Monday, September 12, 2011

A Foodie Milestone of Sorts

I realized tonight that I have passed a milestone that needs to be acknowledged. In 2002, my husband, who then worked at a print shop, brought my burgeoning, chaotic stack of recipe clippings—some from magazines, some hand-written, others printed from websites—under control. He encouraged me to think about how I would organize them (which I like to do up to the concept stage, but never manage to get past that). He then took my list of groupings, bought me two large binders, and printed out tabbed dividers with titles like "Appetizers", "Breakfasts", "Meat", "Seafood" and so on, according to my directions.

It wasn't until I was laid off that summer that I actually found the time to organize the binders. But when I was finished, I loved them and used them constantly. I have to say though that 3" and 4" binders can be a little unwieldy. They have grown over the past decade to be chaotic once again, and they have been bursting at the seams for several years now.

Well, once again, my husband has taken it upon himself to get the ball rolling. He provided me with eight binders, for which I specified the sizes I need. Tonight I finished the process of transferring my recipes to those eight binders. There are now the following combinations:
• Appetizers
• Soups/Salads
• Breakfast
• Side Dishes/Vegetarian
• Desserts/Baking/Ice Cream
• Pasta/Seafood
• Meat (loosely organized into lamb, wild game, chicken, beef and pork)
• Beverages/Miscellaneous (canning, babyfood, edible flowers, and so on)

I do not pretend to be finished with this project—there is still close to a three-inch binder of loose pages that need to be relocated to the new system; there is also a box (or two) of clippings and magazines yet-to-be-clipped in my basement. It's an on-going process. I may need to do further divisions in the future, or expand to larger binders. It's an evolution. And don't even think of suggesting I digitize.

And yet, while this project will never be complete, as I placed those eight new binders on to my newly built cookbook shelf in my newly renovated kitchen, and bid farewell to the monster binders that I have pored over and handled ragged for the last nine years, I feel that this moment should be marked somehow. It's bittersweet. Growth and change. You can't embrace them without a tiny sense of loss.

HOWEVER. No sense of loss is worth NOT doing something. My ultimate reward came tonight when I pulled out a loose set of sheets from one of my old binders' back pockets and came upon a recipe that I had thought lost to me forever. Hazelnut Shortbread! Just in time for Christmas baking planning for 2011! And I didn't even drink all of the Frangelico I bought in order to make the cookies last year!

Hazelnut Shortbread (originally published in Canadian Living, December 2002, and not on their website, last time I checked. How fitting, for the recipe to be dated the same year this whole binder journey began...)
1 c. hazelnuts
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3 T. hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico)
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. cornstarch
pinch salt
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Hazelnut glaze:
1 1/2 c. icing sugar
2 T. hazelnut liqueur or water
2 T. water

On rimmed baking sheet, toast hazelnuts in 350F oven until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Place nuts on a tea towel; rub briskly to remove as much of the skins as possible. Let cool. In food processor or with a sharp knife, chop finely.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in liqueur and vanilla. Stir in cornstarch and salt, then flour, 1/3 at a time, to make a smooth dough. Add nuts and stir gently till combined. Divid dough in half. Refrigerate until firm but not hard, 30 to 60 minutes.

Between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll each half to 1/4-inch thickness; refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. using 2-inch floured round cookie cutter, cut out rounds, rerolling scraps. Place 1 inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. (you can make ahead at this point if you want, either layered in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for up to a month. Add a few minutes to baking time)

Bake at 325F until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Hazelnut glaze: Whisk together ingredients to make a smooth, spreadable glaze. Spread over cookies.

Now I know this sounds fussy. Yes, the last time I made them was before I had kids. But I liked them enough to remember the recipe years later, so I will make them again, if only as a thank-you to the Universe for leading me to my long-lost recipe.

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