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Soft Currant Drops

IMG 2984 Edited Edited Soft Currant Drops

If you have read Love & Flour for a while, you have probably picked up on the theme that I like to substitute little-used ingredients called for in a recipe for ingredients I have on hand. There are few things I resist more than the need to purchase one ingredient for one recipe when I can make something else work in its place. Time and time again, I come across blog posts where the cook/baker/writer laments purchasing an ingredient that ended up in the trash instead of an intended dish – the ingredient the victim of  procrastination or a forgetful mind.

I just threw away a package of decaying herbs that I bought with every intent of baking into something delicious. But my recipe got buried at the bottom of my to-do list and the herbs went MIA in the refrigerator until it was too late. If someone told me to take $2.99 out of my wallet and put it in the trash can, I would tell them to get their head checked. Yet when I transfer that $2.99 to a package of herbs that ends up in the trash can, I simply sigh and move on. Sounds like I’m the one who might need to get my head checked.

IMG 2993 Edited e1333494502332 Soft Currant Drops

While making a point, a friend recently argued one dollar one hundred years ago meant something a lot different than what one dollar means today. On the other hand, a bowl of oatmeal one thousand years ago nourished a human body the same way it does today. Makes you think about value in a different light, doesn’t it?

The point to this long story is I did not want to purchase a box of currants for Traditional Easter Cookies and let the remaining  baby raisins sit orphaned in my pantry until I found them months later rock hard, coated in mold, or otherwise unusable.  So I set out to find another recipe making use of currants, and that is where the Soft Currant Drops come in.

IMG 3005 Edited e1333656767726 Soft Currant Drops

I was pleased when I found a Soft Currant Drops recipe in my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook Soft Currant Drops. I was less pleased when I found it called for spelt flour. Was it worth buying a new ingredient (spelt flour) to make us of the existing ingredient (currants)? I decided it would be worth it provided I could bake other desserts with the spelt flour. Be sure to check back early next week for another delicious recipe that makes use of spelt flour.

The recipe included a note to rest the dough overnight to avoid baking overly flat cookies. Spelt has a higher water solubility than other  grains, so without  proper rest, the dough flattens too quickly when baked. A few hours after I had mixed the soft currant cookie dough, it dawned on me to compare cookies baked with the unrested and the rested dough. Since this did not occur to me right away, the dough without rest actually rested about four hours before baking. Can you tell the cookie on the left is slightly more flat?

IMG 3010 Edited Soft Currant Drops

The dough for the cookie on the left rested about four hours. The dough for the cookie on the right rested overnight.

I shared these soft currant drops with a few of my co-workers, and I am pleased to report they were met with good reviews. Though the “mmms” coming from them as they chewed clued me in I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the cookies, any lingering doubts of  deliciousness were eradicated near the end of the day they asked for seconds. Success!

The original recipe also called for two cups of currants, where I used only one. Since I used only one cup of currants in the cookies, I still have some currants left in my box. I have no doubt the few left over will find good use sprinkled on a bowl of oatmeal to nourish me.

IMG 2995 Edited Soft Currant Drops

Soft Currant Drops
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups spelt flour
  • 1-2 cups dried currants
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sprinkle in the baking powder, then beat in the egg and the vinegar.
  3. Mix in the spelt flour.
  4. Fold in the currants.
  5. Cover and refrigerate the dough overnight.
  6. The following day, drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes until the centers appear firm.
 

Traditional Easter Cookies

IMG 2943 Edited Traditional Easter Cookies

As Easter nears, I set out to make a traditional Easter dish. I selected Traditional Easter Cookies because their name certainly fit the bill, though I can’t explain what makes them a tradition. These cookies were never a part of my family’s Easter dinner, and I had never heard of them before I read the recipe. Given the cookbook that contained the recipe is geared toward an English audience, my guess is these Traditional Easter Cookies are more of a tradition in the U.K. than in the U.S.

I have never been overwhelmingly thrilled with shortbread-like cookies, but I appreciated the opportunity to bake a cookie with two ingredients I do not typically use: candied peel and currants. I suppose candied peel can be purchased at the store, but I enjoyed the candied lemon slices I made so long ago that I took this opportunity to candy some more. I candied the orange and lemon slices I used to pretty up the lemon gratins, then cut the peel I needed for the cookies from the orange slices.

IMG 2955 Edited Traditional Easter Cookies

My thoughts towards the currants ranged from “what exactly is a currant” to “could I just use raisins”? Currants are sweet, dried black grapes (usually the Zante). Currants are also super teeny-tiny compared to raisins, which I think makes them just the right size for smaller cookies. If you still aren’t sure about the currants, check back later this week for a delicious cookie recipe that will change your mind.

As I mentioned, I don’t love this type of cookie (just as I prefer a light, fluffy cake, I also prefer a soft, chewy cookie), but I could appreciate the buttery shortbread perfectly balanced by bites of sweet candied peel and currants. I enjoyed a few Traditional Easter Cookies with my coffee, though it might have been more appropriate to enjoy them with tea (given the English ties and all).

What is your traditional Easter dinner? (If you do not observe Easter, I’d love to hear about the other traditional dishes you serve in the spring.) My family loves Grandma’s Ham Loaf – yet another of her famously delicious recipes – and her potatoes. And of course no holiday table is complete without dessert, right? Enjoy!

IMG 2944 Edited Traditional Easter Cookies

Traditional Easter Cookies
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon all spice
  • ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, candied peel
  • ¼ cup currants
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Beat in the egg yolk.
  3. Add the flour and the spices to the mixing bowl and continue to mix until well combined.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk as needed to bind the crumbs into a soft dough.
  5. Stir in the candied peel and currants.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Once chilled, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness.
  8. Stamp out cookies with a cutter of your choice.
  9. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet and brush the tops with the egg white. If desired, sprinkle with sugar.
  10. Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
  11. Allow to cool on the cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.
Notes
1 teaspoon apple pie spice can be used in place of the spices listed above.
 

Back to Basics: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

IMG 2917 Edited Back to Basics: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

I used to work with a woman from the Netherlands who moved to the United States when her children were fairly young – elementary school-age if memory serves me correctly. One day, we met in the office  for a weekly team meeting (she worked as a nurse, and I as a social worker, so we spent most of our time visiting patients in their homes).

Since we had been out all morning, we both took a few moments to eat lunch before the meeting began. As she unwrapped her peanut butter & jelly sandwich from its layers of protective cellophane, she chuckled a bit as she relayed her children’s requests for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches shortly after they arrived in the States.

“They would come home from school and ask me to pack peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for their lunches. I would tell them no. Peanut butter and jelly is not for sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly is like candy! But eventually I tried one, and they are good. Now I eat them all the time.”

IMG 2921 Edited e1333290924777 Back to Basics: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

Peanut butter and jelly, affectionately known as PB&J, makes a great sandwich for road warriors. They do not require refrigeration and are easily portable, though I strongly recommend keeping a napkin nearby when eating as they are pretty gooey. For the rest of us, PB&J is a quick, easy, tasty snack.

I made my PB&J with a layer of creamy peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiched between two slices of wheat bread. However, that is just one of seemingly endless possibilities. Change up the bread; I think a tart sourdough would provide the perfect balance to the sweetness of the peanut butter and jelly. Or swap out the jelly for a thick, fruity jam. Want some crunch? Try crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy, or toast the bread.

As you can see, I cut my peanut butter and jelly sandwich straight down the middle to make it easier to eat. A more elegant option would be to cut the sandwich diagonal from corner to corner. No matter how it looks, it’s sure to taste delicious. Enjoy!

IMG 2926 Edited Back to Basics: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
 
A traditional sandwich, perfect as a snack or for those on the go!
Author:
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2 tablespoons (typically 1 serving) of peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of jelly
Instructions
  1. Spread the peanut butter across one slice of bread.
  2. Spread the jelly across the top of the peanut butter.
  3. Top the jelly with the second piece of bread.