fact use other fats, such as lard or Crisco for your cornbread. I used some of the neutral lard in this batch and it came out delicious. The smell as you take the bread out of the skillet is like nothing else in the world…that said, I do like the subtle flavor that bacon grease adds.

Katy pointed out in an e-mail that a  cast-iron skillet is a must for cornbread. I have to agree with her. Of course, cornbread can be made in other containers, but the cast-iron gives the bread a dark, crispy crust, which is in my mind a necessity.

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Here’s Aggie’s recipe. This is real country cornbread. Thanks Aggie!

1 heaping cup self-rising cornmeal mix
1 heaping tablespoon bacon grease (or lard, or Crisco)
Some Milk (Aimee’s note: for me this translated to 1/2 c. or so)
1 egg

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
On stove-top melt grease in small cast iron skillet (no bigger than 8″)
In bowl mix together cornmeal, egg, and milk until batter is the consistency of pancake batter.
pour in melted grease and thoroughly blend (its o.k. if it sizzles)
Pour batter into hot skillet and bake at 500 for about 12 minutes.
If unsure of doneness, stick a fork or toothpick in it. If it comes out clean, its done.
Immediately flip pone out of skillet on to cutting board or plate.
Cut yourself a slice and enjoy. If you want, you can slice it open and smear with butter.

For larger skillets I use about 1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups mix, about 2 tablespoons grease, and 1 or 2 eggs. (I usually use 2 eggs, because my Momma liked it that way.)

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A week or so ago I decided to render some lard. This is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I bought Jennifer McLagan‘s book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes during our visit to San Francisco last August. I picked up this book in Berkeley and couldn’t put it down. I sat there reading it for probably twenty minutes and told my husband that I couldn’t leave without it.

It’s one of those books that completely changes the way you look at things. I mean, who ever thought of writing a cookbook praising the virtues of fat? What McLagan argues, very convincingly, is that our bodies need fat and there’s little conclusive scientific evidence that a low-fat diet actually works. I’ll let you read the book for the full argument, but what you should know is that low-fat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If eaten in moderation fat won’t kill you. I promise. Lard has less saturated fat than butter (lard: 39%, butter: 50%), and doesn’t leave you hungry and scrounging for more fat free devil’s food cakes.

As someone who loves Southern food this is great news! I mean, I can really get back to my roots if I can cook with lard! The problem, of course, is that my grandmother’s generation stopped cooking with lard when Crisco was introduced. There is no one around to teach me how to do this, so I’m on my own. Armed with McLagan’s book and a few links to some food bloggers, I decided to give it a whirl. What follows is my excursion into pork back fat. You want to use the highest-quality fat you can find. I got this from Chestnut Farms, who have a stand at the farmer’s market. They’d vacuum packed 5 lbs. in two packages, which I’d put into the freezer and rendered in two separate batches. I used back fat this time, but you can also  use leaf lard. As I understand it leaf lard is the highest quality and the best for pie crusts or delicate pastries.

Properly rendered lard should have a completely neutral smell and taste. On the other hand, you can cook it for longer or at a higher heat and get Mexican lard, which has a roasted pork flavor. The first batch I cooked for way too long, so basically I got two jars of Mexican lard. Good for refried beans, but not necessarily the best for biscuits. The problem was, I kept expecting the pieces of fat to melt entirely and that just never happened, with either batch. Nor did the cracklings ever really pop off the fat. McLagan recommends using the oven for more than a pound, but she also gives instructions on using the stove top; maybe that would yield different results. Here’s the fat as I’m cutting it:

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Lard

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and cut the fat into 1 inch cubes or smaller. Put the diced fat into a Dutch oven or other heavy oven-proof casserole or sauce pan. Add approximately 1/3 c. water per 1 lb. of fat; this will keep it from burning. Place the pan in the oven, uncovered. Stir after 30 minutes, then after 45 minutes, then every hour until the fat begins to color. The water will eventually evaporate and the fat will melt. As you stir you can really press the pieces to the sides of the pan to help them along. After a few hours you will notice the liquid starting to brown a bit around the edge of the pot (you can see this in the picture below). Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander. Once all the liquid has drained from the fat, put the fat back into the Dutch oven and return to the oven, stirring every hour until you render more lard from the remaining pieces. This will be the Mexican lard that will have a more smoky pork flavor and smell.

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You can see that I just re-used some jars and containers that I had in my kitchen. This lard will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months, or in the freezer for a year. I don’t know if you can read my labels, but I dated them and labeled “neutral lard” and “smoky lard.” McLagan says that you should average 1-1 1/2 c. of lard per lb. of fat. I think I maybe got 4 c. total, including the Mexican lard. Next time I’m going to try the stove top. If you’ve had success with rendering lard please let me know; I’d like to figure this out.

Since I’ve got so much of the Mexican lard I decided to make carnitas and refried beans with cilantro rice. The lard really does make a world of difference. I’d never tasted refried beans like this, except maybe during breakfast in Merida, when we where there on our honeymoon. These beans were rich and creamy and delicious; I’ll never be able to eat the stuff from the can with satisfaction again.

This post is part of a series on cornbread; the simple yet widely variable staple of the Southern table.

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If you follow this blog you may have been wondering what business I have writing a blog called Syrup and Cornbread without actually blogging about cornbread. I admit it, I’ve been dancing around this for a while and I have a confession to make: I don’t yet have the perfect cornbread recipe. Unlike some of my friends, we didn’t really eat cornbread much in our house growing up; although my  mom hails from Memphis, her family were German immigrants from Cincinnati. In my dad’s family there was always cornbread, but it’s just not something for which you’d pass down a recipe. Since my mom did most of the cooking when I was growing up, I was never really given the tutorial on how to properly cook it. Inspired by my friend and fellow cornbread-lover Katy, who has just returned from a trip to Mississippi, I’ve decided to embark on a series of posts about my search for the perfect cornbread recipe. I hope that this series will take me further into my own families recipes (I’ve simply never thought to ask), as well as other people’s.

Cornbread is a pedestrian bread; it is very rarely the star of the show, but people are passionate about it. In the South cornbread is not sweetened at all. Here in New England all cornbread has sugar in it. This is wrong. Cornbread, if made properly, should be thin, crumbly, have a nice dark crust on the bottom, and be made with bacon grease or butter.

For my first attempt I turned to my favorite Southern cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking. You all know how much I love Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis, the authors of this cookbook. I have the utmost respect for them both and came very close to actually swooning over the dinner I had at his restaurant Watershed (oh, and don’t forget when I was spying on his biscuit-making at Slow Food Nation ’08). Well, I tried their favorite cornbread recipe and was underwhelmed; it turned out too egg-y. You might be able to see in the picture (my fancy camera is on the fritz so you have to make due with the point-and-shoot) that there’s a layer of egg on the top. This was unexpected, and I’m not sure I like it; maybe I did something wrong, although I can’t figure out what.

The only substitution I made in the recipe was bacon grease for butter. I just keep a jar of bacon grease in the door of my refrigerator. It keeps forever and is perfect for getting that nice bottom crust that all cornbread should have. His technique, from what I can tell, is pretty standard. You melt the grease in a cast-iron skillet in a hot oven. Then, once it’s melted, you pour it into the batter, stir, then pour the batter into the skillet. Katy told me this is what her mom does, and it’s pretty close to the method I use.

Don’t get me wrong, this cornbread turned out really good; I realized that I do like buttermilk or sour milk, but this particular recipe just didn’t it the mark. I want a bit more crumb and certainly less egg. The search continues.

Our Favorite Sour Milk Cornbread
From The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis

1 1/2 c. fine-ground white cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 3/4 c. soured milk or buttermilk*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (I used bacon grease)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the cornmeal, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Stir the milk into the beaten eggs, and pour over the dry ingredients in batches, stirring vigorously to make a smooth glossy batter.
Cut the butter into pieces and put in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or baking pan. Put the skillet in the preheated oven, and heat until the butter is melted and foaming. Remove from the oven, and swirl the butter all around the skillet to coat the bottom and sides thoroughly. Pour the remaining melted butter into the cornbread batter, and stir well until the butter is absorbed into the batter. Turn the batter into the heated skillet, and put in the oven to bake for 3040 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown and crusty on top and pulls away from the sides of the skillet.
Remove the skillet from teh oven, and turn the cornbread out onto a plate. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve the cornbread while it’s hot.

*I didn’t have buttermilk, so I soured some milk according to their note: “A Quick Sour Milk It only takes about 10 minutes to make this tangy substitute for buttermilk. Stir into 1 3/4 cups sweet milk 2 tsp. lemon juice and 2 tsp. cider vinegar. Let sit until curdled.

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This, my friends, is my latest obsession. Right there along with gumbo, beef stew, and flu chaser soup. I just can’t stop eating chocolate, and if you are going to eat chocolate you might as well go for the gusto. My husband prefers milk chocolate of the Hershey’s variety, but I prefer dark. In fact, the darker the better. I often find myself munching on the bittersweet bits of chocolate that go into cookies, stopping just short of the unsweetened stuff. Maybe it’s the wintry mix outside, or maybe it’s a holdover from Christmas sweets, but for some  reason I can’t get enough dark chocolate, preferably enjoyed with a cup of ginger tea.

Last year I noticed a new stand at the farmer’s market. It was a local “beans to bar” chocolate maker called Taza Chocolate. It took me a while to actually buy any, but when I did I fell in love. This stuff is amazing, and I’m not even writing this because they sent me a free sample like they did some people (ahem, hello? what am I chopped liver? Just kidding). I found out that a local wine store carries the stuff (cheaper than Whole Foods), and I’ve stopped in so much lately that I’ve gotten to know the lady behind the counter.

The Chocolate Mexicano pictured above is for drinking, although I also like to eat it. These disks come in vanilla, cinnamon, and almond. Here’s a video that Taza posted on facebook on now to make authentic Mexican hot chocolate (I can’t get it to display on this blog since it’s on facebook). The package comes with two discs, the outside says “2.7 oz.” In the video he mentions that one disc is 2.75 oz. This confused me, since the packaging makes it look like both discs weigh 2.7 oz. I made one cup yesterday and used half a disc for 8 oz. of water and it turned out delicious. I did simmer it on the stove for a few minutes until it was the consistency I wanted. As he says in the video, you can also use milk. My friend from Colombia uses milk in her hot chocolate and puts pieces of salty mozzerella cheese in it….Don’t knock it ’til you try it! I promise it’s good. You let the pieces of cheese melt in the warm chocolate and then fish them out with a spoon. They’ll be softly melted and add a nice contrast to your sweet beverage. I recommend putting the cheese in hot chocolate made with milk; it’s a more natural pairing, I think.

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I love Christmas sweets: the fudge, cookies, and chocolate covered salty things that come out during the holidays. Eventually, though, I start to want something savory and hearty; something that will stick to your bones through the chilly (and in New England downright cold) dark evenings of winter. In my family this means gumbo.

My dad grew up in southwest Louisiana, Abbeville to be precise. Home of Steen’s syrup, and numerous outstanding eateries which serve up plates of seafood fresh from the Gulf. In Abbeville there’s always a pot of gumbo on the stove around Christmas time and the first thing relatives say when you walk in the door is, “you want some gumbo, sha?” At my Grandparent’s house they’ll also offer you a bowl of potato salad, which goes surprisingly well with gumbo; the potatoes cut nicely through the spice.

The Louisiana I know doesn’t put tomatoes in gumbo. My dad claims that west of Morgan City you don’t see tomatoes in gumbo. Sure enough, Paul Prudhomme, from Opelousas, cooks gumbo just like my people in Abbeville. Still, Talk About Good, the Junior League cookbook of Lafayette, has several recipes for gumbo with tomatoes in it. My theory is that tomatoes in a gumbo is more Creole than Cajun, and there is a definite difference. With Creole cuisine there is a noticeable Spanish, Caribbean influence; in Creole recipes you see more bay leaves, herbs, and tomatoes. New Orleans cuisine tends more toward Creole. Cajun cooking, on the other hand, is country cooking using very simple ingredients: stewed meats (or seafood); a short list of vegetables including the “trinity” of onion, bell pepper and celery; seasoned with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Surprising to some, gumbo in southwest Louisiana doesn’t always have okra in it. An okra gumbo is made differently; without a roux. That’s a post for another time. What we call gumbo others might call stew with more water. Whatever you call it, I promise you’ll call it good.

This is the gumbo that I make most: chicken and sausage. The sausage doesn’t have to be andouille; but it should be smoked. My husband says this is his favorite meal. He could eat it every night, I think. Cook it a day ahead so that the flavors can really mingle. The key to cooking this is the roux. If you can master a dark enough roux (and it does take practice) your gumbo will most assuredly be delicious.

Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

For a chicken and sausage gumbo: buy a broiler and cut it up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little red pepper. Brown chicken and set aside.

In a separate heavy bottomed pot make a dark roux:
1 c. canola (or other high heat oil)
1 c. all-purpose flour

Over medium-high heat pour oil and flour into the pot and stir to combine. I find a wooden spatula works best. Cooking at this temperature means that you need to constantly stir the roux. I mean don’t stop for one minute, especially as the roux starts to darken. If you need to stop and go do something take it off the heat entirely, but I don’t recommend that. It’s important to know when a roux is burned. A roux is burned when it starts smoking a lot and gets black specks in it. Plus, it really smells burned. You can cook a really dark roux that some people might think is burned, but if it doesn’t smell burned then, well, it’s not. It can burn in an instant though. If you suspect you’ve burned it just throw that batch away and start over (it’s just flour and oil after all). Alton Brown says you can cook a roux in the oven, just mix together the oil and flour in a dutch oven and stick it in the oven for an hour and a half. I’ve never done this but it would be worth a try! By the way, be very careful not to splatter as you stir; it’s sometimes called Cajun napalm for good reason. Stir gently.

When the roux is the color of dark chocolate and thick enough to leave a fleeting trail behind the spatula, pull it off the heat.
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Stir in about 1-2 chopped onions, 1 chopped bell pepper and 3-4 stalks chopped celery. (It’s all “about” because you do it to taste and how you prefer it to turn out). Return the roux and chopped vegetables to medium heat and cook until the vegetables are soft and begin to release their moisture (the roux will darken a bit more at this point but not much). Enjoy the wonderful smell, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to look transparent, about ten minutes or so.

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Add about 8 cups of chicken stock or water. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.  Then bring the stock to a furious boil to set the seasonings.

Lower the heat to simmer and add the chicken pieces (I add the neck and the back to in order to maximize the flavor). Skim foam from surface and let chicken simmer until it is falling off the bone. I always pick out most of the bones if I’m feeding the gumbo to company who might be finicky about bones, but for family I just pick out the more offensive pieces, such as the back, neck, and skin. Regardless, keep them in there as long as possible because they add a ton of flavor. The gumbo will simmer for something like an hour. About 30 minutes before you will eat add the sausage. If you love the smoky flavor add the sausage earlier but be careful not to overcook it; it’ll get tough.

Spoon gumbo over rice and serve with a green salad or potato salad and some white French bread if you wish.

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Now these really are a great Christmas cookie. This is a time-tested recipe handed down to me by my grandmother. I don’t know who Mumsey was, but I’ve enjoyed these cookies all my life. They are really a kind of classic Southern teacake, with some citrus zest added. They are thin, rich, and not overly sweet. I almost always bake these cookies and give them as gifts to neighbors, teachers, etc. You can give someone you really like a frozen roll of the dough, along with instructions for baking, and then they can just slice and bake. It’s a great gift, especially for a friend who is hosting family for the holidays.

One word of advice: This recipe makes a LOT. I mean, in my grandmother’s notes (included below) she actually says, “This recipe makes at least 20 dozen.” That’s a lot of cookies, people. I have a classic Kitchen Aide mixer and can’t make this full recipe because it’s just too much. In years past I’ve cut the recipe in half and it works fine. This year I decided to be brave and try the whole thing. I ended up having to do everything by hand. That’s right. not using a wooden spoon, using my hands. It was a lot of fun actually. I just mixed everything in a shallow bowl and got my (clean) hands into the sugar, butter, eggs, flour, etc. I’d never gotten quite that intimate with my ingredients, but I definitely recommend it if you’re ever feeling daring.

As I said, this recipe came to me from my grandmother. The notes are in italics are hers. I recommend slicing the cookies very thin. I’ve included a picture. The cookies just aren’t as good if you slice even 1/4 of an inch thick. I made the rolls a bit larger than she recommended; it’s up to you. You’ll get less cookies this way, but well, maybe you don’t need 20 dozen cookies.

Mumsey’s Cookies
Wonderful recipe to keep frozen to make when needed. Not very sweet with a touch of citrus.

3 c. butter softened [my grandmother calls for 3 1/2 c. margarine, softened, but I don’t use margarine. I find 3 c. is plenty]
5 c. sugar
zest of 2 oranges
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
7 c. all-purpose flour

Cream butter, sugar, zest, and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Form into rolls, 1 1/2 in. in diameter and refrigerate overnight or at least 1 hour. Slice thin and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes. Cookie edges should be browned.

Note: Dough can be frozen for several months. Makes at least 20 dozen cookies.

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I’ve been obsessed with chocolate chip cookies lately. I’ve made three or four batches, sharing them with friends and co-workers but eating most myself. Ever since Thanksgiving I’ve been thinking a lot about mixing sweet and spicy. I love this combination, and was inspired by chili-seasoned chocolate I bought from Trader Joe’s. Chocolate chip cookies are such a basic, run-of-the-mill cookie; crying out to be spiced up in some way.

These cookies aren’t spicy, but they have a subtle smoky spiciness, thanks to chipotle chili powder,  that really compliments the dark chocolate chips. If any of you are doing holiday baking, these might just be a good recipe to add to your mix. I don’t think they are spicy enough to put anyone off. I’d like to experiment with just how much chili powder I can add before it gets too spicy. I think 1/2 tsp. is enough to taste the chili, but not too much. If you are wary and wussy, you can add 1/4 tsp.

Smoky Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cocoa powder
1-2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 lg. egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. 60% dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 cookie sheets (grease or line with parchment paper or silicone mat)
Whisk flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and chili powder together. In the bowl of a mixer cream butter and sugars until well blended. Add egg, salt, and vanilla and beat until well combined. Stir in flour mixture until well blended, being careful not to over mix. Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls approximately 2 in. apart on cookie sheets. Cook until brown around edges, about 10 minutes. Let them rest briefly on the cookie sheet then transfer to a rack to cool.