Friday, December 7, 2012

She No Nuts, She's Crazy!

Pies?  Pies are easy.  Even the crust.  Cupcakes?  Oh, please.  I barely even think about them. Bread?  Rolls?  Cheesecake?  This is me we're talking about.

Cookies?  You mean sugar cookies?  Yeah, I'm going to go cry myself to sleep now.  Mkaybye.

Sugar cookies should be pretty easy, right?  I mean, how hard is it to make a cookie shaped like a leaf?  There's a law out there somewhere that says something like: "The more you need to find something, the less likely you are to find it."  In this case, the more you need it to look like a leaf, the less it is going to resemble a leaf.  

Batch #1: Things started off relatively normally.  I was making these Thanksgiving place setting cookies well in advance, a few days early.  This way I could have plenty of time to make pies.

What's this?  The cookies spread?  I must have done something matter, I'll just make some more.  I have plenty of time.  In fact, I'll try this new recipe from a blog that has some of the most gorgeous cookies I've ever seen.  Piece of cake.

Batch #2: What is happening?!  These cookies are horrible!  They are massively puffy, burned/browned on the edges, and still undercooked on the inside!  They don't taste good, look good, nothing!  I'm never making these again!  Even the royal icing recipe tastes bad!

Okay, back to my original fall-back "no fail" Cow Cookie recipe.  The first time may have had issues, but this time will definitely work.  No problem.

Batch #3:  What's that, friend?  You need some help?  Sure, I'll turn my attention away from my precious baking cookies for just a seco- COOKIES, Y U NO COOK PROPERLY??  This batch is underdone, these ones are burnt, there aren't enough of the last batch...screw it!  I'm trying again!

Maybe I'm overthinking this.  I've made plenty of these Cow Cookies, and they've always held their shape wonderfully.  I'll just make them again, pretend like nothing has ever gone wrong...

Batch #4:  Huh...these are pretty good.  They're acceptable.  They're even attractive.  Sure, there's a little bit of browning, but no one will notice.  And this royal icing recipe I've used before worked great the first time, so I'll just use that.  Yeah.  And you know what...they look pretty good.  I think all that baking was worth it.  Sure, my roommates thought they all looked fine and that I'm a weirdo perfectionist that throws away cookies, but it was worth it.  Even finally going to bed at 3am Thanksgiving morning was worth it.  They're my cookies.

And even though Mom and Dad couldn't celebrate with us...

So, why did I go through all this just for some place settings?  Because I knew I could make them look amazing, I knew I had that ability, and I wouldn't settle for anything less.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Baker's Foil (and Cats)

[This fantasy of mine is in the possession of the dear sweet SugarBelle, whose collection of cookie masterpieces had me sitting at the computer for hours, putting off actually making my own cookies because I couldn't stop looking at all of hers.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why Nothing Can Ever Be Simple

[I want everyone to know that I had this completely written out and the save button lied, so all my clever quips had to be replaced by not so clever quips.  Creativity can run out.  And what's there now is nothing like what I wrote the first time.  That is all.]

Remember the witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel?  She lured them to her gingerbread house, stuffed them with sweets until they were fattened, them cooked them up and ate them.  This past Halloween, I was that witch.  It's what happens when a baker celebrates Halloween.
I made three kinds of cookies: gingerbread, chocolate, and basic sugar cookies.  All accounted for, this meant about a hundred cookies, the preparing of which was spread out over a few nights.  Decorating them took over four hours on its own.  Was it worth it?  You tell me.

I didn't really have Halloween-y cutters.  I had a few animals, some tools, ninjas, and a mustache.  Mom sent me some ghosts and a wolf/cat/bear cutter just in the nick of time.  (Thanks, Mom!)  There had to be a way to make these sufficiently Halloween-y.  These are some of my "normal" attempts.  Pretty basic.  With a hundredish cookies, sometimes you have to be.  But I'm not a simple person.  I have to do things differently.  Or something.  These were just too cute.  I like puppies just as much as the next person, more so, even, but with something as tempting as animal cookies for Halloween, I can't just leave them so...ordinary.  I tried to be good.  I tried to be normal.  Instead, I got creative.  My macabre side (which isn't very hidden) came out in full.  I worried about what my roommates would think.

I also worried if I might be excommunicated or reported to the proper authorities.  Is this normal?  The frog is practically vomiting gore.  Those tools were clearly weapons of murder.  The butterfly is made of anatomically-correct bloody phalanges.  (Not the one in the picture--a different one.)  The cow is a carcass.  The chicken will feast on your soul.  There was another certain cookie, but it was too bad for even me, and I had it taken care of promptly.

I have to wonder about my sanity sometimes.  Do I have too much fun?  I once made a Christmas cookie look like Frankenstein's monster.  A Christmas cookie.  It was a basic pine tree, but with a bloody gash held together by sprinkle stitches.
I suppose it's time to admit I have a problem.  A delicious, high-calorie problem.  And I enjoy every minute of it.

P.S.  Ignore the unfortunate ghost at the bottom of the picture.  Sometimes cheap-o plastic baggies just can't handle piping.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Know You're Growing Up

It's been a year (and a little more, but let's not split hairs) since I started college.  I've learned a few more things.

1. Everything has loopholes.  If they say you can't have pets in the apartment and then take the time to specify what they consider to be a pet, anything they don't point out is therefore not considered a pet.
2. The only cooking supplies I like are the ones my mom has.  Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore.
3. Do the extra credit.  Those little bitty points will mean a whole lot more in the end.
4. There are a lot of people in the world that really do not know how to cook.  I'm finding out that a lot of them are women.
5. Washing someone else's dishes is much easier than washing your own.
6. It's okay to be nerdy.  Almost everyone is, anyway.  Just don't take it to hipster levels.
7. Try new things.  Ice blocking is terrifying, but you'll be glad you at least tried it.
8. Friendships are fleeting and usually last only a semester.  Solid friends are hard to come by.
9. You don't have to share everything.  Still, it's nice to leave cookies for your roommates.
10.  There really are some bad teachers out there.  Not sure what it is...they're just bad.
11.  There's also some amazing teachers that really get you psyched for lecture.  They somehow make up for the other teachers' inadequacies.
12.  No matter how small your kitchen is, you can always make beautiful things in it.
13.  It's okay to let other people help you.  Sometimes they can save your bagels.
14.  Bacon is delicious and good with maple syrup.  It is also sharp.
15.  One of the greatest tools you can have in your kitchen is a pastry cutter.
16.  It's okay if people don't hire you.  It's okay that they don't even tell you they're not going to hire you.  Keep looking.
17.  Changing your major is okay, too.  Those classes for the other major do come in handy.
18.  Some classes, like public speaking, aren't required.  That doesn't mean they aren't useful.
19.  Sometimes the desserts you put the most time, effort, and planning into won't be as fawned over as the mess of peanut butter and marshmallows someone else threw together at the last minute.
20.  Of all the people I see in a day, I don't remember what any of them were wearing or how their hair looked.  I remember what they smelled like.  Focus on what's important.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Best Things Don't Have to Be From the Black Market

You know what bugs me?  Not knowing what to get people for their birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc.  And then the time comes where you ask them what they want and they can't think of anything off the top of their head.  I know, it's what I say every time.  Sure, some people want their friends to just know what to get them based on their super-close friendship, but really, that's like expecting a man to be able to read his wife's mind.  It's not going to happen.
Therefore, I propose everyone create a living list of things they like, things that anyone could get for them because we all know that you like them.  Here, challenge accepted.  I'll go first. 

- Standard size baking cups.  They're always useful, I happen to have a constantly depleting stash, and they're so gosh darn cute.  You really can't go wrong with them.  The mini ones are fun, too.  And so many colors!  I could have an entire cabinet dedicated to them.
- Floss picks.  One of my favorite inventions.  And part of what makes dental hygiene particularly enjoyable for me.  This is what I'm talking about.
- Cookie cutters.  Even the unconventional shapes.  Some of my favorite sugar cookies were the ones we made with the cutters that obviously never were shown any love (the foot or teddy bear, for example, were especially fun).  Also, dinosaurs.  Like these ones that actually look like dinosaurs.  Not these lame ones that look like penguins and slugs.  And I guess any animal that's cool, like sharks or moose.  Or turtles!  So long as they actually look like what they're supposed to be, and not some weird wobbly blob of shape.
- And since I saw this, I now add sprinkles to the list.  Interesting sprinkles.  But the usual are okay, too.  Here are some examples.
- Now that I'm baking lots of sugar cookies, I'm decorating lots of sugar cookies.  Food coloring goes quickly, especially black.  I've been using these, mostly, and I think they work pretty well.
- As I have just said, I'm a baker.  I go through a lot of flour and sugar.  Like, ten pounds in a week or so.  So, even though it's food and not your typical Christmas gift, I'd be happy with supplies as gifts.  It's also kind of embarrassing to buy four boxes of unsalted butter at a time...

Well, there's a few.  But, see, this is a living list, so when I think of something else, I can just add it on to the rest of the list.  I encourage all of you to make a list of your own, or I'll be forced to get you something stupid every time.  [update: I include links to pictures and sites to be helpful and offer examples.  That doesn't mean that what I have linked is the the only one I'm interested in.  Now that I have three jars of cow sprinkles, and only cow sprinkles, I feel it's important to state this.]