Eating is without a doubt a social activity. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve met my friends at our favourite cheap eats in downtown Toronto, or for a coffee in a number of the charming cafes that St Andrews has to offer. Heck, there was one memorable evening when a friend and I picked up what must have been 15 lbs worth of curry, rice, and naan for a gut-busting, not to mention hilarious dinner with friends (even if we *did* have to drag this curry on a 20 minute walk to get there).
One the principle reasons I love to bake is because sharing food brings people together. There is a special pleasure in making people happy by giving them something tasty to pop in their mouths. Don’t you love to exclaim “ooo! Try this, it’s absolutely delicious!”? I adore this sharing of nourishment and companionship.
Recently, there have been two occasions in which food has played a major role in uniting a group of people. Firstly, this past weekend I attended a surprise birthday/25th wedding anniversary party. The clever mastermind behind it all convinced the couple that their daughter was having a surprise birthday party, whilst at the same time telling the daughter that a surprise anniversary party was being planned for her parents! Neither suspected that it was in fact for both of them and both were extremely surprised when they walked through the door to yells of “SURPRISE! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BIRTHDAY!”. O what fun that was.
For this party, the puppet master asked me to make her parents a 25th wedding anniversary cake. What is a party without the cake? Certainly one lacking some sweetness and four layers of awesome. Lose the booze and the party’s not worth showing up to! ;) This cake was very fun to make as I got to be creative and experiment with a few new toys.
Firstly, the organizer told me that peach was the accent colour at her parents wedding, so that colour was immediately included in my plans. Secondly, it was a silver wedding anniversary, so I knew that the cute little silver candy balls would definitely play a role. I also made an “investment”, as I’m justifying it to myself, splurging and buying two sets of food colouring: a set of four Wilton oil based food colourings and a set of eight Wilton gel icing food colourings. The oil based food colouring allowed me to colour my chocolate plastic without it getting foubared. As a result, I got these beauties.
Unfortunately, the flowers wilted a bit in the heat as we drove from Toronto to Waterloo! But it still tasted great and was a bloody good cake! Big thanks to Dorie and her Perfect Party Cake! If you’re interested in the recipe, I’ve posted it before here. The recipe for the icing is the same as well.
The second occasion on which food has brought people together recently is of a more somber nature. Sadly, my great uncle Ken passed away last week. Currently my parents are in Winnipeg for the funeral. After the reception, many of my uncle’s friends and relatives will be going back to my Auntie Donna’s for a meal. Before my mom left, I made her two types of cookies to bring along: Alton Brown’s The Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie and Spiced Toffee Chippers.
A meal after a funeral is a common way for people to ground themselves back to the living, so to speak. With emotions running so raw at a funeral, people need this gathering as a way to reconnect themselves to their lives, remind themselves that the world will go on and that it’s okay to laugh and smile again. Death and grief are difficult things to bear, but the gathering of friends and family to share a meal in remembrance can help ease the burden.
These are for you, Uncle Ken.
Alton Brown’s “The Chewy”
adapted from Food Network
Authors note: These cookies rival Alton Brown’s “The Puffy” in terms of absolute deliciousness! Perfect chewy texture and very generous with the chocolate chips.
I got about 5 dozen cookies out of this, but you could get less or more depending on how big you like your cookies. Just be sure to keep checking your cookies for doneness.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
2. Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed.
3. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Chill the dough for a few hours or over night. Preheat oven to 375F shortly before removing cookie dough fridge. Scoop 1.5″ balls onto baking sheet.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
And now for the evening’s second set of entertainment. Presenting:
Spiced Toffee Chippers
adapted from the “Simple Homemade Fall ’09”
These cookies were amazing. Soft and chewy thanks to the generous amount of brown sugar, these cookies really are the taste of autumn. I especially liked the spices in them and the brown sugar spice mix that you roll the balls in. Definitely a recipe to make and make again!
Makes ~3 dozen cookies.
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each; ground ginger and cinnamon
- 1 cup (250 mL) butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp (5 mL) each; baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) nutmeg
- 1 pkg (200 g) Chipits SKOR Toffee bits/any toffee bits
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment/greaseproof paper.
2. Topping: Combine ingredients for topping in a shallow dish. Reserve.
3. Cookies: Beat butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add egg and vanilla. eat well. Add next 5 ingredients, mixing until well incorporated. Mix in toffee bits.
4. Roll dough into 1″ balls, don’t flatten. Roll in topping. Place on prepared baking sheets, about 2″ apart.
5. Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool completely on racks and enjoy!
Well, I hope you agree with me that good does a wonderful job at bringing people together. Bake these two great cookie recipes for a get-together with your friends or family and let the good times roll!