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Today's Weekend Cooking post is an adventure in sharing--of friendship, blogging events, childhood memories, and holiday spirit.
Until I was nine years old, my family lived in one of those typical 1950s neighborhoods in which everyone knew everyone, all the kids played together after school, all the parents helped each other out, and we even had block parties. One great tradition was that every mom baked holiday cookies and shared them with all the other families on the street.
My mom and our next-door neighbor would always choose the same Saturday night to bake. Mrs. T was a widow and a grandmother, and her house was the one that the kids would run away from home to when they got in trouble. She would invite you into her kitchen, give you milk and cookies, listen to your troubles, and send you home in time for dinner.
Anyway, on baking night, my mom would send us to bed early and she would stay up all night baking apricot balls, rum balls, cream puffs, pinwheel cookies, chocolate mint cookies, and thumbprint cookies. There'd be about 3 dozen of each kind. My dad, who is not a kitchen kind of guy, would stay up with her, helping out and keeping her company.
From our beds, we could hear them talking softly and smell the wonderful scents of baking cookies and perking coffee. Throughout the night, my mom and Mrs. T would take breaks in each other's kitchens and at dawn they'd sit down to share a last cup of coffee and help make up the cookie plates they'd take around the neighborhood later that afternoon.
When we woke up in the morning, the entire dining room table would would be covered with the cookies ready for delivery. And just that one time, my mom would let us eat cookies for breakfast.
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Here is the recipe for the apricot balls. I remember these as one my favorites of my mom's cookies, but I haven't eaten them or made them years. I baked them last night, and I can tell you they are very rich and very sweet, but we still ate several with our after-dinner coffee.
The lighting in my kitchen is not great, and I didn't like the way the photos came out. If it's sunny today and I remember, I'll take some outdoor pictures and post one (but no promises). For more Cookie Swap! recipes, please visit Dawn at She Is Too Fond of Books.
Makes about 80 cookies
- 1.5 pounds apricots, ground (yes, dried apricots)
- 1.5 pounds shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
I used the grinding attachment on my mixer, but you could use a hand grinder or your food processor. Anyway, mix the apricots, coconut, and sugar together in a large bowl. The best way to do this is with your hands. Break up the clumps of fruit and mix well.
Add the vanilla and condensed milk and mix well. (again with your hands -- yes it's sticky).
Form the mixture into one-inch balls and place about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets. You might want to rinse your hands under cold water every so often -- it helps with the stickiness. Believe me, you don't want big cookies, they should be one-bite size. The balls don't spread when they bake, so they can be fairly close together on the sheets. Bake about 5 minutes just until slightly dried and the coconut barely takes on a bit of color. Do not overbake, the bottoms will burn long before the tops look brown.
Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan and carefully transfer to a wire rack. The cookies firm up as they cool. Enjoy! Note that I cut the recipe in half last night. They are good, but sweet!
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