Nova Scotia Oatcakes

February 19, 2008

Dining at Dalhousie Castle
Photo courtesy Vossen Media Co (U.K.)

Who wouldn’t want to spend the night in a castle? Some castles are luxurious and some castles are wonderfully old: the Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh, miraculously, is both. If Sam and Harry are smart, they will have first flown in to London and then traveled to Edinburgh overnight on The Flying Scotsman – it’s only a 4-hour ride, but folks can check into a private sleeping compartment several hours early at Kings Cross station, and don’t have to leave the train at Edinburgh Waverley the next morning until after being served tea and a scone. Very romantic!

While the couple may not find Scottish haggis to their liking, they must be sure to try the many varieties of oat cakes that are a Scottish specialty. While store-bought Scottish oatcakes are generally crisper and saltier, the texture and slight sweetness of these homemade ones remind me of scones. We make them often! – Almostgotit

Nova Scotia Oatcakes

3 cups quick rolled oats
3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cup shortening
2/3 – 3/4 cup cold water

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together.  Cut in shortening. Add enough water to form a rather stiff, pastry-like dough.  Roll 3/8 ” thick and cut into circles.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet.  Makes lots!

  • Variation: one may sneakily substitute 1/2 cup apple sauce (one of those single-serving cups is just right) for the same portion of shortening and I guarantee no one will notice; bolder folk may substitute even more applesauce and the recipe will change a bit but still work fine; however, Sam will no doubt notice and object. 
  • Canada’s “Nova Scotia” is, of course, Latin for “New Scotland.” This recipe, given to us by a Canadian friend many years ago, is similar to a very old one that probably traces back to early Scottish settlers. Moreover? There is a “Dalhousie University” in Halifax, the capital city of this island province.
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Pecan Shortbreads

January 20, 2008
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This light shortbread is made with confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch for smoothness. Pecans add richness and crunch. The Lemon Butter Icing is the, well, icing on the cake. All in all, the perfect wedding cookie. SAM

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Lemon Butter Icing

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and flour and beat gradually into the butter. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets and set aside. Over waxed paper or a marble slab, scatter the pecans. Form the dough into 48 small balls and drop onto the pecans. Flatten with the bottom of a small glass dipped in flour. Place the cookies, nut side up, on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool and top with Lemon Butter Icing.
Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Coffee Crisps

January 19, 2008
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Crisp sugar cookies dipped in coffee syrup … they’re the perfect afternoon snack! SAM

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
Juice of 1 orange (1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon orange extract or liqueur
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup honey
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets and set aside. With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange juice and orange extract. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and add gradually to the butter mixture, beating on low until blended. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. With a crescent-shaped cutter, cut into cookies and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar, honey, and coffee. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Dip the cookies into the coffee mixture, sprinkle with nuts, and place on wire racks to dry.
Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Date-Nut Hermit Cookies

October 26, 2007

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These are called ‘hermits’ because the date-nut filling hides in a little cave of cookie dough like a hermit in the rocks. Emily’s family has been making them since time immemorial. Taste one, and you’ll see why. SAM

1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Date-Nut Filling
1 pound pitted dates
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cognac
1/2 cup chopped pecans

With an electric mixer, thoroughly cream the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and add to the shortening mixture alternately with enough ice water to form a medium stiff dough. Form the dough into a cylinder 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 3 hours.

While the dough is chilling, make the Date-Nut Filling. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the dates, sugar, water, and cognac. Cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and add the pecans. Cool.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch rounds and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on each slice and top with a second slice of dough. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 5 dozen cookies.


Coconut Macaroons

October 25, 2007

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Need a quick-and-easy treat for a drop-in guest? You can stir these together while you chat. SAM

1 (14-ounce) package grated coconut
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, milk, and vanilla, mixing well. Drop by teaspoonfuls 1 inch apart onto well-greased baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately from baking sheets, using a moistened spatula. Cool on a wire rack.

For variation, add 1 of the following before baking:
4 (1-ounce) squares semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup chocolate or butterscotch morsels
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Makes 5 dozen cookies.