Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Helpful Decorating Tips

Have your helpful cat inspect all old decorations. They will get up close and personal with each garland, ornament and light strand.

If he's not too busy , ask the cat to help with wrapping gifts. They are a tremendous help!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No Comment

Several others have admitted to a shared enjoyment in reading the reader comments in online recipe blogs. I will also confess here, in public, to my addiction in the comments everywhere, but especially for products offered by online retailers. You’d think that people would not care enough to offer an opinion on, say, men’s pajamas, but au contraire! They care, and care deeply.
For example, these comments on men’s pajamas from the Gap:

“The colors were different than I expected when I ordered. The stripes are grey and teal or aqua on a white background- there was more white than I expected.

.  Colors - most men don’t care or even know the difference between teal/aqua/blue etc. There was more white than she expected? Really? Does that matter?These are pajamas, not tuxedo pants-- your husband does not care about the stripes, I guarantee.

Love these thoughts on the sweatshirt hoodie, a slacker staple:

This won't function as a garment to keep you warm, but it is really cute and simple. I returned mine, but it fit me flawlessly. I got the Medium Tall size, I'm 6'4 and 170 lbs for reference. But yeah, if you want a layering hoodie or something to wear in the spring, this is good. Not for winter though.

So...he liked it but he returned it? and why would you buy a hoodie that wouldn't keep you warm? Isn't that the raison d’etre of the sweatshirt? The whole point of the hoodie(besides being warm and cozy) is to be emphatically Not Fashionable. To loudly display your complete disinterest in playing the fashion game, and also, to show that YOU don’t have to wear suits and ties, those are for the nameless drones who work for The Man.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a man use the description “cute” in his comments.

My favorite comments remain the comments on cooking blogs. The range of experience in cooks is so great that the review on a plain old cookie can be anything from 1 fork to 5 forks, depending on the cook:

I think I have to stop trusting the forks on epicurious. I now have a huge bag of these in the freezer. There is something they lack...I think it might be salt but I'm not sure. I even added some orange zest and chopped hazelnuts to some of them...still too crumbly and buttery in a bad way and not much better in the taste department. Maybe they're better with nutella?

The answer here is EVERYTHING is better with Nutella..;.next question?

These brownies were too cakey and not chocolaty enough for my taste. The former could probably be addressed by reducing to 4 eggs. But to address the chocolaty issue I'll probably just poke around for another recipe.

I think I could have a career as a recipe commenter therapist. The real problem here is a Fudgy Brownie Person has made a Cakey Brownie recipe. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, those two tribes should not be mixed. Also, brownie recipes with five eggs (!!!) should be avoided.. It’s not chocolaty enough because it’s made with melted chocolate, not cocoa - very zen but true.
Find a brownie recipe made with cocoa and fewer eggs.

And of course, some people take recipes personally, and are insulted by the very existence of a variation on a traditional bread::

First of all, challah is a bread for the Jews and it is made by certain standards and none of those standards are met with this recipe. Secondly, only Rosh HaShanah challah is round and it is made with raisins, cinnamon and honey/sugar but no seeds. The rest of the year the dough is braided as is shown in your kneading video. In my entire life I have never heard of a challah recipe with so little flour and not being kneaded. I would have no objection to this recipe if it were not called challah but this recipe is an insult to the Jews and to Challah itself.

Can’t non-Jewish people bake challah? Isn't that one of the reasons that makes America great? And what is so horrible about a quicker, easier version?
Something else is going on here besides her horror at a non-traditional baking method.
As a Recipe Therapist, I have to say, “Lighten up, sweetie”.

What’s your favorite comment? Please share.

(on a side note, I find it deeply amusing that Google spell check questioned the spelling of "hoodie". You'd think that they of all people would know , since that's all they wear at the Google campus.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Compost Cookies

Love the Comments sections for recipes. Some people do not know how to read recipes, or cook, and their cranky comments are available for all the world to see. As my Grandmother would say, “bless their hearts.”  It was the comments on the Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies recipe that intrigued me.
The success rate was all over the place.There were people who got great cookies, and people who threw the whole batch away.
“the 1st pan was greasy,flat,and chewy so I threw it away “, “Very disappointing. I don't see how the cookies came out so puffy and dense for you. Mystifying. I wouldn't try this again based on how it worked for me, but would if someone had tweaks to improve the recipe listed here.”
“When I finally baked them, I was so disappointed. I let the dough balls chill all afternoon, and I set the oven to 400 degrees, but they just wouldn't cook in the middle. They got super dark (almost burnt) on the edges, but raw in the middle..”

What was it with this recipe?
There are several versions of this recipe online: there is this one in the Los Angeles Times, this one on Food.com, also here, and here.
Careful reading of the ingredients shows that this is based on the Toll House Cookie .But the techniques supplied are different. The Chef, Christina Tosi, advises beating the butter and sugar for ten minutes in a mixer (!!!), plus she adds what I considered unnecessary additions: corn syrup, and too much salt.
I know from reading the comments that some people’s cookies came out flat, but looking at pictures of the “real” Compost Cookies, they are somewhat flat. Most people have an unrealistic expectation of what a cookie should look like, based on a lifetime of buying cookies, as opposed to making cookies. (Just like they don’t know what good clothes should look like, because they wear RTW).
I resolved to conquer the Compost Cookie.
After reading all of the recipes online, I decided to start with this one, with the following changes, based on my ten thousand hours plus of cookie baking.
I eliminated the corn syrup, which is my view provided more sweetness, plus makes the cookies flatter.
I decided against the ten minute beating of the sugar and butter, because that makes the butter soft and oily, causing unpleasant texture.
I did not add any additional salt, because I used salted butter, and the potato chips and pretzels are plenty salty. Since I did not beat my cookies senseless, I did not have to chill them overnight, although if you want chunky, chewy cookies, as opposed to flat, oily cookies, this is a good idea, if you have time.
Momofuku Milk Bar's compost cookies
Adapted from Los Angeles Times version of the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York.

First, make the graham crust
Graham crust
1 1/2 cups  graham cracker crumbs ( I crushed a package of graham crackers in my Cuisinart, and measured the correct amount)
1/4 cup  milk powder
2 tablespoons  sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, more if needed
1/4 cup heavy cream
I did not add any additional salt here, because graham crackers already have salt, plus my butter was salted.

I mixed this all together in the Cuisinart, and then set it aside.
There is more than you need for the recipe, so I stored the remainder in the fridge, and resolved to think of other things to add it to.

Compost cookies

1 cup  butter,  (recipe writers always tell you to use room temperature butter. This is flat out wrong, IMHO. It will lead to flat and oily cookies. Your butter should be solid and only slightly pliable. You will be able to gently bend it. It will not be soft.)
1 cup  sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1/4 recipe) graham crust (from above)
1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee
2 cups potato chips
1 cup mini pretzels
I also added ½ cup crushed and broken Oreos
and ½ cup crushed corn chex

My method: mix butter and sugars together in Cuisinart .Add egg, and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda. I did not add additional salt as my butter was salted and the potato chips and pretzels have salt.. I removed this from the Cuisinart, and had Mr. Hunting Creek blend in the pretzels, oatmeal, chips, chocolate chips, chex, Oreos, etc. He decided to break up the pretzels and potato chips slightly. When it was all mixed together, I let it rest in the fridge for a while - maybe an hour? while I did Christmas shopping “research” online, and Mr. Hunting Creek watched football.
Then I used my tablespoon cookie scoop to form the cookies. I did not want giant, salad plate sized cookies. I do not want to eat that much cookie at one time,. so I opted for a saner size. Preheat your oven to 350. .
We baked a batch at 350 for 14 minutes, you may need to go a minute longer or shorter - you should always do a test batch to see if the recipe time works for you. Don’t do what so many commenters did and bake giant batches of cookies at 400 degrees, just to end up throwing them out. Doing this - baking a giant batch for the first run through is like using your expensive fabric for a pattern that you have never made before. Make a muslin! Do a test batch!

My version of Compost Cookies came out delightfully craggy and crunchy and chewy. Baking time has a lot to do with texture too. Bake slightly less if you want a more chewy texture.
Next time I make these I will try reducing the sugar a little bit and adding different “Compost” ingredients. My testers liked them,
I will include these in my Christmas cookie tins this year.
What new cookie recipes are you going to try? Or do you stick to tried and true?