1¼ cups all-purpose flour •
¼ cup sugar • ½ cup butter, at room temperature •
¼ teaspoon vanilla • 1 tablespoon dried egg whites • 2 tablespoons water • Fresh pesticide-free pansies or violas
• Preheat oven to 325° degrees. Pick flowers, rinse gently and pat dry. Place on a paper towel to finish air-drying.
• Place sugar and flour in a large bowl. Mix together. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter and vanilla until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Gather up crumbs into a ball and knead together until smooth.
• Roll out dough just scant of
¼” thick. Cut with cookie cutter; a fluted 2½” cookie cutter is best.
• Place cookies 2″ apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until the bottom and sides are just beginning to slightly brown and the center of top is firm. Take out of oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.
• Combine dried egg whites and water in a small bowl. When the cookies are cooled, brush egg white mixture on one cookie at a time and top with pansy. Use your fingers to press the pansy down in the middle and smooth out all petals so they are firmly stuck to the cookie. Brush a thin layer of egg white mixture on top of the pansy and smooth. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Return to parchment-lined baking sheet.
• Bake at 325° for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. With your fingers, smooth out any petals that have shriveled up. Set out on a cooling rack until the top of the cookies are completely dry.
Be it Easter or Eid, holidays in the Levantine region of the Middle East are incomplete without a shortbread cookie called maamoul. Stuffed with date paste or chopped walnuts or pistachios, and dusted with powdered sugar, these buttery cookies are the perfect reward after a month of fasting during Ramadan or Lent.
The dough is made with wheat flour or semolina (or a combination of the two), then pressed into special molds, traditionally carved in wood. And the fillings are fragrant with rosewater or orange blossom.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, the Beirut sweet shop Helwayat Al-Salam becomes a veritable factory of maamoul. Owner Mitri Hanna Moussa dips pitted dates into rosewater, then passes them through a meat grinder to make a paste. Mitri’s mother, Samira, a small, older woman with wrinkled hands but perfectly manicured nails, sits at a makeshift table sorting pistachios. She makes sure that neither a speck of shell nor a single shriveled pistachio makes its way into their renowned cookies. Once all ingredients are ready, Mitri and his assistant pinch off balls from their mountain of semolina dough. They shape the dough balls into small cups which they stuff with either date paste, pistachios or walnuts.
Then, Samira presses each stuffed dough ball into an antique wooden mold, which she thwacks against a wooden stump to toss out a perfectly formed cookie, ready to be baked. In a matter of minutes, the three of them prepare dozens more.
I hosted an impromptu Pride and Prejudice tea party! Kind of went on a baking craze here with what was supposed to be just a simple movie night, but I made a bunch of things I’ve never done before so it was really fun! The raspberry jam was from a jar, but other than that I made everything by hand! Super happy with how everything turned out!
My group hadn’t met since a couple weeks before Christmas so this weekend’s 13th Age game turned into a belated Christmas Special. We were also meeting in a gaming store, so for my minor elements instead of asking the players to supply random minor elements off the top of their heads I asked strangers at nearby tables without any context and whatever they say becomes canon. The party consists of a Commander, a Paladin, a Rogue, a Sorcerer, and a Chaos Mage. Some highlights:
GM: “Okay, so your mail route will take you through christmas town because woah are there letters to deliver there. Now…” <to someone walking by> “Name an abstract concept.” Stranger: “Addiction” GM: “So, Christmas Town is a mess right now because of addiciton. So, if you need to find Santa…” <To someone picking a game off the demo shelf> “Hey, who is Santa visiting at the Christmas Town Rehab Center.” Stranger 2: “Himself, for his cocaine habit.”
Paladin: “I would like to interrogate the reindeer to find out what happened here.” GM: “You can find some of them at The Stables. It’s a shitty dive bar, but it’s still the best in town.” Paladin: “I’ll head there first then.” GM: “They won’t talk to you much unless you join their reindeer games.” <To someone playing a board game nearby.> “What game are they playing in the bar.” Stranger: “Russain Roulette.” GM: “I guess it’s the last round, then.” Paladin: “Sure, I’ll play that with them.” Commander: “Can I join too?”
Comet: “It just hasn’t been the same since Santa started on the snow.” Paladin: “That’s too bad. Who got him into that?” <Fires gun at head. Draws a white chip.> GM: <To someone walking by> “Hey, who gets Santa his snow.” Stranger: “Jack Frost.” Comet: “Yeah, that Jack Frost rolled through town a while back and it’s been downhill ever since.” Commander: “Too bad. Any idea where we can find Saint Nick?” <Uses a magic item to briefly become a zombie and immune to critical hits. Fires gun at head. Draws a red chip but doesn’t die. Resets bag of chips> Cupid: “I haven’t seen him in a while, but someone at the…” GM: <To someone at the next table> “Name a cookie.” Stranger: “Shortbread.” Cupid: “Someone at the Salty Shortbread might have seen him lately. That brothel gets most of the traffic these days.” <Draws a red chip.> Comet: <while picking up Gun from Cupid’s corpse.> “The 34th Street Rehab Clinic might have something on him too.”
Rogue: “I’ll shimmy up the wall and into the window of Santa’s Office. 23.” GM: “The factory’s walls aren’t tough to climb, you don’t have much trouble. Inside his office are shelves of various decorations and toys, some filing cabinets, and a large pine desk.” Rogue: “What’s on the desk?” GM: “There’s a heap of letters next to it where they were carelessly shoved off. Lying on the desk itself is only a single dirty razor blade.” Rogue: “This is just getting sad.”
GM: “Santa is getting upset that you aren’t here to deliver more blow. He grabs your shirt and threatens you.” Sorcerer: “I breathe fire in his face. 29.” GM: “His beard is a bit singed but he doesn’t seem too fazed by it. He punches you in the jaw for 10 Christmas Damage.” Chaos Mage: “It doesn’t go to your HP, but if you take 30 points of it your heart grows three sizes.” GM: “That is not healthy for you.”
Summary: Muffet repays Papyrus for saving a spider by giving him a special bar of chocolate. The secret family recipe keeps customers coming back for more. Papyrus uses it as an ingredient for his brother’s birthday cake, which leads to some…interesting…results.