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The honey that we make is our lives. Experience has taught me two things...

KILLER BEES MAKE THE MOST DELICIOUS HONEY

...and LIFE is only as yummy as you make it!

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Howdy Beezers! I'm excited to share something new with you... Over the upcoming months, most of the content you'll be seeing here will be from special guest contibutors! This is sure to add a new texture to this thing we've been weaving over the years. I know that many of my readers (yes, you!) are writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers. PLEASE feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to contribute! I'd be most honored to pollinate... send me a note: m.mckinley@rocketmail.com

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December 11, 2011

Grandma Furman's Cookies: THE RECIPE

When my maternal Great-Grandmother Rose Ferguson Furman came over from Ireland over 100 years ago, she brought this recipe with her. It wouldn't be Christmas without them, and the ritual of sitting around the table and decorating them is a tradition my siblings carried on with their children, as have I with my circle of friends... it's a much anticipated event! Even in lean years when the only gift I could afford to give was cookies, we've had them.

It's a hearty, DELICIOUS, and curious cookie. Sort of a hybrid between a spicy gingerbread and a molasses. The first year I made them by myself I was 15, and I over-baked ALL of them. I suppose it was a right of passage, and my friend Eric Freitas dubbed them Grandma Furman's Hockey Pucks!

I never knew my Grandma Furman, she passed away the year before I was born. But I can only imagine that it would tickle her to know that the recipe she passed down, the one she simply wrote "Brown Cookies" on the index card for- would be loved and enjoyed by so many people all over the country. In another century, another millennium! Thanks Rose, from all of us.

THE RECIPE

1 1/2 cups shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup robust molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
6 cups all purpose flour

Cream together shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs. Add spices and extracts, then molasses. Dissolve baking soda in water and stir in. Add the flour, one cup at a time. USE A STURDY METAL SPOON, OR MAKE IN A STAND MIXER. The 5th or 6th cup of flour will be the end of a wooden spoon!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out grapefruit sized balls of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Rose's daughter, my Grandmother, always said to me "Don't be afraid to roll them out nice and thick!" I like to use simple, broad shapes for my cutters. In fact, I now only make circles, diamonds, and trees. As you can see from the pictures, you get lots of decorating possibilities from 3 simple shapes! Space 1 inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. Yes, they bake quick and all ovens calibrate a little differently, so watch the first couple of trays carefully, and scope out the bottoms just to make sure. They will puff up and turn a paler shade of brown when they are close. Remove cookies promptly to cool on racks, or on brown paper bags. When cool, stack like shapes together and store in an airtight container until ready to frost. HELPFUL TIP: If they over bake (and become crunchy when cooled) throw a few slices of soft bread in the container and let them sit with the cookies overnight- that should soften them up!

THE FROSTING

These are not delicate cookies, and they should be frosted, not iced. Here's what we do...

Beat together 1 stick of room temperature butter, 1/2 lb powdered sugar with 4 tablespoons of milk. A 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla is optional. I don't like the way it messes with my colors! The consistency should be smooth and creamy, but thick. If it's too thick add a few drops of milk at a time till it "gets there". If it gets a little runny, add a little bit more powdered sugar. You get the idea. Divide amongst smaller bowels and tint to desired colors, but leave some white. The white ones are pretty too! I achieve my rich and funky colors by using a combination of liquid and paste food colors.

THE METHOD
A basic table knife is your best tool. Place a nice sized dollop in the center of the cookie, and working from the center outwards (with just the tip of your knife) spread it towards (but not over) the edges. It should be a nice layer so the cookie doesn't show through the frosting. I find that if I leave a nice little "reveal" of brown around the edge, it has a great finished look.

Festoon with festive sugars, jimmies, and any other edible baubles you can find. Just try not to over do it. Personally I'm in it for the cookie, not a mouth full of crunchy decorations!


When the frosting has "set" (a couple of hours) store them in single layers between sheets of waxed paper, in an airtight container. If you keep them sealed up, they'll keep beautifully for a couple of weeks!

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