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slowly but surely

I was terrified of many things as a child. I was quite literally one big scaredy cat. Roller coastes, elevators with glass walls, spiders, ice cream trucks that drove around your neighborhood, dark doorways, big dogs. You name it, it probably scared the bejesus out of me. I slept with a nightlight until middle school; I was convinced that vampires existed and would hover over me as I slept.

Looking back, I think I watched too much television or something because that is one random list. I mean, ice cream trucks that played that whimsical tune?! Really?! For some reason, after watching one too many made-for-tv movies, I wouldn’t go near them, no matter how badly I wanted and craved a Nestle drumstick.

As I get older, I try to push myself just a tad. It’s safe to say that I conquered most of those childhood fears (besides rollercoasters and spiders). But  in their place, sprouted a gazillion more irrational fears. Like flying. I ABHOR flying. In fact, it’s something that I talk to a doctor about because I literally want to crawl in to a hole and die every time I get in to a plane. Which is utterly ridiculous considering I love to travel and have to many different countries. I know that statistically speaking, flying is safer than driving, but try telling that to my anxiety-ridden brain. I think it’s the loss of control that gets me. The minute the wheels leave the ground, your life is in someone else’s hands… Man, it gives me the creeps just to even think about that.

Anyways, what I am trying to say is that we all have fears. But it’s best if we conquer them one step at a time. I won’t lie, every time I see a plane in the sky, I watch it closely. It’s like I have a sixth sense when it comes to planes. I can always tell when there is one in the sky and I can’t peel my eyes off of them. Even if I am driving on the highway, my neck swivels around with my eyes straining to catch a glimpse of that massive plane.

After watching my cousin jet off, I started thinking about how I wanted to go back to Indonesia again, which is a complete 180 from my normal “I’d rather not” position. Maybe I was just sentimental, but the idea of being around my close family basically squelched any fear of flying I had. Sure, I might pass out on the plane, but it won’t stop me from trying.

So, today, I managed to scour the travel sites for plane tickets, repeating back to my mom all the fares I found. (On a side note, I might have to sell a body part or an organ just afford my plane ticket… Any takers?) As I perused site after site, I nibbled slowly on these oatmeal spice shortbread cookies I whipped in between visiting Cathay Pacific airlines and China Airlines. 

Soft, buttery, and golden, these cookies are meant to be savored in the middle of your afternoon when you have nothing else better to do than lay around. I had to portion my cookies out because if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve devoured the entire batch. Which would’ve meant that I downed almost a pound of butter. Gross.

These cookies come from the ever-so-popular Dorie Greenspan. It was one of the last recipes that I had flagged, mainly because I’d never baked shortbread cookies before. Instead of the standard shortbread batch, I went ahead and played around with the recipe by adding the Dorie-recommended cinnamon, oats, and ginger mixture. She points out that these cookie should be sandy in texture, and that is exactly how I would describe them. The minute they hit your tongue, they break apart in to little pieces, grazing your tongue softly until melting away. The oats give the cookies an added rough texture, while the cinnamon will make your kitchen smell like it’s fall or already.

These cookies will go well with any kind of jam, and I encourage you to make little jam sandwiches if you can. or dip them in coffee. Or in tea. As you can tell, I experimented a lot with them. My best combination? The coconut jam my mom found at the chinese market. With ingredients like coconuts, coconut milk, and sugar, you really can’t go wrong. I smeared that jam on the edges and nibbled away as I tried my best to not think of plane crashes and other death scenarios involving flying objects. These cookies almost took my mind off these morbid thoughts. Almost.

(Side note: if you are wondering what happened to my TWD posts, I hate to break it to ya but those days are over now. Baking every week with a small household like mine wasn’t very economical. I’ll mince most of my personal opinions but I didn’t necessarily agree with how regulated and controlled the group was.  Anyways, I have experimented with most of Dorie’s recipes and my other cookbooks are jealous. They want to play too! So, hasta la vista TWD. Thanks to all the great people I met via that blogging event. I might join in every now and then but for the most part, that ship has sailed.)

Oatmeal Spice Shortbread Cookies
from Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

In a bowl, combine flour, oats and spices. Whisk together and set aside.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated.

Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

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July 15, 2008 - 9:12 am

slush - Thanks for letting us know that you are indeed done. Best of luck..

July 15, 2008 - 3:44 pm

steph (whisk/spoon) - i used to be afraid of ghosts and would fall asleep with the sheet pulled over my head. i’ll miss your TWD posts, but i hear what you are saying.

July 16, 2008 - 7:01 am

grace - things that rock my socks off:
-shortbread cookies
-heart-shaped anything

i love these. :)

July 16, 2008 - 11:07 am

Haley - I’m Haley, Key Ingredient’s Chief Blogger. We would like to feature this recipe and photo on our blog. We realize it is taken from another source, but we’ll be sure to note that…we just feel you’ve done a great job putting this meal together! Please email if interested. Thanks :)


July 16, 2008 - 1:03 pm

joythebaker - Oh Amanda- I absolutely love this post! I was also scared of so many things when I was a kid. I blame it on my Dad. I think he showed me too many scary movies when I was young. I’m a big fraidy cat. And it’s funny how fear manifests itself in your adult life. I find that I’m still scared of a lot of things, and sometimes use it as an excuse to not do things. I’ve noticed that pattern for myself and am now working really hard to break out of it. I’ve got an adventure in the works for myself. No more sitting by making excuses for things… you know!? This is a great set of photos too! the cookies look to die for! I heart them. Anyway… thanks for the great post! It spoke to me.

July 16, 2008 - 7:07 pm

Haley - These cookies sound amazing! My best friend and I always lay around watching movies while eating shortbread and nutella.

July 17, 2008 - 1:44 pm

Barbara - Sorry TWD was no longer fun for you. I’ll still be stopping by your blog to see your baking! Those little shortbread hearts are darling!

July 19, 2008 - 10:14 am

Robin - Haha, I was afraid of everything as a kid too… happy to say most those fears have gone away.

Great cookies!

July 19, 2008 - 10:37 am

leslie - mmm.any type of Shortbread is my downfall! SOOOO buttery!

July 20, 2008 - 7:16 am

Tarah - Gorgeous photos. They looks really good with all that butter :]

July 20, 2008 - 12:10 pm

everedefined - I caught your blog on the wordpress homepage, and I love this post. I was so scared as a kid, and I too am trying to conquer all of those fears one by one. Can’t wait to try the recipe.

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