Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Art of the Care Package & Luscious Lemon Shortbread

The impact of CARE Packages were acknowledged in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy--the Cooperative for American Remittances in Europe, an organization founded in 1945 to aid Europe after WWII.  He said, "Every CARE Package is a personal contribution to the world peace our nation seeks.  It expresses America's concern and friendship in a language all peoples understand."

At 12 years old, that statement had a definite impact on my life...not that I started sending CARE Packages to Europe, but the part of expressing friendship and for me, love to the ones who live far away and how they are missed has stuck with me.  I saw first hand, many times from my mother, packaging up goodies to send to my brothers when they entered the Marine Corp and then, of course, there were the goodies she'd have my dad deliver at Christmas to our family doctor, dentist, and friends in the area.  A language of friendship for sure.

For me, I started sending care packages to Dad after my mother passed away in 1987.  I had returned to California and wanted him to know that I was thinking of him.  It also became a fascination of our local town as well since Dad had gotten a post office box because vandals had taken out his mailbox with a baseball bat.  He'd come in to the post office and the postmistress would holler, "Mr. Tierney, you have a care package in your box," before he even stuck his key into the hole!  I labeled the box...TO: Dad and listed at the bottom what number this one was...1, 2, 3, etc.  Not only did he love the homemade treats, photos, cards, etc., he loved the attention from the staff wanting to know what his daughter had sent him.

I continued to send him care packages throughout his remaining life and to my own daughters when they went off to Mount Holyoke College.  They loved the treats too, but just knowing a piece of home came in a box, meant something even more. I continued to send packages to both my girls and now my grands--it makes us both smile.

I was thinking of those moments when I decided to send a care package to my great-niece Samantha, who started her freshman year in college this September.  Letting her know she has family with her with this next phase of her adult life is important.  I created Luscious Lemon Shortbread (like her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and me...we love lemon!), made some granola, then, filled the rest of the box with entertaining reading material, and snacks.
Off it goes to the post office...labeled, of course, Care Package #1!
Luscious Lemon Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon (reserve to juice for the glaze)
4 T graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1 cup confectioners' sugar
juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
2 T Karo light syrup

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  This recipe makes a 9" x 13" pan of shortbread--I made an 8" x 8" pan and 5 individual ones for my great-niece.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and zest together thoroughly.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low until the dough comes together as moist crumbs!  You don't need to have greased the pan(s) -- transfer crumbs to the desired baking pan(s) and pat with your hands.  Use a fork to prick the surface--this helps bake the shortbread.
Bake in a preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes.  The individual pans took just about 25 minutes, the larger 30.  The surface should be a golden brown.
While still warm, I use a paring knife to "score" cut lines in both the individual (made one diagonal) and the larger pan, into squares.  Allow to cool before adding the glaze.

Adding a special tag I made and wrapping up the individual baking containers was all I needed to finish a box that will arrive with love to a very sweet great niece.  Enjoy! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Getting My Groove Back...September's Give-Away Apron & Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I use to be good at moving; we've done it enough times.  However, maybe I was in one place too long (almost 12 years) and this move took a lot out of me!  Happily, I'm recuperating and "getting my groove back."

The first item on my agenda, this past weekend, was to sew an apron for the Give-Away.  Admittedly, this is actually the fabric I bought for an apron for August, but I think it's bright, cheery feel is perfect for an end-of-season last hurrah as the weather changes to chilly nights and rainy days.  You know the rules...just comment on any of the posts for the month of September and you're entered.
Now, on to baking.  That's been a challenge in a new kitchen that doesn't have nearly the cabinet space I had, so organization has been my biggest chore.  However, September brings a new school year beginning and I wanted to do a cookie that was reminiscent of when I was a child coming home to share the excitement of my class with my mother and finding homemade cookies awaiting.

It makes me sad that so many children have a peanut allergy today and even a simple PB & J sandwich isn't allowed in the lunch box at most schools, especially private ones.  I know this because I spent 9 days with my granddaughters (a perk of living closer) and couldn't pack either one my favorite sandwich!
Me and My Girls! 
These Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies take it one step further by adding a filling of, yes, more peanut butter.  Something I would have definitely cheered for when I got home from school.  They also remind me of one of my grandfather's favorite cookies by Burry's, Gaucho Cookies, and a stop off at my grandparents house was also in order before walking up the path to our home.
Photo borrowed from internet

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

8T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup crunchy (or smooth) peanut butter
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup crunchy (or smooth) peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars thoroughly.  Add the vanilla, then, the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add the dry ingredients on low speed or fold in with the rubber spatula, as I did.  Let this dough chill at least 1 hour and overnight is okay too.

Preheat oven to 375F-degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Use a 1-ounce scoop and drop the dough onto the sheet, leaving about 2 inches apart.
Use a fork, dipped in granulated sugar to do the familiar "criss-cross" on top of the cookies.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Mix up the filling - place all the ingredients into a bowl and with a hand mixer, cream to combine.  Spread filling onto one underside of a cookie, then top with a similar sized one.

Oh, I'm feeling groovy now and back to almost my old self.  These cookies were a big hit when I my hubby took them to a mixed-doubles tennis gathering at the club we've joined...yeah! a place to share my baking habit with.  Enjoy!