Shamrock Cookies

Just in time for St Paddy's Day, here's a recipe for shamrock cookies (aka regular sugar cookies shaped & dyed like shamrocks). I'm in the US just now, so this is a short one, but basically, these cookies, though cute, are so temperamental. The dough didn't firm up enough to really slice through it cleanly, even with my sharpest knife, so the first ones I made had leaves shaped like ovals. Then I started forming the dough into balls and flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but they stuck so badly to the glass that those ones ended up ragged on top. Finally I came up with the idea of forming the dough into three small balls, placing them next to each other and baking like that, which was fine but it yielded a very cakey cookie that went from undercooked to burnt in the time it took me to put on my oven mitt so I could get the pan out of the oven. They reminded me a lot of these, actually.

The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. Adorable! But not very practical, unless you are having a St Patrick's Day party, in which case I would totally make these. I hear green beer washes them down just swell.

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ONE YEAR AGO: MOCHA CAKE WITH CARAMEL FROSTING
TWO YEARS AGO: HONEY CHOCOLATE CAKE
three years ago: French Pudding

the recipe:

Shamrock Cookies

the directions:

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda, then set aside.
In another bowl, mix shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla.
Blend flour mixture into shortening mixture, adding enough food colouring to tint the dough green about halfway through.
Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log about 1-inch wide and 10-inches long.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour or up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 200C/400F.
With your sharpest knife, slice 1/8-inch slices and place slices just touching on an ungreased baking sheet.
Use the remnant dough from each end to make stems for the shamrocks.
(If your knife, like mine, is not sharp enough to slice cleanly through the cookie dough, you can roll small teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange them as above. This will yield a puffier, cakier cookie).

the ingredients:

1 ½ c (180g) flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ c (110g) Stork (shortening in the US)
½ c (100g) sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Green food dye

Classic Apple Pie

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I don't know who Genevieve Riordan was, but apparently she was a good enough cook to be featured in a Craig Claiborne New York Times cookbook back in the 1960s, and from what I've been able to find on the internet, it seems she was just a woman who owned a pie stand somewhere between New York City and wherever Claiborne's beach house was located. Honestly, it's a simple recipe with a classic apple pie flavour, but the classics are classics for a reason, right?*

Because this recipe is pretty simple (I mean, as simple as any apple pie recipe can be- you still have to peel and slice a load of apples, but there's no parcooking, no prebaking the crust, and no watery filling to contend with at the end), I opted to go fancy with my crust, making a plaited decoration that took me ages to finish but was really fun to do.

If you're looking for a more traditional alternative for your pi(e) day celebration this week than the sugary wonder I presented to you last week, this is your pie. Make it and enjoy by itself, warm with ice cream, or, as Eleanor's family always did, with a slice of cheddar cheese. Happy pi day!

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*On an episode of The Great British Bake Off focused on American bakes, a food historian was interviewed who posited that when British soldiers in World War II were asked why they fought, they claimed 'King and country' as their motivation, but when American soldiers were asked the same question, their response was 'mom and apple pie.' I feel like maybe Americans need to broaden our mindsets a little?

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The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Slice those apples as thin as you can and your finished pie will be dense with apple flavour and toasty cinnamon.

one year ago: Mocha Cake with Caramel Frosting
two years ago: Honey Chocolate Cake
three years ago: Dressed-Up Tomato Soup

the recipe:

Classic Apple Pie

the directions:

Make your pastry according to directions, then divide in half.
Roll out one half of dough and line a 9-inch pie plate.
Refrigerate the remaining dough until needed.
Fill a large mixing bowl halfway with very cold water and set aside.
Peel and core the apples, then chop them into quarters and slice lengthwise as thinly as possible.
As you work, put sliced apples into cold water to keep them from browning.
Once all apples are sliced, drain the water, add ½ c sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Stir well, then set aside.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Blend the flour with remaining sugar, then sprinkle over the bottom crust of the pie, rotating pie pan to coat dough evenly.
Pour apples into prepared pan, then dot with butter and sprinkle lemon over.
Roll out the second half of the crust, wet the rim of the bottom crust and lay top crust over the whole thing.
Press any air bubbles out, then seal the edges to avoid leaks.
Use a sharp knife to slice vents into the top crust, then bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.

Lincoln Logs, or, Double-Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

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There hasn't been a lot of presidential celebration in the Recipe Box kitchen lately, and since technically our leader is Theresa May, I guess that makes sense. But then I found a recipe in the box that is specifically for celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday. I'm not sure why anyone who isn't Mary Todd Lincoln or the parent of a child in the 1950s would need a specific baked good to celebrate Lincoln's birthday, and if you DID need one, I'm not sure why you'd want to make him cupcakes shaped like logs? Wouldn't he appreciate a cupcake decorated to look like a penny? A tiered cake built like the Lincoln Memorial? Or maybe he's more of a pie guy? DID BETTY CROCKER EVEN THINK TO ASK HIM?

In an effort to answer these vital questions, I did some research on Lincoln Logs so you don't have to, and here's what I learned: a lot of weird stuff. Lincoln Logs, in case you did not grow up in the US, are log-shaped pieces of wood out of which you can build houses and buildings, toys marketed to young buys as an alternative to blocks. They're notched at both ends so the things you build look like actual miniature log cabins. I assumed (or maybe was told?) that Lincoln Logs were named after Abe Lincoln because he was born in a cabin, but I always thought that was weird because, like, a billion people were born in cabins in the 1800s, so why does he get called out specifically? Turns out I was onto something: Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, who named them possibly after Abe Lincoln, but equally plausibly after his father's original middle name (Lincoln) or as a pun (Linkin' Logs) because of how they fit together.

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It gets even more surprising: the original idea came to Wright when he was in Japan viewing a building there that was thought to be earthquake-proof on account of it's cross-hatched base (so why did he market it as a Western American thing, especially when Japonism was at its height in the early 1900s?). And strangest of all (to me), the original kits came with instructions to build Lincoln's house (would this not be the White House?) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (why?!).

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What does this have to do with this cupcake recipe, you ask? Nothing. And that's my quibble with the recipe. The cupcakes don't even look like Lincoln Logs, they just look like logs... and only if you squint. Plus, I can't think of a reason I would need to make a dessert for Lincoln's birthday, and if you didn't explain that's what they were for, you're just left with unexplained log-shaped desserts, which somehow manages to be EVEN WEIRDER than log-shaped desserts in honour of a former president's birthday.

the verdict:

3 spoons out of five. The cake was soft and plush, the frosting was easy to pipe and to die for delicious... but the finished product comes in a serving size of two cupcakes, which seems excessive, and, really, why would you want a cupcake shaped like a log to begin with?

one year ago: Crazy Chocolate Cake
two years ago: Chocolate Cake with Date Filling

the recipe:

Lincoln Logs

the directions:
cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease 18 muffin cups.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Beat in almond extract, shortening, milk, yolks and chocolate.
Beat 2 minutes on medium speed until very smooth.
Fill muffin cups ½ to 2/3 full, then bake 15-18 minutes until the top springs back to the touch.
Remove cupcakes from tins and allow to cool completely on cooling racks.

Frosting:

Beat butter and powdered sugar until smooth, light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Set aside ¼ of frosting.
To the remaining ¾ of frosting, add chocolate and beat to combine.
Use a small amount of chocolate frosting to 'glue' the flat bottoms of two cupcakes together.
Use a knife to frost the ends of your 'log' with the white frosting, adding a swirl with the knife to resemble the cut side of a log.
Using a piping bag with a round tip, pipe the chocolate frosting in lines connecting the two ends of the log (you'll have to leave the very bottom unfrosted as a 'rest' for the log to sit on).
If you're keen, you can use a knife to swirl the chocolate frosting so it looks more like bark, but by the time you've done this nine times, you're probably not going to be too interested in doing so.

the ingredients:
the cupcakes:

1 ½ c (180g) flour
1 c (200g) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
½ c (102g) shortening or Stork
¾ c (175ml) milk
4 egg yolks
2 oz (60g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and well-cooled

the frosting:

½ c (110g) butter
4 ½ c (500g) powdered sugar
2 ¼ tsp vanilla or almond extract
3-4 tbsp cream
4 oz (120g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled