Monday, December 26, 2016

What I've learned from working with 23 decks at once...and an old family recipe

Twenty-three images in one go is a lot to take in. Once I got the hang of grouping them by their similarities, rather than looking at a random assortment of cards, picking out the few that stood out for their uniqueness was easy. My favourites were almost never the usual expected images, but those that came at the thought from another angle. The oh my god that's a gorgeous idea! ones, or the what the heck? ones which sent me scrambling for their companion books.  

There were surprises.
Because I have so many decks, I don't know them all, and have formed some half-baked opinions about the usefulness of many of them. In general I learned that some I didn't expect to like, I did. And vice-versa. For instance:
1) Some decks which I'd judged as lightweights thought-wise were the most evocative: Badgers Forest in particular.
2)  A few whose artwork I'd dismissed as too pale or too tiny were consistent favourites: notably the Celtic Dragon. (The colours appear to have been punched up a bit in this link.)
3) I expected some to grow on me as the weeks went by. They had nice art, but didn't speak to me. The Tarot of Trees is one example. Perhaps this is a deck that needs to be alone when one is working with it. 

On Winter Solstice December 21, I put away these 23 decks and chose a new group of 21. More about them in later posts. 

This recipe is thrown in as a reward for reading about what I've learned, because really, who except me cares? So thank you!

When my German Grandmother made these crescent-shaped almond cookies every Christmas, she weighed everything out in decagrams on her old scale. Which didn't help me one bit. So I went over to watch her bake, a long long time ago, and remeasured the flour, almonds, and sugar with my Canadian cups and half-cups.
Another difference between Gram's long-ago method and mine is that I've not the patience to put the almonds through the hopper of a rickety nut-grinder to get the light fluffy consistency of hers (even though I have her old grinder, the kind that clamps onto the kitchen table).

Gram's Kipfels

In processor:
1 1/2 cups raw almonds
3/4 cup sugar
Run until there aren't any big chunks of almonds. (The sugar stops them from turning into nut butter.)

In mixer: (Gram did this by hand.)
1 pound (2 cups) unsalted butter at room temp (salted just won't do)
the almond/sugar mixture
4 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp vanilla (I use real)

When it's all mixed together, form the dough into 2 square logs about 2 inches round and wrap in plastic wrap. This just makes it easier to cut off uniform pieces and form into crescents.  You can bake now, or keep in the fridge or a cold basement for a few days. Bring to room temp on baking day.
Slice the logs about 1 inch thick, cut in half, and form into rolls about 2 1/2 inches x 3/4 inch. Bend slightly to make crescents. It's a fairly dry dough, so if you try to bend them too much, they'll crack.

350 F, parchment-lined or ungreased cookie sheets. Baking 2 sheets at a time, rotate the pans and switch oven shelves at 11-12 minutes, bake another 11-12 minutes. They'll be quite brown on the bottom and a bit browned around the edges. After they're rolled in sugar, they'll look a lot whiter.
Let cool on the pans, roll in fruit sugar, store in tins. They keep for ages. (Fruit sugar is just extra-fine plain old sugar. You can make it by buzzing regular sugar in your processor.)

This makes 13 -14 dozen cookies. You can halve the recipe if you want!