Polvorones and A Poet’s Cure for Writers Block

Writers Block sucks.

I took these pictures last Fall and then uploaded them to a new post.

And that is where they sat for the next several months.  Every time I would sit down to write a post to go with these photos my mind would turn up nothing.  I figured something would come to me during December’s Cookie Month, but no.

Just before the New Year my step-dad called to tell me that he is publishing a book of poetry this coming Spring.  My first thought was “Well, it’s about time!”  Dave has been writing poetry my whole life.  His poems are thought-provoking and emotional with a with a touch of playfulness and/or irony.  They make you think, to search your inner depths and question previously held ideals.  Often they thrust you back into your most closely held memories of home, hope, love and loss.

I told Dave of my recent troubles with writer’s block and he told me he had just the thing for me.  He read me one of his poems called Hesitation.  After hearing it I asked him if I could share it with all the writers out in blog land and he agreed!  So without further adieu, this is Hesitation by D.R Ostman.  I hope it chases away your writers block like it has helped chase away mine.

Hesitation

With hesitation, I touch the pen to page.

Confusion abounds as to what to say,

Who, What, Where,

shall I write about today?

Words and subjects all knotted up; like a child’s tangled kite that wont fly.

Focus, focus, instead questions, much like a cup half-full, with confused expectations.

Where do I start and where do I end.

I knew before I started, it was all in my head.

Why won’t it just roll down from my head and magically overtake my fingers

to say what I mean to say, in pigment on page;

something that may be lost forever, if I can’t write, what I want to say;

A treasure lost forever, in the dark and distant caverns,

of my unsure and hesitating mind!

D.R Ostman

One request from the author.  Please do not take this poem and repost it anywhere else without sending me an email and talking to me about it first.  If you do I will request you remove it immediately because of its pending publication.  If you like the poem, we would love it if you could direct your friends back to this site to read it.  I will let you know more about Dave’s book as I get it.  Thank you for respecting the author’s wishes!

Polvorones Mexicanos or Mexican Shortbread Cookies

by Rick Bayless in his great cookbook Mexican Everyday

The recipe is the same as the original except I use a hand mixer instead of a food processor like Rick does.

  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional toppings – 1/4 – 1/3 cup of any of the following:  finely chopped chocolate, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, candy sprinkles.  You could also just bake them plain and then sprinkle with cinnamon or other spices.

1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and sugar.  Add the butter and blend with a hand mixer, stand mixer or food processor until crumbly.

2.  Dump the crumbly dough onto your work surface and shape into a ball.  Place the ball between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the ball into a disk.  Roll out to 1/4 inch with a rolling-pin while it’s between the plastic wrap.  Transfer to a cutting board or cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F and place oven rack in the middle.  Cut dough into squares or triangles and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle tops with chosen toppings and gently press in.

4.  Bake 15-17 minutes or until lightly browned.  Turn the baking sheet halfway through cooking.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  This is also a good time to sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar.

Store in a tightly sealed container.

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Cookie Month: Caramel, Walnut and Chocolate Thumbprints

I woke early.  The morning was unusually quiet.  Fog enshrouded our hill and the valleys beyond it dampening any sound.  I put the kettle on the stove, made a fire and then sat on the couch for a while just staring at the landscape, the fog, the apple trees.  Suddenly I was overcome by a desire to walk amongst it all.  To be there in it.  I headed back to the bedroom to change, wrote a note to Tom and headed down the road.  I eventually ended up in a big apple orchard near my house.  It was beautiful.  The leaves were yellow and occasionally the lightest breeze would shake one loose and it would twirl silently through the fog to rest on the ground.

I am amazed by the bounty of life in this place.  Maybe it’s because I was raised in the desert where life is harsh and brutal.  Out there you are more likely to come across a pile of bones than a live animal.  Northern CA is very different.  I found late blackberries still growing on vines near my road.  Mushrooms everywhere.  Those red ones were gigantic and were growing right next to our mailbox.  I found tracks for a small herd of deer, but not the deer themselves.  Starlings have flocked to the vineyards by the hundreds gobbling up everything the pickers have left behind.  With them came extra hawks and turkey vultures looking for the slowest birds of the flock.  Plus we have been on the lookout for raccoons, opossums, and foxes breaking into our bird house.

Its been fascinating to watch the transformation of the vineyards.  The brilliant colors were completely unexpected.  I thought grape leaves just turned brown and fell because that’s what the grapevines back home did, but here is different.  Its been a pleasure to drive past them each morning and watch as the leaves transform from green to yellow to russet and then suddenly vanish overnight in the crazy windstorm we had.  Now the vines are beautiful in their stark barrenness.  Perfect rows of empty brown vines reaching for the sky.  Bright green grass blanketing the paths between and eventually disappearing into the low fog that hugs the foothills beyond.

All this beautiful winter weather really put me into the Christmas spirit.  I started by joining in on the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  You can check out all 500+ cookie recipes through that link.  The cookies I received were awesome and I cant wait to participate next year.

When I was 6 my new step-father moved into our house bringing with him a passion for Christmas cookies that he could trace all the way back to his Ohio born great grandmother.  I have many happy memories of deciphering her 100 year old recipes,  mixing the dough, freezing dough, sneaking bites of dough, and making more cookies than anyone would ever want to make in a weekend.  We would send these cookies out to every person my stepfather had ever met and then sink down with exhaustion and swear not to make another cookie until next Christmas.  Of course, that never lasts.

I asked my stepdad if I could share some of his family’s recipes and got a resounding NO!  Instead I am testing out new recipes for my old favorites starting with caramel, shortbread and nuts.  Any combo of these ingredients and I am in love.  This year I came across an awful recipe for Caramel Walnut Thumbprint Cookies.  I wont say which recipe it was, just know it involved a lot of premade ingredients!  What does matter is that I completely reworked the recipe and came out with something I really liked.  The chocolate cookie base is Alice Waters Pate Sucree recipe I have used before with a little chocolate powder thrown in.  The caramel sauce recipe belongs to David Lebovitz.  His helpful instructions on making caramel were vital to my success.  Hope you enjoy them!

Caramel, Walnut & Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

For the cookies

  • 8 tbsp butter (1 stick), softened at room temp for 15 minutes
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk, room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp chocolate powder
  • 1 cup of crushed walnuts

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a small bowl stir together the flour and chocolate powder and set aside.

2.  In a medium sized bowl beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth & creamy.

3.  Add the salt, vanilla and egg yolk and mix until completely combined.

3.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until until there are no dry patches.  Form into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap.  Chill for 4 hours in the fridge.

4.  When firm let the dough soften on the counter for 15 minutes then break off pieces of dough and roll into 1 inch balls.  Roll the balls in the crushed walnuts.  You may need to press the nuts into the ball slightly.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Press your thumb into the center of each ball making a crater like depression.

5.  Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and fill the depressions with warmed caramel sauce.  Bake cookies for another 3-5 minutes or until the caramel smooths out.  Let them cool completely before serving.

For the Caramel Sauce

This is David Lebovitz’s recipe found via The Purple Foodie.

He sure to read David’s Caramel Help Page before attempting to make caramel.

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp sea salt

1.  Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a light-colored heavy pot.  I like using my white enameled cast iron pot.  Heat the sugar over medium heat without stirring very much until the sugar is completely melted and has turned a rich amber brown.  Gently swirl the pot or push the sugar toward the middle of the pot if it looks like it is darkening too quickly.

2.  When the color resembles the top photo on David’s help page, a rich amber brown, very carefully take the pot off the heat and carefully add the butter & cream.  Expect foaming and bubbling so stand back and let it go for a few seconds.  When the steam has cleared stir everything until smooth.  Stir in the salt.  Let cool.

Store in a bell jar in the fridge.  It will last for weeks.  Eat from the jar with spoons or put on ice cream, or cookies, or on top of my Chocolate Tart.