Friday, February 4, 2011


This cookie is new to me. The Whirligig. I found the hand-written list of ingredients and instructions on an index card among my grandmother's recipes, no original source listed. It's a pastry-like peanut butter dough, covered in melted chocolate, handled like a jelly roll, briefly chilled, sliced, and then baked.

Messy? Sure, in the first stage. Surprisingly, once chilled, they did not drip or leak chocolate, even as they baked. Worth it? Yeah, I think so. They received the husband seal of approval.

A note: the dough crumbled a little, especially on that first push away from the wax paper. I pressed on, and it rolled more easily after that. The dough might benefit from a little refrigeration prior to rolling, or a little less flour.

Another note: produced a crisp cookie.

Whirligig Cookies


1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

7 oz. choco bits, melted and slightly cooled (I used chopped dark chocolate)

In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a larger bowl, cream shortening, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add egg and mix until fluffy. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Dough will be stiff.

Roll dough between two pieces of wax paper into a 1/4" thick rectangle (dough was stiff enough that I did not dust with additional flour), with a long edge close to you. Remove top sheet of wax paper. Spread chocolate over the top of the dough. Starting at the edge closest to you, using the wax paper as a support, roll the dough jellyroll style. Carefully, continuing to use the wax paper, lift the roll onto a baking sheet or tray and place in freezer to chill about 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Remove tray from freezer. Slice dough into 1/4" thick ovals or rounds and place on parchment paper- or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to rest on baking tray for 5 minutes, then place on cooling rack.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Slow oven

While perusing Grandma's cookbooks and recipes, I noticed that oven temperatures are often not given. Instead, the recipes instruct the cook to bake in a slow, moderate, or hot oven. Here's how one might have done that with a gas oven. How amazed would my grandmother have been to see a machine that not only regulates temperature while it bakes my bread, but kneads and proofs the dough as well.

Rules for Baking in Gas Oven
(from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1925 edition
originally by Fannie Merritt Farmer, then Cora D. Parker)
1920s Wedgewood

  Hot oven requires 2 burners lighted.
  Moderate oven requires 2 burners, halfway on.
  Slow oven requires 1 burner halfway on.
  For Baking Loaf Bread. Light both burners five minutes. Put loaf on upper shelf. After ten minutes turn off back burner and turn front burner down one-fourth. Gradually reduce heat until it is only one-third on. Turn light entirely off five minutes before bread is done.
  Small loaves bake in forty minutes.
  Large loaves bake in sixty minutes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grand Cookery

This winter I accepted a treasure.

One of my aunts gave me a box full of recipes and cookbooks, many once belonging to my grandmother. I skimmed through the contents a while back, but with the pending Snowpocalypse*, I feel inspired to dig.

*or 'pending Snowmaggedon'.**
**Or 'pending attack by Snowzilla'.*** 
***Or replace 'Snowzilla' with 'Mega-Blizzard'.****
****I want to give the thing the benefit of the doubt. A friendly name. Nick. Nick the Blizzard.

My aunt highlighted a couple of items, including The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1925. Ragged, fused, and unbound pages make it impossible to say whether this quote would have been read before or after the dedication.

Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves and savory in meats. It means carefulness and inventiveness and willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers and the science of the modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always ladies – loaf givers. - Ruskin
I doubt that any of my other cookbooks, not even the most treasured or delightful, start in such a grand style: mythical and biblical allusions, a sense of charge and purpose, a reference to cultures, and finally, etymology. What wonders will be contained herein?