Super Bowl cookies from Bittersweet

A Super Bowl Cookie from Bittersweet (Chicago), © 2014 Celia Her City.

As the Super Bowl approaches, thoughts are turning to game-day food.  For Chicago tables, may I suggest Bittersweet Bakery‘s Super Bowl Cookies?

Bittersweet’s hand-decorated sugar cookies are technically impressive as well as delicious.  When my husband and I were there over the weekend, the bakery was selling Super Bowl cookies in several shapes: besides the football, there were team jerseys decorated with each quarterback’s name.  We bought one of each and enjoyed them thoroughly.  The icing on the football cookie even incorporates the special colors of the two competing teams!

Located on Belmont near Seminary, Bittersweet is one of the city’s leading bakeries, making custom cakes and cookies to order, in addition to offering a wide variety of classic tarts, cakes, and other pastries to carry out or consume right on the spot in its popular café.  The shop’s seasonal and special-occasion cookies have quite a following, so if you hope to buy some, you may wish to call ahead to make sure they’re in stock.  Making the cookies takes several days.

Bittersweet’s customers have posted almost a hundred photographs of the bakery and its wares on its Yelp photo page.

Cookies from the edge

Advanced baking (Credit: Celia Her City)

Over the weekend, we engaged in some “advanced baking.”  At least that’s what my husband has dubbed it.  We plunged into the unknown and, using an unvetted recipe, tried to recreate the exact cookies Mr C remembers his grandmother making when he was a kid.

The recipe (which his mother provided) produced a dough that was challengingly delicate.  In the end, though, we managed to produce some two dozen cut-out cookies, rolling out the chilled dough with a lot of flour.  It was an exercise in perseverance, culminating in a strangely strong satisfaction and triumph.

Precious cookies (Credit: Celia Her City)

Fragile are the connections that link us to the past and the generations.  The cookie tins that we count on to connect us with our sisters and mothers across the miles.  Yet the meaning of love resides in such details, in trivialities at once precious and urgent.

PS No, my friends; Celia is not about to morph into a kitchen blog.

The gift of cookies

Viennese crescents (Credit: Celia Her City)

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day baking.  Among other things, I made a batch of Viennese crescents, which is a recipe I love because it’s elegant and makes many dozen cookies.   Plus it’s easy.

I favor recipes that have familiar associations.  This one I first made with a friend in my first or second year of college.  We were in charge of providing the cookies for a holiday study-break and made these in the basement kitchen of our dorm.  My friend found this recipe, which we had to try because, in the introductory text, some food authority had declared it “the greatest cookie recipe ever devised.”  I’m not sure about that, but it sure is fine.

These particular cookies are made with ground walnuts, but there are many national variations of this recipe, some using almonds, others leaving out the nuts entirely.  Butter and powdered sugar make the cookie.

Baking, like jewelry, is all about the associations.  The memories that crowd around our favorite recipes keep us company in the kitchen, a gift that is every bit as precious as pearls.

Midnight Kitchen

Midnight kitchen II (Credit: Celia Her City)

The time for holiday baking is late at night: when the baker is tired but the house is quiet.

Last night I made ambrosia macaroons from a recipe I’d never made before.  In truth, I had never made a macaroon, and I was fascinated to learn that they contain no flour.  They contain butter, sugar, salt, coconut, and eggs; in this case, grated orange peel.  It’s a good Southern recipe, which finishes with the macaroons being drizzled in bittersweet chocolate.

Ambrosia macaroons (Credit: Celia Her City)

I was pleased with the way the cookies turned out.  Coconut can be cloying, but because of the sharp orange flavor and the bitterness of the chocolate, the flavor is very complex and not too sweet.  I think these will be a hit with our far-flung relatives, when they come upon them in the annual cookie tins.

Peach Pie

Peach Pie

Of all the fruits, I think peaches are my favorite.  I like the fact that, even now, with all the changes in agriculture, they are still only in season at one time of year.  When peaches are ripe, you really must concentrate on them.  If you’re wise, that is.

I have a terrific cobbler recipe that was my grandmother’s, but sometimes I prefer the simplicity of a pie.  It’s very satisfying if you can get it right, where the crust is perfect, and the filling not too syrupy or runny.  The last couple of pies I’ve made have been just terrific, which is good because we’re reaching the end of peach season!