Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Baking Education

I apologize for being so sluggardly in my posting lately. You might have wondered what happened to me. I haven't been hospitalized, kidnapped, or run away with the milkman. It's just that school has started.

For most moms who stay at home, the day school starts is a joyous day. They send their kids off to school and then enjoy the peace of a quiet home and the happiness of knowing they can clean and have the home stay clean until their little ones return in the afternoon.

I am not one of those moms. I homeschool. That means that as August winds down and the back to school sales start, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach, not unlike when I was in school myself. I dread the coming days. We have to transition from happy, carefree summer life (with some chores) to scheduled, structured life with workbooks and tests (and chores). I dread the responsibility - what if I do a horrible job and my children end up as dyslexic delinquents? I'll have no one else to blame!

In order to keep my tenuous grasp on sanity, I try to balance the serious part of schooling with the fun part. The great part of homeschooling is the freedom we have to choose what we want to do and how we want to approach it. Math can be done in a workbook or in the kitchen. What better way to learn fractions than with measuring cups?

I'd had these cookies bookmarked since I bought this cookbook last year. And since I have a surplus of lemon, I thought this would be a great opportunity for kitchen learning with the kids. We tied on aprons, washed hands, and set to measuring out the ingredients. The kids were having fun, but I was getting distracted with both kids asking questions. So when I measured out the 1-1/2 cups sugar with the 1/2 cup measure, I really couldn't remember how many I'd put in. One child said two, the other child said three. I went with the older, more reliable child's count and added another 1/2 cup of sugar.

The recipe says it's supposed to make 16 large 4-1/2 inch cookies. Well, I can't tell you if that's what actually happens when you follow the directions. What happened for me was that the cookies spread out like an oil spill, melding and merging on the baking sheet. After the first batch I halved the amount used for each cookie and these came out as 4-1/2 inch cookies. The rest were gigantors, about 7 or 8 inches across.

I'll give you the recipe as it's written, but be aware that to duplicate the cookies in the picture, you need a couple of little helpers. Because, honestly, I have no idea how much sugar I put in these.

Lavish Lemon Cookies
adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walter

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 cup strained cake flour, spooned in and leveled
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Lemon Glaze (below)

1- Sift the flours, the cream of tartar, baking soda and salt together 3 times. Set aside.

2- Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter with the lemon zest on medium-low speed until creamy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, mixing again for 1 to 2 minutes. Blend in the egg yolks, mix for 45 to 60 seconds, then pour in the lemon juice and the vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

3- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

4- Position shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. If you have 14x 17 inch cookie sheets, use those, as the cookies will spread.

5- Working with one half of the dough at a time, place it on a floured surface. With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a disk, coating it with a light dusting of flour. Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough into eight pie-shaped wedges. Flour your hands again and shape each wedge into a ball. This is a soft dough and shouldn't be overworked.

6- Place the balls on a cookie sheet 3 inches apart (6 per sheet if using an oversized cookie sheet). Using the heel of your hand gently flatten into 3 to 3-1/2 inch disks. Repeat with the remaining dough to form eight more disks.

7- Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. To ensure even browning, two-thirds of the way through baking rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back.

8- While cookies are baking, make the Lemon Glaze. Remove the cookies from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then carefully loosen with a large, metal spatula. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks set over wax paper.

9- While the cookies are still warm, spoon 2 to 3 tsp of Lemon Glaze on each cookie. Immediately spread the glaze thinly over the top, coating the entire cookie. Set aside and let the cookies air-dry until the frosting has hardened.

Lemon Glaze

2 cups strained confectioners' sugar, spooned in and leveled
3 Tbsp hot lemon juice
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk or spoon until very smooth. The glaze should pour from a spoon in a steady stream.


VeggieGirl said...

No worries about being absent from the blogging world - glad to see you posting now!! :0)

You're definitely busy - kudos to you for incorporating baking into your homeschooling curriculum! Especially with those TRULY lavish cookies :0)

Jackie said...

Havn't run away with the mailman. LOL! <--- that cracked me up!

I homeschooled too! Its hard work but so fulfilling. Our daughter was falling through the cracks in public school. We pulled her after 9th grade. Tested her and her learning stopped at 6th grade. What the heck was happening in middle school for those 3 years?!?!?!? So I started with the basics and she did so well. Aced every test. It was miraculous. The best thing we ever did.

The cookies look wonderful. I love lemon anything. I will have to try these. Yum! :-)


Maria said...

Good luck with the school year. I admire you!! The cookies look very delicious! I love lemon!

Aimée said...

The cookies looks lovely, Lynn, perfect for afternoon tea. And as for homeschooling happenings- I know all about those, but from the students' perspective! You are giving your children such a great gift. Be encouraged and have a great year.

Lien said...

I know what you mean,it can be stressfull to get the kids out of the house on time and make them goin the right direction and help them plan for their tests and stuff. We're longing for the next holidays already here.
Your cookies look great though and maybe teaches us that even though you think you don't have it all under control sometimes... it still turns out good :))

Rose&Thorn said...

When I read how much more kids learn in home schooling I wish I could have done it too. My son still does not fully understand the concept of fractions and he is already in high school. I have tried slicing pizzas and sandwiches, but he seems more interested in eating them than learning the lesson!

Peabody said...

When I taught math we did this lesson where they try to replicate the coca cola recipe using everyday ingredients. They would love to do it. I would get so sick to my stomach by the end of the day as I had to judge which one came closest to the real thing. After 5 class periods I was ready to puke.
If I had an oven, cookies would have been the way to go...these look great.

Baking Soda said...

Home schooling... that's a tough job! I know my kids wouldn't mind this type of homeschooling!

Melinda said...

Those cookies look alright to me.

I think home schooling sounds very dedicated work. At least you really love your students.
In 13 years you can retire.
I hope this has cheered you up. X

LyB said...

Your little helpers must have had such fun making these. Nothing wrong with cookies being a little sweeter, right? :) Have a good school year!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Sounds like stressful stuff, but this certainly looks like a fun approach to math! And lol, whatever the measurements ultimately were, those cookies look great!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Oh, Lynn. Sometimes Joao starts talking to me and distracts me from the recipes - he gets out when I give him an angry look. :)
The cookies look beautiful, though - and you know I'm up for anything lemon!

Elizabeth said...

Those cookies look to die for. I'll take an extra-large, extra-sugary cookie any day.

Deborah said...

I can't imagine being a mom and homeschooling - you amaze me! And I've been distracted in the kitchen many times, not knowing how much of an ingredient I've added!

Anonymous said...

Lynn you're amazing! You bake, write, and home school. You're a super mom!

Grace said...

good for you, lynn--homeschooling is quite the noble endeavor! and an 8-inch cookie? sign me up! :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

;0) I can understand that kind of distraction, your two are really excellent with those questions! What I don't understand is how that happens to me when I'm alone in my kitchen.
Lemon cookies, lovely no matter how much the sugar!

Fruit tart said...

That's why I don't bake with the little helpers as much as they would wish to -- I get too frustrated! But cookies the size of a plate . . .I'm sure I'd get all four lined up beside me.

This is our eighth year home schooling and sometimes the thought of 13 more years is too depressing to consider!

Heather said...

these look amazingly good! i love lemon cookies!

Sophie said...

I know I would've loved math a lot more if it were taught to me in the kitchen! These cookies sound truly tasty. I love, love lemon cake, so I need to try these out!

Dee Light said...

I don't even homeschool, and the srart of school puts a knot in my stomach. It the start of early mornings, after school lessons, planning for Girl Scouts, planning activities to keep the littl ones busy...I know you must really feel the stress come on this time of year. Being your childs teacher is a big responsability.

Cooking with kids is always an adventure. Sometimes we do great other times well, you know.

The lemon cookies sound delish!

Laura said...

Too funny! I have days sans helpers when I have no idea how much of something I have put in a dish. I have this book though and these sound great--I need to look them up...