Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A family recipe (and effort)

Billy Goat cookies are synonymous with Christmas in our family. They're a cinnamon spiced, almond and candied citron cookie. Unfortunately, as the recipe is from my great great grandmother it leaves a little bit of figuring out. I spent some serious time on the phone with my sister G, and my sister M, and my mom, trying to figure out the best way to make these cookies.

See, if you cook them wrong, they turn out like beautiful little rocks. Something like the everlasting gobstopers on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I get very nervous about German cookies that turn into rocks. I broke a tooth on a Springerle and I'm never making them again. Teeth are expensive.

So the recipe for these cookies is at best vague. There's a German name for them, but I don't know it. My sister M does, but my mom says that she thinks the spelling is wrong. To top it off, the directions I have are:

"Try 350° and a greased cookie sheet."

That's it.

What the hell?

My mom said she wrote it down, but she didn't really have any directions. My sister G, who has a super blog here, says that she always weighs the sugar and the ingredients listed in weights. She also pointed out that a hotter oven is better. She said that if the oven is too cold then they have to cook longer at the lower temperature and it basically dries them into hard little rocks. Her oven runs cold and she said to make sure that the cookies only take about 10 to 12 minutes. Good. Didn't have a time before.

My sister M and my mom contributed that cooking the cookies on parchment paper works better than anything else, because they don't stick to parchment paper. M also added that it's better to start off too hot. You can tell that the oven is too hot because they start to spread and the edges get dark, but the center is undercooked and then when they're cold they turn into rocks. My mom also pointed out not to use the Kitchenaid to mix in the citron or it would turn to brightly colored mush. The citron has to be folded in.

I was not to be intimidated. I am joining the Daring Bakers after all. I can do this.
They turned out lovely. I didn't overcook them, I didn't undercook them. I watched them constantly. I kept my oven at 350°. I bumped it up to 375° to be on the safer side. I bumped it back down to 350°. And then when it was all said and done, I worried. They were a little crunchy last night. And then I became brilliant! I remembered the bread trick. I stuck a piece of bread in the tin with the cookies last night. Today they are nice and soft and chewy and delicious.

I am bringing these cookies to Peabody's virtual housewarming party. Peabody is this really cool food blogger who makes unbelievably delicious things. Her pumpkin butterscotch cake is seriously delicious. I really wasn't planning to bring these, or any baked good really. That's like playing tennis with Martina Navratilova. But I figured, baked goods are something that Peabody would appreciate. And this is a special old family recipe.

And I just caught my oven on fire. Something I seem to have a talent for. This is the 4th state I've caught either the stove or the oven on fire in. Michigan. Kansas. Indiana. Ohio. It's not something I advertise to landlords. No damage done. I calmly put the fire out with salt, but now I have to wait for the oven to get cold to scrub it out. By the way, If you end up using a fire extinguisher on an oven you render it permanently useless. Try salt first.

Good thing the rumballs are done. They're nice and potent. yummmmmmm.

Billy Goats
Amelia Kern (my great great grandmother)

1 pound sugar
2 eggs
1/4 pound butter
1/4 pound almonds*
3/4 pound lemon peel, citron, orange **
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Try 350° and a greased cookie sheet.***

*I used slivered almonds. G uses chopped almonds. Mom and M use whatever almonds they have on hand. They've even used walnuts, but M says that they taste better with almonds.

** This means the candied citron fruitcake mix you find in the grocery store. Yes. The bright yellow, green, and red stuff that's obviously not naturally colored.

*** I TOLD you the directions were funky. Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake around 350° watching them closely. Only cook for 10 to 12 minutes. If it takes more or less time than that adjust the oven temperature.

Oh and mix the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients (which have already been mixed together). Then fold in the nuts and citron.


Peabody said...

LOL- 4 states for setting the oven on fire!
Your conversations sound like mine with my family when they try to tell family recipes. I hate when they tell me things like "take some rhubarb"...I mean how much is some?
Thanks so much for making these for the party!

Dhanggit said...

hey, im a december newbie in DB too like you..i think its always nice to exchange notes with your mom and sis when you cook or bake something :-)

Mrs. White said...

Although I've never set my oven on fire (my microwave, however never my oven), I imagine it's something I'll eventually get around to, so the salt advice was much appreciated :)

anna said...

congratulations on the successful cookies! can't wait to see posts of the completed gingerbread mansion. thanks for the encouragement on my blog, mary - so nice to be cyberfriends!

Deborah said...

My mom has many recipes like this, too - that don't really have clear directions. Sometimes it's fun to try to figure it out, sometimes it's just frustrating!!

Zylo said...

Oh, I set me oven on fire too. I just turn it off and close the door until it burns down. I have to open all the windows, but it means I don't have to scrub the oven every time I do it.