Good grief!! What have I done!! Seems I’m always “cooking up something.” I remember hearing that as a child, “Now what are you cooking up.” I spent a lot of time trying to think of a better name for this website. I tried many different possibilities, most of which were used. So looks like I’m going to stick with this one, it’s probably fitting.
My next question is, why am I doing this? Gale (don’t confuse her with Oprah’s friend Gale) is a friend of mine and we each have had challenging lives over the past 5-6 years. At times it was a deep, dark hole but we were always there for each other almost on a daily basis. Honestly, I have to say one of my biggest blessings (and there are many) was the day she and her family moved next door to us. In January of each year since we met, we have this conversation that begins, “This year_____(fill in the year) is OUR year!” Neither of us are sure what that means and I’ve been waiting for a pivotal event to happen to make it OUR year. Some how, my lottery numbers have never been selected, (I’ve only played once…more on that in a later post), and I don’t think I’ve ever been close to reaching enlightenment or self-actualization on Maslow’s hierarchy.
During my morning walk with our dog or more appropriately when she walked me, I think I figured out the answer. My Dad passed away this past March unexpectedly. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him or miss him. Oh, how I wish I would have picked up the phone and called him one more time. He was an incredible story-teller and his tales were always entertaining with his colorful vocabulary and his infectious smile. He was able to recall details, people, places and things with great clarity or he was extremely good at making them up! I wish I would have recorded, videoed or written down those stories. I’m afraid some of them are now gone forever.
I’m not a great storyteller or writer for that matter but I’d like to pass along what I have learned and continue to learn; the people, places and things that have influenced me. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis… but I thought that occurred in your 40s…I’m a decade past that. This is for my incredible daughters, my devoted and supportive husband, my loving family and friends and yes, it’s for me too. Dad, you were the first man in my life so I’m dedicating this to you.
My first recipe to share with you could be considered my signature Christmas cookie. I bake them most years and started baking them in the early 80s. Friends and family anxiously await their arrival and if you are doing a cookie swap or competition, this is the recipe for you. The recipe came from Sphere magazine around 1972.
Austrian Peach Cookies
3/4 cup butter or margarine — softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup apricot jam
2 teaspoons rum or sherry
1/4 cup chocolate pieces — melted and cooled
1/3 cup finely chopped filberts, walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup Red Sugar (recipe below)
2/3 cup Yellow-Orange Sugar (recipe below)
green gumdrops and cinnamon sticks
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Measure butter, milk, 1 c. sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla and 2 cups of the flour into a large mixer bowl. Blend 1/2 minute on low-speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 1 minute on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally.
Stir in remaining flour. (Dough will be smooth and soft.) Shape dough into smooth 3/4 inch balls. (Each ball will make 1/2 of a peach.) Place balls 1-inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. ( Do not use parchment paper or silicon baking mats. They alter the shape of the cookie and make them flat.)
Bake in center of oven until cookies are brown on the bottoms, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
Place tip of small knife in center of flat side of cookie. Carefully turn knife and rotate cookie to hollow, reserving crumbs. Mix 1 1/2 cups reserved crumbs, the jam, chocolate, nuts and rum. Fill hollowed cookies with crumb-chocolate mixture. Place 2 filled cookies flat side together to make a peach.
Brush each peach very lightly with water. Immediately roll 1 side of peach in red sugar for blush. Sprinkle yellow-orange sugar on peach to cover completely. Set aside to dry.
Roll gumdrops 1/8 inch thick on well-sugared board. Cut into leaf shapes. Make small hole in stem end of leaf. Insert small piece of cinnamon stick through hole in gumdrop and into seam of peach. Store in airtight containers at room temperature no longer than 2 weeks or in freezer no longer than 3 months.
RED SUGAR: Measure 1/3 cup sugar into shallow ovenproof dish. Add a few drops red food color. Rub color evenly into sugar with back of spoon. Heat sugar in 400 degree oven until dry, stirring occasionally.
YELLOW ORANGE SUGAR: Measure 2/3 cup sugar into shallow ovenproof dish. Add 2 drops of red food coloring and enough yellow food coloring to make peach color. Rub color evenly into sugar with back of spoon. Heat sugar in 400 degrees until dry, stirring occasionally.
“Sphere, December 1972”
NOTES : These cookies are a family tradition in our home at the holidays and for special occasions. The recipe came from a magazine called Sphere, December 1972. I first made these as a teenager at home. The magazine article described these cookies:
“Peaches are spectacular cookies that could have come only from Vienna, a city famous for its spectacular confections. These cookies, all the way down to the chocolate rum-flavored pits, look enough like the juicy summer fruit to fool the most discerning eye. In ancient Rome, gifts of waxed fruits were given for New Year. This custom was an outgrowth of fertility rites. Peach cookies are an unmistakable symbol of fertility and rebirth, both anticipated after Winter Solstice.”
These freeze well.