Category Archives: Cookies

Seedy Shortbread Cookies – making my taste buds happy!


So this isn’t going to be a regular blog post. I have no recipe to share, only a set of screamingly happy tastebuds prompting me to write this 🙂

 

So THIS cookie:
Yummy shortbread

 

…so good!!

 

Shortbread with chocolate, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and a hint of cinnamon.

I am now on the hunt for a recipe as my grandmothers shortbread recipe creates cookies that I feel are too flaky to handle the addition of seeds.

 

Anyone have a recipe out there??

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Vinegar Tarts and Suet Pudding – Cooking with Grammie


My mother recently mailed me a care package and she included three of my grandmother’s handwritten recipe books.

They are all written on lined paper, and they are in various states of decay. Rips, stains and smudges prove these books were well-loved and well-used but unfortunately that use has diminished the legibility of many of the recipes. I have recently finished typing out all the recipes, at least all the ones I can read, and scanning the pages into my computer; they are so fragile that I doubt they will be legible for much longer.  Technology can be an amazing thing!  I have increased the contrast on the scans which has been incredibly helpful in deciphering various ingredients or notations that would be otherwise impossible to see.

Drawings that I believe were drawn by my mother 🙂 NOTE added May 31, 2011: Apparently Ms Crookshank (not sure if you can see that name written in this pic) was one of my mother's elementary school teachers!

Throughout this process, I have decided to try and make all of them.  Well, all the ones that are complete, as some are missing measurements or instructions.

Instructions!  Let’s talk about those, shall we?  Most recipes I use have them.  For a newbie cook like myself, having directions is an absolute MUST!  But in these notebooks, they are sorely lacking.  All I can assume is that my grandmother just knew how to make things and didn’t need written directions.  A pie?  Sure, let’s throw together a pie from memory.  Cookies?  Cakes?  Yep, no problem.

I, on the other hand, have never made a cake and have only ever made a pie once.  I require instructions, directions, little pictures with captions…something!  And when there are instructions, many are none too helpful.

  • Dark Fruit Cake – “Cook in slow oven”
  • Cookies – “Cook in hot oven”
  • Pudding – “Bake 30 minutes”
  • Cookies – “Roll then bake quickly”
  • Cookies – ‎”Roll out in balls. Press with a fork. Bake. Very good.”

Even some of the ingredients leave me guessing:

  • “1 1/2 cups icing sugar (maybe more)”
  • “2 unbeaten eggs, beat well”

These are going to be fun to try! Hehe  Or frustrating…only time will tell.  “Butter the size of an egg”?  “A walnut”?  At least that gives me a visual.

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed about the notebooks is that you can actually see that passage of time as you move from the oldest one to the newest.

The first two notebooks are filled with recipes calling to fairly generic ingredients: milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, various spices, flour, shortening, baking soda and powder.

Once you get into the third book, which is the most recent (I’m guessing 50s and 60s maybe?), which is the first one written in ball-point pen, you suddenly start seeing ingredients like: Maple Leaf Lard, Rice Krispies, Cornflakes, margarine, Crisco, Arrowroot cookies, Graham wafers.

The third book also started filling in the missing pieces of the first two.  Suddenly my grandmother was writing instructions like:

  • Bake in slow oven 325 degrees 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hrs
  • Bake 350 for 1 hour in round pan.

I was finally able to approximate a “slow oven” at 300 or 325 degrees and a “hot oven” at 375 or more.

A "slow oven' is 300 degrees? Good to know! 🙂

The other cool thing about all three notebooks is that she noted the source of almost every recipe.  There are so many names of people, relatives, places…even a date on one recipe (Dec 14, 1937).  Many of them are simply labeled “Mother’s” so technically I have a good number of recipes that are from my great-grandmother, as well as the odd two or three that are labelled “Grammie Irving” such as a yummy sounding Spice Cake recipe.

All together, I have almost 200 pages typed out, one recipe per page (with a couple exceptions).  I think I’m going to look at getting them printed and bound…then, I’ll start baking!

I plan to create a new category on this blog and any time I try a recipe from one of these notebooks, I’ll categorize it accordingly.

Now I just need to think of a catchy category…..


Oatcakes and Nova Scotia Flashbacks


I spent some of my most memorable moments in Halifax, NS in the late 90s.  I lived there for two years and I loved every minute of it.

There are some foods that will forever be connected to Halifax in my mind and oatcakes are one of those foods.  My favourite cafe, The Mokka, served oatcakes half-dipped in chocolate.  They were incredible.  Moist.  Delicious.  I spent many hours sitting there writing or drawing, with a cup of coffee, or six! (gotta love free refills), and an oatcake.

In ten years, I haven’t had any oatcake that was comparable to those.  Until recently, I never considered making my own either.  That was a mistake!  Not too long ago, I was on the internet looking at recipes and something I saw made me think back on those oatcakes I used to purchase in NS. So I did a search and found a recipe for “Nova Scotian Oatcakes”.  When I mentioned it to my mother, she dug up my grandmothers recipe and shared it with me.  Since my grandmother was from Nova Scotia, we were pretty certain that her recipe would represent true N.S. goodness.  It was almost identical to the one I’d found online so I decided to try it.

No regrets. At all.

They were easy to make.  Moist.  Delicious.  Just as I remember them!  The recipe didn’t mention chocolate, so I took it upon myself to temper some milk chocolate and dip them.

The.best.oatcakes.EVER!

Click here for the recipe or scroll to the bottom of the post.

Two things about the collection of ingredients that I need to mention.
1) There’s no cinnamon in the above picture because I decided  to add it last-minute.  It  added a nice flavour to the oatcake so I definitely recommend it.
2) You may notice that the ‘cup’ of brown sugar is slightly lacking in the picture.  This is because my sugar was ROCK hard and I had a hell of a time trying to soften it quickly.  I microwaved it in bowl along with a bowl of water, assuming the steam would soften the sugar rocks.  It did, but it took so long and eventually the water exploded, splashing the remaining sugar and melting it into a puddle.  So, the above ‘cup’ of sugar is all I could save from that disaster.

Reader Query: How do you go about softening brown sugar?  If you have to do it quickly rather than overnight, what ways have you found to be most successful?  At this point, I’m afraid I may just give in and throw out my bag o’ sugar-rock next time.  It was quite frustrating!

So, the recipe was really quite simple.  Mixed all the dry ingredients together….

Dry Ingredients

Followed by the addition of the shortening.


I keep meaning to buy a pastry blender for jobs such as this.  I’ve been told by many people that I can effectively ‘cut in’ shortening or butter with two knives but I find that awkward and I always end up falling back on … my own two hands!  A pastry blender would be quite helpful…although I have to admit that most of the time, I like getting my hands dirty, as it were.  This recipe was no exception.  (I wonder if shortening is good for the skin? My hands were quite soft afterwards!)

Batter after cutting in the shortening

Once the dough became crumbly (see picture above) I finally added the 1/4 cup of hot water.  I use my hands to mix it up and I have to say that initially I thought I had done something wrong.  Upon adding the water, the batter was insanely sticky and gooey.  I stood there for a few moments reviewing the recipe in my head, looking for errors, and in that time, I believe it was the oats that sucked up a lot of the added water.

So, my advice…add the water, mix and left the batter for two or three minutes.  It will become tacky and manageable all on its own.

At that point, it was ready to roll, literally.  I floured my counter top slightly and dumped out the ball of batter, covering it with a piece of wax paper to allow for easy rolling.

I cut my oatcakes into squares simply because that’s how they were served in Halifax, but of course you could shape them any way you please.  I did find the dough slightly sticky so the cut cakes had to be carefully manoeuvred off the counter top and onto the cookie sheet.

The final touch?  A light brushing with milk and a *slight* sprinkle of sugar:

Into the oven they went and 12 minutes later, I had lovely golden oatcakes!!

Since the oatcakes I used to eat were always half dipped in chocolate, I decided to go ahead and attempt to recreate them exactly.  As I allowed the cakes to cool in the fridge, I prepared a homemade double broiler since I didn’t have an actual one to use.  I filled the pot about half way with water, low enough that the foil/bowl wouldn’t be directly touching it, and wrapped the foil tightly around the pot opening, allowing no steam to escape.

Once the water was hot, I placed about 3/4 cup of milk chocolate chips in the bowl and stirred them until melted.  Technically, I stirred them until they were just over halfway melted, and then removed the bowl and continued stirring, which allowed the captured heat to melt the remainder without burning the chocolate.  Periodically, I would return the bowl to the broiler to absorb a bit more heat but I wouldn’t leave it there.

I had also read that milk chocolate needed to be heated to 86 degrees Fahrenheit so initially I kept track of the temperature as well.  Chocolate heats quite fast, at least it seemed to!

Dipping the oatcakes

I placed the dipped oatcakes on wax paper in the fridge.  An hour later, they were set….and absolutely delicious!

NOVA SCOTIAN OATCAKES



  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup hot water

Optional: These oatcakes are awesome dipped in chocolate!  I used approx 3/4-1 cup of melted milk chocolate chips (see above)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together then cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly.
  3.  Add in hot water and stir until mixture sticks together.
  4. Turn out onto floured surface and press mixture together.
  5. Roll out to approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cut into squares or circles.
  6. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  7. Brush with milk and sprinkle with white sugar.
  8. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden around the edges.

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