Monday, August 20, 2012

Spreading Some Sunshine

Submitted by Michelle

It's been a busy summer.  I anticipated lots of down time and relaxation and re-charging.  I knew June and July would be full with my Master's program, but I thought, "I won't be teaching.  This will be a breeze."  Turns out, taking 13 units and doing 60 hours of fieldwork uses up a lot of time and energy. When August rolled around (all too quickly I might add) and I was free from all academic obligations, I had a big TO DO list of all the things I wanted to accomplish around the house.  I also had to pack up dishes and furniture that belong to my parents and have been living at my house for the past 8 years.  And now, it's time to head back to the classroom and get ready for my 36 (or more!) first graders.  What happened to all the relaxation and re-charging???  

While I could complain for days about what I wish my summer would have looked like, it won't do me any good.  I find that when I'm feeling a bit blue it is best to focus on those circumstances which I have control over.  It is also helpful to find someone besides myself to think about.  It helps me forget my worries and it makes me feel good to do something positive.  

My friend Brenda, who I've known since high school, had shoulder surgery last week.  I thought it would be fun to make her a care package and what better to send than cookies!  I started with my favorites:  rugelach.  (You've seen these before and can find the recipe here.)
I also made a batch of Alexis Stewart's Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (Alexis is Martha's daughter. Click here for the recipe.)  I really like a cookie that is chewy and crisp at the same time, and these ones do the trick. The recipe is the same as regular chocolate chip cookies, but the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar is 2:1.  The added brown sugar makes the cookies spread thin.  They look beautiful all stacked up, too.  
Recently I discovered a new cookie, simply called Scandinavian Almond Bars.  I got the recipe from a friend and I'm not really sure where the recipe originated prior to her. The dough is made from the usual suspects: butter, sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and almond extract.  It forms a nice ball that is then cut into fourths.  You can use a knife but I like to use my handy-dandy scraper/chopper.  Makes me feel like a professional.  
The dough is then rolled into long logs and placed on cookie sheets.  
Using my fingers and the heel of my hands, I flattened the dough until it was about 3" wide.  
The dough is brushed with milk, which acts as glue, and then sprinkled with sliced almonds.
You can bake the bars soft or crisp.  I like mine crisp so I waited for the edges to brown.  
It is important to slice the bars as soon as they come out of the oven, otherwise they will get too crumbly and not look pretty.
Once cooled, they are drizzled with a frosting made from powdered sugar, milk and almond extract.  
All three types of cookies look great in a cello bag and I think they will travel well.  Brenda lives in NYC and they have to make it 3,000 miles across the country.
I hope the cookies bring as much happiness to Brenda as they did to me while I was making them.  

Scandinavian Almond Bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large mixer bowl beat butter till softened.  Add sugar and beat fill fluffy.  Add egg and almond extract and beat well.  Add flour mixture and beat till well mixed.

Divide dough into fourths.  Form each into a 12-inch roll.  Place two rolls 4 to 5 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12 to 14 minutes or till edges are lightly brown.  While cookies are still warm, cut them crosswise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips.  Cool.  Drizzle with Almond Icing.  Makes 48.

Almond Icing:  Stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and enough milk (3-4 teaspoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.  (Note from Michelle:  It took me about 6-8 teaspoons of milk to make the icing drizzly. Start with the 3-4 teaspoons but don't be afraid to add more.)

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