Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tis the season for Exchanges and Giving


Pasta di Meliga Biscotti
Cornmeal Cookies
I have been thinking about a get together that I shared with some girlfriends back in Colorado lately, the annual cookie exchange. My dear friend and colleague, Nancy use to organize it and put on the do at her house. It was a fun get together that sort of grew out of the other fun event she organized, the Women's annual hut trip. The hut trip was a back country ski trip into the Colorado Rockies to a remote trip to eat, drink wine and telemark around the hut, weather and avalanche permitting and a whole lot of gabbing going on. It was a great adventure every year and one I miss. The cookie exchange became another annual event that was also in the genre of eating, drinking wine and gabbing, but this one everyone brought their favorite home made cookies and exchanged them, making a nice selection for over the holidays when you had friends and families around with a nice variety without having to make all the different varieties. There was a catch of course, as one of our friends can attest to. If the invitee list was 12 women, then that meant that you needed to make 12 dozen cookies of the same variety, so that everyone got a dozen from each of the 11 other attendees. Sounds easy until you realize that 12 dozen cookies is a lot of ingredients and work too. One friend, who still hasn't heard the end of it, and didn't quite comprehend the fact that you needed 12 dozen cookies. She brought her 1 dozen, so everyone got one cookie from her batch, teased her unmercifully and a good laugh that year and a few other years as well. I hope you're reading and laughing along with me this year Miz "moore chardonnay".
So the years have passed and many of the friends that use to participate have moved away and so the cookie exchange that then turned into the food exchange ceased to exist except for in my mind. I wrote about it in passing last year and thought how I would like to do something for this year virtually. Then of course, life happened and I am down to the wire without getting it together. I still want to do something in honor of such a fun event and my friend that started it all, Nancy Feely. Nancy is now working with Habitat for Humanity Jordan

I thought it would be nice to have a Food and Charity exchange in her honor this year as she and her husband are coming to spend Christmas with us. They're meeting in the middle from opposite arts of the world to share the holidays here in Italy.
Naturally, I'm getting this off the ground, (that is if it even flies) late, but I say better late than never and at least i'll hopfully be in gear to bring it around next year earlier and better.
The idea is to have a virtual Cookie/food exchange here with a favorite recipe of your choice, be it a family favorite cookie or some special treat for the holidays and a mention and link to one of your favorite charities. I always especially enjoy Italian treats. Even if you don't have a blog, I will publish your exchange gift and charity here. The food gift doesn't have to be a cookie recipe, it can be any sort of festive food, quick breads, jarred treats, my friend use to give out the best cranberry chutney. Oh how I miss cranberries here in Italy. Anyway, you get the drift. I know it's last minute and I don't mind if it's just a few particcipnts, it's still a good time to put up something for the holidays and and mention your favoritie charity. A time for sharing. Can'tfind the time to participate? There is always next year. There are lots of other holiday events happening so I know it's tough to do everything. One worth mentioning is
Menu for HopeIV which started out raising money for the Asia tsunami victims 4 years ago and this year is putting the money towards the school lunch program in Lesotho, South Africa, so if you have the time, check it out and maybe bid on something that suits you. Jeni from the Passionate Palate wrote a nice piece on ideas for gift giving and charities also.
If you have the time submit something.

Here's how to participate:
1. Post on your blog before 18th of this month about something you like to make and share for Christmas and a favorite charity link.
2. Take a picture of the dish and send me a smallish photo, 100x 100 photo of it.
3. Add a link to Bella Baita View.
4. Please send an email to Info@bellabaita.com
5.and enjoy your holidays this year.
I hope to have the round up on the 20th or 21st.

Pasta Meliga Or Cornmeal Cookies

These are a Piedmont favorite. Rich buttery melt in your mouth treats and hence they are a bit fragile. They are normally made with one of those cookie guns that means you can have quite a stiff dough to keep the shape of the cookie. I don't have one of those, so I use a pastry bag with a star tip which works pretty well, but your hand will get sore squeezing these out. Mine don't hold their shape as well as they should and I think they could use with a touch more flour, especially as I am at a slight elevation (3,300 ft) and I do think that makes a difference. Those of you in the high country need to definitely add more flour.

300 g durum flour (pasta flour or all purpose) flour if you don't have access to durum
50 g more flour if you are baking at a high altitude
100g cornmeal, a good quality brand that is coarse without being grainy is a good choice. Coarse polenta is not a good choice as it will be gritty and sticks in your teeth.
300 g butter room temperature
200 g sugar
2 egg yolks
grated lemon peel,
about 1/2 lemon

Whip the butter and sugar till fluffy
Add the egg yolks and grated lemon peel and blend thoroughly
Thotroughly mix in the flours.
Pipe out the dough while the butter is still room temperature.

Bake in a 350*F/ 190*C till light brown. they shouldn't pick up a lot of color
I bake in a convection oen , so they bake quite quickly, usually not taking more than 10 minutes, max.
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