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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Cookies, on April 29th, 2010.

The cookies I made last week, the Almond Cloud ones, were all given away. I wasn’t crazy about them (too sweet – they were too candy-like for my taste), although several other people I shared them with thought they were fabulous. Oh well. So, our cookie larder was bare. Dave does eat a chocolate chip cookie now and then when his blood sugar goes low, and I’m sorry to admit, but chocolate chip cookies are my all-time favorite. Mostly I make another recipe for them, called One-Bowl CC Cookies.

But sometimes I just want to try something different. This was from an older Gourmet issue. From the “You Asked for It” column. A regular reader who was about to move  out of the country was losing sleep over the thought of not being able to have her regular “fix” of CC cookies from the Silver Moon Bakery. This recipe is not online anywhere, except mention of the real-thing cookie you can buy from the bakery in New York City, whence this recipe comes.

What’s unique about them? They are: (1) more shortbread or cake-like in texture (because they contain a bit more butter than most cc cookies do); (2) smaller mounds of cookie, rather than flatter ones; (3) higher little mounds because the dough is chilled before making the dough balls to put on baking sheets.

Now, I did make a couple of changes to the Gourmet recipe. I added egg yolks (it’s what I had in the refrigerator) and since I’m a nut freak, I added chopped walnuts. Otherwise, the recipe is nearly identical. And what a great cookie this is. I made the cookies smaller than the recipe indicated (it said it made 30 2-inch cookies. I got 56 1 1/2 inchers out of the batch. I baked them at a lower temp (350 on convection instead of 375) for a bit shorter time (about 12 minutes). I also added bittersweet chocolate (the 365 brand from Whole Foods are little tiny squares of chocolate rather than the usual teardrop type) instead of semisweet. But you can use whatever you have on hand. Use a whole egg if you don’t have yolks on hand like I did.

We just LOVE them! Dave and I both. I took a few to one of my book club meetings the other morning (I’d just baked them, so they were almost still warm). Everyone thought they were very good. I really liked the texture – the more cakey, but firm cookie in the middle, plus the crispy edges are just what I like.
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Chocolate Chip Cookies a la Silver Moon Bakery

Recipe By: Adapted from Gourmet, and from Silver Moon Bakery, NYC
Serving Size: 56

NOTES: You can use two whole eggs, if you’d prefer. I happened to have egg yolks on hand. The original recipe called for one whole egg. With only the yolks, I added two. The walnuts were not in the original recipe, either. I also made them smaller than the 2-tablespoon size suggested. I baked them at 350 for about 12 minutes.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter — softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole egg yolks [original calls for 1 whole egg]
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips — [I actually used Whole Foods bittersweet choc bits]
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts [optional – not in the original recipe]

1. In a stand mixer at high speed, beat together the butter, sugars and salt until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla until combined, then reduce speed to low and add the flour. Continue mixing just until combined. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and beat just until thoroughly combined.
2. Chill the cookie dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon mounds of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake, switching pans halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown, about 11-12 minutes, or up to 15 depending on the size you make the cookies.
5. Cool cookies on sheets for at least 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, cooling baking sheets in between batches.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 8g Fat (59.4% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 40mg Sodium.

One year ago: Cornflake-Crusted Halibut with Aioli Sauce
Two years ago: Shrimp, Bacon & Vegetable Chowder

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  1. Craig

    said on January 1st, 2014:

    I just made these and they were awful… I think you left out a leavening agent in your recipe. I humored you by doing the same just to see what would happen, and as expected these are very biscuity and un-cookie like. For those who might attempt this recipe, I would definitely recommend 1/2-t tsp baking soda!

    I’ve looked up the original recipe – it’s a clipping from Gourmet Magazine, or maybe it’s from Bon Appetit. Not sure, as the clipping doesn’t identify. It contains no other leavening than the egg. What it says as the header to the recipe is: “The trick to these classic mounds is chilling the dough (it’s heavy on the butter); this prevents spreading during baking and delivers a cookie that mounds in the middle and has a thinner, crispy edge.” As you can see from the photo, these cookies are more like mounds, and I agree, they were more biscuit-like than traditional cc cookies. I’m sorry you didn’t like them. The recipe (the clipping) says “Adapted from Silver Moon Bakery,” which is why I clipped it out to begin with as I’d heard they were just amazing. Do note that I added 2 egg yolks, instead of 1 whole egg so that might have made a difference. I also added walnuts which were not in the magazine’s recipe. I’ve made them several times, and I don’t dislike them, although they’re certainly different than Tollhouse! . . carolyn t

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