Friday, October 22, 2010

Coconut Macaroons and Comfort

I don't like coconut. Never have. I love the smell but I'm very much a texture person and the strange chewy crunch that comes with coconut, I'm not crazy about. I made three variations on these macaroons: plain, chocolate chunk, and chocolate. There are two egg whites in each of these batches and the directions say to mix well using your hands. Uh wha? Eggs and coconut with my hands? Sensory overload! I felt like I was at a haunted house where they make you stick your hands in hidden bowls of questionable material and you have to guess what it is. Peeled grapes? Oh, eyeballs of course. Spaghetti and butter? Brain matter. Egg whites and coconut? Contents of your colon. Back to the gooey matter at hand, this recipe makes quite a few cookies! Wow. I had five trays of cookies at the end. The chocolate chunk didn't stay as together as I think they were supposed to and I think the plains were slightly underdone because they stuck to the foil pretty bad but the all chocolate came out beautifully.
A dear friend of mine was having a rough day yesterday which was also her birthday. We were talking on the phone and I could tell she really needed some words of comfort. *Cue crickets*. I'm terrible at advice/words of comfort! I don't know where it comes from (I'm willing to bet from my dad a.k.a Mr. Awkward or the King of the Social Misfits) but it can be quite debilitating. My cousin has been reading the Anne of Green Gables series and she has inspired me to pick them up. Yes I've seen the movies but as in most stories, movies tend to leave things out. I'm looking at you Harry Potter movie series. I was reading between baking sheets. I would drop dough and stick them in the oven and read for 20 minutes. Then pull them out and do it again. Five times. Books are just not written like they used to be. She describes things so beautifully and clearly that it makes most of today's authors look like 5th graders. Anne Shirley cracks me up/makes me uncomfortable/teaches me lessons. She has something to say about everything. Boy trouble? Anne says "Ruby Gillis says when she grows up, she wants to have a line of beaus on a string and make them crazy for her. I'd rather have ONE in his rightful mind."
Life isn't what you were hoping for? "My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That's a sentence I read once and I say it over to comfort myself in these times that try the soul."
Bad hair day? "I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. Green is ten times worse."
And she has such a beautiful outlook on things. She turns everything into a positive, like an overly romantic Pollyanna. I hear problems and I say "Wow, I'm so sorry about that." For someone who can talk as much as I do, solace and advice are very difficult. I am really lucky to have some friends and family who are excellent listeners and advisors. 
I thought about my friend all day long and felt like the words I said were cheap and meaningless. So I took her macaroons. A plate for comfort and a plate as a birthday present. I really was deeply thinking about her while stacking coconut haystacks. I know that doesn't make things better but I am a much better gift giver than I am an advisor. I like to make things for people, hoping that they can read my intentions behind it. So friend, if you are reading this, I meant those cookies from the bottom of my heart. And I tried the chocolate ones and I loved them! I think the strong chocolate makes up for the funky coconut texture. Like my words. Strong cookie filled intentions make up for the funky things I say. I hope. 

Chocolate Thumbprints and Toes

Ok so my chronological order thing didn't pan out as well as I had hoped. Chocolate thumbprints are in the rich and dense section. What can I say? I'm a rebel.
These cookies are a childhood favorite of mine except the peanut butter version. These turned out almost exactly like the picture says they should, just not as photoshop-ingly uniform and smooth. Mine were slightly spikey and had a little chocolate slopped over the sides. My favorite part was the piping of the chocolate into the thumbprints. I used my poor-mans pastry bag (ziplock with a corner cut off) and filled those prints to overflowing. And had enough left over to squirt some into Beep's mouth to which he said "MMMM! Chorat!" Then I loaded them onto paper plates and hopped in the car to drive them the 2 minutes to Pickle's work to share them with his tellers. As I was turning left out of our neighborhood onto the busy thoroughfare, the cookies on their plates slid allll the way off the seat. Biscuits!! I pulled the car over and looked around to see if anyone could see me scrounging around my floor board for cookies. Now, before you judge me, let me say that only two cookies were really gross and I chucked them out the window. The others had landed filling side up and so I felt good about brushing off the bottoms and putting them back on the plate. I took them to the branch and the tellers loved them. 
So.... there. 
Please don't tell on me! 
I made and delivered these Wednesday afternoon. Every Wednesday night, I volunteer at the community center downtown to sew costumes for the children's Dia de los Muertos parade. Things have come up the last two Wednesday's so I was really excited to go this week. I had finally gotten there and been working for about 5 minutes when I received a frantic call from Pickle saying that Beep had broken his toe! He said our heavy metal step stool had dropped on his big toe and it was turning black and blue and he hadn't stopped crying for about 20 minutes. Well it took me about 15 minutes to get here and 5 minutes working so... this had happened right after I left. I couldn't help but think "Really?! I haven't even gotten my machine out yet! Why do catastrophes alway happen when mom is away?"
Speaking of catastrophes when mom is away, reminds me of when my mom went to France to visit a friend. My dad was "watching" us, meaning he had us for a day or two until friends could take us for the week. He had taken us to a Giants baseball game and we were walking to the makeshift parking lot in a dry, dusty vacant lot. My sister was probably 8 or 9 years old and tried jumping over a low hanging chain between two poles. Her "shoelace got caught" (she was wearing slip ons) and she face planted into the ground. She had a big gash right under her eyebrow and was bleeding heavily. Some kindly, older Giants groupies ran into their RV and grabbed a rag to staunch the blood. I sat in the back of the car with my sister's head on my lap as my dad rushed us to the South City Kaiser ER. After much bleeding and vomiting, she was stitched up and we were home again. My dad went out of town that week and we went to stay with our dear friends in Santa Cruz where I had to nurse the stitched up eyebrow. We got back from that week to find a huge window in our sunporch had been completely shattered and a pipe in the kitchen burst. When my mother stepped off the plane from France, she was accosted with all this information and it took all the strength of the three of us to hold her back from running back down the jetway. 
Back to the toe, I felt for my mom in that moment, experiencing only an 1/8 of what she did- France vs. 15 minutes away, bruised toe vs, scarface child, flooded kitchen and broken glass. We didn't really know what to do for a broken toe so I call my retired doctor mother-in-law who is our go-to medical champion. We call her for everything. It's wonderful to get a second opinion on things or to find out if you really SHOULD go to the ER for that elbow that is bent the opposite direction. Anywhays, she said there wasn't much you could do if in fact it was actually broken. Tape it to stabilize and give him Tylenol. I was trying to weigh my options. Miss out on a third Wednesday night for something I can't fix or have faith that nothing was really broken and that dad could take care of the comforting. I stayed. And had a wonderful time. I got home after Beep had gone to bed, and I went and checked on him. He was uncomfortable and woke up whenever he bumped his toe, but it wasn't broken and now it's just righteously black and hurts when he bends it funny. 
As much as I wish I could have been there to either a) prevent it or b) comfort him afterwards, I was really happy that I stayed. I met with a truly sweet, tatted up, hippy mom and her daughter and we created her a lava costume for her to wear with her stilts in the parade. I enjoyed doing something for myself, getting out by myself and doing something I enjoy. I'm working harder at doing things for myself. I ordered myself new clothes which I haven't done in... I don't know how long, my gracious friend Tyler invited me to play on his adult soccer team, and I'm registering for school in November. And I'm contemplating taking a ballet class at school. Yes, ballet. And I'm going to get me some toe shoes. I'm very athletic, haven't you heard?

Cookies and Catchup

Blurg. I've gotten so behind in my posting, that I now have two cookies to post about. And it was so long ago that I have no idea what was going on at that time, so I have no witty anecdote to coincide with the following cookies. What a loss for you readers... :) Well I made amaretti crisps and classic shortbread. If memory serves me correctly, the amarettis tasted like carbonized almonds and I ended up throwing some most away. The shortbread was buttery and crumbly, like shortbread should be. I ended up making chocolate ganache and dipping mine in it and subsequently eating a slice or two for breakfast for a week... healthy I know. 
In other news, I knew this project wasn't a super original idea, seeing as I got the idea from Julie and Julia but I wasn't aware of HOW unoriginal this was. I just googled and stumbled across THREE other Martha and Me blogs. Some are better writers than I am and some are better photographers than I am, mostly because I'm pretty lax in my photo taking. But I like to think that my blog has a certain je ne sais quoi, riiiiiight everybody?? You better not be googling those other blogs right now, I know you want to! I am your one and only Martha Stewart cookie source! You better enjoy it!! 

Ok, I'm going to go now.... maybe eat something for breakfast, even though it's 10 o'clock.... I think my blood sugar is a little.... screwy right now.... Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuiles and Turds (Pardon my French)

It's been a long time since I've baked and even longer since I posted about it. So for the next few posts, they will be in reverse order. Tonight I made attempted to make pistachio tuiles and cherry tuiles. defines tuiles:

French for "tile," a tuile is a thin, crisp cookie that is placed over a rounded object (like a rolling pin) while still hot from the oven. (There is also a special tuile mold, over which the hot cookies may be placed.) Once cooled and stiff, the cookie resembles a curved roof tile.

They are very thin. I don't really know if I can actually say that I completed these cookies. The result was, well, tragic. They looked like you-know-what on my knock-off Silpat. I later discovered that the denominator had worn off the measuring cup I was using and instead of two 1/3 cups of sugar, I used two 1/2 cups of sugar. Yeah. Big, sugary difference. I was having a serious case of Swept-away-with-the-Fab-Four-osis while baking. It happens quite frequently. You know, singing at the top of my lungs into my whisk and swaying and twirling at the appropriate sitar solos for Within You, Without You. Oh, you mean you don't do that? Hello? Anyone? Is this thing on?

I don't know what it is with me and the Light and Delicate section of this book. Maybe it says something about me being brutish and heavy. I lack the careful precision and patience that this type of cookie takes. Maybe I will always be destined to be the baker of the cakey cookies. Such is my lot in life. And what a lot it is, forced to eat soft doughy, buttery cookies forever. So get ready readers, for the next few batches of grotesquely, inedible cookies. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Meringue Porcupines and Letting things be

Good grief. These were a disaster. Egg whites are finicky. I decided that I was going to start going chronologically through the recipes. Start with the first, work my way to the last. I figure that way I give a fair chance to those cookies that are not particularly my favorite, or so I think, because I obviously have never had them yet. I am a notoriously picky eater so I'm a little worried I won't eat those "other" cookies. Anyway, I started these meringues thinking this was going to be a snap. I whipped and whipped and thought things were going great. I was, at the same time, making dinner for Pickle and his friend who were involved in guy time which meant I was making dinner, whipping eggs and trying to juggle the oven temps between the two, with a toddler under foot and trying to be a hostess at the same time. Ah, the plight of the house wife. Back to the Meringue Porcupines. They call for long bake times and low heat. I learned that baking meringues is a delicate process. You have to bake them until they are crisp on the outside but marshmallow-y on the inside and you have to make sure they don't brown. Then you have to turn off the oven and let them dry out. Something I learned about myself during the meringues is that I have a compulsive need to pick. This is not something new, I can't stand a crusty on Beep, or when I get a text message, I have to check it and respond instantly, etc. I can't just let things be. I check and re-check my e-mail all day. I am continually checking the clocks so I can know the time at all times. Ha, punny. The crockpot is perfect for putting the food in and walking away for 6-8 hours. Yeeeeah... not really my style. I have to check on it every hour or so. These are just a few examples from my daily life. Meringues require me to let them alone for an hour and trust that they are baking the way they are supposed to. I couldn't do that and they suffered. They were super sticky and weepy. We ate a few and threw the rest out. There are a few other meringues in the book and I'm quite nervous about them now. I suppose it will be a personal challenge to JUST LET THEM BE!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chocolate Charms and crusty days

Today was not a fantastic day. I'm still sick and now Mr. Pickle is getting sick. He woke me up in the middle of the night to inform me that his throat hurt because of me. We went to a church breakfast this morning at a far away park in the hot sun and I spilt syrup on my flip-flopped toes. As the goo ran between my toes in the scorching sun, I knew it was going to be a crusty day. Baby Beep did not believe in sleep today. Chores did not get as done as we were hoping. I felt like emotions were running a little high today. So I decided today was a chocolate cookie sort of day. Simple to make, and chocolate. Chocolate Charms. I plopped Beep up on the counter to include him in the baking process. He helped me mix and count the number of scoops of flour. It makes me smile that he knows "Two". Scoops of flour, Me "Oooone", together "Twoooo"... When we were done, I let him suck on the beaters covered in chocolate dough and he grinned, with chocolate goop running down his chin. Whatever crusties I had left over from the day, seemed to melt away as I rolled the squishy dough between my hands until a ball formed. And as I bit into my first Charm topped with unsweetened cocoa powder, I realized how much these cookies were like my day. Hard, crusty shell with a bitter tasting coating but a soft, sweet, pure taste on the inside, at the end of the day. Pickle says "I would have liked them to be more creamy..." Creamy days are overrated in my opinion. I think the best days are the ones with the gritty texture that blends into smooth, rich moments in the end, with layers of the bitter mixing with the deep chocolate undertones. Maybe I'll make a creamy cookie for him next. He could use a creamy day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Butter Twists and Keats

Today, I am sick. Nothing serious, just the kind that is a nuisance. Scratchy throat, no energy. I begrudgingly realized that my toddler was not going to let me just sit on the couch and continue feeding my newest obsession of "Pushing Daisies". I finally got up and decided to make my first batch of cookies: butter twists. Really, really easy and delivers almost instant gratification. Sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. As I was rolling out my dough-logs, my mind starting wandering and landed on the poem 'Endymion'. The first few lines are the ones I remember the best.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 

Its lovliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

I'm not quite sure why those lines were on a loop as I made these cookies, but it's better to have poems running through my head than Chumbawuba lyrics, I guess. Martha's twists are so soft and smooth looking. Mine were rather long and cracked, distorted and different lengths. Towards the end though, they did start looking Martha-esque. And the buttery cookies feel just as good in your stomach ugly as they do Martha-esque.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Start

If any of you don't know, 'Julie and Julia' is the story of a woman in New York a few years ago who was kind of bitter and sad. The only time she could relax was when she cooked from Julia Child's cook book. So she started a project of cooking all of the recipes in the book within a year and she blogged about it. At the end she discovered something about herself. And got a book and movie deal. I'm not looking for any of that, I just would really like to set a goal for myself and accomplish it. And eat cookies. :) I feel for Martha Stewart the way Julie feels for Julia Child. I have always wanted to be able to decorate my house the way she does, or look at a pile of garbage and figure a way to turn it into a Christmas wreath for a hostess gift. She makes everything sound so effortless like she just happened to throw this little quilt together or she always has gourds and lamp kits lying around. This project is going to be 175 recipes from 'Martha Stewart's Cookies' in 365 days. That means I will have to go through roughly 3-4 recipes a week. I have flipped through the book and can already tell there are going to be a lot of cookies I don't like. But I'm sure I will have friends who will want to take them off my hands!