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10.31.2011

DONE!

I have been looking forward to (and, in a sense, putting off) this post for a long time.  Yes, it's been a while since I updated.  Two months is ridiculous.  However, I am proud to report that as of today I have finally completed this Martha Stewart cook book.

Many things have happened in the past several weeks.  Perhaps the most important event was my decision to change research groups.  Those of you who know me may be asking yourselves, "What, again?" Yes, again.  In case you didn't hear, I spent a year in a Quantum Information research group, and then switched to an Acoustics group in the Electrical Engineering department.  After nearly a year and a half in that group, I realized it wasn't working and decided to make the jump to Physics Education.  Already I am being much more productive and happy, so I think this was a really good decision.  And it probably won't actually set me behind any more than staying in the previous group would have.  Hurray for possibly someday graduating!

But I will do a proper recap post later.  I need to tell you about cookies first!

164. Biscochitos
These cookies are a Mexican recipe that involves anise seed, orange zest, and cinnamon.  The recipe as written calls for lard, but I wasn't interested in purchasing 5lbs and chose to use vegetable shortening instead.  With sufficient flour on the rolling surface, this dough was very easy to cut and transfer, and I had fun dumping cinnamon sugar on the cookies prior to putting them in the oven.
I really enjoyed these cookies - the anise flavor was strong but not overwhelming, and the texture was something between a regular sugar cookie and shortbread... it's hard to describe, but that's the result of using so much shortening.

165. Date Triangles
These cookies look pretty fancy, but I promise they weren't actually too much work.  In fact, almost all the mixing is done in a food processor, and can even be managed in a dinky 3C Cuisinart like I own.  The dough is made much like a pie crust, with butter and flour pulsed together with some orange zest and cold water; the filling is more like a larabar (if you haven't had them and you're into natural/vegan/gluten-free stuff, give them a try) with blended up dates, almonds, and orange zest.  Notice the theme here?  There was orange in everything.
So as I said, these were actually not a big deal to make, and the flavor was quite good!  The dough was hardly sweetened, so the natural sweetness of the dates came through nicely.

166. Bratseli
These cookies were also very easy to make, but they're a great example of the random expenditures I've had to make for this project.  To actually make these I had to purchase a pizzelle iron for about $30, otherwise they wouldn't be thin like that.  I had considered trying my belgian waffle maker, but I knew the effect would be all wrong.
The recipe calls for huge amounts of flour (up to 9C!), lots of butter, and an entire pint of heavy cream.  When eating these, it is easy to tell that they have a lot of fat in their composition, but this makes the texture really nice.  The experience of these cookies is something along the lines of eating slightly lemon-flavored waffle cones.  And now that I have the specialty iron, I will have to make cannolis or something to make it worth my money.

167. Classic Shortbread
Although I didn't manage to leave a chocolate chip cookie recipe for the end of this project, I still had a few simple things left over.  I've already made a few variations of shortbread, including cranberry, hazelnut orange, mocha, and maple, and this was the most basic variety: butter, flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt (not even any vanilla!).  I purchased a fluted tart pan for this recipe, and so it took nearly an hour for the 10" round of dough to cook all the way through.  The result was an addictive, buttery, crisp pan full of cookies that disappeared within minutes when I brought them to small group.  Oh, and the fluted edges looked super classy.

168. Italian Polenta Cookies
This was another lots of butter, why-am-I-making-crazy-shapes recipe.  These cookies are full of cornmeal, which gives them a crunchier texture.  Polenta is, for a basic explanation, an Italian cornmeal.  I wish I had known that the recipe actually wanted dried Polenta, because when I bought the real stuff at the store I got the pre-cooked stuff.  Oops.  When it came time to bake and I realized my mistake, I just used regular yellow cornmeal instead.
Overall, I found these cookies to be kind of bland.  They got some extra flavor from added lemon zest, but I just didn't find them to be very interesting.  This may also be due to the fact that the only shape I could get my cookie gun to make was this zig-zaggy thing you see in the picture, all the other shapes wouldn't detach properly, and with my busted pastry bag there was no way I was going to be able to pipe the fancy S shapes shown in my cookbook.  Oh well.  I'll stick to cornmeal thyme cookies if I want to do cornmeal stuff again.

169. Springerle
Springerle are a traditional European cookie that are made using some special mold to make them look pretty.  They are chock-full of confectioners' sugar, cake flour, and eggs.  So many eggs (half a dozen).  And so much flour.  I think I ended up putting more than 2lbs of flour into these.  And a little bit of anise extract for flavoring.  Since I lacked the special molds and didn't feel like ordering them off the internet, I used a neat idea I found on Pinterest and chose to make an imprint with a clean stamp I picked up on clearance from the craft store.  This technique worked really nicely, since I only had to cut the cookies into rectangles and then stamp them.
These cookies were, well, a little dry.  I guess they're supposed to be springy or something but they just seemed floury to me.  Actually, I felt like I was trying to eat those cookies that are baked to be Christmas ornaments.  According to a friend of mine, these cookies are used as decorations sometimes, so I feel like I wasn't too far off with that feeling.

170. Sesame Seed Cookies
I was skeptical of this recipe when I first looked at it.  My experience with ground up sesame seeds is tahini, and while I have a vegan cookie recipe that calls for tahini, I couldn't imagine it tasting any good with the other ingredients in this specific recipe.
There was no need for me to worry: as I worked through the recipe I realized this was basically a peanut butter cookie recipe with ground up sesame seeds instead!  Indeed, the final cookies were crunchy and tasted much like peanut butter cookies, except they tasted a little bit more like toasted sesame seeds.  My final verdict: this was a fun experimental recipe, and the main ingredient certainly got people's attention.

171. Langues-de-Chat
Okay, so these cookies were really bland.  This is another recipe with flour and sugar and butter and eggs, etc as usual.  In this recipe the proportions were such that the dough was pretty thick when mixed up, melted down in the oven, and became firm and crunchy when baked and cooled.  In a super-classy way, I used a plastic bag with the corner cut out to pipe the cookie shapes, and since I was in a hurry I chose to use regular sugar instead of superfine sugar, and didn't find any kind of detriment to the result.  Side note: if you want your sugar to dissolve into the dough, you want to use superfine sugar.  This can be made by running regular sugar through a food processor for 30 seconds, then letting it settle for maybe a minute or two.  Like I said above, I found these cookies to be really boring.  The solution to this was to dip them in Nutella.  They make great Nutella carriers.

172. Tuile Leaves
You can see from the picture that I could not figure out how to make these turn out well.  These light almond-flavored cookies are made from a very runny dough which is spread as thinly as possible over a leaf-shaped stencil, which the cookbook claims should be available in any craft store.  Well, I couldn't find any leaves, or anything of the appropriate size that was a solid shape, so I bought a blank stencil (read: piece of thin plastic) and cut my own leaf stencil.  I am not a very good artist, and it was difficult to get the batter not to run under the edges, so the picture on the left is about the best I could do.  These cookies dried to be thin and crisp, but I honestly was too embarrassed by their ugliness to share them with anybody.


173. Fortune Cookies
Yes, I made fortune cookies.  And they actually turned out pretty well!  These are made with almost exactly the same batter as the tuile leaves, including the almond flavoring.  These cookies were pretty easy to make - the batter had to be spread into circles on the cookie sheet, and then the cookies were folded up while still hot and pliable.  I had a few disasters with burnt cookies (the recipe called for a 400F oven, which killed them.  I recommend baking at 350F) and waiting too long to fold the cookies.  The biggest difficulty with these cookies is that they just take a lot of time to make: since they have to be folded quickly, I could only bake two at a time.  Now it's time for math.  Each batch of cookies spent 7 minutes in the oven, and let's (under)estimate a total of 10 minutes from putting the batter on the cookie sheets to folding the cookies and setting them aside.  With a yield of 40 cookies, this amounts to about 3.5 hours of active time.  I ended up making a dozen of these one weekend, saving the dough, and finally baking the rest today.
These cookies are tasty and fun, especially since I got the opportunity to write my own fortunes in them, but I would say don't make them unless (1) you have a big enough oven to have two cookies sheets in at a time or (2) you have a lot of time to waste.


Well, that's it.  I will probably post again soon-ish to do some kind of recap of life over the past three years or what I've learned about baking or something, but for now I am going to call it a night.  This has been a fun project, but I have no plans to start anything of this magnitude again for quite some time.

I'm expecting this fortune to be accurate.

3 comments:

  1. Congrats on an awesome achievement, Katie! I've loved looking at all the pictures, but they make me so hungry!

    I'm looking forward to your next update, or maybe we could, you know, actually talk some time (blaming myself here!!!) :D

    Happy Halloween!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What were you doing in the Quantum Information research group and why did you switch? *huggles* ~Ewen.

    ReplyDelete

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