We mustn't forget that it's actually spring...

The scientists at Fermilab (I would say the LHC but Batavia is closer) have, in their zeal for the pursuit of science at all costs, collided too many particles and sent Illinois into a premature August.  Nothing else can explain the sweltering heat that has been boiling the plains and leading everyone left in town to seek refuge (and skin cancer) at the ARC outdoor pool for the past two days.

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit.  First, I don't really mean that about Fermilab, if only because a good friend of mine is up there getting data from a beam line as I type this, and he's definitely not that kind of scientist.  It has been unseasonably warm, with temperatures reaching 93˚F today, and thus I find myself a little dazed - due in part to the difficulties of staying adequately hydrated - and wont to believe that summer is, indeed, upon us.

With this misplaced belief my yearnings for the beach and sailing are strong, but I know there is no time for these right now, and the water is still too cold.  In the meanwhile, I do the best to remind myself that it is still spring, so that I may enjoy this season fully instead of pushing it out of the way for summer.  Fortunately, the cookies I baked this weekend help to serve as a nice reminder.

98. Lime Flowers
These was a very simple recipe that I had been putting off, mostly because I don't like to be bothered with cookie cutters, but also because I don't like to be told what shape to make my cookies.  It seemed a little silly to make cookies with the word 'flower' in the title without making them flower-shaped, so I gave in.  The result: cute sugar cookies with a strong, but not overwhelming, lime flavor.  The flavor is due to the addition of the zest of an entire lime, and a decent quantity of lime juice.  Otherwise, this is a typical sugar cookie recipe, with the additional instructions of dusting the cookies with confectioners' sugar before serving.  I ignored that step, as it would be messy to transport.

I think these cookies, although simple, are very delicious.  Lime is a good flavor for hot weather, and these light cookies are much more appetizing, given the circumstances, than any rich type of cookie (for example, the pistachio cookies I made last week, or anything with a lot of chocolate).  The only downside of these is that I left them out overnight, and the humidity made them kind of soft.  Even though it's not actually summer yet, I may need to start thinking about the effects of this kind of weather a little early so as to not lower the quality of whatever I bake next week...


Imaginary Free Time

The Spring semester has ended, which means I'm a day or two short of being completely done in the old research group, and ready to start work in this new acoustics group.  With the end of teaching duties and typical GCF scheduling, I like to think that I'll now have more time available to do other things... which include but are not limited to swimming, sailing, dinner groups, sewing, reading, traveling, and continued kitchen adventures.

Hey, look at that, I've managed to give myself plenty to do this summer.  I guess there's no such thing as "free time" in my life.  At least this summer I won't be committing to any musicals or similar huge endeavors.

Since this weekend marks a good in-between point before I construct a new hectic schedule for myself, I've taken some time to make a more complicated cookie from my recipe book.

97. Chocolate Pistachio Cookies
I said above that these are complicated cookies.  The reason for this is not that the recipe calls for many ingredients, but rather that several steps are involved.  First, a chocolate filling is made with egg yolks (yes, they're raw), melted semisweet chocolate, and a simple syrup, and then must cool in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.  The cookies themselves are pistachio paste with some sugar and an egg white to hold the mix together.  These cookies were baked, allowed to cool, sandwiched with the filling, and then frozen for an hour before being covered in bittersweet chocolate.

The result of this 2+ hour project is a moderately crunchy cookie that tastes just like pistachios, a kind of mushy filling, and a strong taste of chocolate.  Considering the few ingredients involved, these two tastes are really the only ones I expected, although (as I've mentioned previously) I am not particularly fond of pistachios.  My boyfriend assures me the cookies are very delicious, though, so that's good.

As far as personal preference goes, I think I prefer the Sarah Bernhardt cookies I made last year, since they had a very similar texture, and I most definitely like almond better than pistachios.


Happy (carda)Mom's Day!

This week I finally gave in and bought a new spice, one I've never used before, and which was more expensive than I expected (I probably would have done better if I went to an Asian market), so that I could continue with my cookie project and also work on this pear and ginger muffin business.  That spice is cardamom, which supposedly comes from the ginger family.  As for how it tastes/smells...

According to Wikipedia:
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more astringent aroma, though not bitter, with a coolness similar to mint, though with a different aroma.
..Yeah that's not helpful at all.  I find the experience to be akin to a combination of allspice and black pepper, both toned down a little so that you don't feel totally overwhelmed upon tasting or smelling it.  The container suggests putting it in apple pie or using it as seasoning for pork.  I used it as the showcase ingredient for this week's cookie.

96. Sweet Cardamom Crackers
These cookies are of the light and crunchy variety, although their crunchiness is a result of large amounts of butter added to the dough (that means they're a little oily).  For this recipe, ground cardamom was added to a standard dough, which was rolled out thinly, scored with a pizza cutter, and sprinkled with a mixture of shredded coconut, chopped pistachios, and sugar, and then baked for a little while.

The cardamom in the recipe really takes the flavor spotlight in this otherwise very sweet cookie, as the ingredients sprinkled on top are milder and provide more aesthetic appeal.  Honestly, I think the chopped pistachios make these cookies look so much more appetizing, as well as providing a little bit of texture contrast when eating them.

I think this recipe may be worth revisiting soon... it was very easy to prepare, difficult to mess up (I typically burn my first batch of cookies because my oven is always too hot), and it's uncommon enough to seem like it took a lot of work.  Plus, I spent all that money on ground cardamom, I've got to find some way to use it.


traveling made these cookies possible!

Last weekend I took a very quick trip home to buy a car and see my best friend graduate from the University of Michigan.  While in Ann Arbor, I stopped by Trader Joe's, and saw that they sell dried pears, an ingredient required for one of my cookie recipes that I have been unable to find locally.  Needless to say, I purchased some and proceeded to make the following blondies.

95. Pear, Pistachio, and Ginger Blondies
Here is an example of a baked good that improves with (some) age, as well as a flavor pairing that is old news on internet recipes (I'd like to try this one), but is brand new to me.

These start with a usual dough base - butter, brown sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder, and so on - which is given flavor by the addition of dried pears, candied ginger, and chopped pistachios.  The result immediately after baking was a little dry, but the next day the pear and ginger flavors mingled, and the pistachio taste mellowed out a little to create something delicious, and probably a little less guilt-inducing than some other blondies (full of butter, toffee, chocolate, and so on) I've baked.

I wish I had the appropriate vocabulary to describe the taste of the ginger-pear pairing, but despite my deficiency, I'll try: on their own, pear has a very light taste, and ginger tends to be overwhelming.  Somehow, when both are put together, they enhance the other's taste, so that the sweet pears get a kind of spicy taste, but the ginger is also calmed down a bit.  I think perhaps the best adjective I've got for this is 'crisp.'  Yes, I'll go with calling it a crisp flavor.  The pistachios in the blondies add some salt... and pistachio taste, of which I've never been particularly fond.

Overall, these don't taste as heavy or rich as many other things I've baked, and so they make a good standalone snack.  If I get another chance to grab dried pears (or if I take a friend up on his offer to dry some for me), these may show up again soon.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In other news, as of yesterday I am finished with required classes forever.  Now I just need to buckle down and do some good research, so that in 4 ± ?? years I can get my PhD.


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