I wasn’t planning to host a cookie gathering, but I stumbled upon a comment by Jackie of La Casa de Sweets on Twitter about a virtual bake sale she was hosting to benefit Share Our Strength and I decided to get in on the project by hosting a cookie party.
I invited friends over to enjoy a buffet of sweet treats and convivial socializing and asked them to bring a few dollars to drop in a collection basket for Share Our Strength. Through the end of the year donations to Share Our Strength are being matched by their corporate partners, giving every dollar collected twice the impact.
It’s always good to have multiple motivators, so I took this cookie baking opportunity as a chance to dig further into Maida Heatter’s Cookies cookbook that I’d received as a review copy from Andrews McMeel Publishing earlier in the year.
These beautifully simple paperbacks are newly published collections of Heatter’s classic recipes gathered from earlier works without glossy photos or a hefty price tag. Maida Heatter is a master when it comes to desserts with nine classic dessert books to her credit and an endless list of accolades. I find myself reaching for these books first when I’m thinking about doing some baking largely due to her reputation for recipes that work, but also because of the enormous variety of classic recipes in each book accompanied by descriptive head notes with helpful tips and valuable words of warning like, “They are very fragile and not suitable for picnics.” I highly recommend both of these books if you are looking for a go-to cookie or cake book. They’d also make an excellent gift for anyone starting to build their cookbook collection.
Wintery weather and holiday festivities must include gingery spice cookies so I selected Heatter’s recipe called My Mother’s Gingersnaps. A recipe she grew up making year around with her mother and after tasting them, I won’t limit them to holiday baking either. Crystallized ginger, ginger powder and freshly ground black pepper give these crisp little “throwing stars,” as David called them, their spicy kick.
The fantastic use of spices throughout the book instantly caught my attention when I first flipped from cover to cover. Many are classics that have been passed down for generations and have roots in cultures all around the world. There are five recipes in the book that use caraway seeds for example. How many cookie books give you five ways to put your caraway seeds to sugary, buttery, good use? I can tell you first-hand that both the Swedish Rye Wafers and the Caraway Sour-Cream Cookies are excellent. Clearly I need to make the other three recipes just to be sure they measure up. Cardamom, sesame seeds, anise seed, poppy seeds, ginger, and black pepper all get play in various recipes. Spice flavor is very much a use-it-or-lose-it situation, so why let your spices languish in the back of the cupboard until they are lifeless and unidentifiable when you can put them to good use in cookies?
I was participating in a Twitter chat a few weeks ago and someone posed the question of what to do with all the dates she had on hand. I flipped open Maida Heatter’s Cookies that happened to be sitting on my desk and noted eight recipes using dates. The Blind Date Cookies immediately went on my “must make” list. A walnut stuffed date is dropped in batter to coat and then dressed with a simple glaze after baking. Apparently this recipe originated over 100 years ago at a famous Milwaukee pastry shop. These cookies are sweet and delicious with a soft cakey dough surrounding the chewy, crunchy surprise hiding in the center. They’re a great make-ahead cookie too because they were even tastier on the second day.
I deeply appreciate the generosity of everyone able to stop by for a sugar rush and donate to Share Our Strength. Your donations will connect 150 kids with up to 10 meals each. Here are some of Share Our Strength’s accomplishments for 2011 and your donations will help them achieve even more in the New Year. Thank you!
- No Kid Hungry campaigns up and running in 17 states, expanding reach and increasing participation in key programs like school breakfast, summer meals and afterschool snacks.
- Increased the number of summer meals served by nearly 1 million over last summer in six “No Kid Hungry” states alone.
- Provided $6.9 million in grants to more than 400 community organizations working to ensure that kids receive healthy, regular meals.
- Cooking Matters classes, teaching how to make healthy meals on a budget, reached 100,000 individuals at risk for hunger in 37 states.
With one out of every five American kids facing hunger — more than 16 million children — there’s still a lot of work to do before the goal of ending child hunger in America is achieved. If you’d like to help, please make a donation, and remember all donations made before the end of the year will be matched making double the impact.
A special thank you goes to Jackie for inspiring me to pull together this last minute cookies-for-a-cause party. And to think some people say Twitter is just a waste of time!
- Alderwood Smoked Salt Caramels
- Sugared Cranberries with Ginger and Clove
- Swedish Rye Wafers by Maida Heatter
- World Peace Cookies by Dorie Greenspan