Books have been my life-long passion, from the orange-bound biographies in the Lincoln Elementary school library in Superior Wisconsin to (again orange-spined) Penguin editions in England. For the last two years reading has been my dependable refuge from disease and politics.
I’ve been patronizing our wonderful local library, the Lyons Community Library, where friendly librarians make recommendations and order books for me through inter-library loan, a fascinating system that schleps books around the state via dedicated book couriers. I am impressed with the hidden workings underpinning much of our daily lives.
On snowy days what could be better than a promising, thick volume and a cookie?
During the latest storm I perused my ring-bound book of recipes and found several I hadn’t made in years. Each holds a sweet memory for me.
Coffee Shortbread, is a rich, fragrant morsel first encountered many years ago at Treats bakery on 9th Street in Boulder. The baker, Andria Bronsten, shared her recipe with me after we worked on preparing a memorial tea for dear friend Clare Forster, for which Andria baked 100 cookies.
Andria Bronsten‘s Coffee Shortbread
Combine 3/4 cup (6 oz.) soft butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee. I use the Cuisinart to do this. A stand mixer would work or use some arm muscle.
Form dough into small, 1 1/4 inch, balls, then flatten slightly with a fork. (I added a few flakes of Maldon salt to the tops.) Bake at 350° for 12 – 15 minutes, until very light brown and firm.
Makes 2 dozen.
The recipe for Coffee Cookies comes from Linda Quick who baked them for us in London on the evening before Zoë was born.
Linda’s Coffee Cookies
Cream together 1/2 cup butter and 2/3 cup sugar. Add 1 large egg and 2 tablespoons instant coffee.
Stir in 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Then add 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped.
Drop by tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Space the mounds two inches apart as these cookies spread. Bake at 350° for 12 – 15 minutes, until set. The cookies will be a bit delicate until they cool. Makes 2 dozen.
Some of the books I’ve enjoyed include The High House by Jessie Greengrass, a sweet tale of life after ecologic disaster told in a loving and tender manner. Louise Erdrich takes on the current state of affairs via a story of books, ghosts and memory, in The Sentence.
The Loft Generation … Portraits and Sketches 1942-2011 by Edith Schloss was an unexpected pleasure. Schloss was a young artist in 1950s New York and hung out with artists like Elaine and Willem DeKooning. She writes in an engaging style about life and art, including the story of a wonderful visit to Morandi.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanigihara was a daunting proposition, a big fat book, but oh how I enjoyed her three-part, three era saga. It was easy to suspend belief and enter her skillful and riveting versions of 1893, 1993 and 2093 New York.
I stumbled on Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees, a beautiful tale of a fig tree and the family that lived near it on the island of Cyprus. At the library when a fellow reader was contemplating this book, I jumped in to say, that’s a terrific read. She offered me a recommendation of a book she had loved, Sankofa by Chubundu Onuzo, and I immediately put it on my list.
I read Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead and was engrossed in the life of a man caught between identities in 1970s Harlem. And Deacon King Kong by James McBride took me to the housing projects of Brooklyn.
I have just begun Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses and am completely engaged in her meanderings through George Orwell’s life and writing and the connections she makes to other artists. Her mind is a wonder.
So bake some cookies and grab a book.