Monday, December 28, 2009

Cookie Baking - A cup of goodwill, a pinch of the past, and a smidgen of cinnamon

The other day as it was snowing – our first big snowfall of the year with 12 inches, I was mindful that those kinds of days are great to spend baking cookies; however I’ve already baked mine for the season.

Memories flood my mind of days past when families gathered to spend a day together baking, talking and sharing among themselves. It’s a good way to carry on traditions from the past. Christmas cookie baking represent friends, family, comfort and tradition and recipes handed down from one generation to the next.

When I bake my cookies in December, I like to make several differing kinds for variety.
My recipes have not yet been put into an organized system, except for an old tattered book entitled “Christmas Cookies”, into which I stuff all the best of the best recipes that I have made. They may be on old yellowed pieces of paper, recipes handed down from my Mom, newspaper clippings, from friends, or recipes gotten from a magazine while sitting in a doctor’s office.

I begin by sorting the recipes and making a list of the ones that I would like to bake. I look over the recipe and note what ingredients I will need to buy so that I need not stop for supplies after I have started.

Cookie baking can be works of art – from drop cookies, bar cookies, cut-outs, filled cookies, iced cookies, to pinwheels. Each holiday season, I make many of the same cookies, but like to try some new ones too. And there may also be some mistakes, forgetting to add something or some that burn because you left them in the oven too long.

This year I baked with my grandchildren helping – putting the candy kisses on the cookies, dipping the cookies in chocolate, or decorating the sand tarts. It became an assembly line baking but in 2 hours we had 42 dozen --- and lots of fun, good memories, and cookies for giving and sharing…and plenty to serve our guests who come to the Bed and Breakfast over this Holiday Season. I am including one of my favorites.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies
¼ cup butter
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate and ¾ cup chocolate chips in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat till melted. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add flour, b. powder, and salt, beating well. Add chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining ¾ cup chocolate chips and pecans. Drop onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Submitted by Ruth Harnish, Flowers & Thyme Bed and Breakfast

Friday, December 11, 2009

Discover Covered Bridges in Lancaster County

Pennsylvania is often recognized as the birthplace of covered bridge building. From the 1820's to 1900 there were about 1500 covered bridges built in Pennsylvania. Because many state residents realized the importance of these historic bridges, Pennsylvania has the largest number of covered bridges in the nation. Today 219 bridges remain in 40 counties (Pennsylvania has a total of 67 counties). Lancaster County has 28 covered bridges and has more than any other county. While covered bridges are sometimes called kissing bridges, the real reason for the covering is to protect the bridge's truss design from the weather.

One covered bridge is on the way to Paradise, a small village east of Lancaster City. Built in 1893, the Paradise Bridge is supported by the Theodore Burr arch and crosses over the Pequea Creek on Belmont Road. Located in the heart of Amish country, bridge traffic includes buggies as well as cars. So, slow down, take a deep breath and listen for the clip-clop of horses' hooves crossing the bridge surface. It's like being in another country and another time.

The longest covered bridge in the world was built in Lancaster County in 1814. It crossed the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, a distance of over a mile (5,960 feet). Ice and high water destroyed it in 1832.

For visitors and guests at one of our Authentic B&B Association members, you will find at least one covered bridge nearby. To get an in-depth background to the history, descriptions, statistics, locations and driving tours of the 28 covered bridges in Lancaster county, you can put these words into Google or Yahoo “covered bridges Lancaster county pa”, and then enjoy reading and seeing beautiful pictures of one of our County’s treasures.

An example of a nearby covered bridge is the Neffs's Mill Bridge, a single span Burr Arch with a total length of 103 feet. It lies at the bottom of Bridge Road and Penn Grant Road and carries your auto over the Pequea Creek.
The bridge has excellent areas to take photographs especially from the south side of the bridge.

The Innkeepers at each of the Bed & Breakfast Inns of the Authentic Bed & Breakfast Association will help you find your way around the County to enjoy some of the most fascinating structures built by our ancestors.

Submitted by Tom and Sarah Murphy, Walnut Lawn Bed & Breakfast