Good Grief How Dumb!

Lovely sunrise this week…..and more about those malted cookies.

I really can not believe how dumb I was on all the previous attempts to make the perfect malted cookie. I could not understand why they all were so hard to bite into. So I googled “what makes cookies hard to bite into?” And the answer was too much flour….not enough wet ingredients. And of course I knew I was doing everything right, in fact doing it “right” over and over again.

So after my malt extract arrived I tried it again. This time no Carnation Malted Milk Powder.


That extract is sooo good, very thick and very sticky.

So I following my recipe AGAIN and when it comes to the softened butter part I realize that for some unknown reason I was thinking one stick was a full cup….so was very careful to use only 3/4 of it when the recipe called for 3/4 cup of softened butter. It must have been forever since I actually baked something calling for butter! So I corrected my mistake but still kept the lesser amount of flour that I thought was a good idea.

Here they are slammed:

And here the next sheet is “unslammed.”

And forget “crispy”. These are very gooey and soft. BUT flavor is close to what I wanted. No molasses added this time and a healthy mix of both the golden syrup and malt extract.

Now to try it again with the increased flour and a good slam. I swear when I get it right it will be the last time you have to look at cookies on this blog.

In the meantime I finished the latest Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling. It was very hard to follow as there were so many characters and I thought a lot of them could have been killed off earlier.

Then I went on to Louise Penny’s latest Inspector Gamache novel and devoured it. I have admired how she could write while caring for a husband with dementia and now that he is gone, she can continue when she thought the stories would end with his passing.

And now to try to keep myself entertained because for some reason I am not doing anything in the studio but stitching, I have started Dianne Setterfield’s new book, Once Upon a River. I really loved her twists and turns of The Thirteenth Tale a few years ago and am enjoying this one as well.

Lee is absorbed in a football game and I have Lyle Lovett channel on Pandora in the studio. Now I will go back to stitching in there or better yet, go try to get the ingredients right for the malted cookies.

Enough. I am headed to the kitchen.

Til later.


Cookie Test Kitchen News

Another view of that 35 year old basket on the front door this holiday season. I sure was proud of that woven god’s eye joinery.

Anyway, back to the ongoing search for a really good malt-flavored crispy cookie.

When I first looked up (googled) malt cookies one came up by Martha Stewart. I don’t know about anyone else but I feel I need to put on LL Bean clothing, comb my hair and even put a little lipstick on before reading Martha Stewart instructions. And the few times I may have followed her directive tone, I know she can see me, my messy counter and worst of all, my less than top grade ingredients.

Well her malted cookies use Carnation Malted Milk Powder and are squeezed through a press to form nothing less than perfect little dollops of flavor. In fact all malted cookies that I found use this powder. None looked right.

So I did use the malted milk powder with golden syrup the other day. And the results were very good but required being bitten into by strong teeth….and they did not last long as we found them delicious. So much so that this morning they were gone and I went back to the kitchen. These three ingredients are key to what I made next. My only mistake may have been increasing the amount of malted milk powder…now they have a slight after taste of powdered milk.

This time I added equal parts molasses and golden syrup to get the 1/3 cup required. The molasses gives a bit more color but does not give a molasses flavor. Like I said the powdered milk increase to 3/4 cup was a bit too much and made mixing in the dry ingredients something that required mixing in with hands.

But good results otherwise. The slamming down of the half cooked sheet works nicely….just have to do it when the first cracks appear. Otherwise you spend too much time interrupting the baking time with banging time.

Here are the results this morning….with a porter that makes a good companion. Forget that milk and cookies idea with these.

These are crispy and can be tackled with your front teeth….but there is always the beer for dunking.

Tomorrow the malt extract arrives and in a few days we will start again. I will let you know how it comes out.

Here is a picture of our cat Patches, always ready to supervise happenings in the kitchen.

She has that Martha Stewart look down pat.

Til later.


Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

This is the center piece on the dining room table. Put there for Art Group last Sunday. Just some twigs of white pine from the yard and stems of rosemary to add a nice aroma. Australian carved wooden pieces add to this bird’s nest. The large wooden bowl was carved from a downed tree by my father and Lee before we were married. They were likely taking the “measure” of each other.

I have used this bowl several times. Even served a potato salad in it on July 16, 1969 at an office party picnic while the moon landing was happening. It was only two years old at that time.

Here is the tree this year. We went a bit minimal after last years 19 Crimes.

Another view.

And Ted Cooley’s crow at the base.

The glass pears are stuffed with dead Japanese maple spidery leaves near the front door.

It is enough.

I baked cookies from the John C Campbell Folk School cookbook last week. Molasses Crinkle.

Mine came out more holey than crinkly. Someone told me to take the pan out half way through the baking and slam it down to get them to crack. I like that idea.

So thinking of the friend from Australia who made that suggestion and thinking that we were eating these cookies up rather quickly, I decided to go on the hunt for ingredients to make something malt flavored. A friend down under parted with her most prized recipe on malted cookies earlier this year and I carefully put it somewhere so as to not share it with anyone. Some place so good I could not find it. But I went ahead and bought golden syrup and the only malt I could find in the grocery store….Carnation malted milk powder.

I altered the molasses recipe just enough to accommodate my new ingredients. Gave them a good slam half way through and ended up with this.

The darker ones were simply left in the oven longer. There is very little malt flavor.

But the window washers who showed up this morning to do the windows even though there were mild snow flurries outside, thought they were very good. They have the crispiness that I want in a cookie….so much so that some would take dunking in a bit of liquid to bite into…and I do like banging them onto the stove and watching them open up. So thank you, Jeltke for that suggestion. From now on all cookies will be baked with a bang.

But since the flavor was not quite what I was looking for, I went online and found just what I needed. A non-diastatic malt extract. If you use diastatic malt in your baking, it will tend to help the rise….opposite of what I want. I found it on Amazon and on close inspection of the back of the can of Malt Extract were the words, “Made in Australia”. So in a few days I will be making these again.

And before one of the young window washers even tasted the cookies he offered to come any time that Lee and I were afraid to go out due to weather conditions. He would go to the store for us and the liquor shop whenever needed and left us his contact number. We do not even get offers from friends and neighbors to do that.

So lovely day all around.

Til next time.


Quiet Time in the Studio

Today I finished five loads of wash and put it all away, wrapped some Christmas gifts, made chili for lunch, saw a bit of news and had my 10,000 steps in by 9:30 this morning.  When I finish here and turn off Lyle Lovett, I will head back upstairs, check on Lee, finish a beer I started for lunch and make tomato basil soup for dinner. It is a very cold day here in North Carolina. A day for things cooked in pots over flames. But earlier this week……..

I finished the right hand of new responsibilities….the things Lee can no longer do or remember to do. Now I have another outline of the left hand again to start to fill that one in…next week maybe I will do some drawing into it.

I also finished the cane toad spine small journal.

It took a lot of fussing to get the hide to adhere to the already waxed covers, but I like how it feels in the hand. It is about 3.5″ x 5″ x 1″. It is a good fit in the hand. The inside end papers are a paper I “marbled” using the soils from home.

I made a thick pool of corn starch paste to float the pigments that had been mixed with linseed oil and then thinned with mineral spirits to be flicked onto the paste surface with turkey feathers. I did not mix the colors very much before draping the paper over the top and pulling it off to dry. The smell stayed for a while but eventually disappeared. I like how the paper looks and it seems more relevant to my work than fancier marbled papers. Those papers always look like the end papers to something by Shakespeare or a blank journal that will likely never be used.

Then I got back to the shawl that is a very tactile representation of dementia. It is so soft to work on.

I am almost through covering the piece with these embroidery thread kantha stitches. Just six more inches on one end. Then I am going to use a finer thread and go into the patches of silks and contact printed light weight wools.

The green earth pigment I used on the linen shawl ate right through to give me some lovely holes to work with. After placing the silk and wool scraps to fill the holes, I backed it with another linen shawl the same size.

Here it is from many months ago.

It was at the point where most people would have just thrown it out. But something about it holding parts of the land Lee and I invested in and the unexpected turns that happen in art making and life was simply too appealing. So now when I have some time, I take it out, put on my glasses to see the thread and eye of the needle come together in not too many attempts, pull it through and tie a knot at one end that looks more like a snarl of loops, pick a direction and try to keep the stitching somewhat straight.

All sounds rather pitiful when I read that paragraph over but I do like doing it.

Til next time.