Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love and Comfort

Baby it's cold outside….and the urge for comfort has come on strong. It is not just enough to slip my feet into a pair of cashmere socks or welcoming the off-timed hiss of the radiator. No, I also need the radiant heat that will emanate from a long cooking stew or batch of baking cookies as I remember from my mother’s kitchen.

The cold weather elicits some of the strongest memories from my childhood. I am not sure why for I am not one who loves this weather, and have always professed to not being that sophisticated I only need one season – summer. And, my mother could be found in the kitchen at all times of the year preparing dishes of love. But I find myself in a climate that keeps me indoors for a few months at a time.

I have vivid images of my mom sitting at the kitchen table with a five-pound bag of usually walnuts or pecans to one side a kitchen towel in front of her and a large glass jar to her other side. In her hand, a hammer whose red handle was nicked by years her of tapping on the shells of nuts. She would bake and cook with walnuts, pecans, almonds, and pistachio nuts strewn freely into her foods – there was no concept of “nut issues” in our house. That was until my brother-in-law entered our family. Not only did he not use salad dressing he did not eat nuts. This was a shock for all of us, and hoped we could find the reason my sister was smitten. His rejection of my mother’s love of nuts was eventually forgiven and we came to recognize a life is still full even without embracing these tree born gifts. My mother never stopped freeing nuts from their natural casings into the bell jar that would be their wanting room. One family dinner there was placed on the dinner table the expected excess of desserts, a favorite of each family member, and a new platter – a nut free platter.

My mother passed this year and I was able to rescue that red hammer from oblivion and now it rests in my kitchen, and will never know a nail. Along with the old nut chopper whose wooden disk is so smooth and velvety due to decades of crushing blows. The manual labor employed is not as easy as a purchased cellophane bag of shelled nuts or as quick as a pulse in the food processor, but then I would not find comfort in those actions.

Sandwiched Cookies – yields approx. 2-dozen
8-ounces unsalted butter
3/4-cup brown sugar
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
2-cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
1/2-cup chopped pecans
1/2-cup chopped blanched almonds
7-ounces guava paste
2-ounces white chocolate – chopped

Whip together the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one into the butter mixture to combine – the butter will look slightly curdled. Mix in the vanilla.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt together to thoroughly combined. Then stir the flour mixture into the butter. Then stir in the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each in wax paper into about a 12-inch log. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1-hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice logs into 24 rounds that are about 1/4-inch thick each.

Place a bit of the white chocolate on the bottom of one slice then some guava paste. Place some white chocolate on top of the guava. Cover with a slice of the cookie dough. Continue in this fashion with the remaining dough.

Place on a parchment lined cookie tray giving the cookies about an inch spacing.

Bake in the oven for 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely.

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