Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Snickerdoodles, Revisited ...

Ah, Snickerdoodles, the cookie that spurred the thought, "I should start a baking blog!"

Regular readers will know that I'm reshooting the cookies I featured when I started to photograph my holiday baking. I didn't have a digital camera then. I have a digital camera now. Just a point-and-shoot camera, not one of those fancy behemoths that make me think that the owners should be wearing flak jackets and press credentials.

Anyhoo, if you like cinnamon – and I can't imagine why you wouldn't (Ahem. Karl.) – whip up a batch of these babies. They're super simple and super delicious.

(From Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, Published by General Mills, 1963)

1 C. shortening (part butter or margarine; I use a half-cup of shortening and a stick of butter)
1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 C. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. soda
1/4 t. salt
3 T. sugar
3 t. cinnamon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix shortening, 1 1/2 C. sugar and eggs. Measure flour by dipping method*. Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Blend into shortening mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in combined 3 T. sugar and 3 t. cinnamon. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

* Dipping method: Slightly fluff up flour with a spoon or measuring cup. Dip measuring cup into flour and overfill. Level off measuring cup.

And just for kicks, this is the post that featured the original image. Christmas was very near.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oatmeal Cookies, Revisited ...

Funny story: When I created The Cookie Queen's English to document that holiday season's baking, I didn't own a digital camera. All the images that accompany those posts were taken with ... the camera built into my laptop.

Yes, taking pictures with a laptop is not the best approach to photography. I had to contort myself into some rather odd positions to both frame the image and be able to look on the screen to see what I was about to photograph. You can laugh at the idea of it. Like I said, it's a funny story.

Now, though, I own a digital camera, just a little point-and-shoot number, nothing fancy. And I enjoy creating the photographs for my baking posts on angelo:HOME. So I've decided to revisit some of the cookies from my initial cookie-blogging season and create some better images.

Mind you, I liked the composition of the shots I did then, and in some cases, I may just recreate the images. But I try to think of the essence of each cookie and style it accordingly. And oatmeal cookies are simple and homey and rustic, so today, their stage was an old cooling rack that belonged to one of my great aunts who loved to bake.

Turns out, oatmeal cookies, for all their simple, homey, rustic-y goodness, are hard to photograph, because they're basically just golden-brown lumps. Not a lot of artistry to an oatmeal cookie. But oh-so-delicious.

As for the recipe, this is the version that used to come under the lid of the Quaker oats box. The recipe has since been altered to cut down on brown sugar. Why would anyone want to do that? I recommend sticking with this version.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(Quaker Oats Co. recipe)

1 C. butter or margarine, softened
1 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt (optional)
3 C. Quaker Oats (uncooked)
1 C. raisins (I use golden raisins)
(I add chopped toasted walnuts, too.)

Heat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Stir in oats and raisins; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool one minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.

And just for nostalgia's sake, this is the image that accompanied the original post. And considering that it was taken with a laptop computer, it's a decent shot. I like the composition, but cookies in a muffin tin end up looking a bit like, well, muffins.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Your Input, Please ...

So, say you're walking through a farmers' market, coffee in hand, on a lovely early-summer morning. The sun is low, there's a bit of a breeze, you've just bought the most gorgeous tomatoes and a wildflower bouquet.

And you happen upon a booth, manned by a comely woman, and she's selling cookies, packaged adorably, tied up in cellophane with a ribbon and a handwritten tag.

What would you pay for a dozen? Or, if a dozen is too many for you, how many would you like to buy, and for how much? A package of six? A package of three?

What say you?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Good Times, May Edition ...

The May cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features dark-chocolate biscotti studded with chopped dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans and sandy French sablés, the most perfect of all butter cookies.

But why two cookies, you ask? You'll have to read the post.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bonjour, Madeleines! ...

When I was in elementary school, the mother of one of my classmates came to the school one day a week and a few students, including me, met with her in the "media center" for French lessons.

I'm not sure why the mom did it and I'm not sure why I was one of the attendees (perhaps only a handful of us showed any interest), but it was kind of her to do and I learned a wee bit of French.

So, of course, many years later, in high school and college, I studied ... German.

Yeah, don't ask. Because other than knowing that the German teacher, Frau Hodson, was a nice woman (because one of my brothers had taken her class when he was in high school, too), I had no interest in German. Well, no, that's a lie. To this day, I'm a pretty big fan of Haribo gummi bears.

My point is, instead of studying a romance language (I would have taken Italian if my school had offered it), instead of studying a language that contains words like "croissant" and "amour" and "café" (I chose those randomly, but they relate nicely), I instead chose a language whose principal property is that every utterance sounds like someone clearing their throat.

So, here I am, later in life, and my German has all but evaporated out of my mind. (Curiously, whenever I try to recall any of my German, the first word that always pops up is the word for "peas.")

If I were to find myself in France and someone was taking attendance, I could respond in two ways, thankyouverymuch, and I could tell them my name and I could ask them if they speak English, while really hoping that they speak English. But if I were to walk into a patisserie or boulangerie, I would be just fine. Forget love; the international language comprises all the words for all the baked goods in France.

The other day, I got to thinking about madeleines, specifically that I hadn't made madeleines in a very long time, and I don't know why, because they are ridiculously simple and contain nothing but staples, unless you don't usually have a lemon on hand. In which case, start keeping a lemon on hand.

And invest in a madeleine pan – metal, please, not that silicone business – and whip these up some afternoon when you're in the mood for something a little sweet to go with a warm beverage. Cafe au lait, perhaps. Or, if you must, tea.

I made a recipe from Bon Appétit via Epicurious, but most basic madeleine recipes are basically the same.

(Published by Bon Appétit, January 2000)

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
1 cup all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Powdered sugar

Beth Note: I used a little more than a teaspoon of lemon zest, because that's how much I ended up zesting and because I like lemon. I'd recommend using at least that much. A half-teaspoon wouldn't offer enough lemony oomph, in my opinion.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches). Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Dust cookies with powdered sugar.

Further Beth Note: This recipe makes about 20 madeleines. Do your best not to consume them all in one sitting. It's difficult. They're tres, tres bon.