5 weeks ago
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I know that there ought to be a law against this, but here I am blogging at close to midnight on Monday night after having spent the past two hours at Toys R Us. Yes, as a matter of fact it WAS as bad as it sounds. I thought I'd be the only poor fool there at that hour, but oh no. I actually had to dodge crowds of people while wandering through the aisles past things like the Tini Puppini (I saw "Toffee," who is billed as the "Hollywood Trendsetter" of Tini Puppini dogs; she comes with a monogrammed Tini Puppini brush, a sparkly tiara hair accessory, a ruby red necklace, and gold puppy bling). And I can dutifully report that Elmo is STILL VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRY TICKLISH, because he yelled it at me every time I walked past him on aisle 14. I passed a veritable ocean of saucy hoochie mama dolls, and I was a slightly happier person before I ever knew that a board game called "Toss Your Cookies -- The Chunk-a-licious Card Game" even existed.
So forgive me if I seem a little bit surly tonight.
But moving on to cookies! It's a regular cookie-baking bonanza this month for weekly bakers and occasional bakers alike, and we're right in the thick of the action here at TWD with our third cookie in as many weeks -- this time, it's Buttery Jam Cookies, chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. And to celebrate the majesty of the cookie, last week Slate treated us to a fascinating discussion between David Lebovitz, Sara Dickerman and our own beloved Dorie Greenspan on The State of the Cookie. We all love to eat cookies, love to bake cookies, and love to share cookies with our family and friends -- but how often do we really ponder the cookie? Well, Dorie, David and Sara have done just that, so even if you have to wait until your schedule calms down in January, it is definitely worth visiting Slate for a peek as Dorie, David and Sara chew on nearly every aspect of the cookie, asking the big questions, like What makes a cookie a cookie? What makes a cookie more "American" as opposed to "European?" What is the optimal cookie size? And what does the future hold for our friend the cookie?
When the conversation turns to possible future cutting edge cookie technologies, Dorie says that she thinks that cookies are almost "too basic" to be brought into the techno age, and in her view that is a good thing. I wholeheartedly agree with her, and I think that pretty much strikes at the heart of why I love to bake. Because while technology has radically changed so much about so many aspects of the way we live -- how we communicate, how we gather and share information, how we are entertained -- cookie baking is essentially the same today as it has always been. Our pans and ovens may be more high tech, and we do have Silpat now, as Dorie notes (an innovation that I do not begrudge, and in fact have asked for for Christmas) but the fundamentals of baking remain largely unaffected by technology. When I bake with my kids, I'm instantly transported back twenty-five years to when my sister and I would bake with my mother -- the dough tastes the same, the kitchen smells the same, the bickering over who gets to use the big snowman cookie cutter is the same, the first bite of that warm "just out of the oven" cookie is just as magical. There is something deeply comforting in knowing that ten, twenty, and one hundred years from now, butter and sugar will still have to be creamed, dry ingredients will still have to be slowly mixed in until "just combined," and those suckers will still have to bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
Of course, just as the cookie-baking process is one constant in an otherwise rapidly changing world, so is my knack for screwing up the cookie-baking process. Dorie warns about overmixing this dough, and when I get warned not to overmix, you can pretty much count on me to undermix:
See that flour? Yeah, you could kind of taste it, too.
I made my cookies with apricot jam, which was really tasty, once you got past that vague flourish feeling in your mouth. Actually, David said that he liked these and did not mention the flour issue, and I can usually count on him to be brutally honest with me. Here they are out of the oven:
In the true Christmas spirit, I decided to do something extra special with a few of my cookies, and in order to do that I had to conjure up the ghost of Marley. No, not that Marley, the other one:
That's right -- it's your favorite Rastafarian, and mine too, Bob Marley. Once I could feel Bob's presence in my kitchen, I proceeded to make some cookies that were not just jammin', but
Ooh, yeah! all right!
I wanna jam it wid you.
Were jammin, jammin,
And I hope you like jammin, too.
My "not just jammin', but jammin' jammin'" cookies:
These were made with the same apricot jam dough as the rest of the cookies, but I made them into thumbprint cookies and filled the thumbprints with some blackberry jam that we brought home from a recent vacation. If you like jam in your cookies, you'll really enjoy these. We liked them so much that I might do them all the jammin' jammin' way next time. And I hope this jam is gonna last.
My little one year old had to get her shots the day that I made these cookies, and afterwards the poor thing was about as miserable as I've ever seen her (and that's saying something, as this is the same child who screamed bloody murder for the first three months of her life). But as soon as I gave her one of these cookies, her mood instantly turned around. It was a miracle! I might just keep a batch of these in the freezer for all of our pediatrician visits!
Anyway, to recap, I liked these but thought they were a little flourish due to my undermixing, Caroline happily licked the same cookie for 45 minutes, and David claimed to enjoy them and said nothing about the flour situation. I tried to get Jacob and Elizabeth to try these, but they heard "jam cookie" and immediately announced that they don't like jam. I generally do not waste my limited "you must eat this!!" energy trying to persuade my kids to eat desserts, but in that great Ralphie holiday tradition, I dared them, double dared them, double dog dared them and then pulled out the mighty TRIPLE DOG DARE in an effort to get them to try these cookies, but no dice. But somehow the cookies still disappeared within a day or two even with only three of us eating them. Oh well, nothing that some double Spanx can't handle. That's how Gwyneth does it -- she says so herself.
You can find the recipe for these yummy cookies over at Heather's website. And thank you, Heather, for this great pick!