Friday, December 28, 2007

New reading material

Books I got for Christmas--

I've read all the way through Desserts by the Yard.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, which isn't surprising, since I loved The Secrets of Baking.  I've even managed to bake something from it already--more on that later.  I'm in the middle of reading Don't Try This at Home--it makes for good light reading during lunchtime at work.  I've just barely started Kitchen Mysteries.  I expect it to be drier, but still interesting to the scientist in me.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here's the recipe for the Chocolate Bon-Bon Cookies, since I was too tired to post it yesterday.  The original recipe that I have called for 3/4 cup shortening.  I tried it with all butter one time to improve the flavor, but the dough spread way too much.  So I switched to half butter and half shortening.  I usually weigh flour when I can, but this recipe pre-dates my use of a scale.  I just used a measuring cup, but I've found that my cup weighs about 4.5 oz.

Chocolate Bon-Bon Cookies

6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
6 tbsp shortening (no trans-fat)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
4 dozen chocolate kisses (unwrapped)
assorted colored sugars and sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream sugars with butter and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add egg and extracts and beat well.  Add flour, baking power, salt and nuts and mix until blended.
Form dough into 1 inch balls.  Press each ball around a chocolate kiss so the kiss is completely enclosed (like a chocolate-covered cherry).  Dip in sprinkles and place sprinkle-side up onto baking sheet.  
Bake 12 minutes, or until just beginning to brown around the edges.  Allow to rest on baking sheet about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Yields 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the night before Christmas

I got home early today, since it was Christmas Eve, and actually had time to do some cooking and baking. The baking was kind of a necessity, since we ate most of the Christmas cookies that I made, so we needed more to have something for Santa. I made another batch of the Chocolate Bon-Bon cookies, although my daughter Brianna (who is not quite 5) still says she doesn't like them as much since they have nuts in them. She enjoyed dunking the dough balls in the sprinkles, though. She's a bit more heavy-handed than I am. I made the dough last night, and when I took it out of the fridge to warm up, I left it too long. It was kind of sticky and the cookies spread more than they should have. But they still taste good.

(preparing to go in the oven)

And here's some of the finished product, along with some spritz cookie trees.  We had to have carrots for Santa's reindeer as well--nine, in case Rudolph was along.  Not to mention hot chocolate, though I forgot the marshmallows.  =)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In the beginning...

I've always liked to cook and bake.  My grandmother used to drive me crazy when I was a kid, by saying how I would "make some man a wonderful wife someday."  Early on, I learned everything from my mom, who learned from her mom.  I especially enjoyed baking, and the compliments I'd get from people on the things I made.  

Over time, my cooking and baking started to evolve.  I bought a few cookbooks.  Then I discovered cooking magazines.  I acquired some more cookbooks.  I found cooking shows on PBS and then on Food Network.  I have a degree in Chemistry, but my current occupation has nothing to do with that, and I found that experimenting with baking was a way to feed my analytical side.  It should come as no surprise that I have cookbooks from Alton Brown and that I subscribe to Cooks Illustrated.  A couple of people suggested that maybe I should keep track of what I was doing, so I could make notes on the recipes I tried and recreate successful variations if I wanted to.  In May 2005, I bought myself a notebook and started to do just that.

Just recently, I discovered food blogs.  I can't believe it took me so long.  And as I'm sure happens to a lot of people, one thing lead to another.  I started reading a couple of blogs on a daily basis.  Then I had a little free time (something that doesn't happen often with two small children and a full-time job), and I found a few more.  And I started to think, hey maybe I should give that a try myself.  I still plan to use my notebook while I'm cooking, but this blog will give me a place to put more detailed notes as well as photos.  I guess we'll see how it goes...