Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Hearts

Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts.

With the exception of Grandma's shortbread, I think our Christmas baking nears completion.  Today's cookies are a year late in reaching their destination but I'll blame Canada Post for the delay. ;-)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cherished Baubles

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a family all wrapped up in each other.
Burton Hillis (a.k.a. William E. Vaughan), American columnist and author (1915-1977)

Boxes of Christmas ornaments came up from the depths of the basement storage area today. It's impressive that so many of these fragile balls can still play an important role in decorating the family Christmas tree considering that they practically match me in age. Being a kid at heart, I'm a big fan of colourful and shiny baubles and family tradition imbues these ones with something close to sanctity as they have come to symbolize enchantment, happiness, and familial love.

After decorating the tree the weekend's vino-culinary indulgence continued, thanks to the Toute Sweet shop that presented each participant in the "Wrapped Up in the Valley" event with a gift of 12 Belgian chocolate truffles filled with a spiked ganache. So far my favourite is one filled with the 2008 Cabernet Syrah of Kacaba Vineyards & Winery . . . but I've only just begun. ;-)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Final Grape

Wine is bottled poetry.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish poet and author (1850-1894)

Rain drizzled on our final day of "Wrapped Up in the Valley 2011" but it only served to wet our appetite for visiting the final wineries on our passport. In all, we sampled wines at 22 establishments and I'm fairly certain that we returned home with more than that number of bottles to be enjoyed over the year to come.

As we sipped the vintages we savoured creative pairings, such as this duck confit on a bed of squash bruschetta atop cranberry foccacia with Peninsula Ridge Estates' Top Bench Red 2009. I'm not sure that I will be able to replicate that one, but I'm looking forward to receiving the recipe for the Apple Cider Buttertart Square created by the chefs of the August Restaurant to pair with Fielding Estate Winery's 2010 Chardonnay. Like last year, the offerings included some exceptional morsels.

I raise a toast to the vintners of Twenty Valley and their Wrapped Up event! Bravo!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mirth and Spirit

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.
Benjamin Franklin

Today, my brother, S-I-L and I ventured into wine country for a heavenly afternoon amidst the vineyards. The ancient Greeks believed that by drinking wine, they were taking divinity within themselves because they were drinking in the essence of the divine Dionysos. Not too different from communion, really.

Having enjoyed ourselves immensely last year, we are taking part in the "Wrapped Up in the Valley" event again this year in an area of the Niagara Peninsula known as Twenty Valley. The popular event opens doors, and our eyes, to wineries that were unknown and introduces new vintages at those that we have visited in the past, all with the added touch of delicious food pairings.

With temperatures unseasonably warm in the double digits, the Christmas reindeer seem a little lost under the cloud cover. Surely snow is on its way.

And when it comes, the essence of Dionysos, laid snuggly in underground vaults (or, in our case, cardboard boxes), will keep friends and family warm with mirth and spirit. There was certainly plenty of both this evening as we joined a lively group of friends at the conclusion of today's wanderings for an entertaining evening full of good food and good cheer. Thank you chef Buster and friends!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sweet Memories

Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait to hear the answer.
Anonymous, found inside a Baci wrapper

With the afternoon coffee break on the horizon, I parked the car in front of our neighbourhood Italian bakery and went in for some Sicilian cannoli and there, on the counter, stood a large open jar of "Baci" chocolates. Memories came rushing back of Saturday mornings years ago at another Italian bakery, with cream horns, super-hot capicola sandwiches, lattes and "Baci". For me that hazelnut, two-bite morsel represents the piece de resistance to a fine coffee break, so for old times' sake I bought two: one for me and one for the Time Traveller. But being caught up in all those memories, I hardly noticed opening the second one. ;-) Sorry, TT. I owe you one!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We Were There!

There we are! Can you see us? Look, Santa! That's me taking your picture. And there's my nice S-I-L with the pretty pink scarf and my naughty brother in his shades and cute grin that always gets him out of trouble. Thanks for taking our picture, Santa. It's a very nice gift to receive from the Santa Cam.

In case you can't spot us in the crowd, here's a hint:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ring My Bell!

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Charles Dickens

This year I have the pleasure of volunteering for the Salvation Army, manning one of their donation kettles in the local mall. What a wonderful feeling to wish people a "Merry Christmas" and bring smiles when I ring my bell in thanks.

The Salvation Army has been helping vulnerable people in Canada since 1882. Known affectionately as the "Sally Ann", it brings hope and joy to many of our less fortunate children and families during the Christmas season and so every year I drop my "loonies" and "toonies" into their trademark red kettles. This year I'm hosting an online kettle for The Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal. You can help support me by making a secure online donation by clicking on the link in the sidebar. Go ahead . . . ring my bell! ;-) God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Sweet Circle

There is a great tradition of sweet pastry making in Lancashire: Chorley cakes, Goosnargh cakes, Grasmere gingerbread, and perhaps most famously of all Eccles cakes.

After being particularly disturbed by the quality of the supermarket's 'sale' chicken, I have been driving out of town every month or so to procure locally raised chicken for Cat's meals. But I must confess to an ulterior motive: the 15-km drive takes me right past Bennett's Apples and Cider and inside Bennett's are the best Eccles cakes in town. The car cannot pass Bennett's without making a pit stop for this treat, special since my childhood when Dad might buy a couple from a baker at the farmers market.

As a child I knew that they hailed from jolly ol' England but only this past summer, when reading Marion Cane's Dish, did I learn that Eccles is a town near Manchester where the first flaky pastry with currant filling was sold in the 18th century. Her quest to find the ultimate Eccles cake took Cane and her mother from London to Eccles and then back to London where, in one of those quirks of six degrees of separation, she found herself in St John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields. Now, as I may have mentioned before, I've never visited Spitalfields but I feel that I know the place and its people intimately thanks to the Gentle Author's blog, "Spitalfields Life"; and it just so happened that a few months previously I had visited St John's and enjoyed its pastry -- all vicariously mind you -- on the Gentle Author's Bread, Cake and Biscuit Walk.

Thankfully, I can enjoy every flake of Bennett's Eccles cakes directly -- just as Dad and I did this afternoon. And perhaps I should be just as thankful that Bennett's is not any closer. ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2011


When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?
Michel de Montaigne, French author in Essays (1580)

Although the Renaissance author may not have known his place, I certainly do: I exist to entertain Cat. Dad related advice read in a magazine in the doctor's office today that cats should be played with for 30 minutes per day. 30 minutes?! Cat demands much more attention than that. Sit in the chair to cruise the Net and I soon feel a pair of green eyes on me. Of course, playtime is at her pleasure and usually it begins a little before 7 A.M.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

♬ Santa Comes to Town ♬

You better watch out!
You better not cry!
Better not pout!
I'm telling you why . . .
Santa Claus is coming to town.
Song written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934

My brother and SIL treated me to a trip to the big city to see the world famous Santa Claus parade. I knew it's pretty popular in around these parts, but I have learned that it is broadcast in several countries in the far reaches of the globe. As we arrived at our chosen spot along the parade route with a cafe mocha in hand, the celebrity clowns passed by heading to the staging area. In exchange for costume and makeup, these folks support the parade with a generous donation. Way to go!

The 'posties' started off the parade by collecting the kids' letters to Santa. Canada Post does have a heart and waived the postage fee for this special delivery to the North Pole.

Then a familiar face took a time out from playing to come over and say hello. The Burlington Top Hat Marching Orchestra really put a lot of spunk into their performance.

Joining our local talent were a couple of bands from the US. Kelley's Heroes from Caledonia, NY, had me bopping to "Your a mean one, Mr. Grinch". I want whatever was in the elf's sack of "Holiday Cheer" because he was certainly having a good time.

Not all of the floats had moving parts, but none lacked spirit. These kids sang "Jingle Bells" at the top of their lungs, and the crowd cheered.

Perhaps to the chagrin of one of our not-so-illustrious senators, who has no other pressing issues to think about other than changing our nation's animal, the Canadian Beaver arrived in his canoe. We love our beavers!

But, it's true, we also love our polar bears. They are very cute.

And we're pretty fond of penguins too. And these ones could dance! However, Madame Senator, penguins are not indigenous to Canada so they probably shouldn't be contenders; but perhaps heritage is no longer relevant to your noble house? I leave you to your dilemma.

Which provides a nice segue into the Mr. Potato Head float. ;-)  I remember having lots of fun with Mr. Potato Head as a child and I was happy to see that he still amuses children. In an unfortunate quirk of fate, the photo happens to juxtapose Mr. Potato Head with our fine man in blue, who was very nice at managing the crowds and keeping his eye on the kids.

This float with dancing gingerbread was a favourite. Perhaps because I'm suffering cookie withdrawal.

For many of the floats, the products of its corporate sponsor were deftly worked into the design, such as a gingerbread house decorated with the recognizable donuts and "tim bits" of the nation's most ubiquitous purveyor of "double doubles".

At 98 years old, Toronto's Santa Claus Parade is the longest running children's parade in the world and for the first time in its history, Mrs. Claus had her own heart-warming float.

Behind the Mrs., rode the Royal Canadian Mounted Police honour guard. Wow, those steads are magnificent.

And, finally, the moment we had all been waiting for. The crowd's reaction to the appearance of the guest of honour was palpable. First heard was the intake of breath, followed by the silence of awe. Then came all the loud cheers and waving hands.
And then it was all over. :-(
Let's do it again!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Pair of Elves

Santa's elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses.

Here are a couple of subordinate Clauses re-stocking cookies during a lull in today's busy bazaar.

The tables were abundant with butter and sugar and all things yummy as the event opened this morning, yet by 2P.M. little remained. My best memory is of a young boy, standing just at table height, peering over with big eyes full of wonder, helping his mom choose cookies to fill their box. A sweet day!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Deck the Halls

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
Larry Wilde, American humorist

'Tis the season to be jolly! Although one curmudgeon, who won't be identified, complains about yuletide music being played on the radio already, I'm ready to dive into the spirit of Christmas. The opening event is upon us and so we loaded up Mom's car with dozens of 17 different kinds of cookies and set out for the church: it's Mistletoe Bazaar time!

As the hall rang with activity from the various tables being set up for tomorrow, the custodian added his two cents about the questionable economics of the activity, dimming my smile somewhat. But never mind the dollars and cents, I choose to focus on the spirit generated by the event: people have come together, worked together for a cause, had fun, and felt good for making a contribution and, on top of all of that good, we will even make a few dollars for the church. So . . . Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'mmm Baaaaack

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.
Orison Swett Marden, American author (1850-1924)

I have spent most of the past week in bed with insufficient energy and functioning brain cells to write a post, but I'm bouncing back, thanks to the ministrations of Mom, Dad, and Cat. Cat stood guard at the end of my bed or curled up against my back. This is the real meaning of 'creature comfort'.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad, you're someone to look up to no matter how tall I've grown.

Happy Birthday Dad from your favourite feline!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Retail Therapy or Lunacy?

Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.
Erma Bombeck, American humorist (1927-1996)

Today marked the annual pilgrimage to the big city for Ashley's "Warehouse Sale" event. After an hour-long wait outside for crowd control, one enters into a maze with people, carts, and big carry-all boxes maneuvering along crowded circuitous paths through various product sections from china to Christmas and baby to bath, generally with good humour until energy levels flag and finally exiting pumped up and exhausted. This is extreme retail therapy.

And it's always breathtaking to take in the Toronto skyline and be amazed by the condominium explosion with striking glass-walled edifices popping up all over the place. Between the number of people lined up at the sale and the number of five-star new buildings cropping up, it is hard to keep in mind that we're in a recession. Perhaps this is not retail therapy, but rather reality distraction. ;-)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Coiffure Indulgence

I think the most important thing a woman can have - next to talent, of course - is her hairdresser.
Joan Crawford

I can be mesmerized by the bright blue jars standing on guard in the corner of the hair stylist's counter. To some, they might pass unworthy of special notice, like the hand disinfectant dispensers that have appeared in shopping malls and grocery stores; but to me they are full of attraction because that gleaming blue glass epitomizes the pleasure of being pampered and transformed at the hands of a professional. After sitting back in the stylist's chair, staring into that sapphire liquid, I emerge a new woman -- if only for a day. It is such a treat!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Love Food

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw

In case my kind readers may not have noticed, I have been having a passionate affair with food these past few months. I'm in love with salt and cream, venison and chocolate, pumpkin and strawberries and garlic and butter (to name just a few) -- and how lucky I am to be able to indulge in them all with wild abandon. Well, perhaps not with complete abandon as I have to admit to a teensy bit of guilt and reserve, but my heart swooned tonight as Chef Ken Lefebour of Chef and Wife - Gourmet to Go poured in the cream and dolloped the garlic in various dishes.

After another great cooking class at The Spectator, I came away with three great dishes to share with family and friends: rack of lamp chops served with pumpkinseed and truffle pesto as the appetizer, chicken with porcini cream sauce served over pasta and goat cheese, followed by dark chocolate and pink peppercorn tart with merlot and star anise syrup. Rapture. Cynics might say "rupture", but who wants to break bread with a cynic, anyway?

Wishing everyone cream-filled dreams. Good night.

Tuesday Update: As requested. Dish is not as complicated as it looks. Enjoy!

Chicken in a Porcini Mushroom Jus
6 servings

3 chicken breasts, cut into 3 or 4 pieces, width-wise
Italian seasoning to taste
Cracked black pepper and sea salt
About 1/2 cup of flour to dust
Olive oil to sear

1. In a bowl, using your hands to mix, work Italian seasoning, pepper and salt over the chicken pieces.
2. Put a scoop of flour into another bowl. Transfer chicken to new bowl and mix the chicken with the flour to coat.
3. Heat a heavy pan on a hot flame. When pan is hot, add olive oil. Then carefully place chicken in pan and sear on all sides.
4. Remove from pan and set aside.

Porcini Mushroom Cream
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup chardonnay, reduced by 2/3's
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups 35% cream
Nutmeg to taste
Cracked pepper and sea salt
4 oz porcini mushrooms, by volume (no need to reconstitute)

1. In the chicken pan, melt butter. Add garlic and rosemary and cook over medium heat until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
2. Add flour and cook, scraping the pan until a nutty aroma emerges.
3. Add stock and porcini mushrooms gradually, whisking steadily.
4. Increase heat to high and add cream.
5. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat.
6. Add chardonnay and chicken. Season with pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste.
7. Simmer 10-15 minutes and prepare pasta.
8. Just before serving, and tomatoes.

Pasta Aglio Olio
500 gr pasta
salt and pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic, chopped
goat cheese (no amount specified)
1 small sprig rosemary
4 sprigs thyme

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Cook pasta a la dente.
3. Over medium/low heat, warm olive oil, garlic, rosemary and thyme until fragrant.
4. Rome from heat and toss with pasta and a small amount of pasta water.

To plate: on a bed of pasta, place a portion of goat cheese to one side and a serving of chicken with porcini sauce on the other.

Source: Chef Ken Lefebour of Chef and Wife Gourmet to Go

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Shower of Blessings

Count your blessings by thinking of those whom you love.

A large group of friends and family gathered to bless Erin, the bride-to-be, with needed items for her new home. Since my own bridal shower, many moons ago, was infused with ancient Greek bridal rites thanks to very imaginative friends, I figured that bridal showers originated from ancient dowry customs but, surprisingly, showers are a relatively new phenomenon: the earliest recorded showers were held in American cities in the 1860s and they didn't become customary until the 1930s (according to Wikipedia). The bridal shower seems to be a North American custom that has been transplanted only to Australia. The things you learn!

Today's event was a great success as family worked together to create a lovely event for Erin. We celebrated her upcoming marriage and the ties that marriage creates. Among my blessings is my thoughtful and caring S-I-L, who overflows with love for the family she married into, for better or for worse.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Inpsiring Heavens

The desire to reach for the sky runs deep in our human psyche.
Cesar Pelli, Argentine architect

Looking out the bedroom window early this morning, the sight of a soaring plane appeared as a sign that I should push myself to higher performance. Surprisingly, the heavens can be inspiring at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning.

But they also seemed to augur the coming of winter. Brrrrrr.

Friday, November 4, 2011

No Michelangelo Here

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Michelangelo (1475-1564)

I hereby publicly state that I am no Michelangelo. Try as I might, my chocolate angels did not reach the ethereal levels of Michelangelo, Raphael or Leonardo -- and, no, I'm not talking about Ninja turtles here . . . although at least one of my angels does bear a striking resemblance to the snaky-haired Medusa. Oh well, I had fun painting with royal icing and -- I must say -- the chocolate cookie is heavenly.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Makes: 36 cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients to form a soft dough. Divide dough into 2 pieces, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters using cocoa to coat cutters. Dough is sticky so be sure to add more flour/cocoa to the rolling surface as needed. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: All Recipes website

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Channeling Lucy

Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.
Lucille Ball

Remember the scene of Lucy and Ethel working at the candy factory? Mom and I looked a little like that today as we baked some 10 dozen cookies; rushing to roll, sugar, or add the chocolate cap to one batch before the stove's timer dinged, signaling the need for quick removal of another batch from the oven. It was a hoot.

We actually used almost the whole sack of Hershey Kisses making Chocolate Bliss Cookies and Peanut Butter Kisses. The six leftover kisses are for dad because, well, he's dad.

I felt sorry for dear ol' dad because we're making all these cookies and, with the exception of one or two for quality control purposes, he's not getting any for coffee breaks; so being a loving daughter, I made him a coffee cake today. It is so tasty that I feel it's my duty to share the recipe. I didn't name it "The Best Coffee Cake. Ever." but it just might be. Enjoy!

P.S. / F.Y.I. :  Against all images to the contrary, the Chocolate Box is not morphing into a food blog . . . recent cookies and cakes simply reflect what my head and hands are into these days.

Chocolate Bliss Cookies
Makes: 36 cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour
36 Hershey kisses, unwrapped

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. Cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.

3. Sift flour and salt together. Add to butter mixture. Mix until dough forms.

4. Scoop dough and shape into 1 inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

5. Bake for 12-14 minutes, just until set and bottoms begin to turn a light golden brown. Remove baking tray from the oven and IMMEDIATELY top each cookie with a Hershey kiss, pressing down lightly.

6. Cool cookies on the tray for 2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Gathered around the Table blog

Peanut Butter Kisses
Makes: about 40 cookies

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Chocolate kisses, unwrapped

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Cream the peanut butter, butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract.

3. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly combine flour mixture with peanut butter mixture.

4. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll them in the white sugar. Place on parchment paper on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven. (I would suggest removing from oven after 7 minutes, just after the top surface of the cookie has begun to crack.)

5. Press chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 3 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Source: From Start to Finish and Everything in Between blog

The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.
Yield: 16 servings

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups scant sugar
3 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 whole egg whites, beaten until stiff

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar 2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped **

** Note: I substituted walnuts and was very happy with the flavour. I love pecans, but they cost a pirate’s ransom in the homeland.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In one bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and set aside.

3. In a third bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula.

4. Spread batter into a well-greased 9 X 13 baking pan. (A cake pan with higher sides would be best.

5. In a fourth bowl, combine topping ingredients with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle all over the top.

6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Source: The Pioneer Woman blog

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kisses Sweet

Kisses are lovely, chocolate kisses are divine. 

A half a bag of divinity still remains after today's baking session of Peanut Butter Kisses. These heavenly morsels, however, induce an unfortunate destiny: a moment on the lips, an eternity on the hips. :-(

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sweet Fortune

Fortune and love favor the brave.
Ovid, Roman poet (43 B.C. - A.D. 18)

Ovid's risque poem The Art of Love earned him exile to the far reaches of the Roman empire courtesy of Caesar Augustus. I suppose that's how Ovid's cookie crumbled, but I can assure S-I-L that none of the love fortunes in the fortune cookies made for the upcoming bridal shower predict exile. ;-)

Mom and I had fun twisting the cookies into shape last night (asbestos fingers required) and then decorating them this evening. As Dad commented, they are not your normal, run-of-the-mill fortune cookies.

Confucius say:
Some men dream of fortunes, others dream of cookies.

Sweet Fortune Cookies
Makes: 15 cookies

4 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for baking sheets
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract **
2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

** Note: original recipe is flavoured with vanilla plus 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, as well as 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a dash ground cloves. We used almond flavouring because it seemed traditional, but the spice version sounds tasty too.

1/2 cup chopped bittersweet, dark, or semisweet chocolate
1/2 tablespoon shortening
Chopped peanuts, sprinkles, minced candied ginger, or other little sweet or spicy things

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190°C). Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. If using parchment, lightly coat the paper with nonstick cooking spray or butter. (I didn't coat parchment and had no problem with cookies sticking.) Have a mug and a muffin tin (which is lightly sprayed) at the ready.

2. Write fortunes on long strips of sturdy paper. The paper can be fancy or plain, it matters little. Best stick with strips that are 3 1/2 to 4 inches long and no more than 1/2 inch or so wide. (I printed the fortunes from the computer and cut them to size).

3. Stir together the butter, vanilla and almond flavouring (or ginger, cinnamon, and cloves).

4. Beat the egg whites and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, add about half of the flour, and beat just until combined. Switch to a spatula and gently fold in the butter mixture. Add the remaining flour and fold just until combined.

5. Drop 1 tablespoon of the batter onto the baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to spread the batter evenly and very thinly into a 3 1/2-inch circle. Repeat to make 3 or 4 cookies on each baking sheet. We sketched circles on parchment paper as guides. We found that working with 3 baked cookies at a time was all that the two of us could manage to bend into shape.

6. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fortune cookies just barely begin to brown around the edges. Working quickly, transfer the cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a clean dish towel. Place a fortune just above the center of each cookie and fold the cookie in half, pinching the top of the curved portion to seal. Gently bend the ends of the fortune cookie over the rim of a mug to form the fortune cookie shape. (Fold the cookie over a chopstick, if you have one, to help create the bend in the center.) Place the cookie in the muffin tin, bended side down, to help it retain its shape while it cools. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Hurry! Cookies are HOT but, if they cool before they are bent into shape, they will crack and rip.

7. After about 10 minutes, cookies can be transferred from the muffin tin to a cooling plate. Cookies will become crisp as they stand over night.

8. The next day, melt the chocolate and shortening in a glass bowl or measuring cup. Dip half of each fortune cookie in the melted chocolate. If desired, sprinkle with chopped peanuts or candied sprinkles or anything else that you believe will help to ensure a sweet fortune.

Source: Leite's Culinaria