Archive for the ‘baking’ Category

In Search Of Crispiness

February 8, 2009

I’m still in the midist of The Savage Detectives, which is a very long novel.  The economy sucks, everyone is losing their jobs, every time I listen to the news I get depressed.  So let’s talk about cookies.    

I inherited my mom’s sweet tooth.  Her sweet tooth is like a legend in my family; I’ve had my cousins ask me “does your mom really eat nothing but donuts every day?”  (She doesn’t!)  My mom always has a box of Entenmann’s in one corner of the kitchen counter.  And no matter how full she is after dinner she will always have dessert, usually a small vanilla ice cream sundae.  Recently she’s started to eat “healthier” desserts, and it makes me sad to see boxes of 100 calorie pack cookies and cupcakes instead of the Entenmann’s.  (The concept of 100 calorie cupcakes really disturbs me, how in the world to they make those things?)  

Like my mom, I need a little sweet every day.  It is not just a craving or a desire, it’s a need that I do not question or try to ignore.  Despite my mom’s impressive appetite for sweets, she is a healthy woman.  She is a nurse, and to anyone who questioned her way of eating she always replied what is the golden rule of eating: you can eat anything in moderation.  My mom taught me to always enjoy my dessert but to never over indulge.

When I moved out of my mom’s house, I filled my cabinets with our usual standbys – Famous Amos cookies, Keebler Chips Delux, a box of Entemann’s every now and then (I have trouble with the moderation rule around those chocolate frosted donuts).  Then I realized that I like baking.  Living alone without cable can be lonely sometimes, so whenever I feel lonely or bored I bake something.  Now instead of packages of cookies, my cabinets are full of sugars, flours, different kinds of chips, extracts, nuts, powders, and all sorts of fun baking toys.  (But I always have room for a package of my beloved Mint Newman-O’s).  Since I live alone and cannot eat the dozens of cookies that come out of my oven, I usually bring in half of what I bake into work, which has increased my popularity among my coworkers by like, a lot.  

The problem is I hate chewy cookies and most cookie recipes are of this variety.  So I’ve started on a crispy cookie baking mission.  After two failed oatmeal cookie baking attempts, I’ve found the perfect crispy oatmeal cookies on one of my favorite cooking blogs, the Smitten Kitchen.  Deb’s Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate cookies are OMG to die for.  Thin, buttery, crispy, just salty enough, melt in your mouth delicious.  If you bake these, you should really follow Deb’s advice on using real white chocolate (not the Nestle stuff).  

As for chocolate chip cookies, my crispy cookie standard comes from Tate’s Bakeshop in Southampton, NY.  You can buy their packaged cookies in gourmet delis and grocery stores around Manhattan.  I am lucky (and cursed) that the deli next door to my office sells these cookies in all of their delicious varieties.  

Tate’s cookies are thin and crisp but they are also very light and airy, you take one bite and they almost instantly melt in your mouth.  They are perfectly browned with the perfect amount of salt, they are simply the perfect cookie.  I wanted to try and recreate them in my own kitchen.  Before Googling the obvious “tate’s chocolate chip cookie recipe” I first Googled “crispy chocolate chip cookies” and found this Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the folks at Chowhound, which I baked a few days ago, adding in 1 cup chopped pecans.

Now, these Chow cookies are very good.  You will noticed that there is only brown sugar in this recipe and none of the white granulated stuff.  The result is a very dense cookie with an intense molasses/toffee flavor.  These cookies are not a light, melt in your mouth crispy, instead they have a hard satisfying snap… if that makes sense. Anyway, my fellow crispy cookie fans at work really really liked these, as did I.  They are no Tates, but good in their own right.  My next mission is to locate the Tate’s recipe and and try recreate the magic cookie in my kitchen.  But now, I’m off to enjoy the warmest day we’ve had in like 3 months (it’s 50 degrees outside!)

Never-Fail Coffee Cake

December 23, 2008

As a kid, I never understood why adults got so stressed out over Christmas.  When you’re little, all you do is sit back, open presents and eat, and enjoy a long Christmas vacation.  Nothing stressful about that! 

So, it is my first Christmas as an ‘adult’, my first Christmas living away from home, and I can officially say that now I understand why adults get so stressed around Christmas.  There is just so much stuff to do, stuff to buy, stuff to bake, more stuff to buy, stuff to wrap.  And the fact that I get one day off from work instead of a two week vacation like I did when I was a student is not helping. 

This year, I am having Christmas Eve dinner with Manny and his family at their house for the first time.  Even though Manny and I have to been together for a long time, I have never been over to his house.  Because of the the general awkwardness of meeting a significant other’s family, especially when there are obvious cultural and language barriers that make things even more awkward, we tried to put it off for as long as possible.  This was easily accomplished while Manny and I were away at college, but now that we are both back home in New York, and our lives are becoming increasingly connected, the time has come to the meet the families.  Manny has been over my house a handful of times and met my extended family at various family functions.  So far, so good.  But now it is my turn.  I met his family briefly at Manny’s college graduation two years ago, but now I get to meet all of them and be a guest at their house.

 I know some basic Spanish, but as soon as I see Manny’s parents, every single little piece of  Spanish that I know flies out of brain.  I forget everything that I’ve learned and I am too nervous to say a single word of Spanish in fear of looking like a complete fool.  I am intimated by his parents to the max.  Which is why I am going over to his house tomorrow armed with overflowing Christmas tins of homemade baked goods.

I clearly suck at a lot of domestic things.  I suck at cooking, folding laundry, and making beds.  I have a higher tolerance than most for clutter and messy rooms.  However, I am good at baking.  This week I’ve baked vanilla cookies with chocolate walnut frosting, oatmeal walnut cookies, a tray of homemade brownies, and tonight I am baking a coffee cake.   Because if there is one thing that breaks down cultural and language barriers and brings people together, it is homemade baked goods.  Right?  I hope so.

So now I am going to share with you, few readers of this blog, my never-fails-to-impress-people coffee cake.  (This cake better not fail me tomorrow!)  Maybe it is the massive amount of crumbs that makes this so impressive?  But one bite of this cake and people will think you are a baking goddess or god.  When all you really did was mix stuff together and put it in the oven.  This is why I love baking. 

My mom got this reciepe from somewhere, I don’t even remember, and it was her secret baking weapon for a long time.  Then she passed it on to me and my sister, and I’ve passed it to friends in need of bringing something special to parties or family functions.  Technically its not all “homemade from scratch” because it uses a Duncan Hines cake mix BUT – this recipe is different than the one on the box.  The crumbs use margarine and that’s gross and I never ever use margarine except in this cake.  I don’t have enough baking experience to experiment for suitable margarine substitutes. 

Never-Fail Coffee Cake

1 box Duncan Hines butter recipe gold cake mix
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup oil
Mix all ingredients well with mixer.  Grease jelly roll pan (the large baking sheet with edges) Spread batter evenly in pan.  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool well.
4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 cups white sugar
2 sticks margarine
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
Melt margarine and butter.  Add to dry ingredients in very large bowl.  Mix with hands.  Make crumbs as large or as small as you like.  Spread over cool cake and bake another 20 minutes.  Cook cake and sprinkle powdered sugar. 

Enjoy the cake and enjoy your holidays!