“So how’re you doing now that you are retired?”
“Uh . . . I’m not retired. I don’t have a job.”
Innocent question with a curious reaction. Instead of being a respectable older man I became someone on the dole. Funny how point of view changes depending upon point of view.
What do you do when you have more free time than you have had for forty or fifty years? Figuring that out is critical to avoiding the depths of depression that can accompany after losing one of life’s anchors. Well, I ride a lot and explore the north central Florida countryside. Aside from riding, I look for work. But riding and work looking takes up only a small portion of the hours I used to give over to helping employers make money. You have to find other things to fill the void. One thing you can do, well, that I do, is to bake things. Here are a couple of recipes relevant to the season.
The first recipe is one I have carried around for five or six years. I wanted something that I could make into a mildly festive shape like Gingerbread Men, but I had never had a homemade gingerbread cookie I liked. Instead, I went with Molasses Cookies which can be cut out in any shape you want. After making many batches using a gingerbread man shape I concluded that the bother and time involved did not improve the flavor, so why bother. Now, I roll the dough into numerous same-size balls, press them between my palms until they are about a 1/4 inch thick and place ‘em on a cookie sheet. The result is a soft, substantial cookie that matches any I ever had from a farmers’ market when I was growing up.
1 cup butter softened 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup molasses (I use unbleached)
1/2 cup sour cream 1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar 1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees (165 degrees Celsius)
- Prepare cookie sheets. I don’t grease mine and have no problem removing the cookies.
- In a large bowl stir butter, molasses, sour cream, brown sugar and vinegar until smooth and well blended. Works best to combine butter and sugar until well blended then add other ingredients one at a time.
- Sift flour and baking soda then add salt, ginger and cinnamon. Combine well.
- Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until fully blended. Dough will be quite stiff when complete.
- On lightly floured board roll dough to approximately 1/4 inch thickness and cut in desired shapes with cookie cutter. Place on cookies sheets spaced about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Roll pieces of dough into equal sized balls approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Press balls between palms until approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. Place on cookie sheets spaced about 1 inch apart.
- Bake in preheated over for 8 to 10 minutes. I commonly rotate the pan about half way through and bake them about 11 to 12 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool briefly on cookies sheet then remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Makes lots.
The other thing that is seasonal is Fruit Cake. “I don’t care for Fruit Cake,” people always say. Fact is, most people know it as a dark, heavy thing sent to them by some distant relative in lieu of an actual gift. Johnny Carson put forth the idea that there was only one fruitcake and it was sent by one distant relative in perpetuity. Following is a recipe for a White Fruit Cake that lacks the ingredient which I think makes most of them unappealing; citron. It is labor intensive to get started making, but the outcome will please most people . . . really!
White Fruit Cake
1 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sugar
(I use a stick of each) 5 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1/2 pound candied pineapple and cherries
1 cup (more or less) chopped pecans (Original recipe called for 1 pound
1/2 teaspoon baking powder of each, but I prefer a higher cake to
1 tablespoon vanilla fruit ratio.)
(real vanilla extract, please!) 1 tablespoon lemon extract
Parchment paper or paper grocery bags (Added this once and once only as the result did not please me.)
- DO NOT PREHEAT OVEN!!!!
- Cut paper to fit two 9” x 5” x 3 “ loaf pans. I have four half size pans that I use Good size, but more labor.
- Grease paper with butter or margarine.
- Cream butter well then add sugar (amount can be reduced slightly because of sweetness of candied fruit) and beat until light and fluffy. This is a necessary step and works best of the butter/margarine is at room temperature.
- Beat eggs then blend into butter and sugar mixture.
- Mix fruit and nuts in a separate bowl with a small amount of flour, probably less than 1/4 cup, until well coated. This helps to keep the fruit and nuts from settling to the bottom.
- Sift the rest of the flour and baking soda together.
- Fold flour into butter and egg mixture. Add vanilla. Mix well.
- Fold in fruit and nut mixture. The only lumps in resulting mixture should be the fruit.
- Spoon equal amounts of mixture into prepared pans.
- Place pans in cold oven and bake at 250 degrees (120 degrees Celsius) for approximately 2 ½ hours. Longer baking will not do much ore than darken the bottom of the loaves.
- Cool in pans on wire rack then wrap (leaving paper on) in foil. Will handle 4 to 8 weeks storage f kept relatively cool and dry.
- If you wish to “adjust” the flavor carefully pierce the top of the loaf in numerous places using a thin skewer or very sharp knife then carefully pour 2 to 4 ounces of spiced rum over the top. Paper and foil should keep it fro leaking. Rewrap with foil and store, eat or give away.
- You can also make this in a single springform tube pan. Baking time would be increased by 30 minutes or so.