Monday, December 14, 2015

Savor the Season - The Animals of Christmas


By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist
www.CheesecakeFarms.com




In Sunday school, we all learned that Christ was born in a manger.  

It was a symbol of humility but I like to think there's a little more to the story.

Perhaps the manger birth was also to show us that animals are not just here on earth to do our work and provide us food but to be companions in our shared life.


Had Christ been born in a house or hotel or hospital, animals would have not been present.  In a manger, animals are part of the natural way of things.

No other companions so willingly do our bidding or give up their lives so that we might eat.  

Look into their eyes and you'll see gentle souls who never ask for much.  A kind word or pat on the head is usually all they need to feel content and loved.

The more urban we become, the more we move away from our connection to animals. 

When we loose this connection, we loose their grace and holiness. 

When we loose the grace and holiness of animals, we loose their energy and companionship. 

When we loose their energy and companionship, we loose a huge part of our humanity.

Animals are part of the Christmas message.
Christ was born to all of us.....the animals, too.




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas - Butter is Better for Cookies But Which Butter?




Monday Morning Blog

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms
www.CheesecakeFarms.com 
Chocolate Chip Cookies
 Made with Trickling Springs Butter
YUM!!!




Having trouble with your tried and true holiday cookie recipes?

Cookies spread too much?

Mis-shapen?

Burn quickly and stick to the pans?

The problem's not you. 
The problem is your butter.

Butter used to be consistent and reliable..... No more.

We baked with every brand of butter we could lay out hands on.... using the same recipe each time.

Here's the highlights:


National Brands

Land O Lakes (salted)

The gold standard for cookie baking. 

Produced a cookie that had a nice uniform shape. 
Color of the finished cookies were uniform and not browner at the edges.
A little saltier than it used to be so you might experiment with your first batch and cut back on the salt in your recipe.

A good all around butter for experienced and novice cookie bakers alike.

About $5.00 a pound but often goes on sale at the holidays.  



Store Brands

As a rule, we found store brand butters OK for baking but they varied widely in their water content which made baking inconsistent. 

If you're an occasional baker and only bake one or two batches of cookies during the holidays, you'll do OK.

If you're a dedicated cookie baker you'll find store brands frustrating because the manufacturers of the store brands may be different each time the store orders butter so the butter they produce may be different.

Prices averaged $3.00 to $4.00 per pound.



Artisan Butter
So Many Cookies
So Little Time

Kerry's Gold (salted, imported Irish butter)

So yellow it almost looked like cheese. 

Our cookies never got really crisp (you could bend them), were irregularly shaped and bland tasting. 

Sold by the half pound for $3.89 (that's $7.78 per pound).
Not worth the money.

Plugra European Style Butter
(unsalted - made in the USA)

Equally disappointing. Very pale in color - almost white. 

Comes unsalted and has that slight tang typical of European style butters.

Our cookies spread a lot and baked unevenly. 

Sold in half pound packages at $4.29. ($8.58 per pound).



Organic Butter

Both Organic Valley Salted Butter (a national brand)
and Nature's Promise (Giant's store brand organic butter) baked pretty much the same.

Store brands are produced by major manufacturers so it's a safe bet these might be the same butter.

Both produced a crisp, slightly greasy, slightly chewy cookie that spread a little more than we'd like. Edges of cookies browned more than the center.

The fact that the butter was organic had no bearing on its baking qualities. 

Around $5.00 per pound.



Small Dairy

Trickling Springs Dairy (Chambersburg, PA - available here and there at specialty stores, farm markets & health food stores)

We loved this butter!

Cookies were uniform, crispy and didn't spread much. 
The height of the finished cookies were even, not high in the middle and thin at the ends typical of cookies made with butter that contains excess water.
Cookies baked an even color throughout - not browner at the edges. 

Least salty taste of all brands even when the label said "lightly salted". (Unsalted is available, too.)

Comes in a tub instead of sticks but easy to measure for baking. Just pop cold butter out of the one pound tub and cut into four chunks making them as even as you can.

Softens very quickly.... almost melts as if it's ice cream. 
About $5.85 per pound.... worth every delicious penny!!



So what's our advice?

Trickling Springs tub butter is our pick.
Land O Lakes is a close second.

But no matter what the butter, we've never met a cookie we didn't like !!!!!