Apple Pie Aquavit

April 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The word aquavit means “water of life” and for Scandinavians that definition holds pretty true. In Denmark no traditional lunch or smørrebrød (open-face sandwich) would be complete without a shot of chilled ‘akvavit’ followed by a cold beer. A common accompaniment to the country’s beloved pickled herring, this potent liquor reputedly aids in digestion. In Sweden it’s known as “snaps” and downed in one gulp with beer and drinking songs to follow. In Norway it’s sipped alongside the evening meal.

What is aquavit? It’s a potato- or grain-based vodka infused with caraway seeds. Caraway not your thing? Take heart — depending upon the region and distiller, dill, fennel, coriander seeds or star anise may stand in for the customary spice.

Warned by Swedish friends of the high cost of alcohol in their homeland, my first taste of aquavit came courtesy of a hastily purchased sampler pack at Arlanda Airport. Pulling out one of the tiny bottles and twisting off its cap, I took a swig of the clear liquid and shuddered. It was horrendous. In fact, it was so pungent and overpowering that I couldn’t help but wonder if someone had tricked me into trying rubbing alcohol. After this inauspicious introduction I consumed all future shots in polite sips and with that ever popular beer chaser.

This weekend I’m heading to a party where guests bring and sample homemade aquavit. In the past people have experimented with such unorthodox infusions as blueberry and bubblegum. Although purists may scoff at untraditional flavorings, to me, they are worlds better than the spice-laced original.

Keeping palatability in mind, I’ve made Apple Pie Aquavit. Using two apples, a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, whole nutmeg and, of course, vodka, this creation smells like a boozy apple pie. Sweetened with a few tablespoons of simple syrup, it tastes a bit like that, too. An authentic Scandinavian aquavit? Nope. A delicious drink? You bet!

APPLE PIE AQUAVIT/AKVAVIT
Makes 32 ounces
Note: Takes 7 to 10 days to infuse

1 inch cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of vanilla bean, split
3 3/4 cups potato-based vodka
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 whole nutmeg
1 to 3 tablespoons simple syrup

for the simple syrup:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water

Place the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean in a piece of cheesecloth, tie them into a small bundle and put that in large, tight sealing, glass canister or mason jar. Add the vodka and diced apples, seal and shake the ingredients together.

Store the steeping vodka in a cool, dark spot for 5 days, shaking the ingredients together 2 or 3 times per day. On the fifth day add 1 whole nutmeg to the jar and shake again.

Depending on how flavorful you’d like your aquavit to be, you can continue steeping the mixture for another 2 to 5 days. Once you’ve achieved the desired taste, you will need to make the simple syrup to sweeten the aquavit. Simmer 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved completely and the liquid has thickened slightly but is still clear in color. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Strain the aquavit through a fine mesh strainer or chinois and into a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup and whisk to combine. Taste and add more simple syrup if desired.

Using a funnel, pour the aquavit into a bottle, cover and refrigerate until ready to consume.

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

March 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

If you’ve dropped by Kitchen Kat more than once, you’re probably aware of my insatiable sweet tooth. Pies, cakes, candies and tarts. I love and make them all. What you might not know is that I am perpetually on the lookout for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. From Amy’s Bread, Birdbath, Levain and Jaques Torres to the less pricey offerings at Jack’s and Insomnia and the vegan version at Joe I’ve tried them all. You name the bakery or recipe. I’ve eaten the cookie.

Last summer, while in the thick of promoting Fish Market, I came across what may be the best chocolate chip cookie that I’ve ever had. Crisp, sweet, aromatic and with just a hint of spiciness, it was the cookie that I’d been craving. This divine treat came not from a professional bakery or The Joy of Cooking but from my friend Elizabeth’s sunny kitchen. I took a bite of one, devoured it and then reached for another and another and another. Before I knew it, I was covered in cookie crumbs and running late for a signing at Browseabout Books.

Earlier this month I visited Elizabeth at her Annapolis home where she made another batch of her fabulous cookies. This time she walked me through the process and shared tips for creating these crunchy, flavorful confections. Lucky me! Lucky you, too, for this week I’m passing along her recipe.

Before you get started, keep in mind a few of Elizabeth’s tricks. Beat your butter a little longer than you normally would before adding the sugar; you want it to be light in color and airy in texture. Regarding the sugar, use dark, rather than light, brown sugar; this adds a subtle richness and complexity to each bite. If you don’t want to eat all the cookies at once as I’m tempted to do, drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a parchment-covered baking sheet and freeze them overnight. You can then pop two or three frozen dough balls into your preheated toaster or conventional oven. They’re a quick, luscious sweet to enjoy after work, with friends who unexpectedly stop by or, in my case, anytime.

ELIZABETH T’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes 4 dozen

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup semi-sweet morsels

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer and large mixing bowl, beat the butter until light in color and fluffy in texture, about five minutes. Add the sugars and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.

Add the sifted flour, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger and beat until well-combined. At this point, if you find the dough to be too sticky or if you prefer cake-like cookies, add another tablespoon or two of flour and beat until incorporated. Otherwise, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon rounded teaspoons of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are firm and golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 1 to 2 minutes on the sheets before placing them on wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough until all the cookies are made.

Philly Irish Potatoes for St. Paddy’s Day

March 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Looking for a sweet treat to make for St. Patrick’s Day? I’ve got just the thing for you! Irish potatoes!

Look up “Irish potato” in Herbst’s Food Lover’s Companion and you’ll find it defined as “a round, white, thin-skinned potato . . . good for boiling, frying and pan-roasting.” Ask for an Irish potato in Philadelphia and in all likelihood you’ll be handed a small, cinnamon-dusted, spud-shaped candy.

A Philly original from the early 20th century, this sweet reputedly was created by Irish immigrants for St. Patrick’s Day. In spite of its name there is not a trace of potato in this confection. Rather, its moniker comes from its oblong shape, white center and dusky skin.

What’s in an Irish potato? Cream cheese, butter, coconut and lots of powdered sugar. If you don’t like intensely sweet treats, you’ll want to steer clear of this little guy. Even I, the queen of sugary foods, have found some versions too cloying to enjoy.

To boost the sweetness even further, many confectioners flavor their Irish potatoes with a generous dose of vanilla extract. As I always have a surplus of Bailey’s Irish Cream on hand, I cut back on the extract and add a tablespoon of liqueur to the mix.

Once all the ingredients have been whipped together, the creamy mixture is shaped into tiny potatoes–I think of them as candied tater tots–and rolled in cinnamon. In the following recipe I dust my Irish potatoes with either unsweetened cocoa or sweet ground chocolate. Both go better with the Bailey’s-laced filling than the traditional cinnamon coating.

COCOA-DUSTED IRISH POTATOES
Makes about 4 dozen 1-inch potatoes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
8 ounces sweetened coconut flakes
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sweet ground chocolate

Using either an electric mixer or spatula, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the Irish cream and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add half of the confectioner’s sugar and beat together until well combined. Repeat with the remaining sugar and then add the coconut flakes, beating until combined.

Place the cocoa powder and ground chocolate on 2 separate plates.

Using your hands, take 1 to 2 teaspoons of coconut cream and roll it into a small, oblong “potato.” Roll the potato in either the cocoa powder or ground chocolate and place it on a plate or in an airtight container. Roll and then coat the remaining filling, dusting half of the Irish potatoes with cocoa powder and the other half with chocolate. Cover the potatoes and refrigerate until ready to consume.

Note that, if stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, Irish potatoes will keep for up to 2 weeks.

The Scoop on Mushroom Barley Soup

March 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Another week of blustery weather can mean only one thing — more soup simmering on my stovetop. This time it’s my take on an old family recipe for Scotch broth. One of Scotland’s most famous offerings, Scotch broth begins by boiling together chunks of mutton or beef and barley. Eventually, diced root vegetables and parsley are added to the pot. A sprinkling of fresh parsley then finishes it off.

Unlike classic Scotch broth, my version replaces the meat with mushrooms, making it less stew-like. In essence, this is a hearty mushroom barley soup.

With its vegetable stock base and abundance of barley, root vegetables and mushrooms this soup could be considered a vegetarian-friendly dish. For a bona fide vegan meal, substitute olive oil for the butter.

MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP
To get the requisite 2 cups cooked barley, you will need to bring 2 cups water, 1/2 cup pearl barley and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the barley to simmer for 40 minutes. By this point the barley will have plumped up and absorbed most of the water. Any remaining liquid can be drained off.
Serves 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, whites and 1-inch greens chopped
2 cups cremini mushroom caps, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 turnip, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, minced
5 cups white button mushroom caps, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 cups cooked pearl barley
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped, optional

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a stockpot. Add the leek and cremini mushrooms and saute until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Place 1 cup vegetable stock, the leeks and cremini mushrooms into the bowl of a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Place the remaining butter in the stockpot and melt over medium-low. Add the turnip, carrots and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the button mushrooms, dried parsley and remaining stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Add the pureed leeks and cremini mushrooms, barley and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir to combine. Simmer the soup for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the flavors have melded together. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle the tops with chopped parsley if desired. Serve hot with bread or crackers.

Warming up Again with Black Bean Soup

February 18th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

After weeks of slipping and sliding across icy sidewalks, trudging through knee-high snowbanks and shivering in spite of four layers of clothes the only positive thing that I can say about winter is that it gives me an excuse to make soup. Why soup? It’s one of the easiest, most versatile dishes around. Put water or stock, vegetables and seasonings in a pot. Add heat and – voila! – in a short time you’ve got a filling, wholesome meal.

One of my many favorites is peppery black bean soup. Featuring just enough spices to chase away the cold, this soup will warm you from head to toe. You can quickly turn this into a vegan offering by substituting vegetable for chicken stock.

PEPPERY BLACK BEAN SOUP
Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
4 cloves, minced
4 (15-oz) cans black beans
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes and their juices
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen corn
Salt, to taste
Sliced batard or corn chips, optional, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and pinch of salt and saute until softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Place 2 cans of black beans and their juices in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, paprika, red pepper and cayenne. Cover and blend until smooth.

Return the pureed beans to the stockpot. Drain and add the remaining cans of beans, stock, diced tomatoes and corn to the pot. Bring the ingredients to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the contents to simmer until the soup has thickened and vegetables have softened, 20 minutes. Skim off the top, add the salt, to taste, and stir to combine. Allow the soup to simmer for an additional 5 minutes before spooning into bowls and serving with or without bread or corn chips.

Easy Peasy Popcorn

January 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I know. What could be a simpler savory snack than popcorn? Other than pretzels, nuts and olives, not much. When I want to put out a bowl of popcorn and not have friends react with, “Gee, that’s all I rate? Kernels of dried corn?” I sprinkle some seasonings over top. In an instant the low key movie theater staple becomes gourmet noshings.

For the sake of storage space I don’t own an air or oil popper. Instead I just tumble kernels into a frying pan, clamp on a lid, place the pan on the stove top, flip a burner on high and, shaking the pan periodically, let heat do its trick. From there it’s a short trip from hot, bland kernels to such exciting snacks as the following. Note that for 8 cups popped popcorn you’ll need roughly 1/4 cup kernels. All recipes yield 8 cups/servings of flavored popcorn.

SMOKED POPCORN

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups freshly popped popcorn

In a small bowl mix together the paprika, salt, garlic powder, chili powder and cayenne.

Place your hot popcorn in a large bowl with a lid. Sprinkle the seasonings over the popcorn, cover and shake. Drizzle the olive oil over top, cover and shake again until the kernels are evenly coated. Enjoy!

ROSEMARY-TRUFFLE POPCORN

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
8 cups freshly popped popcorn

In a small bowl whisk together the rosemary, salt and pepper.

Place your hot popcorn in a large bowl with a lid. Sprinkle the seasonings over the popcorn, cover and shake. Drizzle the truffle oil over top, cover and shake again until the kernels are evenly coated. For best results serve immediately.

Hooray! Smoked Trout Paté!

January 17th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Paté. It sounds like such a posh dish. In reality it’s just a spreadable mixture of cooked meat, fat and seasonings. So much for the elegant, French name, huh?

Originally, paté meant a baked, meat-filled pastry served hot or cold. It later referred to the chunky filling for this pie. Ultimately, it became known as the aforementioned spread.

What do you put in a paté? Among the most popular ingredients are goose liver, pork, veal and beef. Because I stopped eating meat long ago, I make less traditional patés featuring smoked fish, vegetables or mushrooms.

I served the following spread on Christmas Eve. Quick to make and equally fast to assemble, smoked trout paté is an easy hors d’oeuvre for the harried host.

SMOKED TROUT PATÉ
Whenever I forget to grab chives at the market, I substitute 1/4 teaspoon granulated onion for the chopped chives. Without that dash of green the paté will look a bit bland but it will still taste great.

Makes 1 1/4 cups

5 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch sweet paprika
Sea salt, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
6 ounces smoked trout fillets, skins removed
Petite toast points or crackers
Fresh dill, optional, for serving

In a medium bowl beat together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper until well blended. Stir in the chives.

Using a fork or your fingers, flake chunks of smoked trout into the bowl, removing any pin bones that you may encounter as you work over the fish. With a rubber spatula fold the trout into the cream cheese mixture. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, spread over petite toast points or crackers, top with fresh dill and enjoy.

Steaming, White, Hot Chocolate

January 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The latest East Coast snowstorm has left me craving a mug of good, steaming hot chocolate. It will come as no surprise that, as a person who grew up eating ‘Stove Top stuffing instead of potatoes,’ I have a long history with  those white, paper packets of instant hot cocoa. Whether in my parents’ kitchen, on camping trips or at sporting events, on cold winter days I imbibed that thin, not-quite-chocolate-flavored and often lukewarm drink.

In my early 20′s I learned a valuable lesson from a fellow grad student and friend. If you want rich, toasty hot chocolate, make it from scratch. It doesn’t take much time to do. Plus, the end result tastes so heavenly you’ll never be tempted to rip open a sleeve of instant again.
 
I often tinker with my hot chocolate recipe, alternating between cocoa powder, semi-sweet morsels or bittersweet chocolate as my flavor base. When I’m in the mood for a wildly sweet, hot treat, I whisk together the following recipe. I think of it as liquid dessert. I suspect that you will, too.

WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE

Makes 2 generous cups

1 cup heavy cream, divided

5 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups milk

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for serving

In a small saucepan heat 1/2 cup heavy cream over medium-high until just simmering. Add the white chocolate and whisk the two together until well-blended. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan.

Add the vanilla and almond extracts, milk and nutmeg to the chocolate mixture and whisk together over medium heat.  As the hot chocolate is heating, make the whipped cream.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream until somewhat firm peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour the hot chocolate into mugs, scoop whipped cream onto each and dust the cream with nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Whether You Like to Cook or Read a Good Book . . .

December 17th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

I’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Being a food writer, avid reader and collector of cookbooks, I come across a wide assortment of food-focused books. Some are good. A few are awful. (Seriously, you don’t test your recipes?) Several end up being so spectacular that I add them to my eclectic collection of favorites. Such is the case with the following books. Great to give or receive, they would be fitting gifts for any foodie.

Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann Mac Namara and Aoife Carrigy (Atrium, 2013)
Straight from Galway, Ireland comes a lovely, wholesome and tad exotic cookbook from the equally lovely, wholesome and tad exotic Ard Bia restaurant. Fitting for new as well as adventurous cooks, Ard Bia tempts readers with luscious photos, engaging anecdotes and fresh, creative recipes. Among the gems are smoked trout pate with caperberries and preserved lemon salsa, the easy, retro Ard Bia Mess, and chickpea pancake with spinach and feta, romesco sauce and tabouleh. With Ard Bia you’ll cook well and eat healthfully throughout the year.

Cook’s Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking by the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated, 2012)
In The Science of Good Cooking readers learn how mastering 50 basic culinary concepts, such as “slow heating makes meat tender” and “a covered pot does not need liquid,” will improve their cooking and enhance their enjoyment of time spent in the kitchen. Featuring over 400 recipes and the science behind each technique, this is an invaluable book for any home cook.

Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrew McMeel, 2012)
Part memoir of an American cook living on a Japanese farm, part Japanese cookbook, Japanese Farm Food will charm both readers and cooks. As a cooking instructor, Slow Food movement leader and wife of a Japanese farmer, Hachisu imparts her immense knowledge of Japanese ingredients and cooking techniques with ease. Her recipes, including tofu and vegetable croquettes, egg custard squares with crab and spinach and steamed buns stuffed with azuki paste, are approachable, executable and delicious. Her cookbook is likewise beautiful and engaging. Definitely worth a read!

Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson (Clarkson Potter, 2013)
I’m a sucker for Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. Smart, witty and lavishly produced, they always contain at least a half dozen recipes that become staples in my kitchen. Lawson’s fresh take on Italian cuisine is no different. Nigellissima provides a fun romp through 100-plus familiar and not-so-familiar Italian specialties.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press, 2012)
Jerusalem made the ‘Great Books for Cooks’ list last year. I loved it so much that I’ve put it on the list again for 2013. For a review, click here.

Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel E. Presilla (Norton, 2012)
Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook of the Year award, Gran Cocina Latina ranks as one of the most comprehensive cookbooks that I’ve ever used. At over 900 pages long this weighty tome covers the varied cuisines of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Along with providing historical and cultural references, the book contains over 500 straightforward recipes and anecdotes for each dish. It also includes lush color photos, pairing suggestions and serving tips. Whether you crave a memorable tamale or just want to learn more about Latin American cuisine, Presilla’s detailed book is a must-have for your collection.

Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press, 2006)
Baking enthusiasts will love Reinhart’s classic guide to making extraordinary bread. Known as one of the world’s authorities on bread, baking instructor and multiple James Beard awards-winning author Reinhart shares his vast knowledge of leavened and unleavened doughs. Through clear, detailed steps he takes beginning as well as seasoned bakers through creating a starter and then kneading, shaping and baking bread. Through his approachable coverage of 50 master formulas, he enables readers to create everything from rustic and whole wheat breads to bagels, brioche and challah. Crust and Crumb should appeal to any baker.

Tomatoes by Miriam Rubin (University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
Part of the “Savor the South” cookbook series, Tomatoes is a delightful look at the South’s longstanding relationship with the tomato and how this fruit stars in a host of delectable recipes. Among the 50 specialties included are Baby Plum Tomato and Olive Tapenade, Curried Tomato Soup and Spiced Green Tomato Crumb Cake. Knowing that not every cook has a lush garden or access to top notch produce, Rubin includes recipes using canned as well as pink tomatoes. Engaging and well-written, this is yet another book that would be wonderful for readers and cooks.

The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining by Colin Spoelman and David Haskell (Abrams, 2013)
Although I will never make moonshine in my apartment or amass a collection of whiskeys for my next cocktail party, I did get a kick out of The Kings County Distillery Guide to Urban Moonshining. Written by the owners of NYC’s first post-prohibition distillery, this book provides a fascinating look at the history of American whiskey, its resurgence among the cocktail crowd and the rise in home distillers. For DIY’ers it’s a detailed guide to making your own whiskey. For budding bartenders it’s a handy whiskey-based cocktail guide. For people like me who love culinary history, it’s a great read.

Fish Market by Kathy Hunt (Running Press, 2013)
Do I feel sheepish about putting my own book on this list? Of course I do. It’s shameless! And, yet, I don’t. I worked long and hard on Fish Market, wrote, tested and re-tested over 140 recipes and, ultimately, put out one heck of a seafood cookbook. Publisher’s Weekly, Weight Watcher’s and NPR’s Kitchen Table seem to agree. All have endorsed Fish Market. So, shameless or not, it’s on the list.

The Battle with Holiday Baking

December 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Ah, the holidays! Such a sweet yet complicated time. We baking enthusiasts embrace the excuse to churn out batch upon batch of cookies, cakes, breads and pastries. On the flip side, sweets lovers like me have to battle the urge to conquer each and every one of these homemade confections.

All week I’ve waged this war. After spending Monday baking 24 dozen cookies with a college friend, I headed home with 12 dozen luscious temptations. All of them begged me to “eat, eat!” Two days later I tested European holiday cookie recipes and then faced six dozen more sweet adversaries. Although I’d love to say that I fought the good fight, well . . .. Amusingly enough, on the very day that I ate a plateful of ginger cookies for my lunch, I learned that Fish Market had made Weight Watcher’s “Good Enough to Read: Best Cookbooks for Giving and Getting” list for 2013. Ironic, huh?

As of last night the cookies and I have reached a compromise. They’ll stay tucked in our freezer, nestled between sheets of wax paper, and behave themselves until Christmas. I’ll refrain from any lunchtime pillages and from cracking a tooth on a frozen cookie.

In keeping with my stance that holiday cookies should be a bit nostalgic as well as easy to make, I’ll share the following perennial favorites.

AMY G’S GINGER COOKIES
Makes 4 dozen cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasseses
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar, for dipping

In a bowl beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar, molasses and egg and beat again until well-combined.

In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until well combined. Form the dough into a ball, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using your hands, roll into small balls. The top of each ball into a dish of granulated sugar. Place the cookie balls, sugar-sides up, on the sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 12 min, until golden and cracked on top. Remove and cool completely on wire racks.

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES
Makes 4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 cup butterscotch morsels

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two baking sheets and set aside.

In a mixing bowl beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and continue beating until light and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the flour to the butter mixture, beating until combined. Stir in the oats and butterscotch chips.

Using a spoon or small disher, form and place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 or until golden brown. Remove and cool completely on wire racks.