Can I have the receipt for those cookies?

Story and photos by Karyn Miller Brooks

If I were at your house for dinner and asked for a receipt, what would you do? Would you give me a ticket from the grocery store where you bought the food components? Or maybe you would give me a list of all your expenses to make dinner. Or maybe you’d ignore me because you thought it was rude to ask how much dinner was.

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Karyn Miller Brooks’ passion for food, cooking and bringing people together prompted her decision to open Gourmet Gallery, a local cooking school. After graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in journalism, she studied culinary arts at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and Orange Coast College. Karyn married Joe Brooks in January 2016 and he shares her passion for food and cooking. She has a daughter, Molly, and two stepsons, James and Becky.

For most of us Americans, our understanding of the word “receipt” is very similar to the following from

Receipt — the state of being received into one’s possession: receipt of goods; a written acknowledgment of receipt of payment; an order receipt.

Recipe — A set of instructions for making something: a recipe for muffins; a device to achieve something like a recipe for success.

But, if you ever listen to “A Way with Words,” National Public Radio’s show “about language and the way we use it,” you may have heard Martha Barnett and Grant Barrett talk about this very topic.

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In episode #1583, a person named Brian tells a story about visiting friends in western Pennsylvania for dinner when someone asked for the “receipt” for a dish being served, “…using the word ‘receipt’ in the same way that others might use the word ‘recipe’”.

Martha responds to Brian by saying that she has “spotted a rare linguistic specimen”. she continues:

“Both words go back to the Latin word recetare, which means ‘to take or receive,’ but they entered English at different times.

“Receiving is the older term, originally (referring to) ‘the act of receiving something.’ Recipe is the Latin imperative form of recetere and is inscribed at the top of a list of instructions for a medicinal preparation.

This recipe was eventually abbreviated as Rx: the “recipe” or list of ingredients or drugs to be taken for a disease, just as a recipe is a list of ingredients for a dish.

So when I asked my friend Doreen Ravenscroft for a receipt for the Scottish shortbread I bought at The Yellow Cottage, she offered me a list of ingredients and instructions (a recipe) for these delights. What she expected was a monetary accounting of my purchase.

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Doreen’s shortbread recipe comes from this cookbook, which was probably given to her and her husband Bill in 1963 when they got married. Obviously, she is a keeper.

Doreen and her colleagues are creating an organization for young adults living with neurological disabilities like autism. The Yellow Cottage Kitchen, a program that grew out of The ARC, is now part of Waco Cultural Arts.

The Kitchen trains and encourages these individuals to develop life skills, including culinary herb propagation, kitchen management, food packaging, customer service, marketing, and even graphic design, while also provides traditional homemade sweet bread during the holidays and the opportunity to financially support this program.

You can learn more about them on the website.

The Yellow Cottage Kitchen sells whole holiday shortbreads for $20 and individually wrapped triangles for $2 each. Order by texting 254-723-6830 (limited supply). But if you’re adventurous, try Doreen’s personal recipe.

The Yellow Cabin Shortbread

This recipe comes from Doreen’s Old English Cookbook.

6 oz. (1¼ cup minus 1 tablespoon) self-rising flour

4 oz. (½ cup) butter, preferably Kerrygold or European, softened

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The three-ingredient shortbread starts out as a pie crust.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and flour and cut with a knife or pastry cutter. Mix by hands to the breadcrumb stage (similar to making a pie crust). Add sugar and mix well, pressing the dough into a ball with your hands and the side of the bowl.

3. Place the ball of dough in the center of an ungreased 1-by-8-inch round pie pan and press to the edges to ensure an even thickness. (This is a bit of a workout. I cheated and used a stainless steel measuring cup to help smooth it out a bit.)

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The warmth of your hand and the sides of the bowl help form the shortbread dough into a ball before pressing it into the baking pan.

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As a beginner, I had trouble equalizing the shortbread batter in the pan; So, I cheated with a stainless steel measuring cup.

4. Using a small round cookie cutter placed in the center of the pan, press out the dough.

5. Using a knife, divide the surrounding dough circle into quarters; divide each quarter two more times, for a total of 16 small wedges around the circle.

6. With a fork, pierce each piece twice.

7. Place in oven for 25 minutes until lightly golden. (Depending on your oven, it may take a few more minutes.)

8. Remove from the oven, score again with a cookie cutter and knife, and prick with a fork again into the original holes.

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My first shortbread, minus one piece.

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You should score your shortbread with a knife and prick it with a fork before and after baking.

9. Sprinkle with a little sugar while hot.

10. Allow to cool completely before carefully removing from pan.

11. ENJOY with a good cup of tea or coffee. (Doreen’s note.)

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Taelor presents her hearts of butter for the Yellow Cottage Valentine cookie baking project. Photo by Doreen Ravenscroft

• • •

Shortbread is a Christmas tradition in our house because my sister-in-law bakes a batch and delivers it to us every year. This year our festive cookie smorgasbord will include shortbread cookies, thumbprint jam, chocolate chips, chocolate crinkles, and maybe even chai meringue drops if I have time.

Until this year, I never made my own fingerprint cookies. My sister, who loved to make them when her kids were little, says they’re like little buns you eat in one bite. The cookie dough is slightly sweet; and my British-born brother-in-law confirms this. (He ate eight in one sitting.)

Below is the recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I modified the cooking instructions to suit my personal preferences. One thing they recommend is to use 1½ teaspoons of batter. I found that a 2 tsp batter is less likely to crack a scoop.

America’s Test Kitchen also suggests using a greased teaspoon for the “thumbprint” indentation. Well, that just takes a bit of the fun out of it, especially if there are kids helping out in the kitchen. However, I have to admit that I prefer to use the knuckle of the index finger instead of the thumb. It makes the “print” more even.

After halfway baking, I used a lightly greased 1/2 teaspoon to re-imprint the “thumbprint”.

fingerprint cookies

(or index finger knuckle crackers)

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After baking for about 10 minutes, take the thumbprint cookies out of the oven, press “print” again, and add jam. Return to the oven and bake until lightly golden.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen recipe (or receipt)

½ cup jam (Cook’s Illustrated says to use seedless. I get that, but I’m rarely willing to go to the trouble of removing the seeds from my favorite raspberry jam or removing the skin from my favorite cherry preserves. It’s up to you) .

2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Fill a small ziplock bag with jam and set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

4. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Add cream cheese, egg, and vanilla, and beat just until combined, about 30 seconds.

5. Reduce speed to low, slowly add flour mixture, and mix until incorporated. The dough will be very soft.

6. Working with 2 teaspoons of dough at a time, roll into balls and space 1½ inches apart on prepared sheets. Using a greased 1 teaspoon round measure, make an indentation in the center of each ball of dough (or use your thumb or knuckle).

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A 2 teaspoon cookie scoop is a perfectly sized ball for fingerprint cookies.

7. Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until just beginning to set and lightly browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and gently shape the indentation in the center of each cookie with a greased ½ teaspoon rounded measure.

8. Cut off the small corner of the zip-lock bag and carefully fill each slit with about 1 teaspoon of jam. Turn pan over and continue baking until lightly golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Let the cookies cool completely before serving and eat eight in one sitting.

I hope your holidays are filled with happy prescriptions and receipts, and without a prescription. 

Karyn Miller Brooks’ passion for food, cooking and bringing people together prompted her decision to open Gourmet Gallery, a local cooking school. After graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in journalism, she studied culinary arts at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and Orange Coast College. Karyn married Joe Brooks in December 2016 and he shares her passion for food and cooking. She has a daughter, Molly, and two stepsons, James and Becky.

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