Today is October 1st and it is a special day. Today begins a month long celebration of an American institution. And a Greek, Russian and, even, ancient Egyptian institution. I am, of course, speaking of the delicious, homemade cookie. Thus begins Cookie Month ’14. I will be celebrating this auspicious occasion with nine other bloggers throughout the month of October with each of us posting a cookie recipe every week. I’ll be sure to link all the other bloggers’ recipes in my posts so that you don’t have to ferret out the fabulousness. To get us started, and so we are properly prepared to get down with our bad selves amidst the cookies, we’re covering the basics today – Baking Supplies and how you can make your own.
There are certain things that are essential when considering the creation of a thing as serious as a good cookie. Chris, from Joybilee Farms shared her grandmother’s secrets in a recent post and I feel it is a must read. Well, it was for me, anyway. I’m not much of a baker, to be perfectly frank. Quality baking takes skill and attention to detail and I’m sadly lacking in both areas BUT I qualify to celebrate this month because I am a great lover of cookies. Passion covereth a multitude of shortcomings; I’m sure it says something like that in the Bible.
A most basic ingredient for quality cookies is flour. Now, you can grow your own grain, if that’s your thing but I’m not quite there yet. I purchase grains in bulk and keep them in my long term food storage. For cookies, the wheat I use most often is white wheat. To make your own flour, you will need a grain grinder. I have both an electric and a manual one. There are a number of grain mills on the market and, I’m not gonna lie, they’re an investment. Being able to control the quality of my flour (freshly ground flour is far more nutrient dense) and create flour from my wheat storage became important enough to my family’s health that I saved a bit here and there until I could afford a quality mill. I would suggest you not bother to buy a poorly made grain mill because it will just break on you. I will never forget the first time I ground my own wheat into flour – I felt like I’d made fire, or something.
To learn more on the benefits of soaking your grains and flours before using them, please visit this link from Cultures For Health.
To learn to make your own sprouted wheat to dehydrate and then grind into flour, please visit this link: The Nourished Kitchen
I went through a long phase when I couldn’t eat wheat at all and I learned to make cookies with various other flours. I would suggest organic, non-GMO ingredients. Oh, guess what I just found at my local Smith’s for the first time ever?! Non-GMO Rumford corn starch! Guaranteeing non-GMO is actually pretty tricky these days but if you’re going to use corn starch, it’ll at least be a little better for you. Here are a few recipes for gluten free flours to make yourself: from Gluten Freely Frugal, Natural and Nourished Family, Gluten Free Girl.
If you decide you want to buy a quality baking flour, I can highly recommend Bob’s Red Mill Organic Flour. Bob’s sent me three different flours as one of our sponsors for Cookie Month ’14, amounting to 15 lbs! I was able to use Bob’s Organic White Wheat, Organic Whole Wheat and Organic Gluten Free flours and each one performed very, very well. I’ll have more details for you as the recipes roll out this month but do know that I wasn’t required to give a positive review to use the flours, they just really do perform well. I was already a customer of theirs before this project.
Time was I used Crisco for fluffy baked goods; now I wonder how I survived those days. Quality fat is a life sustaining substance that contributes to our health and quality of life. Fat is sacred. Butter is typically used in cookies and it is one of the easiest dairy products to make yourself. You need high quality cream for good butter. If you’re stuck with store bought cream, it will all be ultra-pasteurized and, therefore, not really that healthy but will still make a great cookie. If you have access to milk straight from the animal then you can create a wholesome butter to use in and on everything. For learning more about making your own butter, please visit this link from The Kitchn.
Another great fat to use, especially if you’re on a Paleo diet, is coconut oil. If you really want to make your own coconut oil at home, here you go. I can certainly highly recommend learning to use coconut oil. One of my current favorite Paleo cookbooks for families is Danielle Walker’s, Against All Grain.
If I have to buy a butter, my favorite fat to use when baking cookies is Kerry Gold butter, another of the sponsors for Cookie Month’14. And no, I didn’t have to agree to sing their praises either; I genuinely love their products. Kerry Gold Butter is made from milk produced by cows on an entirely grass fed diet and is a rich, nourishing food. Even though our local Costco started carrying Kerry Gold Butter, I can’t always afford it. I buy organic butter from various sources locally, including Costco and even my local Walmart.
I don’t have cane fields near me and its quite a process to refine sugar crystals. Here’s a fun article on getting sugar syrup from beets from American Preppers Network – a lot of beets are needed to get a small amount of syrup. In my opinion, the best and most healthy sugar to make yourself is honey – well, actually, the bees do all the work. Raw honey, like raw forms of sugar (succanat), is only raw when kept under 115-ish degrees so when you bake it, those nutrients that are sensitive to extreme heat begin to die off. Still, for sugar, this is a healthier option.
To learn how to get ready for keeping bees, please visit this link.
To learn how to extract raw honey from your beehive, please visit this link.
To learn how to make a delectable vanilla honey, please visit this link.
Please toss out all your table sugar just as soon as you’re ready because it simply has no redeeming features. Once you wean yourself off of white sugar, it will most likely start to taste metallic and quite nasty. There are several healthier sugar options out there and I can suggest you try looking at Wholesome Sweeteners – not a sponsor for Cookie Month (sadly) but they are my personal favorite. Check out their sustainable, fair trade practices on their site!
To learn to make your own powdered sugar from organic coconut sugar (or any crystalized sugar), just visit this link from An Organic Wife. You can do this with succanat, too, and it makes a great frosting that tastes like maple glaze and makes you supremely happy.
I don’t live where I can grow vanilla beans but we can buy organic vanilla beans and make our own vanilla – easy peasy! My biggest beef with commercial vanilla is that its tinctured in alcohol and tastes nasty. I tincture mine in organic vegetable glycerin and make half gallon batches, several gallons at a time. Here’s how to make your own vanilla from Small Footprint Family. You can use your spent beans to make the aforementioned vanilla honey.
Sprinkles and fun stuff
This year we experimented with making our own colored sugars for cookie and cake decorating after reading this post From the Nerdy Farm Wife. It was so fun and not hard at all – my kids had a blast!
If you’d rather just purchase organic, plant based sprinkles and food dyes I highly recommend India Tree – another of our fabulous sponsors for Cookie Month ’14. Again, I was a customer of theirs way before this cookie venture. I LOVE their sprinkles, especially and so do my kids.
There are a lot of other items we could cover but those are the basics and I hope you have fun! We certainly will all this month as we celebrate National Cookie Month with you. After National Preparedness Month, I could use a few rainbows and unicorns and cottages made out of sweets. Know what I’m sayin’?
This post was shared at The Homemaking Link Up, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Fresh Foods Wednesday, Real Food Fridays, From the Farm Hop, Simply Natural Saturdays, Homestead Barn Hop, The Art of Homemaking Monday, Mama Moments Mondays, Natural Living Mondays, Fat Tuesday, Backyard Farming Connection, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Simple Lives Thursday
And was featured on: