Monday, February 07, 2011

*on baking. and expletives.


I don't necessarily buy the notion that some people are cooks and some are bakers, full stop. Though the vast majority of chefs I see on TV go big-eyed and sputtering whenever someone says the word "dessert" at them, I've just never been able to accept that it's as black and white as all that.

Granted, cooking feels more like ... I dunno, behavioral psychology to me ("OOH! Let's throw this in there and see what happens!"), whereas baking is all physics ("GEEZ, there's math in these here hieroglyphics; what is wrong with you?").

OK, so I might be a little biased. But the anxiety gap between cooking and baking for me is somewhere between "oops!" and "G*DD*MM*T ALL TO H*LL," and I can't figure out why. All of that is belied by these pretty cookies, perfectly round and softly chocolatey and gooey with raspberry-cream cheese filling, but that has everything to do with Susan's recipe from Our Family Eats and absolutely nothing to do with me. I did everything in my power to screw these up.

Luckily, a plague of cabin fever had descended on LSis' house that required an immediate dose of park-going, so I was left unexpectedly alone during my tribulations. Which was serendipitous indeed, because there was so. much. swearing. I really don't want anyone to ever measure my blood pressure while I'm trying to bake.

My first problem tends to be anything in powder form—flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, various and sundry dried spices—which will inevitably end up all over the kitchen and my person. Outside of my propensity to chop onions into the floor, this messiness is rarely as much of a problem when I cook. And yet it is a guarantee that if I am using cocoa powder, 60% of it will end up in the bowl, 35% of it will find its way into the sink/counter/floor/pants/shoes, and I will manage to inhale the remaining 5%. (Does anyone else have this problem? No? Just me?)

It sounds nicer—chocolate-covered lungs—than it actually is.

I can't tell exactly where I went screechingly off track here, but somewhere around "mixture should be thick and slightly crumbly," mine just ... wasn't. The dough was shiny and sticky and (have I mentioned?) there was so. much. swearing.

Rolling the dough out and cutting circles just wasn't happening. The texture was all wrong and soaked with my salty tears. I finally decided to give the whole mess the finger and just plop tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, irregular and lumpy.

It was rather disastrous.

And then? Look how they baked up. Like the baking fairies smiled, patted me on my sad, inept little head, and formed perfectly round cookies in the oven. They baked for the full eight minutes, even though the recipe said they'd be done in five, because ... well, because in my world, baking, like physics, is a lot more Murphy's Law than anything else.

If you take a look at Susan's cookies, you'll see that they're much darker than mine (maybe a difference in cocoa powders?) and cut into sweet, perfect heart shapes. The Woodside version is slightly more homespun.

And in the end? They were delicious. I fully appreciated every speck of the filling's two cups of powdered sugar, which diminished its cream cheese factor beautifully. (I inexplicably hate cheesecake, cream cheese frosting, and pretty much anything else that is a sugar-cream cheese hybrid of any kind.) The cookies were only very slightly chocolatey, which gave them an elegant subtlety that someone like me can only stumble upon accidentally. And they were a HUGE mess to eat, which is always the hallmark of a fantastic dessert. Every one of these disappeared. There might have been bowl-licking.

So many thanks to the tears, or the fairies, or the idiot-proof recipe. Or the swearing.


Chocolate Raspberry Sandwich Cookies
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jelly

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

2. Stir together first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat eggs and vegetable oil in a small bowl with a fork; add to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until all ingredients are well combined. (The dough MIGHT BE be thick and slightly crumbly, but ... maybe not.)

3. Drop level spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets (about 12 cookies per baking sheet). Bake 7 to 8 minutes, remove from oven, and let cool.

4. Place cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl, and combine with an electric mixer mix. Add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, mixing between additions. Stir in jelly.

5. Divide raspberry filling evenly among 12 cookies, top with remaining 12 cookies, pressing down slightly. Makes 12 sandwiches.


at: 5:28 PM said...

I'm definitely a baker. It freaks me out to just "throw some of this or that" into what's supposed to be my dinner. I'm just not that brave. And baking is just precise. You do exactly what the recipe tells you to and it SHOULD work. At least it almost always does for me. Maybe that's just luck?? If it makes you feel any better though, I've dropped an entire (almost full) container of cocoa powder onto the floor, and the other day dropped my glass bottle of vanilla onto the floor. It happens. lol


vanessa says:
at: 8:03 PM said...

Just stumbled onto your blog today - i love your writing style! I have been giggling through this post, happy that others (at least one) has the cocoa powder inhaling and inevitable swearing issues that I have when I [attempt to] bake.

K. says:
at: 1:20 PM said...

thank you so much, vanessa! i'm so glad to hear i'm not the only one. i have the same problem when making crystal light ...

keri: it's that SHOULD part that gets me in trouble ...



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.