|Cheryl (standing on the left) and mom finishing tray layout on Saturday morning before the event|
This past weekend we celebrated the 7th Annual Scholarship Tea at the Ivy Tech Richmond campus. This is my "home" campus and where I spent my first nine years with the College. The Scholarship Tea is an annual fundraiser, and I look forward to it every year. For us, it has become a truly family event. The original idea was, if I remember correctly, suggested by my Aunt Idris who retired from the College. I've hosted a table every year (with mom's help in all but the first year as she couldn't attend that year). Mom has been on the committee to organize and prepare the menu and all the food for the last three years and dad has served for the last two years. Isn't he adorable in his bow tie?
As I mentioned, mom is a part of the committee for the tea - the group of ladies who selects the menu and prepares all of the food. Mom mentioned after last year's tea that she wasn't sure she wanted to do it again this year, as it's a lot of work and she wasn't sure she'd feel up to it. I said I would try to help out more this year and encouraged her to go ahead and say yes again.
Even though she missed a meeting while she was in Florida this year, she stayed on the committee. As time got closer to the tea, I told her I'd come over the day before and help with all the food prep with the committee. She has always - and we did again this year - made her contribution to the event on her own at home. (Much more on that in the second half of this post.) However, many of the items are very intricate and time consuming and take a lot of time to put together so...as the flier for the folding and prep of the mailing for the church newsletter always says...many hands make light work. Those are done by the committee and friends on the day before.
|Fruit shooters, cheesecake bites, and cookies on a serving tray on Saturday.|
It's a large and roomy place so everyone staked out a little spot to start on their first task - most of which were individual at the beginning of the day (mine was rolling bread slices with a rolling pin for egg salad sandwiches). As people finished one thing they moved on to another spot to help out in another way. By the end of the day we were all standing around one table assembling the most delicate little cucumber sandwiches (which didn't turn out in any of the photos I took, but were delicious). It was a load of work and I was pretty tired by the end of that part of the day (around 1:30)...but mom and I still had our contribution to make once we got back to the farm.
|Fruit tarts and key lime truffles await serving on Saturday.|
After we got home and rested a bit, mom and I set to assembling our contribution....cracker spoons. What, you ask, are cracker spoons? Well, they were inspired by this photo and the recipe in the April 2012 Southern Living magazine.
We first tried the spoons in March, when mom first got the magazine. You might be able to see in the picture that there is a little arrow pointing to the cracker spoons. It says you can get the cookie cutter for $2 at Crate and Barrel. Since our first try was within days of getting the magazine and we hadn't had time to check for the cookie cutters yet, I just cut around a spoon with a knife, which worked well and actually creates the cutest look in my opinion. However, we needed to make 160 of these little guys in just one or two nights...a cookie cutter would be best for mass production we decided.
So, back in March, my assignment was to find the cookie cutters. Once back in the "big city", I checked my local C & B for the cookie cutters - no dice. I was in Chicago a week later and tried the one on the Magnificent Mile - still no joy (and, let's be truthful, if the three - or is it four? - story CB on the Mag Mile doesn't have it - CB doesn't carry it - but I persevered). [Mom did score the cute white tasting spoons also shown in the article as a gift from me on that trip.] I checked the CB web site. I emailed them and emailed Southern Living. Nothing - not even a response (both get major, major "fails" in the customer service category as a result.). Yet, undaunted in the pursuit of cookie cutters, I finally just resorted to the trusty google search and found this great online shop - aptly named - The Cookie Cutter Shop - and had the 4" spoon cutters and a few other happy surprises shipped off to mom.
So, back to Friday afternoon...we needed to make at least 160 of the little spoons. How long could that possible take with two cookie cutters?
The recipe is simple. Although we tried it between March and last Friday with multiple "real" pie dough recipes, both mom and I agreed the best taste results from a good 'ole Pillsbury refrigerator pie crust. It's what the recipe calls for, but what kind of chefs would we be if we didn't try all the possibilities?
Mom and I each had one roll going at a time - working together to fill a single cookie sheet. We cut individual cookies out - using the dough as "conservatively" as possible.
They don't puff up or spread much at all so you can fit a lot of them on a cookie sheet (we averaged about 30 depending on the size of the sheet). After they are on the cookie sheet, press down on the "bowl" part of the spoon with your thumb to form a little indentation.
I should insert here, that there are very, very few places in the world where I willingly give up control and for the most part just do what I'm told. Giving up driving responsibilities to my sister and/or to Gayle comes up as one place and cooking with my mother is the other. She is the chef. I am her assistant. That said, we had this ongoing debate in every practice batch about orienting the spoons in the same direction (she wanted to...as she felt it made the pressing of the thumb part go faster...I didn't really think it mattered). Obviously, on this batch, I didn't follow orders. We also discussed...granted we were a bit slap happy at this point...the merits of the thumb pressing part altogether. But, we decided we'd done it on every single test batch...why question it now.
And...I digressed...back to the spoons.
Brush each spoon lightly with an egg white that's been beaten with just a bit of water.
Sprinkle lightly with seasoned salt (we used a California Blend Garlic Salt which is mom's go to seasoning for just about everything). In test batches I've used all kinds of different seasoning salts - I've not found one I didn't like yet. Just go lightly.
Place in a 400 degree oven for 8 - 11 minutes. NOTE: The recipe says 9 - 11. We found that by the time the oven had been on for a while, baking in mass like we were, 8 to 8 1/2 minutes was usually enough. Trust me on this...after you've been cooking for nearly eight solid hours, you do NOT want to "over brown" two whole pans of these little guys rendering them completely useless for serving at the tea the following day.
After they come out of the oven, remove them to a rack (or just onto some paper towels) to cool.
We got all the spoons baked by the time we were ready to eat dinner that evening. However, the daunting task of topping all of them with the Creamy Pimiento Cheese spread and tiny pieces of chives was looming over our heads for after dinner.
We had both done this task individually and I had even experimented in the two batches I'd done as tests leading up to the event with some other topping options (tapenade, bruschetta, shrimp salad, etc.). However, both mom and I had been doing small batches and had just done this step of placing the dollop of topping by hand with a spoon. Now faced with little rows of more than 160 spoons, doing that part of the job by hand wasn't going to cut it.
I had brought to her house a pastry bag and several pastry tips. The one large star shaped tip we thought would work was too small and just using the coupler on the pastry bag without a tip was too large (anyone see goldilocks coming a the end of this paragraph?). I had, fortunately, brought home a cheap little set of plastic pastry tips in a few different shapes. I set dad on the task of cutting off all but the base and just a bit of the tip of one of those to create a really wide, plain round tip. And, he did a GREAT job because that tip was just right. The job I had thought would take hours took less than 20 minutes.
Mom and I nearly through the pieces of chive I'd cut before we started all this earlier in the day into the air and just let the chives fall where they may in confetti-like abandon. We didn't though and did take another 10 minutes or so and individually dropped a few little, tiny pieces of chive onto each spoon.
We packed them up and loaded them in the auxiliary fridge in the garage (the original fridge that was in the house when I moved into it back in '98 - and it was old then - and it just keeps ticking along...they just don't make things like they used to!) to head off to the tea on Saturday. My tweet/facebook post to top off the day...
We both unwound with a glass of wine. My sister Susie stopped by (who always has to work during the tea...no fun!). She enjoyed the left over cheese spread and some of those overly browned crackers ... nothing to waste in the Monroe household.
In my next post I'll share a bit more about the tea event itself.