Monday, March 30, 2015

Hands to work, hearts to God

There are two Shaker communities near where we live in Troy, New York. One of them is in the Berkshires, the Hancock Shaker Village, and the other one is in Albany/Colonie. We went to visit shortly after moving here. Aside from their sturdy and simple but beautiful furniture and the song "Tis a Gift to be Simple, Tis a Gift to be Free..." the Shakers were also known for their simple and tasty cooking, folks arts & crafts, a solid work ethic, and gender and racial equality. The Shaker settlements also are said to have sheltered escaped slaves on their way to Canada. Their way of life seems appealing, but they were also committed to abstinence, which may be why there are no more Shakers left. Not a very sustainable way of being. We learned that a few years ago, there was a resurgence and there were a few Shaker men in the community, but when a reporter who came to do a story on the community fell in love and ran away with one of the Shaker men, that was that really.

The gift shop sold cookie molds of a hand with a cut out for a heart in the center. I bought it, and have made the recipe many times since. The cookies are a real hit, and they're fun to make.

On the package reads: "The Heart & Hand reminds us of Mother Ann's saying: "Put your hands to work and your hearts to God."

Shaker Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon peel
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 cups sifted flour

Cream butter & sugar. Save 1/2 egg white for brushing cookies. Slightly beat the eggs and add to the butter mixture. Add nutmeg and lemon peel. Sift cream of tartar and salt with flour and work into butter mixture. Chill for 1/2 hour. Roll into 1/2 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patty's Sourdough

Another winning St. Patrick's Day recipe! This one adds sourdough to the soda bread, and raisins (or currants) and walnuts to the traditional caraway seeds. I also added sunflower seeds, which sometimes turn a little green during the baking process. I found this recipe on a sourdough blog compilation. 
This is fantastic as a toasted breakfast bread, served on the side of soup, or just as a snack with some tea.


2 ½ cups flour (I used half white/half wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins or currants
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 cup fed sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
4 tbsp honey


Preheat oven to 400°F and grease a baking sheet.
Whisk the baking soda and salt into the flour, then toss through the currants and walnuts, making sure the currants are coated in flour – this will ensure they stay evenly distributed through the loaf.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the starter, water and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined. Add a dash more water if needed for the dough to come together.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead together lightly, pushing back in any currants or nuts that come out.
Form dough into a ball and place on baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2″ deep cross in the top.
Bake in center of the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes, until deep golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.​