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Sunday, April 13, 2008

meringues, sort of

meringues

When I think of the phrase “spectacular disaster” I think of an implied double meaning. Is it a disaster so notable that it will be long remembered? Or was it as disaster that turned out rather well, unexpectedly? In my case, this Sunday, it was the latter.

I tried to make meringues and failed. Failed miserably as they were the flattest, saddest looking things you’ve ever laid eyes on. Fluffy and cloud-like they were not. Instead, they were crispy, flat, thin, two-dimensional. They were so deflated and when I took them out of the oven, they deflated even more, thus crushing my already-fragile cooking ego to a paper-thin level.

DSC_0044 DSC_0071

Growing up, my mother would make meringues that dreams are made of. They were impossibly airy, beautifully crumbly and dissolved on your tongue like a fairy-tale dessert. In fact, my favorite way to eat them would while reading Grimm Brothers’ Fairytales – stories, I am still fond of to this day. All she used were egg whites and sugar. And they were perfect every time.

brightness

I decided to give my meringues a little edge and added vanilla and lemon zest. I’m not sure whether it was the timing of adding sugar to the egg whites or the lemon zest itself, but I never wound up with stiff airy peaks like you’re supposed to. And perhaps I should have stopped right there, but I decided not to trust my gut and bake these guys anyway.

After I pulled the out of the oven, they were a pathetic bunch. I might have heard a sad sigh from one of them, or it could have been all in my head. Still, I refused to throw them in the garbage and when I bit into one, I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t bad.

meringues

Now, I’m the first to admit failure when I am faced with one. If I took a class on meringues, and this was going to be my final product, I would expect an F. And yet, these egg white crisps were not bad, they were quite tasty, but in a completely different way. I might even try to make them again because they were quite intriguing, these crisps.

And so I wonder, as I bite into another crisp – a spectacular disaster? Perhaps not spectacular per se, but certainly a palatable one.

Continue reading meringues, sort of.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

chocolate chip cookies – beating out tate’s

they were flat and crunchy on parchment paper

To be honest, this cookie making experience seems so far away, I have a hard time recalling the vividness of the excitement. I’ve been meaning to write about it for days now, or maybe over a week, but with work and a 4-day bar mitzvah event, I’ve been otherwise detained. I do know that when we first tasted the cookies, I did a little dance around our kitchen with a victorious “Take that, Tate’s!!” feeling pretty successful, particularly given my recent cooking flops.

Not only did I manage to produce a cookie that was delicious beyond words, it tasted far better than my favorite cookies made by Tate’s! And it wasn’t even their recipe, which by the way, is seriously flawed – as I came across a few blogs that bemoaned the fact that the cookies came out tasting like anything but Tate’s packaged ones you can get in the store. It also didn’t help that KS’s younger sister mentioned the very same problem she had with the recipe, proclaiming those cookies mushy and gross. Now, I may not want to partake in any Chips Ahoy, but let me tell you, a cookie has to be seriously disgusting for me to complain about it!

on silpat they were a bit thicker

So, back to the cookie that made it all better – thank you, Martha Stewart, yet again. Really, it was like a miracle, as if the skies parted, the clouds lifted and I heard angels sing and trumpets play. It was the first time I tried a cookie I made and thought to myself, “There’s a living that can be made in this!” Unfortunately for you, I got so carried away with making, baking and tasting the cookies, that the pictures for this recipe are seriously lacking. For which I am sorry. A bit.

Having said all this, there’s the expected regular disclaimer. I mean, how do you like your cookies? Do you prefer them to be chewy or crispy? On the thicker side, or thin and lacy like? My cookie tastes have shifted over the years and with chocolate chip cookies, I now strongly prefer a thin, lacy, buttery cookie to a thicker, chewier one. If you are also one of those people, this cookie is for you. If, however, you’re in the thicker, chewier cookie camp, do not despair, for there is a way for you to use the same recipe and get the cookie you prefer. Read on!

This discovery was made by pure accident, as most discoveries are. For one reason or another, and frankly I can’t remember why, I baked a portion of the cookies using a Silpat cookie sheet and a portion using parchment paper. The Silpat batch was thicker and chewier – tasty, but we preferred the parchment paper batch, which was the thin, lacy, buttery cookie that melted in our mouths. This is the cookie I was after, and KS proclaimed that these were my best cookies yet – a high praise from a guy who tells me straight if I’ve over-salted the soup yet again. Unfortunately, unlike the last time, he couldn’t come up with a sexy name for the cookie, and so it’ll remain the good ol’ chocolate chip cookie.

Continue reading chocolate chip cookies – beating out tate’s.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

constellation cookies

Ever since these cookies stole my heart and failed to steal KS’s, I’ve been on a mission to find a cookie that we could both fall in love with and never let go. Aside from the fact that I just. Plain. Don’t. Get. It. How do you not love a cookie so deep, dark and chocolatey? Well, apparently, this cookie might come close to finding heaven on earth for some people(me), but others will still be looking. So I gave myself a goal – find that cookie that makes KS as weak in the knees that the world peace cookies made me and make sure that cookie has the same knee-weakening effect on me. After all, since I am making them, shouldn’t I enjoy them just as much?


All this talk of not having a sweet tooth has been put to rest. I do (have a sweet tooth). And I can tell you that while discriminating (red velvet cake from Billy’s – yes, please; Magnolia cupcake – no, thanks) – it’s very firmly present, refuses to go away, and lets me know of its existence every afternoon after my healthy lunch. To which I, at times, succumb. But all those cravings aside, there’s nothing more comforting and seductive than walking into an apartment that smells of freshly-baked cookies. It says “home” and “relax” and “good food can be found here”. And as I come home these days when it’s late, dark, cold, and often wet outside, walking into a house with the fresh cookie smell is like reaching my own idyll every night after work.


I found this recipe on the never-bored-when-I’m-looking-at-it Martha Stewart website – and it took all strength and dedication not to make these cookies the night I found the recipes. And a smart move that was, for here’s the rub: these cookies take awhile to make. Heed my warning when I say this to you, make these on a weekend, when you have time, as coming and going from your house, or make the dough one day, freeze it, and then make the cookies on another night. The cookie dough comes out very fudgy and sticky, and as you are going to be wrapping it in plastic and chilling it for a few hours, do not despair if you think it’s too sticky and gooey and you are having a hard time making it go into the plastic encasing. It’s supposed to be like that and you will be on the right track. I recommend chilling the dough for the amount of time advised in the recipe – it makes the job easier later on. But the end result – oh my! These are seductive and chewy, full of dark chocolate and hints of smokey molasses. A truly grown up cookie with layers and layers of flavors! Indeed, these cookies are worth the trouble they put you through!

After you make the cookie dough, you have a few more steps to follow before you can place them in the oven. There’s the additional step of creating ball of dough and chilling them for 20 minutes afterwards. And then, only after you chilled these chocolate balls of goodness, you roll them in granulated sugar (yes, we have white sugar on hand for this kind of stuff, we’re not completely white sugar free, I was mistaken) – and only after that step you stick the sparkly, sugary cookie dough balls in the oven.

If you don’t care to have shimmery cookies, you can skip the sugar rolling step, but look at how pretty and magical they look! Don’t you want cookies that look like the dark skies with all the stars upon them? That’s what KS saw when he was eating his fourth of fifth cookie of the night suggesting that I call them “Constellation Cookies”. And I think I will do just that. Martha, I hope you forgive me.

Continue reading constellation cookies.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

peanut butter cookies

Baking - PB Cookies - 10-7-07 (5)

All right, I’ve been a hypocrite enough! I’ve said I’ll be eating healthy. I’ve banished white sugar and white rice from the household, but I let white flour linger and it’s not budging. I won’t let it go! I’ve tried eating grains that are on the low glycemic scale – perfect for breakfast right before your arduous 45 minute spin class. I’ve been cutting out red meat, eating my chicken thigh skinless, drinking more water. And what of that? All to make cookies, right?

I’ve long boasted that I didn’t have a sweet tooth. A year ago, you could have put a plate of cookies right in front of me and I wouldn’t have touched a single crumb. And now, I’m all “Oh, maybe I’ll just sample the flavor, have a little bite” and before you know it, I’m pouring myself a glass of milk, while the second or third cookie is firmly clenched between my teeth. I mean, really, we can’t even walk past Billy’s anymore without a little treat! I think the gods are finally having their revenge on me – I shouldn’t have boasted so!

awesome and ingenious! 15 minutes away from being a cookie

So when KS and I finished dinner on Sunday and I looked at him ever-so-demurely and said “Mmm… we SO need dessert,” he shot me a coy look and said, “Cookies!”
“But baby, Billy’s is a long walk away,” I disagreed, at which point, my darling, lovely, sweet man, poked me squarely in the arm and said “Cookies!” with even more conviction.

What, now? Cookies? At this bewitching Sunday night hour, when all I wanted to do was read the travails of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and wait for the new episode of “Curb”? But, KS knows, and you should also know, that I cannot deny him anything. Not when he makes that sweet, innocent face – that face I cannot resist, and so at 9pm, on a Sunday night, I resolved to make peanut butter cookies. The recipe for which I did not have.

Baking - PB Cookies - 10-7-07 (3) Baking - PB Cookies - 10-7-07 (4)

And after looking all around to many a good reputable recipe site, I simply typed “peanut butter cookies” into Google search and got a recipe right from Elise’s fantastic site! Which is the recipe I made and the cookies turned out to be SO good, I had to write her a personal thank you note, because let’s face it, 10 years ago before a first recipe was posted by a food blogger, I would have had to wait til Monday when I would have to go to a physical bookstore (and you know I heart Amazon) and find a book with a peanut butter cookie recipe. How internet has satisfied the instant gratification in all our hearts! I added some white chocolate chips to the dough – and created a sublimely delicious cookie worthy of seconds and thirds and accompanied by a tall, cold glass of milk.

I suppose there’s always a back-to-back double spin class session on Sundays I can attend to make up for the gluttony of the week!

Continue reading peanut butter cookies.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

linzer cookies

linzer cookies

You know I sometimes forget that what I consider utter and sublime perfection might not be that sublime or perfect for someone else. It never ceases to amaze me though, because I, ignorantly, like to think of bliss as universal and indisputable, but of course, that’s never true. For example those cookies that sent me into sheer cookie heaven, were not even remotely blissful for KS. In fact, he confessed a few days ago, to not even liking them in the least – he preferred those cookies instead. Sacrilege as it may be to proclaim a dark, deeply rich, chocolate cookie as untasty; it does remind me that what’s good for the goose, isn’t necessarily goose for the gander. So the quest to make a cookie for KS that he’d like, nay, love was on – big time.

So there’s a little place we like to have brunch at, Kitchenette – it’s got a homey feel with country style brunches, neverending servings of grits, home made biscuits with strawberry butter and breakfast enchiladas that I can’t get enough of. Orange juice comes in Mason jars, tables are made of painted doors with glass tops. It’s a little bit of South, or at least the feeling of it anyway, crammed into a tiny Tribeca space. And upon entering the first thing you see are these decadent cookies piled on cake stands – peanut butter cookie sandwiches, macaroons and Linzer cookies. And it’s the Linzer that caught KS attention.

i didn't make enough :(

I’ve always liked a good Linzer cookie, but the whole construction of them scared me off a bit. This isn’t some drop cookie that you just let back and then enjoy. This involves using a cookie form, then making an additional hole in half the cookie disks, then baking, then cooling. And finally dropping a generous dollop of raspberry jam on a whole piece and put the holey piece on top. There, now that I’ve written it, it doesn’t seem that bad at all, but for some reason, in my head, when I thought about it – whoa, that’s a lot of steps.

cookie bottoms imperfect o's

Given my recent baking, um, endeavors so to speak I was a bit apprehensive about giving this cookie dough a go. First I failed at pie dough and then, as if that wasn’t enough, the upside-down plum cake visual appearance gave me nightmares for awhile. The humidity today made me particularly nervous – because I’ve been told humidity and dough are not friends. But I was not to be deterred, weather or not.

looking sticky flat disk

The dough did give me some trouble – after I chilled it and was trying to roll it, it went all kinds of broken on me. Too sticky, too unpliable, it was holding on to the granite for dear life, until I sprinkled enough flour on it to make it work with me – which means for all you out there, if you try this recipe – do not dismay if your dough doesn’t cooperate. There is a way to fix it! Also, if you roll the dough between the two sheets of plastic wrap, it tends to work better.

Also, we didn’t have hazelnuts as the recipe require, so I used pine nuts instead, which didn’t hurt the end results at all.

And finally, do not dismay if you don’t have the fancy forms for your cookie cut-outs. I didn’t – and used a small metal cup for the outline, and a tiny kettle top to get the small circles out for the tops of my cookies. In a way, it made the cookie construction that much more fun, albeit, they didn’t have that perfect Linzer look. Still, they tasted pretty heavenly to me and to KS. I guess there’s a cookie we can both agree on, even though it doesn’t involve chocolate.

Continue reading linzer cookies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

world peace cookies – korova cookies

world peace contained

Ever since I’ve become an avid 24 devotee, I’ve been far more sensitive to phrases that contain the word “nuclear” in them. And it doesn’t help that Fox News totally exploits that just-right-after-24-paranoia that sets in when you start thinking that everyone’s out to get you.

Usually, though not always, the word is linked to either Iran, or North Korea. Sometimes, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s name comes up, sometime it doesn’t. For someone who is politically aware, yet for some reason has trouble pronouncing the name Ahmadinejad, (AH-MA-DI-NE-JAD – I think I got it, maybe) I find wars and war terminology polarizing.

On the one hand, the history geek in me, realizes that wars have happened historically and however unfortunate are a way of social development. Or at least they have been in the past. On the other hand, I shudder at what damage war can do to a generation. The sacrifice it takes. And how, no matter what we say, whether or not we are in support or against any war, those who fight and come back are still underappreciated by the rest of us, who have no approximation of what it’s like out there.

With that in mind, I have quite the desire to make a super huge batch of these cookies, that have been making their way around the blogosphere and dispatch it to Ahmadinejad as well as Kim Jong-il. I’ll put them in pretty tins, include the recipes, and perhaps try to convince them that if they shift production to these cookies instead of nuclear whatevers, their economy will prosper – everyone in the world will want to buy their cookies (because let’s face it, there’s only a handful of us with baking fetishes).

world peace cookies - waiting for heat

Whether or not this is effective, I, myself, feel subdued and somewhat floating when I have these with a glass of milk. I went through an entire batch in 2 days. And while KS had a few cookies here and there (he’s not as much of a chocolate freak as I am, tant pis!), the damage done was pretty much by me. And while these might not be good for the waistline, they are certainly good for the soul. Various bloggers have been making them and hailing them as world’s greatest cookies. And at first, I was on the fence, skeptical and unsure. I mean, how good could they really be?

Well, I hate to say I was wrong to doubt the praise, but I was wrong. These cookies are the greatest things invented in cookie land – so dark and rich the chocolate, they’re frighteningly and unfairly good.

And while I might not find success with stopping world nuclear armament, I find myself more congenial to mankind after I have a few of these little circles of perfection.

World peace? Perhaps not overnight, but maybe as bloggers all over the world circulate these cookies, who knows, the joke might turn into a reality.

Continue reading world peace cookies – korova cookies.