The Main Menu: There are many ways to cook with love

As February is the month of Valentine's Day, Jan Main reminds us there are many ways to cook with love.

By JAN MAIN

Cooking with love can take many forms. Of course, we assume being Valentine’s month, that it is romantic love. However, with so many cold, bleak days ahead, I believe there is a great need for cozy, nurturing love.

The vision that comes to mind is tea by a roaring fire on a dreary afternoon. The combination of a blazing fire, a hot cup of tea and some good baking is bound to boost the spirits and say “I love you!”

As a young teen, my Auntie Joan would often ring up her sister Daphne and ask our family to join theirs for Sunday afternoon tea. My Mother and Aunt’s family are English – afternoon tea was a regular activity. They lived very much in the country then, north of Bolton in the Albion Hills. My cousins, Timothy and Jeremy were older cousins but young enough to join my sister Susan and I tobogganing on the hills or skating on the pond. After an hour or so of activity, we would go inside, all rosy from the cold to a fire in full blaze.

Soon afterwards, my Auntie Joan would wheel in the tea trolley laden with goodies and a huge pot of tea.

My Aunt was a baker. She had three huge male appetites which needed feeding at all times. As a result, Thursdays were her baking day – all day– to put enough away for a week’s worth of lunches, snacks and of course, afternoon teas.

The selection was varied: sometimes we toasted crumpets over the open fire then spread them dripping with honey from a neighbouring farm, sometimes a fruit bun, often rock cakes, not my favourite but very English and ideal for dunking – sort of a dry fruit cake.

Then there were scones of course with jam and cream or my mother’s chocolate square and another favourite, my Auntie Joan’s oatmeal cookies. They were more like oatmeal shortbread, different from the texture of Canadian oatmeal raisin cookies but melt-in-the-mouth with a nice nutty taste of oatmeal. I can taste them still!

In honour of Valentine’s and those happy memories, I have chosen these recipes.

Of course, you will have your own favourites and with tea, you can be as innovative as you want. The important ingredient is to produce your own fond memories of tea by the fire on a blustery, Sunday afternoon.

Auntie Joan’s
Oatmeal Shortbread

1/2 cup (125 mL) soft butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda dissolved in 2 tbsp (25 mL) hot water
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) each, all-purpose flour and quick oats
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line baking pan with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl beat together butter and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in dissolved baking soda and water, vanilla and salt.
Gradually beat in flour and oats to combine well. Drop by heaped spoonful onto prepared baking sheet and press down with tines of fork.
Alternatively, roll dough out between 2 layers of parchment paper to ¼ inch (6 mm) and using cookie cutter cut into heart shapes. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Store in cookie tin for up to a week. For longer storage, may be frozen. Makes about 20 cookies.

Aunt Daphne’s Chocolate Crunch

Like an uncooked brownie, these are rich and decadent with very little effort.

If you wish an even more decadent treat, spread with mocha buttercream. For a speedy finish, sprinkle with icing sugar.

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) sifted cocoa
1 egg, well beaten
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup (125 mL chopped walnuts
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
Mocha
Buttercream (optional)
1/2 cup soft butter
2 cups (500 mL) sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp (25 mL) sifted cocoa
1 – 2 tbsp (25 mL)strong, hot coffee (more if needed)
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
Pinch of salt

Line 8 inch square pan (20 cm) with parchment paper. Set aside.

In medium saucepan melt butter and gradually whisk in sugar, sifted cocoa and egg beating all the while.

Stir in graham crumbs, walnuts, vanilla and salt. Combine well. Pack mixture evenly into prepared pan. Refrigerate. Once cool, may be sprinkled with icing sugar or spread with mocha buttercream. Makes about 24 fingers.

Mocha Buttercream: In a mixing bowl, beat soft butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in icing sugar, cocoa, coffee, vanilla and salt. Beat until like whipped cream in texture adding more coffee to make the frosting light and creamy. Spread evenly over cooled square. If you want, decorate each piece with a coffee bean.


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