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    Entries in cookie! (11)

    Friday
    Apr222011

    The Colorful Cookie Conundrum...

    As you probably know, artificial dyes have had quite a place in the news lately for a few of their more common side effects, most notably increasing hyperactivity in children.  Even before all the latest findings I avoided artificial stuff, but now they are officially banned in my house.  Well, with Easter coming up and spring in the air, I want some fun colored goodies.  Sounds like it’s time for a little experiment.  Using nothing but things created by Mother Nature, herself, I set off to create a recipe for beautiful, and tasty, cookies. 

    First things first, we have to get the juicing out of the way.  I’ve chosen to use red beet, yellow beet, carrot, and spinach. 

    No, this is not my attempt to make healthy cookies.  I promise they won’t taste like vegetables by the time we’ve finished.

    Ok, juicing… I happen to have a really awesome juicer, which definitely helps for this process.  In goes veggies, out comes very brightly colored juice. 

    Chop your vegetables so they’ll fit through the chute.  Notice I’m using my ugly, old, black cutting board?  That’s because these things will stain.  Be careful not to get them on your clothes, especially.  Unfortunately, you will have to wash the juicer between each to prevent a mixture of colors, but it’s worth it. 

    See how pretty?

    Now, set those aside and we’ll start on the cookie dough.  Since you can’t divide an egg into four equal parts very easily, I think it best to make a cookie dough ‘starter’, if you will, and then divide that.  Here’s what you’ll need for the cookie dough. 

    1 cup butter (2 sticks)
    1 โ…“ cups sugar
    1 Egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 teaspoon distilled vinegar
    2 โ…” - 3 cups all purpose flour
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    (If this recipe looks familiar, it’s because I used the same dough for my Valentine’s Day Cookies.) 

    In a mixing bowl, whip your butter until it’s soft and fluffy.

    Add the sugar and whip for another minute or so. 

    Mix in the vanilla, salt, and vinegar, followed by the baking powder and soda.  Finally, add the egg and mix until completely incorporated.

    Separate the batter into four ½ cup portions, and return one of them to the mixing bowl. 

    Here’s where you have to get a bit creative.  I decided that I would not only add different colors to each portion, but different flavors as well.  Now is when you’ll want to add those as well.  This is how it went for me:

    Green – 1 ½ teaspoons spinach juice and ½ teaspoon almond flavor

    Yellow – 3 teaspoons yellow beet juice, ½ teaspoon lemon flavor, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest

    Orange – 3 teaspoons carrot juice, ½ teaspoon flavor, and 1 teaspoon orange zest

    Pink/purple – 1 teaspoon red beet juice and ½ teaspoon vanilla (oops, no vanilla picture)

    Yes, I am aware that they sell natural food coloring, similar to the flavorings I’m using there, but what fun would that be? 

    Now, add your desired color and flavor combination to the mixing bowl. 

    When it’s mixed in, it should look something like this.

    Not sure why I didn’t take two pictures with the same color, but you get the idea. 

    Next comes the flour.  Start by stirring in โ…” of a cup.  That should get you pretty close, but in the yellow and the orange, I had to add another tablespoon.  You’re going for a soft, play dough like consistency.  If it’s still sticky, add flour, one tablespoon at a time until it just loses that stickiness.  When you’ve finished with all your different colors, it’ll even look like you’re playing with play dough.  How cute is that?

    Here’s a good place to preheat your oven to 350°. 

    Now, roll the dough into balls about the size of a quarter and drop them into a little bowl of sugar. 

    Shake them around until they’re coated all the way around and then place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving about two inches between them. (I had to put mine closer together for the picture.  Leave more space than this) 

    Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges just start to brown. 

    Not sure why the top right one went a little wonky.  I did mention this was an experiment, didn't I?  The ones that came after these were all perfectly beautiful. 

    Cool them for a minute or two on the pan, and then remove to a cooling rack.  When they’re all baked and cooled, taste one of each flavor (yes, I just told you to eat four cookies) and marvel at how good they are!  Then take a picture of the results of all your hard work and show all your friends how talented you are and brag about how you only used vegetable juice to make such beautiful, fun cookies.  (I may or may not have done this) 

    Last, but not least, pack the majority of them into a container and send them to work with your husband so you don’t sit around and eat every last one. 

    Now, I realize not everyone has a juicer on hand, and I don’t really expect a large number of people to follow this recipe to the letter.  My intent, rather, is to get your creative ‘juices’ flowing, to get you to think outside of the box and look for a more natural alternative to artificial dyes.  I've shown you the things I used in mine, but if you don’t have a juicer, you could probably try blood oranges, or even bottled juice like pomegranate or carrot.  Have fun with it!  That’s what baking is supposed to be about.  

           


     

    Tuesday
    Apr192011

    Carrot Spam (not what it sounds like)

    A few weeks ago I signed up for a veggie delivery service. Organic and / or local veggies delivered right to my door at the same time every week. Sounded pretty convenient and the amounts seemed like a week's worth, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Besides, since I buy my meat at the butcher once a month, and bread at the bakery that's on the way home from work... Veggies was really the only grocery shopping I had left. One less thing for me to do and laziness reigns supreme!

    In theory, this system is a good one, but in practice I'm finding that it just doesn't work for me. Here's what was in this week's box:

    Most of the fruit is super-ripe when it arrives, so I end up eating half of it on the day it's delivered - kiwi, bananas and melon for dinner. Really freaking tasty kiwis, but nothing left to take in my lunches since I ate the apples and orange on the weekend. That means shopping. This is not conforming to my plan of ultimate laziness.

    Plus, I'm not a fan of potatoes which are on the menu every week. Yes, they let me do substitutions but they rarely "substitute", they just increase the amounts of the things already in the box. (I felt kinda like a picky kid as I was writing out my "veggies I don't like" list). So, last week, because I had potatoes on the list, I got an extra helping of carrots. Just like the week before.

    I'm being spammed with carrots.

    I don't mind carrots, I just can't eat 2 pounds of them every week.

    So, I've made carrot soup, and I'm going to make carrot-laden salad rolls tomorrow. I may even resort to putting grated carrots in mac & cheese. What? It's all orange. I'm really running out of ideas here.

    Fortunately, exam season is almost over. Work has started to ramp up, and that means my co-workers have been making pastry demands.

    Last summer, I indulged my baking habit on a weekly basis and foisted the results on the guys in the construction trailer. When I started running out of ideas, I started baking to order (grown men who want cookies with gumdrops in them, srsly). This created a strange sense of ... entitlement amongst my coworkers. I've been hounded for the last two weeks, not only about when I'm going to be available full time, but also when I'm going to give them some sugar....

    (um, if you don't get that joke, you really need to watch Army of Darkness. And it's prequels, Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 - which is really just Evil Dead with a bigger budget. But srsly watch them, they are fucking awesome movies. Genius.)

    So, with a construction trailer full of guys who want sugar, and a fridge full of carrots, I came up with this:

    Carrot Chocolate Chip Cookies

    What you need:

    1-1/2 cups grated carrots
    1/4 c oil
    1 egg
    3/4 cup sugar
    1-1/2 tsp vanilla
    1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp baking soda
    1-1/2 cups flour
    ~1 cup chocolate chips (really, who measures those?)

    What you gotta do:

    Peel and grate the carrots. I used my food processor because, well, I'm lazy. Plus, I'm clumsy and likely to grate my fingertips into the bowl. Food processors have safety features for klutzes like me.

    Start with the carrots in a large bowl.

    Add the oil and mix.

    Add the egg and mix.

    Add the sugar and mix.

    Add the cinnamon and vanilla and mix. (Ha! Bet you thought I was just going to say cinnamon)

    Now the baking soda. Don't forget to mix!

    And finally the flour.

    It's going to feel like you've got way too much flour and you'll think it'll never mix in.

    But it will. Trust me.

    Drop by spoonful onto a cookie sheet. You should get just about 3 dozen.

    Bake at 375 for about 12 - 14 minutes. Cool on a rack.



    Now, you could stop here if you feel like it. These are some tasty little morsels as they are.

    Or you could decorate them! Make them pretty!

    Melt ~1/2 c white chocolate chips over warm water, or in the microwave for 1 minute on half power.

    I wish I could have managed some pictures of the decorating process, but it's hard enough to take a picture as I'm pouring baking soda into the bowl. Drizzling melted chocolate decoratively with a fork while focussing with the camera in the other hand... guaranteed chocolate in places you do not want to wash chocolate off of.

    So, you'll have to make do with my amazing instructions instead.

    With a fork, scoop up a bit of melted chocolate. Hold the fork upright (chocolate side down) and gently flick it back and forth over top of the cookies. Gently. Cleaning white chocolate off of white kitchen walls is not as easy as it sounds. Do the same thing but 90 degrees in the other direction so you get a bit of cross hatching. Don't worry if it looks a little blobby in places and thin in others. These are misshapen little mounds of cookie, a little asymmetry in the finishing touch is not out of place here.

    Oh yeah, if you line the cookie sheet with parchment, you won't have to wash it. And you can use the same parchment under the cooled cookies as you're drizzling.

    If it's getting late and you want to harden the chocolate so you can pack the cookies up and put them next to your steel toed boots by the door so you don't forget them, you can put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to harden the chocolate.

    So, that's what I did with one quarter of my carrot surplus. What do you suggest I do with the other pound and a half?