The Polar Vortex is defining our Winter weather this year. It’s been cold. Bitterly cold. Here and in most parts of the country east of the Rockies. There has even been snow in the deep South.
It’s been colder here than it’s been in many years and for a longer period of time than I ever remember. And I’ve been around for a while.
Schools have been canceled a lot just for the cold and even in the northern states. And, while I tend to be warm-blooded, I detest the unbearable cold and want to do nothing other than curl up in multiple layers of clothes and several blankets and just read a book.
But life goes on and, while it’s too cold to continue my painting projects, I can get caught up on some cooking and reading, too.
Over the holidays, I bought some blackberries that were on sale, cooked them down, and processed them through a food mill so that I had a blackberry puree ready to make into jam. Since I didn’t have the time to put up jam at that time, I put the puree into the freezer.
I also bought some bags of cranberries that our local grocery store put on sale after the holidays. I had seen a recipe for spiced cranberry jam so I put them into the freezer for a later date, too.
Then, on our third or fourth wave of really, really cold weather when we had to run the taps to prevent pipes from freezing and the furnace never shut off, I decided it was time to warm up the house by spending some time in the kitchen.
The kitchen is in the center of our really old house, and it gets really warm when you cook in it.
I made 8 half-pints of blackberry jam and 10 half-pints of spiced cranberry jam. It’s a good thing, too, since we were down to our last few jars after a holiday season of giving away and eating our jars from my days spent canning last Summer and Fall.
And the bonus was that I was able to do this for under $20 or so. Homemade jam with no preservatives or funny sounding chemicals in them and a way to warm up a cold house to boot.
I use DSH’s grandma’s canning pot. It just makes me feel so good to be able to use something so old that was used to make foods that fed my mother-in-law and her family when they were young. That is a warming thought to me, too.
I also had three partial bags of baking chips left over from holiday baking, so I decided to make a batch of cookies before DSH discovered the open bags and ate them up by the handful. I have a recipe for making Triple Chip Cookies that really is just a version of chocolate chip cookie dough but adding a variety of chips. I pulled out the recipe and the partial bags of chips and threatened / begged / demanded that DSH keep his hands off!
I like to make my cookies small. I use a 1″ cookie scoop. This means I can get a lot of cookies out of one batch. This worked well for me when we had five kids in the house. A batch of cookies would last a little longer when there were more of them – at least if you could manage to control the number of cookies eaten in one sitting!
But, DSH and I don’t need to eat an entire batch of cookies, and I don’t really like them once they get stale, and they get stale to me after a day or two. (Except shortbread cookies which actually taste a little better after a day or two and last several days.)
My friend, Laura, used to make a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and then she would freeze it. Every day, when her two sons came home from school, she would make them a few, freshly baked cookies. Yes, they are spoiled, but in a good way. I love the memories that she made for them by doing this. They are in college now and are growing into wonderful young men who we really enjoy being around.
I decided that Laura’s frozen dough trick is a good one to use for empty nesters and smaller households, too. So, now I make a batch of cookies, bake a few, and freeze the rest of the dough into little dough balls that can be taken out of the freezer at a moment’s notice and baked fresh.
Here is what I do – I put the prepared cookie dough into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes after I mix it up just to make it a little firmer. Then I scoop the dough into 1″ balls and place them onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I actually used the same piece of parchment that I used to make the small batch that I baked right away. Then, I put the cookie dough balls into the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes.
I take them out of the freezer and put them into freezer safe plastic containers that seal tightly. Simply put a label on the top with the baking instructions and put them back into the freezer to bake later.
The beauty of this is not only can I bake a few cookies at a time any time we are in the mood (you can use as few or as many as you like), but you can send these little containers off with your kids to college. If they are living in off campus housing or if they have access to a stove on campus, they can bake themselves some fresh cookies, too.
Here is the recipe – I never noted where it came from originally, but I have adapted it for my use.
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt (use ½ teaspoon if using salted butter)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 to 3 cups baking chips, any variety (white, milk, semi-sweet, butterscotch)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well combined with a wire whisk and set aside.
Using a mixer, beat the butter until creamy, add the sugars and beat for two minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.
Add the flour in two additions and mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Add the chips and mix just until evenly incorporated.
Drop by 1″ scoops onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. If making larger cookies, add enough time to bake until lightly browned around the edges.
Makes 6 dozen 1″ cookies.
Note: This dough may be scooped into dough balls and frozen until ready to bake. Simply remove as many dough balls as you want to bake from the freezer and allow to sit out while the oven is preheating. Bake as directed above – the cookies may need an extra minute or two to bake depending on how long it takes your oven to preheat.