Saturday, February 25, 2012

Living Here and Now - Jelly Cookies

Sometimes, all you need is to breathe.  Whenever I procrastinate, inevitably now, it’s the food blogs.  I read through archives of one blog at a time, learning about others’ daily lives and happiness.  I dream of the day when I, too, can cook such beautiful food that others gush over, take photos before the sun sets and purchase fresh ingredients, bursting with flavor and color.  That’s the magic, isn’t it?  But that’s not my life.  Although I have been fortunate enough to move into an apartment with a kitchen, my scheduled day tends to end at 7pm or later.  Classes, research, robotics, biomedical engineering society, badminton all crowd in and leave me wanting food I can eat now, or at least, soon.  


I’m not a good cook.  I don’t instinctively add savory spices (I possess two right now, the cheapest iodized salt and pre-ground black pepper money can buy), rarely have a mise en place ready before the (cheap) vegetable oil is smoking hot, often fail to remember to salt things and haven’t a clue what herb goes best with carrots.  I’m a much better baker, having turned out dozens of cookies, several birthday cakes and more tarts and pies than I can count.  I even recently learned to make calzones, and jumped for joy when I pulled a pizza out of my dinky, wobbly, apartment oven. 

The ingredients I use are the cheapest possible.  My cooking and baking are crammed in between everything else I do, and quality tends to suffer, or something else will have to give.  I’m envious of those people who live through food, like Shauna and her family, of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.  She seems to be such a sweet and lucky person, surrounded by friends and family, liberated from everything that held her down and fully immersed in her passion for food.  As a college student, especially studying something like engineering, I definitely don’t have that luxury.  

Stop and smell the rosy raspberry jelly :)

But today, as the computer’s clock hit 2:58 pm, I realized with a start that I was wasting my own life away.  Badminton practice is held at 3:00 pm on Saturdays, and even if I sprinted out the door immediately, I’d already be 15 minutes late.  And I was still wearing my pajamas.  Where does the day go?  I’d gotten up around 11:00am.  What did I do?  I made a quiche, ate lunch at about 1:00pm.  What then?  I really had no answer, other than just reading through Shauna’s lovely archives.  It was then that I realized I had to wake up from my dreams of what I wished my life could be, and enjoy the life I have now.  I’ll only be an overstressed engineering student once, without utility bills to pay, without taxes to worry about (yet) and without a commute that requires any more than a 15-minute walk (I live on campus).

I had just learned a method of meditation, where you sit and concentrate on breathing.  Only that, nothing more.  Effectively, you try and do nothing, just to be aware.  It’s more difficult than it sounds.  But the packet stated that meditation taught mindfulness, being present, living in the moment where you are.  You don’t need to think about what you managed to finish today, what you’ll need to do tomorrow, in 3 hours, 10 minutes from now.  Living life here and now, the complete opposite of taking life for granted.

These cookies are an example of living life here and now.  Listen to the sound of your bags and cups and spoons, feel the cool, yielding dough, notice the jewel tones of your jelly.  Inhale the sweet, warm breath from the oven when you take them out.  Crisp, buttery cookies, tender within and topped with tart raspberry jelly, they’re also tiny.  Each batch only makes around 20 cookies.  Pay attention, or they’ll be gone, and you, too, will wonder where they all went.

Start with many...

Jelly Cookies recipe borrowed from my boyfriend’s father
Makes about 20 cookies

1 cup 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract*
About ¼ cup jelly of choice (I loved the raspberry I used here)

1 medium or large mixing bowl
1 wooden spoon (for creaming butter and sugar)
1 rubber spatula (for scraping bowl)
cup dry measure
1 cup dry measure
½ teaspoon measure
1 tablespoon measure
2 cookie sheets (I made do with 1, in two batches)
Parchment paper for lining


1. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg yolk and vanilla.  Mix in the flour until the dough forms a nice, cohesive ball.

2. Refrigerate for at least a half hour.**

3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and roll the dough into balls with indents.  I happen to think they look like little bowls.  Fill each indent with about a half teaspoon of jelly.

4. Place them on the prepared cookie sheet/s about 2 inches apart (they expand a little) and bake for about 10-15 minutes. 

5. Allow to cool briefly, then enjoy!  Cool them completely on a wire rack, if you can prevent yourself from munching them all as they come out of the oven :)

Beautiful little indulgences.
* I would love to substitute with almond extract, particularly with raspberry, peach or cherry jelly. 
** The dough can probably be left in the fridge for a few days without harm. 

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