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January 16, 2006



am getting an education in U.S. terminology - this time re: confectioner's sugar, which (after a quick web search)is known here as icing sugar. Am very far behind in trying out all the recipes that interest me, but to date can confirm that the Meyer Lemon Tea Cake is lovely!


Glad you liked the cake, Jenny. I have often been puzzled by the term "castor sugar" in English recipes. Is that similar?


Oh, I love these cookies, in all manifestations. In our house they were Russian Tea Cakes and were made with walnuts, but I really love them with pecans. When I was in Arkansas, I made them with black walnuts, which are a love-'em-or-hate-'em kind of nut (and which, to my never-ending amazement, you could just go into the grocery store and buy for cheap). I love them in general, and I thought they were brilliant in this cookie.

To answer your question, because I am a big English cookbook nerd (as well as an English grocery store nerd): castor sugar is similar to superfine sugar. It's a granulated sugar, not a powdered one, but the grain is very, very fine.


Well, let me chime in there and say, as a recipient of these groovy little cookies, that whatever they're called, they are fantastic. E and I enjoyed the ones you left behind with our Earl Grey the next morning. What a treat!!!!


Ooh. A friend brought something that looked remarkably similar to these for New Year. She called Mexican Wedding Cakes - so another name there for you.

They were yummy.


Bakerina-re sugar: aha! It didn't seem to make sense as confectioner's sugar...solved my mystery. I have never tasted black walnuts...got to get me some.
Devster-Glad you liked them. Did Ms.Wally the cat express interest? I can't figure out what my felines see in these cookies, very strange. They are usually not all that keen on baked goods.
Clare-Maybe I should have called them "Cajun Anniversary Cookies"?


Reasonable people can differ as to whether the black walnut or the pecan is the queen of nuts. I'm sure these cookies would be brilliant with either nut, but if you used black walnuts, you would want to come up with a new name for them, I reckon. If memory serves, Joy of Cooking says that black walnuts can be used in place of pecans in pie, though the result would obviously be very different. Anyway, who can afford to use black walnuts in a pie these days?

I used, on rare occasions, to see black walnuts at Costco at a very reasonable price, but I have not seen any in some time. The same package that I got there I can now find on the Internet for two or three times as much, before shipping.

The price, however, is fully understandable if you have ever tried to get your own. The trees grow wild in this area, and if you are watchful, as I am, you can find bushels of the fruits, which resemble green tennis balls. Getting the nutmeats out, however, is the task that the gods would not give Hercules, deeming it too difficult. The nut's outer covering is hard and tenacious, and it will stain your hands dark brown. I have tried to get my nuts that way, but I have despaired. I asked my grandmother how to do it, and she told me that people used to put them in a pail and use a shovel with a butter churning (or post hole digging) motion to separate the nut from the covering, but that didn't work for me. She also said that she had seen people put them in the road and drive over them, but I wasn't willing to go that far. In the end, I decided that the best way to deal with them was to gather them in early July, long before they are mature, and make vin de noix.

A pecan tree has little pods that open up, and the nuts fall down, like mercy, from the heavens, and you can gather them up. You can crack a pecan by holding two of them together in the palm of your hand and squeezing until one of them breaks, and then you can pick out the nutmeat; you can easily get a quart of nutmeats in an evening of watching TV. I am not sure what an English walnut looks like on the tree, but the nut itself is smooth and easy to break with a nutcracker, and the nuts are large and easy to pick out. The nuts of the black walnut are dark and rough, with a ridged exterior; they are very difficult to crack open (relatives tell me they use the "patio and hammer" method), and the nutmeats are small. If I could get the nuts separated from the coverings, however, I'd be happy to sit on my patio with a hammer. There's really nothing else like them.


Y'know, now that I know how hard it is to get them, I am more determined than ever to find some black walnuts and try them. The stories about trying to extract them remind me of the time, many years ago, when I learned why macadamia nuts are so expensive.

A college housemate returned from Hawaii with a giant bag of same, in shells. We were totally flummoxed by their slick roundness, apparent lack of seam, and incredible shell density.Eventually, we found a place in the backyard where a bit of hollow pipe was protruding from the ground.

If we set each nut on it, and pounded it with a claw hammer, the nut would go flying out into the yard, where we would then search for it in the grass. Hard won snack.


Whatever you call them, they're delicious!

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