Until recently, I knew very little about Pennsylvania (including whether or not I could spell it correctly). You may remember I am currently stuck in Philadelphia, waiting for those damn movers. I've spent the last couple of days walking, walking and walking. There isn't much I haven't seen (including the Museum of Art, thanks Dick). But I found my nirvana when I visited the Reading Terminal Market.
Oh, what a place! You want it? They got it. Anything from local produce to seafood to locally raised poultry. We won't even talk about the pork options. Lamb ribs? Veal ribs? No prob. Cookbooks, jams and jellies, local dairy products, raw milk, farm fresh eggs - and a million other options if you want to sit down and eat right then and there. And it was punctuated with the resounding sounds of two local opera singers. It bears repeating - oh, what a place!
I may be visiting Eric more often than he might wish...
What really started this Pennsylvania interest was a visit we made to Pittsburgh several weeks ago for a wedding. At the rehearsal dinner, much was made by the bride's mother (whom we had not met before) about how she and a group of family and friends had spent the afternoon traying cookies. "Traying cookies?" I wondered silently. "Huh? Is that a new baking method I don't know about?"
Well, no. Turns out it was exactly as stated. Traying cookies. As in putting them on trays. DUH.
And that, my friends, is where the story begins. It is apparently unthinkable to have a wedding in Pittsburgh without setting out multiple trays of cookies, baked or procured by family, neighbors and friends. It is a long-standing tradition that has its roots in the Depression, when people couldn't afford a big wedding cake.
I was captivated by this information. It's the Pittsburgh equivalent of southern hospitality. Is there anything better than family, friends and neighbors coming together to bake for a wedding?
Even the New York Times saw fit to write about it:
Post wedding, I emailed the bride's mom to ask a few more questions. She was beyond gracious in giving me information and shared the fact that 200 dozen cookies had been baked for this event.
200 DOZEN COOKIES = 2,400!!! Yikes! No wonder they spent an entire day "traying cookies."
I asked her if there were specific kinds of cookies that were required. "No," she replied casually, "but I hope you didn't miss the Lady Locks."
I hadn't. But I did not know the back story behind them. They are sometimes referred to as "Cream Horns." More interestingly, they are also known as "Closepin Cookies." That's because in Depression days, the dough was rolled around closepins - not the spring-loaded version we know today, but the wooden ones with the straight sides and the "pin head." Unfortunately (sigh), I am old enough to remember them.
I couldn't stand it. I had to try my hand at making them. I cheated by using frozen puff pastry and I recoiled at the use of shortening and marshmallow creme, but I persevered anyway. They were gorgeous. They were delicious. I would make them again.
I also didn't have any straight-sided closepins on hand. Well, who would? So it meant a trip to the hardware store to buy a wooden dowel, which Henry graciously hacked into 3-inch lengths for me.
The dowel - striaght from the hardware store - lengths courtesy of Henry
1 pkg. frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with 1 T. milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup shortening, room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or vanilla paste)
6 tablespoons marshmallow creme
Defrost pastry in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
Bake until just golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then carefullly remove pastry from dowel sticks. Place on a baking rack to cool completely.
Beat butter and shortening. Add confectioner's sugar and milk. Beat in vanilla and marshmallow creme.
Yield: about 3 dozen
I love the history and the tradition that is interlocked in this recipe. Everything old becomes new again, right?