Last week I spent a lot of time baking. First I made gingerbread, which I only cut into men. Then I made sugar cookies, from a recipe that uses five cups of flour, so you know there were a ton of those! Then banana cupcakes, yum! Next was oatmeal cookies, which didn't turn out so great appearance-wise. Tasted fantastic, though. Addicting. Last of all, I made Russian tea cakes, a very important holiday classic in our house (in the States). And my favorite cookie of all time.
I used a lot of butter. All but the cake called for butter. Very yummy, but very fattening. So, I gave a lot of treats away. Most were given to neighbors, but also to my brother-in-law. In Japanese fashion, we have received gifts in return. One neighbor gave us red rice and simmered pumpkin. Another gave us some squid. My brother-in-law brought us a Christmas cake when he and his family came over for a turkey dinner. It wasn't my intention, but it's nice just the same.
I have found making cookies in Japan to be a challenge. I have only tried American recipes, with varying degrees of success. My grandma's chocolate chip cookies have been a complete failreure. I can't figure it out! The sugar cookies have turned out great, though it takes me several days to bake the entire batch. Even my 'big' steam oven can only bake nine of these cookies at a time. I was disappointed by the oatmeal cookies, which spread out a lot, and were very soft and sticky. I put the batter in the refrigerator, and that helped a lot, but I could only bake four at a time, and afterwards they just fell apart and stuck together.
So, a couple of things I have learned. First, from Japanese television: bake at a lower temperature for a longer time. This is especially helpful if you have one of those toaster oven/oven/microwaves. If you find your cookies bake unevenly, try this little trick. Next: use baking paper. I don't have any baking sheets, though I do have a couple of pans (not those that came with the ovens). The baking paper is great, though you should be careful with drop cookies--they might roll off. Here are some oatmeal cookies after baking:
Ok, I have to end this here, the baby is crying and I have to get the kids to bed. I hope to get back and add a recipe. Do you have any tips for me for baking cookies? I really want to get those chocolate chip cookies to work!
Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, whether it's Christmas or New Year. The children have opened their presents, the baby is sleeping and I hope Hiro and Sasha get along for a few minutes more. Back to the cookies!
The gingerbread recipe was on the label of the molasses I bought at Kaldi Coffee Farm. The oatmeal cookie recipe was on the huge box of oatmeal I bought at Costco. The Russian Tea Cakes are special to me, so I'm going to keep that one to me (though, you might get lucky and find it on my other blog. Look back to White Day, 2007) so let's bring out the sugar cookies. This recipe is from a family friend, whose mother worked in a university cafeteria. It has been scaled down, but still makes a ton of cookies. Perfect for sharing. Since it makes so much dough, it's probably best to just make circles, though if you chill the dough, you probably could roll it out and use cookie cutters. The resulting cookies are really quite soft and crumbly, so making shapes may not work out. They taste great so do please try them out sometime. Note: I have found cream of tartar at Kaldi.
Barb's sugar cookies
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 cup oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients until fluffy.
5 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
which has been mixed together. Roll in small bowls; flatten slightly with glass dipped in sugar. You can imprint with cookie stamps. Add colored sugar if desired. Bake at 350 F (270 C) for 8 minutes or until bottom is lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
Since I don't have wire racks, I just put the baking paper on the counter for a few minutes, and then transfer them to a plate to cool. Also, for that first cookie, you should stick the glass in the bowl of dough so the sugar will cling to the glass (and be transfered to the cookie.)