Jun 19, 2014

Cookies for the Portuguese

It all began with cookies, of course. Snickerdoodles more precisely. Then things became a soft jumble,

and chocolate chip followed with all its kinky variations.

The language lessons that began baking these cookies acquired a greater dimension, and about four days later I could converse ungrammatically but well enough with my neighbors. After a week, as she would respond to her friends who directed a stream of Portuguese at me like a firehose I kept my feet as the language soaked in and I responded in kind to her sometime surprise.

I woke and saw that the language lesson planned to greet the dawn that morning would be late. I walked carefully down the stairs, alert for cockroaches underfoot, and went to the freezer where I kept the latest batch for learning. Then a walk with the dogs and return, the door was slightly ajar and they got out again.

I searched quickly for my shoes, but then I saw that Ajax and Jambor had come back from a quick tour. No harm done.

Then I noticed the two kittens from my Portuguese tutor's litter. They had slipped in behind my dogs to visit the youngest, Jambor.

"Gostaria muito de um cigarro!"
Ajax, the cat killer, noticed then and prepared to attack.

Não!!! I screamed. Bei Fuß!
And reluctantly he came to heel as the kittens danced on the carpet with the other dog. I held the trained hunter, whose breeder and Serbian criminal who had added his Feinschliff in training had used cats to motivate Ajax to learn and obtain the coveted German Härtenachweis. I was suddenly overcome with great weariness. I fought against it, but like a castle's  great, heavy portcullis, they slammed down as I saw the kittens scamper ever closer to the waiting jaws of doom. I held desperately to the leash, but my stress-strained fingers grew numb and I fought harder to hold on, to remain conscious and in control, prevent the tragedy of the CRUNCH I heard in my sleep-dampened ears and the shake of the kill I felt in my numbing arm which held the leash.

Não!!I tried to scream again but if sound escaped my lips I could not hear it and the horror, the horror of the kill gripped like Grendel's claws on my dying heart as it was torn from my chest and I too must die no way to go back undo what was done. (The Dream)

(The Real Kill) I said good night to Sandra or rather bom dia, ate ja as she slipped out the door to fetch meds and return for another intensive Portuguese lesson. I turn at the door and saw the mother of her kittens in my living room behind me I screamed
Não!!! as Ajax noticed Jámbor dancing toward her to play, though an enemy to her always hopeful Jámbor that the cats he loves would come to play more than the occasional game of chase.
Bei Fuß!
I called and Ajax came quickly to heel bom cão and watched with interest as the queen escaped. Out the back. Out of sight. And over the back wall. Into the waiting jaws of three killers who tore her apart.

So as you try these recipes, remember that the cookies have blood on them. I am forgiven, I suppose, because after another week of lessons on a walk with the dogs at the end of a difficult day, my worse day in translation, so bad that I lost it completely, screamed out of control at the client, threw away the month's rent and food, then cut off the call, I thought the day must end otherwise so I asked her to marry she said Yes though I could not understand that single word.

Snickerdoodles (bolos de canela e açúcar)

2 3/4 cups [350 g] all-purpose flour (farinha de trigo)
1 1/2 cups [300 g] sugar (açúcar)
1 cup [250 g] butter, softened (manteiga)
2 eggs (ovos)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar (creme de tártaro / bitartarato de potássio)
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonato de sódio)
1 teaspoon vanilla (baunilha)
1/4 teaspoon salt (sal)
Sugar/Cinnamon Mixture
4 parts granulated sugar one part ground cinnamon (about 5 tablespoons total)
Heat oven to 400 °F [205 °C]. Combine all cookie ingredients in large bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.
Stir together about 4 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in small bowl.
Shape dough into small balls (1"/2.5 cm); roll in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches (5 cm) apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Soft Jumbles
A simple drop batter; the finished cookie has a bit of a sponge cake consistency.

1.5 cups sugar (white, granulated)
3.5 cups white flour (low gluten)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs
8 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp lemon zest
Beat the eggs, oil, sour cream and flavoring with the sugar, then sift in the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix by hand or on low power. Drop with two spoons on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with a bit of sugar or perhaps a sugar/cinnamon mix or top with a nut or raisin and bake.
In a convection oven these will take about 8 minutes at 300 °F, in a radiant oven 10 to 12 minutes at 325 °F (about 160 °C).
The flavor of the cookies develops best after they have cooled; they really don't taste like much when they are hot.

Chocolate chip cookies
(or in this case, “chipped chocolate cookies”)

100 g brown sugar (açúcar mascavado)
125 g unsalted butter (manteiga sem sal)
1 egg (um ovo)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (2 colher de chá de extracto de baunilha)
½ teaspoon salt (½ colher de chá de sal)
½ teaspoon baking soda (½ colher de chá de bicarbonato de sódio)
225 g self-rising flour (farinha de trigo com fermento)
200 g chocolate

Cream the sugar and butter together, then add the vanilla and egg.
Sift in the salt, baking soda and flour, mixing at low power.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces, then mix in by hand or with the mixer at low power.

Using two spoons, drop the dough in small clumps onto the baking sheet, pressing the dough down slightly (if it is stiff) to ensure that it will spread and bake properly.

Pre-heat the oven to 350-400 °F (175-200 °C) and bake 7-10 minutes more or less. Watch the first few sheets of cookies carefully, and adjust the temperature and time for the conditions of your oven, avoid burning the bottoms of the cookies.
The cookies taste best when cool and freeze nicely for a long time.

“Double chocolate chip cookies” can be made by replacing 50 g of the flour by 75 g of chocolate powder. The procedure is otherwise the same.


  1. Other great variations on the chocolate chip cookie recipe which have won Portuguese hearts and minds lately are:
    (1) substituting half a cup of honey or less for the sweetener and/or
    (2) throwing in about a teaspoon or more of fresh lemon zest and/or
    (3) using a bit of burned butter (browned while forgotten in the pan while a translation client calls)

  2. Further variations on chocolate chip that have been nice:
    (4) the old stand-by of throwing in half a cup of chopped nuts (slivered almonds in this case;
    (5) fresh orange zest from all the fruit the dogs keep retrieving from the yard. Surprisingly good.


Notice to spammers: your locations are being traced and fed to the recreational target list for my new line of chemical weapon drones :-)