I think it was Longfellow who said, ..."in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity." I think that's true. And sometimes the best gifts are the simplest ones. This box of "California Sunshine" arrived on our doorstep last week on one of the coldest days we've had this season; a wonderful gift from my dear cousin who lives in the 'mandarine orange capital' of the state. These little orange orbs came from her own trees and could not have made us happier or arrived at a better time. Nature's candy!
The Mister and I both grew up in southern California, in houses (on opposite sides of town), surrounded by orange groves. Living where we did, citrus fruit was something we just took for granted. That is, until we moved a thousand miles north seventeen years ago. Now we marvel at the mere sight, smell, and taste of something we once thought ordinary. And it takes us back. And we realize how lucky we were to have had that experience.
And speaking of lucky, here's a lucky thrift shop find. Time for a "vintage" book review. The jacket cover alone just makes me happy looking at it. Love the old cast iron stove. The book is copyrighted 1949 and tells of the baking traditions around the holidays in Virginia Pasley's childhood kitchen with her sisters. The first chapter of the book is all about that, and so charming to read. The "old ways" of doing things are always interesting to me. On spices, she writes, "In those days every corner grocer and druggist carried not only spices from all over the world, but potash and ammonium carbonate and the other old-country chemicals used before modern baking powder. Angelica and citron, candied Seville orange peel and all sorts of decorative candies and sugars were just as easy to get then as they are hard to find now." I guess that is still true in most places. The back cover flap tells a little more about the author. Mostly it's full of the old cookie recipes. It says, "Here is a cookie book for people who enjoy making an old-fashioned Christmas, and who revel in the fragrance of spices and fresh baking that permeates a house before such a holiday. It is also a book for the compact modern kitchen; the author has translated and revised the old, traditional recipes to fit modern methods of measurement, mixing and baking. Each cookie, from the crisp Burnt Almond Cookies and Eier Kringel to honey-laden Lebkuchen, is delectable and different, yet easy to make." Cookbooks are such comforting reads, aren't they? I have other favorites. What are yours? Here are two recipes from the book you might like to try.
Cream together 1/3 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar, then blend in 1/2 cup sour cream. Grate 3 squares (ounces) chocolate and add to creamed mixture along with 1 cup bran, 2-1/2 cups grated coconut, 1 teas. vanilla. Sift 1-1/2 cups flour with 1/2 teas. baking powder, 1/2 teas. baking soda, and 1/2 teas. salt--and add to first mixture. Blend all and drop from teaspoon, onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees F).
Cream together 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, alternately blending in 2 T. water and 2 teas. vanilla. Sift together 6 cups cake flour, 1 teas. salt and 1 teas. baking soda and mix together with other ingredients in bowl. Chill dough for an hour. Roll out about 1/8" thick and cut out in fancy shapes. For larger cookies 1/4" thickness is better. Bake for 15 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees F).
Under the jacket cover I discover more charm. And look at the end papers! OK. A few more of Mrs. Pasley's memories to warm you . . ."The Christmas baking always seemed to start unexpectedly overnight. One snowy brisk November day we three girls would race in from school rosy-cheeked and cold-nosed, and go wild with excitement at the sight of the big cookie sheets that had burgeoned during our absence, the Springerle board spread out on the kitchen table, and Mama checking over her recipes. My mother set up cooking as a priviledge. It was not something you were ordered to do, or even urged to do. You were allowed to do it. You were, after the proper apprenticeship, privileged to do it. You washed up after you finished and left the kitchen as spotlessly clean as when you entered its magic precincts as due payment for the special treat of trying your hand at cooking. My mother always saw to it that no one, not even the youngest, was made a drudge in the Christmas cookie making. If you shelled nuts, you were allowed to put them on the tops of the cookies. If you measured the flour out and sifted it with the spices, you could hold the spoon and stir for a minute of two. And you were never too young to be given a scrap or two to cut out a cookie of your very own."
Unrelated: Please get your free downloads and pattern orders in now. The PatternBee website will close the day after tomorrow and will remain closed throughout the holiday season. The shop will be up and running again on January 2, 2012.
I'll be back here on Friday with a Give-Away!