Last week, I had four other mamas, with child(ren) in tow, over to my house as part of a “shrinking coffee party” fundraiser for our local hospital. It was a really nice time: the preschoolers (all boys) got along famously, the babies were adorable, and we mamas never lacked for conversational topics.
I don’t host parties often, so when I do, I get grandiose ideas about what kinds of refreshments to make. As a former Pampered Chef consultant, I am well-versed in the ways of mini-quiches and decorative trifles, but those are a little out of my league at this juncture, with the number of interruptions guaranteed to punctuate any project I start.
I managed cookies and scones.
We also had veggies, crackers, and cheese… The hummus was store-bought and I resigned myself to skipping the deviled eggs… but someday I’ll have a tea party with those items too!
Here is my recipe for Crowd-Pleasing Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Anna Olson’s recipe on the Food Network.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup soft whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
- Add flour, and sift in cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in with chocolate chips.
- Drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Make sure you don’t overbake!
Yield: about 40 cookies.
The secret ingredient is the cornstarch, which makes the cookies wonderfully chewy. I use a 1T cookie scoop, because it makes cute, uniform little cookies. I bake on seasoned clay bakeware (a.k.a. stoneware, from Pampered Chef) so there’s no need to grease the trays.
I also used real vanilla extract, which I made thus:
- Order vanilla beans from these people, with plenty of time to make vanilla for Christmas (in a rare flash of holiday forethought).
- Spend a few weeks not receiving them, with several fruitless attempts to contact the company by email and by phone.
- Eventually receive an email from the company saying you should have received notification weeks ago that your beans are not in stock, try back in March.
- Order vanilla beans from these people, and receive them within a few days.
- Get yourself some hard liquor. Not just to loosen up, although feel free. (The recipes I found used vodka, but I thought rum would be yummier.)
- Slice the vanilla beans lengthwise.
- Put one vanilla bean per cup of liquid into the rum/vodka/whatever, in a tightly-closed container.
- Wait at least six weeks, shaking the container whenever you think of it (once a week or so).
- Use delicious Rumnilla in all your baking!!
I also made Easy Mini-Crescent Scones, adapted from this recipe at Allrecipes.com
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 generous splash rumnilla
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400F.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal).
- In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, milk, egg, and rumnilla until smooth.
- Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to work the dough into a ball. (The dough will be somewhat sticky.)
- Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick.
- Use a shot glass to cut the dough into crescent shapes. (I was just going to make small circles, then I realized that if you do crescents, you have a spot to hook your thumb in and release the scone from the glass. Then voila, it’s cute! Though some will probably end up looking like alien heads or cow plops.)
- Place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper) or stoneware pan, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, 15 to 17 minutes.
- Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature, with butter and/or jam. Or, just eat ’em straight off the tray.
Yield: about 3 dozen.
So there you have it! Tea party: CHECK. Try it yourself!
Oh, and you might wanna make some tea.