For the past couple of years, Miss Sophie's has had the honor of cooking for touring groups visiting our lovely city.
We provide dinner at the Mighty Eighth for one of the nights they're in town. Almost all of the tourists in these groups are retired people traveling with friends or groups. During the spring and fall, we can have upward of 200 people at one time. They arrive in buses around 6 p.m. to enjoy cocktails in the beautiful combat gallery, where the fully restored B-17 is housed. At 6:30 p.m., we serve them a buffet dinner of chicken or beef.
They eat well and most are very gracious, but I get the feeling they really care about what's for dessert! Some even get dessert before they get their meal - and they all want is a cookie. Well, really, they want one of every cookie.
After the first few tours, we had to limit them to two cookies. Some were taking five or six cookies each! I began to watch them and most were taking their cookies back to the table and carefully wrapping them in a cocktail napkin and putting them in their or a friend's purse! While I thought this was cute, I just couldn't afford to provide cookies for them for the remainder of the trip.
I should have known this would happen. Steve's parents lived in a very nice retirement community in Asheville, N.C. Part of the perks was that they could have one meal a day from the very elegant dining hall. After his mother became ill with Parkinson's disease, his father would go up every evening to get their dinner. Dad had a cabinet full of covered plastic plates and containers and a special basket to carry them all to and from the dining hall. Every night, he collected cookies - lots of cookies. Every morning, he fed Mom cookies for breakfast (at her request).
Their freezer had three things in it: a container of assorted cookies, some kind of ice cream and a mug for Dad's nightly beer.
My mother has a sweet tooth, too. While she still eats a healthy diet, she says she often just prefers to eat dessert. Interesting enough, there is a reason for the "senior sweet tooth." As we age, our taste buds lessen. When we are young, we have 10,000 to 12,000 active taste buds. People older than 70 only have 3,000 to 4,000 taste buds. While salty and bitterness sensitivity wanes, sweet sensitivity remains, even increasing as we age.
Some say it is a part of the aging "second childhood." The first thing we consume as infants is breast milk or formula - both of which are sweet. A child craves sweets because it is the first thing he/she tastes.
In my May 17 column, I suggested taking sweets to new parents for energy. This week, I would like to suggest you make some senior's day and take them some cookies. Along with taste buds, energy and capability diminish quickly. My mother says she can still do everything she used to do, it just takes twice as long to do it. This is frustrating when you're used to being the one who takes care of everyone else.
The ability to enjoy life, even food, begins to diminish and the day is filled with doctors' appointments, aches, pain and fatigue. A little note that lets them know you're thinking of them with a few fresh-baked cookies wrapped in parchment paper can bring a ray of sunshine into their day. It's the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.
A couple of months ago, I shared some simple cookie recipes. This week's recipes are a little more involved, but still very simple to make. I hope you'll use one or two of them to brighten someone's day.
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Butter Pecan Cookies
One of my favorite "store-bought" cookies was Pecan Sandies. I've tried many recipes that claimed to be Pecan Sandies, but this is the only one that came near to their taste. Yields 4 dozen.
1 cup of butter, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups self-rising flour
1 Â¾ cups chopped toasted pecans*
1. In a mixing bowl, cream brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually add flour. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Shape dough into 1 inch balls, then roll in toasted pecans. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased sheet pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until browned. Cool in pan for 2-3 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
*To toast pecans: Toss pecans in 1 tablespoon of butter. Spread out on a baking pan and cook at 325 degrees for 5 minutes.
Chocolate Coffee Crackle Cookies
This recipe was passed on when I took over the management of our church kitchen. It was hinted that it might be our senior minister's favorite. Yields 3 dozen.
2 cups self-rising flour
Â½ cup cocoa
16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, melted
2 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons softened butter
1 Â½ cups light brown sugar
Â½ cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sugar for dusting
1. Sift flour and cocoa together and set aside. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water. Stir espresso powder into melted chocolate chips and set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla extract, beat well. Stir in melted chocolate chips and espresso powder. Gradually add the flour mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll dough in granulated sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
These cookies will stir some memories for your elderly friends and make your house smell wonderful!
Â¾ cup butter, melted
1 Â½ cups white sugar
Â¼ cup molasses
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Â½ teaspoon ground cloves
Â½ teaspoon ground ginger
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 cup sugar and egg until fluffy. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, cinnamon, cloves and ginger; gradually add to mixing bowl. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 1- or 2-inch balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.