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Fireplace Cooking in the Storm

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Strange as it is, this sudden October snow freed me of a lingering writers block, hopefully for a long time. It was a fortunate coincidence (though she may disagree!) that Masha came to visit that Saturday, October 29. After a trip to Tower Hill Botanic Garden to see Ikebana arrangements that were magically enhanced by the first snow in the background, we were struck by power outage in the evening that lasted two days and two nights. Candles helped some, and then the fireplace was brought to life. As cell phone batteries drained, the crank radio kept our little window to the world open. When you don't expect the outage to last that long, it is fun. Fun it was. The first day... We talked and we laughed and, of course, we cooked.
How about cookies baked in the heat of a fireplace? Follow me to my dark house to see the fun of that evening...

The dough was promptly made from scratch on my candle-lit counter top, rolled out, and cut with a cookie-cutter. Now what? How in the world do we bake it in our cold electric stove? Fireplace! Baking cookies in the fireplace is not as easy as it sounds. We tried to twist dough strips around different objects, but it fell off in the heat, so we ended up making cookies on a grill spatula. Not perfect, to say the least, but sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon - and ash :), our slightly singed cookies were indeed very tasty! Honestly. The dough was light, with a thin crust and a soft inside, and  sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving.

D o u g h  R e c i p e:
Let's call it October Snow

What you need:
50 g butter
1 cup bread flour
3 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vodka
More sugar
Ground cinnamon

1. Mix sour cream with sugar and salt, and set aside
2. Chop butter with flour until small crumble is formed, chop in baking soda.
3. Combine sour cream and buttered flour together, sprinkle with vodka. Mix quickly to form the dough, do not try to mix it too well, just enough to be rolled out. Make a ball, sprinkle its surface with more flour. Flatten the ball with your hands to form a circle, then use a roller to smooth it out into a sheet. The dough sheet can be thicker or thinner, but we made it about 1/3" thick.
4. Cut the dough with a cookie cutter of your choice, and bake at... 375 F (I guess...) or until golden. Arrange on a serving dish, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

These cookies had a special aroma, aroma of rustic food prepared by the methods of our ancestors. Apparently, the heat of an open fire surrounded by heated bricks produces special baking conditions (no wonder there are still abundant brick oven pizzerias!). I was very satisfied.

With those cookies, followed by Gl├╝hwein or Mulled Wine concocted by Masha, we had a romantic warm evening near the family fireplace. Indeed, what could be better than that, especially one day away from Halloween?

In the morning we woke up to a disastrous aftermath of the storm: a few trees broken in half, the driveway blocked by a fallen tree. Talk about positive emotions! Those charcoal cookies, though, gave us energy not to panic, to live through the rest of this Spartiate winter start and to even notice some beauty in the snow crusted foliage. 

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