Thursday, November 12, 2015

Baby Steps - Luscious Lemon Drops

When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn during the waning days of the Eisenhower administration, all you needed to have fun was a couple of like-minded friends and the sidewalk outside your house. Well, a set of jacks and a Spaulding ball were nice to have as well, but nobody had ever seen so much as a microwave, much less electronic games. Oh yeah, and a jump rope and some chalk. All primitive accoutrements, but so very useful.

One of my favorites was a simple little game called "Mother, May I?" in which the leader stood at the far end of the designated area - in this case, between two stoops on E. 36th Street - and the players asked permission to move forward using giant steps, umbrella steps, and other variations, to get as close to the leader as possible.  It was up to the leader to decide if you could take those 3 giant steps you had politely requested (Mother, may I?) or do something else that would slow down your progress (No, you may not. Take one baby step). Eventually, even those baby steps would get you somewhere, and that is why today I am taking baby steps and considering myself lucky to do so.

Yesterday's agony is today's pain. My nerve endings have turned down the volume somewhat, and I have been able to get out of bed, take my medication, and gather the trash to be dumped outside. Baby steps, yes, but a big improvement from yesterday, when I hurt too much to care that the Magic lost to the Indiana Pacers. Considering that I had a terrible restless night full of pain, intense itching and noise uber-sensitivity (I restrained myself from throwing a couple of dogs out the window and smothering my husband with a pillow to stop his snoring) I still managed to do the stuff I like to do in the morning. It didn't hurt that Cory took over the dishwasher, which let me sit a bit to recover from cleaning the litter box.

Tonight is the fourth Republican debate, and I really want to watch this one. The moderators are from FOX Business, and have promised to avoid the circus atmosphere created by CNBC during the third debate.  Neil Cavuto may want to bring some duct tape for Donald Trump's mouth. 

Now onto the really serious matters of the day: HOLIDAY COOKIES. I like to bake cookies for the winter holidays - Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas - in astonishing numbers and variations.  I started doing this my first Christmas working at Alexander & Alexander. The staff always made a big deal about the holidays, and someone was always bringing in home-baked goods to share.  I expanded the number and also packed up gift boxes of cookies for friends and family.  I was hardly memorable as an assistant broker - you may recall I was fired for being a "non income-producing member of the department" - but let me tell you, those folks missed my cookies.

Since law school, my cookie-baking binges have gotten irregular - downright spotty, you might say. It has been a good number of years since I binge-baked, probably a solid decade of cookie-less holidays, but now that I am retired, I wanted to try it again.  I can always take a nap in between batches.

To prepare myself for the task at hand, I sat down with a dozen or so cookie cookbooks, my personal notebook of cookie recipes, and a well-worn copy of the Congregation Shalom Aleichem cookbook.  In choosing the recipes, I set parameters and tried to stay within them: drop cookies, no bars, or rolled, or otherwise overly-complicated recipes; and no frosted cookies. I wanted to bake a lot of old favorites; nostalgia and the holidays go together.  I also had a bunch that I'd been wanting to try for a while, which fell within my search parameters. In the end, I came up with a list of 46 recipes, including 3 that are technically candies. The average cookie recipe produces 2 1/2 dozen cookies ... that works out to ... uh, well over 100 dozen cookies.  1380 cookies, if I calculated correctly.

Think about that. And me with only two freezers.

Anyway, here's the first of the batch. I've been wanting to try this recipe for a long time, and I picked up this cookbook in 1991. The recipe is not unique to this particular book, as I've seen these "Cool Whip cookies" popping up all over. Yep, I said Cool Whip.

Luscious Lemon Drops

1 - 18 1/4 oz. paclage lemon cake mix
half of an 8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 egg, beaten
juice and grated peel of one large lemon
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients except the confectioner's sugar; stir well to mix. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit more of the whipped topping.

Grease, spray, or two line baking pans with a silpat.  Drop the dough by teaspoons (I used my smallest scoop) into the confectioner's sugar, turning to coat well.  Place the balls, 1 1/2 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until the cookies are done. They should be firm to the touch, and if you break one open, it should not be overly moist, and you should be able to see the interior crumb. Remove from the baking sheet immediately and let cool on wire racks.  This makes 48 cookies - 24 to each baking sheet.

Once they are cool, I put them on a clean baking sheet, single layer, and put them into the freezer, uncovered.  I leave them overnight, and the next day, transfer them to a freezer bag.  If you plan on enjoying these right away, don't bother with this step. These are delicate, although they scream lemon, and a very nice edition to a cookie platter.

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