Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 2 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge!

I baked up the Chocolate Crinkles from the fridge tonight, which was fun and easy -- I think I ended up with more like 7 dozen cookies rather than the 6 the recipe said it would yield. The cookies are tasty but unusual -- crispy and quick to spread out in the pan, rather than the thicker look they seem to have in the picture. I did run them in the electric mixer a little bit longer than the directions may have expected, but my guess is that the real difference is that I used their directions for substituting self-rising flour. David carted several plastic boxes of cookies down to the freezer, and it was on to cookie #2: Lemon Bars.

Lemon Bars done the Betty Crocker 1960's Cooky Book way are quick and easy -- a couple ingredients, bake, a couple more ingredients, bake, done. No problem! Hmmm....what to make tomorrow....

This brings up the question, in a round-a-bout way, of why I'm enjoying this little exercise in the first place. Why do it?

Reason #1: It's like a cookie exchange, only no one takes away your cookies or judges you. The whole idea came up as I was ruminating on the cookie exchanges of my childhood. We kids loooooved the cookie exchange. Mom would do a bunch of work, and we would get a huge variety of cookies. What could be better? :). The cookie exchange seems to have an overall cultural reputation as being a lot of work, and in some cases, a source of social stress (Are your cookies gorgeous? Tasty? Healthful? Do they omit everything forbidden by everyone else's allergies and diet concerns? Did you bring recipe cards? Are they laser printed on fancy cards you hired Martha Stewart to design for you personally?). I came to the conclusion that I didn't particularly want to ringlead the imposition of stress and hassle on other people....I just wanted a lot of different cookies. And a lot of different cookies is a bunch of fuss and bother, but I don't mind going to all kinds of fuss and bother over something if I get to choose the fuss and bother....

Reason #2: I don't feel particularly confident in my ability to innovate with baked goods. I'm comfortable inventing recipes for main dishes, but baking has a lot of chemistry...I can't just fix a bad batch of cookies by adding some vinegar, cilantro, diced fruit, and/or black pepper...if the bread doesn't rise, adding curry powder just isn't going to liven things up. So this seems like a good way to hone my instincts. I would love to be able to whip up a batch of cookies or whatnot while I'm making dinner or working on other things, but I never seem to set aside the time to do it, and it's just not second nature.

Reason #3: It seems amusing. I expect I'll learn a lot and have fun along the way -- and at the end, well, there will be cookies. Amusement is surely one of the best reasons for this whole experiment. And cookies.

What could possibly go wrong??

My observations so far:
- Eggs seem to be more important to cookie making than I had realized. Sugar, flour, butter, some spices and flavorings and such...that's to be expected. But eggs? I'm going to run out of them, for one thing, and that's going to push me to consider either wacky ideas for substitutes, or else some very odd-sounding recipes that don't require eggs. Or is the egg thing a Betty Crocker thing, and will the next book I work through be less concerned about them? We'll see. My theory about eggs in cookies is that they must play the same role as they do in other dishes where their flavor isn't featured, which I think is to act as a kind of binding & thickening agent.
- I have a few items lurking in my cabinets and fridge that I'd forgotten about....which is good, considering how many things I am already running out of. Marshmallows...coconut juice....surely those will be helpful, although maybe not together.

On tap for tomorrow: something without any egg in it. The overall egg attrition rather is just too high to be sustained. Lemon snowdrops, or will that be too many lemon/powdered sugar items when mixed with the lemon bars from today? Cream wafers are eggless, but also rather pastry-like. Cheese dainties want an egg white, but have the advantage of calling for cream cheese...and drawing fron a diverse supply of ingredients may be important to long-term sustainability for this enterprise....besides, there are plenty of recipes that only want the yolk....cheesecake squares curiously do not call for cream cheese, but rather condensed milk....on the other hand, they would mean the end of my meager supply of brown sugar. But what really matters is....what will be tastiest?

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