Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adventures in Baking

Good Morning to you.  Just so ya know, today's post is all about baking.....and not just regular baking....Adventures in Baking.  Specifically, cookies.  Warning:  This is a long post so grab a hot drink, sit back and be prepared for a little laughter.

A little back story:  When it comes to meal preparations, I only cook the basics.  It's the ingredients I have issues with.  For lack of a better word, I get grossed out.  Without going into details, let's just say I will never be a chef.  But.....I've been thinking about working to develop some baking skills.  This way I'm not a total waste in the kitchen and will be able to contribute something edible (instead of store-bought) for all these office 'events' we seem to have at work.  This is my first job where I'm in an office setting with the same people day after day and they have these random treat days and retirement receptions and birthday snack days fairly frequently.  Kinda like being in grade school.  Maybe this is normal, but it's a first for me.

Anyway, in my quest for baking knowledge, I've stumbled upon a few blogs that I now check out almost daily.  One of them,  Baked Perfection, had a recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Half and Half Cookies.  OK, I thought, I can do a cookie, I can follow a recipe (or so I thought, but more on that later), it's Christmas so cookies are right in season and this can be a test run to see if baking will become a new outlet for my creativity in 2012 and who doesn't love peanut butter and chocolate? 

First step was to purchase the ingredients.  The only ingredients I have on hand are flour and milk.  I'm shocked to find I have flour.  I honestly have no idea why I have it or how old it is.  Armed with my shopping list, I hit the grocery store and stock up.  I did this a couple days ahead of baking day in case I had trouble finding anything, but it was all pretty basic supplies. 

Then Baking Day arrived.  I had a few errands and chores to do in the morning, but was ready to start on the cookies around 11:30am.  So I take out the recipe and notice it says the butter should be softened.  No problem, I'll set the sticks out while I gather everything else and heat up the oven.  Then I start pulling all the ingredients onto the workspace.  I just wanted to make sure I hadn't missed anything before I got started.  And here's where the trouble began.....

Can you see that mess in the floor?  That would be the canister of flour that slipped right out of my hands, bounced on the counter and dropped to the floor spilling its contents on every surface in its path and leaving me in a cloud of white fluff.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to clean white flour on a white floor?  Not to mention the goo that it becomes when water is in the mix.  I swept, twice, and I mopped, twice and I still found a little row of flour on the floor this morning.  Oh, and the Peace Lily plant has a nice light coating of flour dust on her leaves and soil as well.  What a mess!  Oh well, at least the butter had time to soften.  Not.  Hard as a rock.  What is this.....super strength butter?  Is it OK to melt in in the microwave?  It says softened, not melted......better not risk it.  Well, I have a few other things I can catch up on while the butter is taking its sweet time softening.  First up, do I need to go buy flour?  It didn't all spill out but do I have enough?  Hmmmmm.  Recipe calls for 3.25 cups.  It'll be close, but I think I'll be OK.   Better turn the oven off cause it's gonna be a while.

Then I got busy doing other stuff and came back around 3pm to finish the cookies.  Checked the butter.  Not exactly soft, but this could take all day.  I make the executive decision to go ahead and get it started.  The full cookie recipe is basically two separate recipes that are combined on the baking sheet so it makes a lot of cookies, 5-6 dozen. 
First up:  The Chocolate side.  Problem #1:  Used too small of a bowl for the dry ingredients.  Dumped what I had into the next size bowl.  Problem #2:  1.4oz package of Chocolate Instant Pudding.  How to get 1.4 oz?  The little box is 3.9 oz.  Guess-timate and pour in around half the package.  Problem #3:  Why is it so difficult to beat in the dry ingredients?  It's so thick the beaters can't move and I have managed to cover the workspace in a fine layer of cocoa powder with a nice spray of chocolate batter flying out of the bowl in the process.

 Re-read instructions.  Did I forget something?  No, but I did use 1 2/3 cup brown sugar when it only called for 2/3 cup.  Oops.  Guess they'll be extra sweet.  Is this why it's so thick?  Problem #4:  Stir in peanut butter morsels.'s so thick I bent the spoon!  Something's not right but I have no idea what it is.  Tastes OK.  I'll keep going, maybe it'll work out in the end.....

Next step:  The Peanut Butter Side.  Problem #1:  Yep, not enough flour.  Did you see that one coming?  Recipe calls for 1 1/4 cup and I have about 3/4 cup.  I'm not making a trip to the store in my flour/cocoa covered sweatshirt now.  I'll just reduce the remaining ingredients to make it proportional.  Yeah, that'll work.  Problem #2:  It didn't work.  It tastes good, but it's not very thick. 

Final step:  I think I'm ready to get these babies into the oven.  The directions say to combine a 1/2 teaspoon of each and roll into a ball.  Problem #1:  There's no rolling the peanut butter batter into a ball cause it's not thick enough, it's kinda the consistency of a mousse with chunks of chocolate chips.  Hmmmmm.......what to do.........ah ha.......roll out a dozen balls of the chocolate variety and add a dollop of chunky peanut butter mousse to the top.  

I will be amazed it this turns out edible.

10 minutes in the oven and I have this.

They marbled together nicely, but how do they taste?  Pretty good.  VERY chocolate-y but can still taste the peanut butter.  Definitely need a glass of milk to wash this cookie down.  Alright, not a total waste of time and money.  Let's get the next batch in the oven. 

Remember back at the beginning of this post when I said the recipe was supposed to make 5-6 dozen cookies.  Yeah, maybe for a normal person, but I ended up being one cookie short of 8 dozen.  8 dozen freakin cookies.  Last batch came out of the oven at 5:12pm.  Long day and my flour/cocoa covered sweatshirt tells the story.   

I bagged four dozen and saved them in the freezer for the next treat day at work, have a couple dozen to take home for Christmas and that leaves me with two dozen to add to treat bags for friends.  Oh yeah, here's the kicker in this whole baking adventure I'm considering.......In general, I don't particularly like desserts and sweets.  My sweet tooth makes an appearance every once in a while, but they're few and far between.  There are a few things I like on occasion, but overall I couldn't tell you the last time I had a piece of pie or cake or a bowl of ice cream.  I do like brownies and my mom's oatmeal cookies.  So while I'll sample whatever it is I decide to bake (who knows when I might find something I really like) the majority will be shared with friends and family.

So that's the beginning of my Adventures In Baking.  Definitely some problems but ya gotta start somewhere.  Before I tackle the next adventure I need to do a little shopping for supplies.  Not ingredient supplies, but basic baking supplies.  Gotta get some larger mixing bowls.  And different measuring spoons.  I like the kind that's one spoon and you simply adjust the proportion to the right size.  And to really add to the dream, I think a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer (in blue!) would be a good investment (with the splatter shirts will thank me).

Happy Holidays!      

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