Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beer and Cookies? I Dunno...

I am there, in the trenches, with all the rest of you when I say this:  I hate admitting when ideas - amazing as they are in theory - crash and burn, hold me to shame - whatever it is.

It seemed to me - in some moment of what should have been brilliant innovation - that if my 2 favorite vices, sweets and beer, were worth a regular routine of indulgence - why was I experiencing them apart?  We should all be fairly aware of the beauty that is melding stout and chocolate.  So there it is - beer and sweets.

My boyfriend throws a ridiculous Oktoberfest party every year.  The brewery boys brew 100 gallons, slaughter pigs for brats, grow potatoes and cabbage - the whole 9 yards (and about 900 more).  Of this hundred gallons, is roughly 20 gallons of a personal favorite of mine - hefeweizen, or unfiltered wheat beer.  Its hearty without being heavy, cloudy like any good mystery, and smells like clove and banana.  Thus, sending me off on a mental tangent.

After days of storms brewing in my mind, the skies cleared and the, fingers crossed, greatest idea of my life came to light.  A hefeweizen cookie.  If all went the way it was supposed to, it could be the next great afternoon treat.  If delicious beer had a flavor profile like a delicious cookie, they must be married into one.

Or not so much.  In defense of this recipe, I may have possibly (maybe) taken a few too many liberties in substitutions - but here is where I jumped off.  I should be honest and admit that I began with taking out the oats - I wasn't sure that was a texture I wanted - and replaced that with half the amount of flour (totally pulled that one out of the air), added brewers' malt powder, left out the walnuts, added ground cloves, and replaced the chocolate chips with Whoppers - whafers (just like the Christopher Walken "whafer thin mint" sketch) according to a dear friend's dear, sweet child.

In the end, what I ended up with was a banana muffin top with the addition of Whoppers - nothing of the chewy, malty, just a bit spicy, banana laden - without tasting like Laffy Taffy - hand-held face melter I was hoping for.  Its not that it wasn't delicious, it was just unimpressive.  They said nothing of OHMYGODCOOKIELADYPLEASEDON'TEVERSTOPMAKINGTHESE!!  Part of me feels a bit guilty for the trays that went into the trash, but with so many cookies to eat in the near future - we have to save our expanding waistlines for the top notch stuff.

Back to the drawing board.  I like it here though - its quiet and smells like home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Very Own Dr Frankenstein

With the major success of what may have been the best chocolate chip cookies of my torrid 29 years - and with so much time for number crunching, research, thinking - I've been left feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein.  Gathering all my parts - don't worry mom, none of my parts are remains of any kind - ideas, information, and getting ready to hole myself up in the laboratory, or, uh, kitchen for the winter to build my monster - in hopes that I can unveil something fantastic next spring.

While I'm on this mission for cookie glory, why limit myself to the basics?  I love a good sugar cookie - peanut butter cookies make my knees weak - nothing says, "hey, kid.  I was thinking of you, and how ridiculously awesome you are" like a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk after school.  Everyone does them - some well, some acceptably, some not so great.  Why make that the source of competition?  A new arm, or, errr, ingredient makes everyone feel new and shiny.  New eyes make things look better.  Adding a little jolt of electricity (I'm thinking corn flakes and candy corn) livens the party.  You probably catch my drift...

The first time I fell in loved with Baked, in Red Hook, Brooklyn - it was for their (practically world famous) brownie.  I have to shamefully admit that I've never actually had it from the shop - just the straight-up super chocolate awesome recipe version - it really is the best one around.  My only decent excuse is that there was just too much to choose from!  I got a little overwhelmed.  The second time I found myself swooning - yes, I know, its a pattern - was for their monster cookie.  An enormous amalgamation of peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips and M&M's.  It turns out my beast-son - he'll grow out of the beast part soon, I hope - is enamored with them when I switch it up with peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, and M&M's.  We don't do anything cookie-related halfway, and we're all about the heft of these monsters.  He says, "You know mom, they're ok normally, but epic the way you make them."  So here is where we jump off...

Everyone believes that cookies can be ok - why not make them "epic" or a little freaky (freaky delicious, of course)?  Lets be all about leaving people thinking, "I had no idea a cookie could be like this!"  Like I've always believed - cookies never get the play they deserve.  We're entirely too willing to settle for a plain Jane cookie - too often from a box - when in reality, they are compact, durable, and endlessly versatile.  So, whether its PB OD - a peanut butter cookie, peanut butter chips, and peanut butter Cap'n Crunch - or a Brewers' Banana - banana cookie made with hefeweizen syrup and malt balls - I can't wait to back slowly away from the kitchen, exclaiming, "Its alive!"

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Domesticated Goddess

In my attempt to keep this blog updated regularly, and find a focus - I've come up dry in the last few weeks.  Having lost my job - for whatever reason - which I loved and believed in more than I can say - my brain has been muddled.

I got lucky - that's all there is to it.  I - in the last 2 years - climbed to the top, found the next summit, and kept climbing.  I got a chance to come back to the place that felt most like home (cheers, Lincoln, Nebraska) - I got a little play in the NY Times - did a little stint as the Queen of Cake in-training - and landed (by the grace of whatever it is) on my feet, every. stinkin'. time.  I should give props to the kings of my heart, lest they think I've forgotten them.  I have the month of October - longer if I'd like - to think long and hard about who I want to be - personally, professionally, whateverally.  I get to take care of my beast-pre-teen-son, my boyfriend, and the most ridiculous pets.  I'm holding out for another summit - rather than finding out that I hit the ground and it took some time to shake myself into reality.  Thank you.

Lets not kid ourselves - I'm not kicked back eating bon bons in my bath robe.  All this thinking, re-evaluating, number crunching possibilities, parenting, housework, pet care, keeping 'em fed and entertained stuff is hard work.  I surprise myself sometimes - I love the domesticated goddess life.  Making pita bread from scratch, sewing curtains, long dog walks - I am by nature, a nurturer.

I spent the other afternoon baking cookies for my beastie's 6th grade social - I also learned this act is a significantly more socially acceptable gesture before age 11.  Although, we do relish any opportunity to "ruin" lives and be the "laughing stock" of 900 11-14 year olds - we gotta have something to look forward to.  Distractions aside - and with all this time to think - cookies never get enough play.  This became blatantly apparent to me during the Gourmet Cookie Project - the reason I started this blog in the first place.  So - I'll stick with it.  Cookies, cookies, and cookies.  There are cake people - I still defend that people who don't like cake have just had bad cake experience; dare to challenge me - pie people, tall people, funny people.  I've never met a single person who doesn't like cookies.  I will also defend that cookies are the most versatile, convenient, and under-played treats of the dessert world.

So, the cake thing didn't work out.  Is there a future in cookies?  Lets start - or restart - with chocolate chip walnut cookies, per request of the boyfriend.  Sorry, Eric - they don't have walnut extract in them - I've never even seen that anywhere - but the complex, yet homey, classic combination of tons of chocolate and walnuts will be sure to satisfy.  We'll eat them warm, with tall glasses of milk - just like when we were kids.  Please Jacques, King of Chocolate, don't lead me astray.  I still bake for him like a desperate plea for falling in love.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Walnuts

Recipe adapted from Jacques Torres, via Martha Stewart

Makes approximately 6 dozen, 2 inch cookies

  • 1 cup, 2 sticks, unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups best quality bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract mixing well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add both flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; mix until well combined.  Mix in chocolate and walnuts.
  • Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.