Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honey Spice Roll Out Cookies

If you live in Northern California and you're over the age of 30, you most likely remember the Nut Tree. It was just about half way from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento and my family always stopped for lunch on our way to and from those areas. I have great memories of the "back and forth" animals, my favorite was the giraffe; watching airplanes take off from the small airport; exploring the gift shop; and eating at the Coffee Tree Restaurant across the street. As a kid I loved that they had colored crystal sugar on every table. My most favorite thing of all was the giant decorated honey cookies that were sold there. If my sisters and I were really good, my parents would buy one for each of us. There were so many designs to choose from and once you picked a cookie they would write your name on it in icing right before your very eyes. For an 8 year old, that was quite a treat.

The old Nut Tree is long gone, it's all torn down and a suburban strip mall stands where it once was. They still have the big sign but it just isn't the same. Jamba Juice, Peet's Coffee, Marshall's and other corporate strip mall standards just don't have the charm that the Nut Tree and Coffee Tree once did. But, alas, that's progress. Far be it from me to stand in the way. You can however capture a bit of the Nut Tree charm by recreating those wonderful honey cookies. I found the recipe in the newspaper several years ago and was delighted to find that they tasted exactly as I had remembered. These cookies stay soft and chewy, almost cake like, and so they pair well with the hard royal icing decoration. They are great for decorated holiday cookies, the cinnamon and clove gives them a flavor reminiscent of gingerbread. If you really want that true Nut Tree Honey Cookie, give yourself a couple of days to make these. The flavor and texture of the cookies is much better if the dough sits in the refrigerator for a couple of days. So grab your favorite cookie cutters and bring back a bit of the past. . .

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beer Bread

Beer bread is one of the easiest breads you'll ever make. It's dense and hearty but still with a nice crumb. Once you've mastered the basic recipe there are endless options for add ins both sweet and savory. It's not so dry and crumbly like cornbread and but has a denser texture and stronger flavor than sour dough. It's a great compliment to chili, stew or a hearty winter soup. 

You've probably see "Beer Bread Mix" at a specialty or gift shop and it's probably been about $5 to $7 a pop. YIKES! Why? It's so much cheaper to make on your own. You could even make your own premix and give it away for Christmas gifts. Just mix all the dry ingredients and package in a jar or bag and attach instructions to add the beer, butter and then bake. Doesn't get much easier than that. 

Give this simple and tasty recipe a try. . .