Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Adventures in Cookie-Land

I really should write about last weekend, when David and I walked 4 miles to a nearby town for High Tea. In fact, I planned to write about it today, because this is a work-weekend (writing & research with a deadline looming) for David which basically killed any hope of an adventure together, and signing up to do overtime at work killed any nascent plans for a Saturday of complete leisure. Then I decided to bake cookies.

The cookie recipe (which I'll put at the end of this) says "prep time: 10 minutes". I anticipated this would take longer—cooking with North American recipes is always an adventure in Britain unless you're willing to tramp around town looking for ingredients. And for any Cambridge area readers I may have, yes, I do realise that the big Tescos probably has what I want, but unless you're willing to give me a ride there I am using Sainsbury's. Thank you.

Back to the cookies. I bought ingredients on my way home from work. I was proud of myself for overcoming the obstacles of not being able to find things because the Brits place things in weird places/name them different. No chocolate chips to be seen, but a bar of white bakers chocolate should suffice! No jell-o, but hey look, something in near-identical packaging called "artificial orange-flavoured jelly". Overcoming these obstacles is what separates the sheep from the goats in the world of cooking.

Fast-forward to today. Preparation is key in cooking, so I give the kitchen a quick scrub and begin to make the chocolate chunks out of my bar of white chocolate. I hit it with a can of cranberry sauce (from the USA) and it gives a little, but not in the way I'm expecting. So I turn the can on its side and go at it, letting out my aggression. I stop after five minutes, the bar of chocolate still relatively whole but my cranberry sauce sporting a massive dent. I don't know if it's that American tins are weak, or if continental chocolate is strong, but there we have it. I try my rolling pin on it, again to no avail. Eventually I have to give up and use scissors, cutting the broken pieces into chunks and occasionally nipping my finger. But it's ok, because I'm being creative. I'm getting things done.

Mixing the dry ingredients goes well. Then time to cream the butter and sugar. Unfortunately the mixing bowl I have has very sloped sides, and the mixer I pillaged from the "give & take" box in the Clare laundry is good but not super powerful. It takes me probably 15 minutes to achieve something close to fluff. The walls, the floors, myself, all covered in clumps of buttery sugar. I hate mess so much, but I just have to keep going because every time I clean it up it returns like some nightmare monster.

Now it's time to add the jelly. I rip into the box, expecting to see friendly orange powder, and am instead greeted with a giant block of jelly the consistency of a gummi-bear. For a minute I consider admitting defeat, but the Slavic-Canadians of this world do not admit defeat when money has been spent! I try, for some stupid reason, to blend the jelly into my sugar mix. This only serves to coat it in sugar-butter. Then I get the bright idea of melting it on the stove. It's a gas range, so I have a lot of temperature control. One huge block of jelly turned into a soupy, smelly orange mixture. I questioned my sanity at this point, but to my surprise it worked! And it didn't burn!

There were only a couple minor hiccups after this—coating the kitchen in strings of quickly cooling jelly, having my dry ingredients overflow onto the counter when I tried to mix my dough (which I ended up having to do in batches in a sauce pan and then knead the chocolate chunks into), having to rinse my cooking stuff in the tub because the kitchen sink is too small (and I was terrified of clogging the drain with cooled jelly).

The last batch of cookies is in the oven. The recipe made about 66, which is a small victory as it was supposed to yield around 6 dozen and I lost a lot of ingredients on the way due to overflow. David and I sampled some still warm cookies and they are divine. Buttery, with a hint of orange and a cut of creamy chocolate… Yeah, my prep time may have taken 50 minutes longer than the recipe said, but it was worth it. And I feel like the Domestic Goddess crown is legitimately mine today, because in a world where people can't cook unless they can find the brand names mentioned in the Kraft Recipe and then use their $350 kitchen-aid mixer to combine them, I have made a successful 66 cookies by the sweat of my brow, relying on creativity when things didn't go as planned. I am a baking survivor!

Cookie recipe can be found here:

1 comment:

  1. Gelatin! Strange! Sounds like quite the fun adventure of making cookies! Now that I'm not terrified, I love improvising in the kitchen.