Writing hard, cookies easy

I’m not getting any creative writing done because reasons, so to quiet the brain buzzards I figure I will share a baking adventure. WITH PICTURES!

(What are brain buzzards? YOU know. They’re the lurking voices inside that squawk, “quit whining and do the work, lazy woman, Real Professionals produce, you could do more if you tried harder, blah, blah, blah…I mean, they’re right, but I prefer to drown them out than listen.)

ANYway. Cookies.  Swedish butter cookies were a holiday tradition when I was growing up in the Morris household, (the M in K.M. stands for Morris) I recently found my mom’s mother’s recipe card for “Grandma Watson’s Swedish Butter Cookies”  complete with instructions for a “slow oven” and mentioning butter from the ice box. I haven’t scanned the cards yet, so no pic, sorry.

These cookies were a one batch once-a-year treat because, while they were delicious, making them was a demanding process requiring tons of work, complicated prep, and expensive ingredients. And drama. I remember much trauma with stickiness, wax paper, and fretting about wasted dough &  much worry over burning. And they never came out quite right despite always tasting fab.

Then I made them for myself the first time on my own, away from the traditions and procedures of my youth. And I learned a secret I’ll share today: THESE ARE THE SIMPLEST COOKIES EVER.

Unless you are a perfectionist. Then they are a hell recipe. I am not a perfectionist. My kitchen mantra is, “More flavor, less effort.”

I can whip together a batch of these cookies faster than the oven preheats–which is saying something because a “slow oven” is only 325 degrees F.

So. Let’s make Swedish Butter cookies together.

Start the oven preheating, make sure the rack is in the middle for best baking, and gather these ingredients: IMG_5238

Yeah, that’s all.

1 stick butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1-2 tbsp of syrupy goodness.  (I like half honey+half almond extract. Maple syrup is popular with others. The big thing is, some sugary syrup. Things don’t cook right without it.)

Here’s the one paragraph summary.

Cream the butter & sugar, add in the syrup & mix until creamy,  mix in the flour until it forms a lumpy dough, form up into a ball by hand, divide into four lumps and roll into sticks, dust with colored sugar if you want, and bake 20-25 min at 325 until golden. Cut while still warm. Done. SO. SIMPLE.

The devil is in the details. Pics are worth a thousand words, so here we go:

Cream butter & sugar, scrape down the bowl & add syrup, it looks like this:IMG_5239

Mix in the syrup until it’s all creamy like this:
IMG_5240

Then scrape down again (the red bit in the pics is my bowl scraper resting on the mixer stand) add the flour and mix until it comes together. Note that it isn’t all in a single ball, and it’s STICKY:IMG_5241

Don’t add extra flour or liquid or mix with the mixer until it’s a single lump, the cookies will get kinda tough (BUT NO BIGGIE IF YOU LOSE FAITH AND DO THOSE THINGS THE COOKIES WILL STILL BE DELICIOUS)

In any case, if the dough doesn’t come all the way together after a minute or two of blending, stop the mixer and push it together into a ball by hand with the scraper. Then divide the ball into 4 parts and shape into logs.

Did I mention it’s sticky? How gooey depends on too many factors to worry about. This is where I get mega-lazy. If the dough can’t be handled easily, I run water in the sink and wet my hands before dividing & shaping the dough, re-wetting whenever things get unwieldy. And don’t stress the logs being equal sizes or the same length or evenly rounded. Close enough is fine. Mine came out pretty well this time:

Sprinkling with colored sugar is totally optional. But yes, i flattened the tops to make it stick better

So, now all you have to do is bake them. 20-25 min at 325 degrees. When they’re going golden brown on top (or around the edges, if you sugared the tops) pull them and cut into slices. Cool and then try not to eat them all in one sitting.

So, there it is. A cookie post. Enjoy.

Meanwhile, the checklist

I know it’s been a while, but I HAVE BEEN DOING STUFF, I SWEAR. Since my last update, it feels like I’ve done nothing but sleep, re-read fluffy comfort romances, and putter around doing nothing, but in reality I:

  1. Worked with one of my talented cover artists (HI, RACHEL!) to put together a new cover on my holiday SF Romance novella Joining In the Round. (Pic at the bottom of the post)
  2. Organized all our DVDs into genres and put them in binders alphabetical by title.  All of them. HUndreds and HUNDREDS of movies. I gave up and bought spindles for NCIS & Game of Thrones. It was more space-efficient.
  3. Made multiple batches of multiple cookie doughs for Christmas & baked some blueberry cobbler.
  4. Enjoyed a long adventure day downtown with Spouseman
  5. went to Gumbo Fiction Salon & read the last segment of my sparkly short story aloud. HAd a great time hanging with friends & hearing great readings.
  6. finished the verb tense changes on said story, fixed some plot inconsistencies, polished the wording down  below 7500 words, and formatted the story for submission. That last part is HELLISH, because putting a manuscript into Courier font and replacing italics with underlining renders it unreadable. I do not exaggerate. It might as well be Sanskrit or cuneiform to me.
  7. Found a willing proofer to read the story in its formatted condition. He spotted the last few typos (mostly missing words) that I can never catch and confirm that it all still makes sense. SO IT’S DONE. It goes to Clarkesworld for rejection consideration ASAP. I’ll keep the world posted on its adventure travels after that.
  8. Got rid of a bunch of old, expired & unusable junk. No, really. I cleaned out kitchen cabinets, desk drawers, a shelf in the linen closet, and the stand freezer. Among other things. It was highly satisfying to let go of waste that took up useful space.
  9. Put up all the holiday decorations, including a new tree from a vendor my Dad suggested. It came pre-lit with candy sprinkle-colored LED lights, and it’s gorgeous.  All three main rooms of the house are festive now. Makes me want people to come over and just hang out doing whatever.
  10. I haven’t done much writing other than The Short Story I Took Forever To Finish, but hey. At least I was working on writing? Yeah, I am going to be kind to myself about that. So there.

So anyway,  it was an eventful week.  When the sun is up for less than 8 hours, though. time slips away FAST no matter what I’m working on. So I don’t feel the progress.

Anyway. Here’s one picture of Scooter being cute and one of the shiny new novella cover.

IMG_4908
snoozing kitty
Joining Round websized 72
Happy-making new book cover

Yes, it’s a holiday romance. Sorta. It’s definitely a holiday warm & fuzzy story about found family and love of many kinds. You can buy it by clicking here: mybook.to/JoiningRound

Random things inside my head

6. It’s confirmed! I’ll be an Attending Professional at Dragon Con in 2019. Sweet, sweet validation. (It helps balance the relentless march of zeroes in the sales reports)  I’m hoping to participate in programming for Science Fiction Literature, Fantasy, & Urban Fantasy at the least. I would love to be super-busy all four days. 

One happy bright spot in a week I’ve spent being fiercely determined not to cry about, well, EVERYTHING AND NOTHING BECAUSE LIFE IS MADE OF STRESS. Ahem. Onward. Major tooth repairs tomorrow. 

5. Holidays mean I get to hang with friends more than usual. So much catching up to do. Being a hermit whose home no one ever visits, I always fall behind. What are all the many talented, hard-working people in my immediate circle doing these days? Incredible things. Getting degrees, playing games together, working at astonishing jobs, fighting for new jobs, traveling all over the country…loads of wow.  Me? I felt awkwardly tolerated, boring, and unintentionally ruse.  You know, the usual.

Someday I should write a post about all the specific communication tools my writerfrenz and artistfrenz use to help each other cope with gathering in groups. I miss those things a lot when I’m with others.

4. Working the weekend at the library is a big change than working weeknights. All the same tasks, but the rhythm is so different.  On weeknights, the last hour is the slowest by far. Weekends? Busy. Even on a slow day. Makes for a nice change of pace.

The latest in searches:

  • free home floor plan generator
  • 19th century attitudes toward exercise
  • under 18 population Illinois 2017 census

Media update:

  •  Read: Working my way through Ardulum trilogy by J.S. Fields. Seanan McGuire recommended it, and it’s worthy. Space opera that’s careful about its science? SIGN ME UP.  
  • View: Hurricane Heist. So bad it was almost good. Okay, not really. It was just plain bad. Bad science, bad writing, bad special effects…but it was fun. Molly’s Game:  Did not finish. Sorry. I wanted to be interested, but…poker+smug people being smug+YAWN. 

3. Scooter has figured out I’m worried about his mobility. Now he lies on his side and won’t move until I pick him up and put him down gain to make sure his back legs still work.  Then he stands there and purrs and strops my legs and looks smug. CATS, y’know?

Random cat pic

2. Our official house nickname for Thanksgiving is now “The Week-long Celebration of Leftovers” And I was chastised for eating too much (read: any) of the sage dressing. It came out really well. 

1. I saw a Great Horned Owl! Spouseman heard her hooting up a storm in the middle of the night, I went to the back window to see if I could spot her in one of the neighbor’s trees, and SWOOOOOOP, she went right past the window and caught an updraft to cruise over the neighbor’s roof. So. Cool

and that’s all the all there is.