Vanilla Bean Loaves (via Amanda Hesser)

When I read “Cooking For Mr. Latte” there were many recipes that I carved into my brain with the label: “To be cooked one day.” One such carving was a recipe for “Vanilla Bean Loaves” adapted from Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Everything about the recipe seemed wonderful, except the potential expense. 4 vanilla beans would be required. Unless you live in Madagascar, vanilla beans are mighty pricey. This vanilla bean loaf would have to go on the back burner.

But then I was having company over on Saturday–more playwrights to watch movies for class. And I was in Whole Foods anyway, and there were the vanilla beans. These were a bit cheaper–sold in bottles of two instead of one. How could I resist?

Should you ever feel a similar impulse, here’s how to proceed. [Quoted directly from Ms. Hesser without persmission—don’t sue!]

“You will need:

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature.

2 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into 1 pound of sugar; let sit for a few days)

IMG_1.JPG

(I let it sit for a few hours and that sufficed, I think.)

1 vanilla bean.

1 Tbs vanilla extract.

8 large eggs at room temperature.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.

1 1/2 tsps baking powder.

1/2 tsp salt.

For the syrup:

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped.

1. Heavily butter two 8X4X3-inch (or similarly sized) loaf pans and preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Using a paddle attachment in your mixer, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

IMG_2.JPG

Scrape the vanilla bean and flick its seeds into the mixer, along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add this to the batter and mix just until smooth–a few turns of the paddle should do it. Take the bowl off the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the bottom and fold the mixture a few times, to make sure everything is blended. Divide the batter between the buttered pans:

IMG_3.JPG

Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the pans around, and bake until a cake tester or skewer comes out almost clean, another 25 to 40 minutes.

3. While the loaves bake, prepare the syrup: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Add the vanilla beans and stir a little so their seeds and fragrance disperse. Take the pan off the heat:

IMG_4.JPG

4. When the loaves are done, cool for 10 minutes on baking racks, then turn them out of their pans and set back on the racks. Place the racks over parchment paper or a baking sheet and brush generously all over–bottoms, tops, and sides–with the syrup.

IMG_5.JPG

Brush a couple of more times as they cool. These cakes store well. They may be wrapped and frozen, although I can’t imagine not eating one of them right away.”

Honestly these cakes are awesome:

IMG_6.JPG

I popped one in the freezer and served the other to my guests. The air filled with a loving vanilla smell. Sure, it was Yom Kippur and I was supposed to be fasting, but this is a recipe that’s worth going to Jewish Hell for…don’t you think? L’chaim!

Look Ma, No Pans: Spontaneous Ricotta Cheesecake Baked in a Coffee Mug

Tonight I reached a new milestone in my career as an Amateur Gourmet. In fact, I may have to change my site’s title to: The Slightly Better Than Amateur Gourmet. (Not as catchy, I’ll admit.)

See, here’s the truth about many of the things I cook: the leftover ingredients sit in my fridge until they rot, and then I throw them out. I am never quite industrious enough to stretch their use beyond my original intention. Such was to be the case with the ricotta cheese left over from last night’s bland potato/squash pie.

But then an idea struck me.

“Ouch!” I said. “What’d you do that for?”

But this idea was a good idea. Why not use the recipe in the Chez Panisse cookbook for Ricotta Cheesecake and whittle it down to coffee mug size, since that’s all the ricotta you have to work with. In other words: why don’t you improvise a recipe?

Me? The Amateur Gourmet? Improvise a recipe? In italics?

But off I went. And to be honest, it was pretty easy. I dumped the ricotta cheese into a bowl and mixed in a sprinkling of sugar (about 2 Tbs) a sprinkling of flour (about 1 Tbs), some dried currants (left over from the curried couscous), an egg, cinnamon*, vanilla extract, and almond extract. I whisked it all together until it was smooth:

;IMG_1.JPG"

(* Do you know that every time I attempt to spell cinnamon, I have to look it up in the dictionary? EVERY TIME, I TELL YOU!)

Now then, I poured it into a Pam-ed and floured coffee mug:

IMG_2.JPG

Put it on a baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven and left it for an hour.

You must understand that at this point I had no idea what the results would be. This was my first true innovation in the kitchen and I was a bit nervous. I began pacing furiously. The neighbors downstairs banged on the ceiling and so then I began banging my head against the wall. The person on the other side banged back. So I sat quietly until the cake was done.

And you can hardly imagine how relieved and delighted I was to see this:

IMG_3.JPG

It looked like cheesecake!

I let it cool for 10 minutes and then removed it to a plate:

IMG_4.JPG

Gorgeous, no? And you must admit for a spontaneous recipe based on leftovers it’s mighty impressive. But how did it taste?

IMG_5.JPG

Terrific! Lighter and sublter than cheesecake; more sophisticated. Sure, real cream cheese cheesecake is my preferred choice of cheesecake but when it comes to cheesecake made in a coffee mug this is the way to go. And plus you can experiment with it: the currants worked well, but you can add raisins, I’m sure, or chopped apricots or lemon peel or whatever you damn please. This recipe’s all about innovation.

To quote The Funk Azz Gourmet: “Don’t hate / innovate.”

Brownie Math

Ok class, here’s a little formula I’d like you to memorize. It goes like this:

One pound of butter

IMG_1.JPG

+

Three pounds of chocolate

IMG_2.JPG

=

Barefoot Contessa Brownies

IMG_3.JPG

Now I know I’ve gone a little Contessa crazy lately but I had company over on Saturday (playwrights here to watch movies for class (Jaws, On The Waterfront, and Raising Arizona)) so I went for snacky foods that people tend to love. People tend to love the Barefoot Contessa’s sun dried tomato dip (it’s really the best dip ever) and, of course, her brownies.

These brownies, I think, are falsely named. These aren’t brownies. They’re fudge with flour. They’re that rich and chocolatey. Their secret depth of flavor comes from instant espresso. I had a little tiff with my friend Lisa after the playwrights left in which I brought Brownies to Lisa’s place and invited her to eat one. Before she did I said: “Oh, by the way, there’s a little coffee in there so don’t eat it if you’re going to bed soon.” She moved the brownie away from her mouth before she even took a bite. “I hate coffee, Adam, you know that,” she said. “But Lisa,” I urged, “you can’t taste the coffee; it just gives a depth of flavor.” “No!” she pleaded. But I pressed and she took a bite. “Blech!” she said. “It tastes like coffee!”

Some people.

ReTARTed Tart-Making 101: Raspberry Almond Tart

Some disclosures:

1. I have no idea what I’m doing.

2. I really have no idea what I’m doing.

3. Why are you still reading this site? I know nothing.

With that said, come join me as I attempt to make the almond-raspberry tart from Ruth Reichl’s “Tender at the Bone.” The tart shows up in Chapter Six and is the most glorified recipe so far in the book. Its potency promises to soften the heart of the camp director at a Parisian summer camp. In my case, it serves to fulfill several desires:

1. The desire to make a tart;

2. The desire to use the tart pan I just purchased from Williams Sonoma, using some of the $200 I made when I was interviewed about my Google Ads.*

* Did I tell you about this? Some marketing research person from England flew in last week and asked if he could meet me outside Central Park to videotape me discussing my Google Ads. He said his company would pay me $200 for my trouble. I said yes. When we met, the interview lasted barely more than 5 minutes. He paid me $200 in cash. I ran over to the Time Warner Center and went on a William Sonoma mini-shopping spree purchasing fancy olive oil, dish towels, and the aforementioned tart pan.

3. I really love the combination of almond and raspberry.

A New York Times blurb at the start of Reichl’s book exclaims, “Reichl writes with such simplicity–even the recipes included in this memoir are stripped down to their bare goodness.”

That was the thing. Reichl’s tart recipe was not intimidating. And tarts always look so professional, it was nice not to be intimidated. I thought I’d give it a go.

Give it a go I did.

The first part was easy enough: I did the same thing a few days ago when I made pie. Basically, with your fingers, you work butter into flour and sugar until it resembles coarse meal. Done and done.

Then my first problem-part: add an egg yolk.

Now I’m no chump, I’ve separated eggs before. But for some reason tonight was not my night. It took three eggs before there was any success:

As you can see, I’m still in denial about my lack of a garbage disposal.

Finally, I separated the yolk from the white using just my bare hands (the way the real hardcore chefs do it). I plopped it and 2 Tbs of cream into the coarse meal:

IMG_2.JPG

Now then, Reichl has you gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for THREE HOURS.

That, my friends, is a mighty long time in the world of Adam Cooks. Adam doesn’t like to wait three hours for anything. But patience is a virtue, and virtuous Adam shall be. Adam waited the three hours watching “The Assistant” marathon on MTV. Adam has watched too much TV since moving to New York. Adam has many books he’d like to finish. Adam must stop referring to himself in the third person.

Finally, three hours passed and I attacked the next step in the process: remove the dough from the fridge, flatten and roll out.

Houston, we have a problem:

IMG_3.JPG

This dough? To quote the 80’s song: “Solid. Solid as a rock.”

I waited the requisite 10 minutes Reichl has you wait for the dough to warm. Did the dough warm? No, the dough didn’t.

And when I pushed with all my might to begin rolling the dough out (hey, it was already 10 pm) the dough began to crack.

Noooo!!!

I shoved the pieces back together.

I attempted Plan B: warm dough with hands, then roll out.

This plane worked in its own weird way. Basically, I’d flatten with my hands, roll a bit, pieces would crack and I’d shove back together. Finally, the dough was spread 11-inches—Reichl’s specified measurement.

Now for the hard part. Because the dough was so fragile, I knew I couldn’t roll it on to a pin like a did with the pie: it would fall a part. So I did the only thing I could think to do. I used a Baker’s Peel:

IMG_4.JPG

This worked well in the sense that I peeled the dough off the counter. This worked bad in the sense that I couldn’t get the dough off the peel. In the process of transferring the dough into the tart pan, I ended up with this:

IMG_5.JPG

This wasn’t so pretty. No, indeed, Martha Stewart rolled over in her prison cell. What had I done!

But a good chef is not a quitter. A good chef turns lemons into lemonade. I’d make some tart-ade but I didn’t have a pitcher. So I pushed and I pressed and I stretched and I tugged and I ended up with this:

IMG_6.JPG

Not bad, considering the previous image.

From there it was just a matter of prebaking with the beans again (350 oven for 20 minutes), pulling it out and preparing the almond filling.

The almond filling was easy. Almonds and sugar in the food processor:

IMG_7.JPG

Butter, sugar, vanilla and then the almond mixture in the mixer:

IMG_8.JPG

Spread into the pre-baked tart:

IMG_9.JPG

Add two cups raspberries:

IMG_10.JPG

And bake 40 minutes:

IMG_11.JPG

Had I really done it? Was all my worrying in vain?

Can’t answer that yet, bub. Reichl has us cool the tart for TWO hours. It is now 1:42 am and the tart will be cool at 2. Will I taste it at two? Probably. Will I blog about it? No. For this tart-making heartbreaker is then off to bed, to dream about friendly dough that rolls out perfectly, fits the pan tightly and calls me in the morning.

A good dough is so hard to find.

An Evening of Firsts: Nectarine Pie with Candied Ginger and Crunchy Topping

Two firsts happened tonight: my first cooking project in my new New York apartment (sans garbage disposal) and my first pie. Well, ok I won’t lie: a long time ago I made a pumpkin pie, but I was heavily drugged and living in a nudist colony so it doesn’t count. And besides, this is the first pie I’ve made for you!

The pie recipe I used comes from Bon Apetit (posted on Epicurious): “Apricot Pie with Candied Ginger and Crunchy Topping.” However, because Whole Foods was out of apricots (they weren’t getting raises)(see post below), I decided to sub nectarines. This proved to be a good choice.

Since the link will take you to the recipe proper, I won’t go into the details. I’ll simply share with you the experience of making my nectarine pie.

First, of course, comes the crust. To make the crust, we mixed flour and sugar and salt and butter with our fingers until it resembled coarse meal.

IMG_1.JPG

Then we added 3 Tbs of ice water and stirred until moist clumps formed. Nothing says home cooking like “moist clumps.”

Once there were moist clumps, we gathered the dough into a ball, flattened into a disc, and wrapped in plastic wrap.

IMG_2.JPG

It went into the fridge and I watched “Family Guy” on Fox. This show, I must concede, is terribly funny. The humor is very much in sync with my own, except more polished. Plus it’s animated. I’d be a lot funnier if I were animated.

Now then, when it came out of the fridge it was time to roll it out. This part scared me. I was scared my pie dough would tear.

“Please don’t tear,” I begged. “Little Timmy really likes pie.”

I figured inventing a destitute handicapped pie-hungry fictional character would compel the pie not to tear. I was correct:

IMG_3.JPG

Then came scary part number two: transferring the pie from the counter to the pie tin. How do we do this again?

Luckily, I recalled a Martha Stewart Living where she addressed the very issue. You roll the flattened dough on to the pin and then unroll it into the pie tin.

Here is one of those cooking moments where it’s a leap of faith, and you have to act with confidence. Like when you flip an omelette in the air and catch it on its way down. I can’t do that yet. But it’s the same idea. You have to dive in and do it and it will work out. And that’s the philosophy that got me to this point:

IMG_4.JPG

Look how successful I was! Little Timmy gurgled with pride.

Then I crimped the pie crust. This part was fun. I’m the Crimp Pimp:

IMG_5.JPG

Went into the fridge for another half an hour and I watched another “Family Guy.” When it came out, I put tin foil in and beans and popped it into a 375 oven for 20 minutes:

IMG_6.JPG

Why do we do this? I guess this pre-baking is necessary maybe so the fruit juice doesn’t mush up the bottom? Anyone have an answer?

Anyway, when that came out I worked on the “crunchy topping.” The crunch topping is particularly delicious. In goes Grape nuts, brown sugar, flour, toasted slivered almonds*, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt and butter.

*I starred the almonds because at Whole Foods I figured my chances of finding already slivered almonds was minute, and I was ready to give up on the almonds altogether when, upon purchasing the candied ginger for the filling, I saw slivered almonds on the shelf below it. Talk about Serendipity!**

**Serendipity is an ice cream parlor that makes rockin’ frozen hot chocolate.

***It’s also a movie with John Cusack.

Here’s the topping stuff in the bowl, pre mixing:

IMG_7.JPG

Then we simply toss the nectarines (or apricots, if you follow the original recipe) with sugar, crystallized ginger, cornstarch and almond extract, add it to the warm pie shell, and sprinkle on the topping and it will look like this:

IMG_8.JPG

Pop in the oven for 45 minutes and go watch “Six Feet Under” on rerun. I missed the episode before this, so I wish I would have seen the fallout between Brenda and Joe(?). Did he walk in on her and Nate? I got that impression from the “scenes from last week.”

While watching, the most beautiful smell filled the air. The combination of butter, ginger, cinnamon and nectarine perfumed the apartment and I wondered if neighbors walking down the hall would be seduced by teh smell and tear into my apartment completely naked. (That didn’t happen).

What did happen, is the pie came out of the oven looking lovely:

IMG_9.JPG

And then the waiting. To quote Tom Petty: “Don’t come around here no more.” Oops, I mean: “The waiting is the hardest part.”

I did some cleaning, some reading, some more TV watching and one hour later I returned to the pie and cut a slice:

IMG_10.JPG

May not look perfect, but it was heaven on a plate. I gobbled up every last crumb. Which is probably a good impetus to return to the gym tomorrow. In any case, it was a happy first pie experience and a great way to break-in my new kitchen. Here’s to many more tasty treats to come! And here’s to Little Timmy getting better. It’s so sad how he doesn’t have a mouth…

Vinegar Pie [by Katy]

[For three weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit]

Good morning class! Today we will study HISTORIC EARLY AMERICAN DESSERTS.

That’s right! I am talking about desserts that people made in this country a LONG time ago, certainly a long time before you were born. When I am not watching Days of Our Lives or stockpiling cereal, historic early American desserts are one of my hobbies.

Do you know what a slump is? What about a grunt? Have you ever had Scripture Cake? What about Sugar Pie? I simply can’t get enough of this kind of recipe.

And sometimes, when I’m in the right mood, I’ll braid my hair, tie on a pinafore and whip up a batch of cornpone!

Here’s me goofing off in the kitchen with my Pa and my sister Mary.

vinpie_me

Many of you have noticed that Josh and I operate on a budget. So I thought it might be appropriate to spotlight a budget-minded recipe I’ve often noted but never attempted: Vinegar Pie.

Because I’m a very dedicated substitute-blogger, I did some research into Vinegar Pie for you. Some online sources say, oh, it’s a southern food, or oh, it’s a midwestern food, or oh, it’s traditionally African American, or oh, it’s from the Oregon coast — but the consensus seems to be that it was made just about everywhere in this country back in the 19th century, and into the 20th, too.

Vinegar Pie is really a country dessert. It is a dessert designed by thrifty women for times of year when there was no fruit in season, back when everyone had to cook seasonally by necessity. By using vinegar as a flavor base (maybe mixed with a little lemon essence, if they had it), they could make a custardy pie that was sweet and tangy.

Or so the theory goes. Josh was doubtful. He seemed to consider Vinegar Pie a dangerous mixing of dessert and potato chip flavor. He normally is a pie man, but …

“I suspect there’s some reason we don’t have vinegar pies today,” Josh said dourly.

This is Josh, doubtful and dour:

vinpie_doubtful

I got my recipe for Vinegar Pie from one of my favorite baking reference books, the classic Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. (She puts it in her “Old American Pies” section, along with Shoofly Pie and Osgood Pie and Tyler Pudding Pie and others I’ll need to try some time.)

And the ingredients? Well, it had a bit of flour, a lot of sugar, a few eggs — and an entire half cup of cider vinegar in the filling.

As well as a little lemon zest, which is maybe cheating. I don’t think people had that many lemons on the frontier. But then I’m making it in a gas oven instead of a wood stove, aren’t I? That’s cheating, too. (And it’s not that I COULDN’T make it on a wood stove, I’ll have you know. I know how. I used to have a job pretending to be a sailor on a historic ship cooking on a wood stove in a galley. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Here’s me cheating by mixing up the filling on the gas stove top:

vinpie_stovetop

Here’s my empty pie shell, waiting, so lonely for its vinegar-y filling:

vinpie_emptyshell

The wonderful thing about making Vinegar Pie is the smell! Everything smells like …. vinegar. Nothing says a home-baked dessert like that sour smell I associate with Easter egg dye and science projects shaped like volcanos! I am told one could use regular white vinegar in one’s pie, but I used an apple cider vinegar. I wouldn’t experiment with balsamic, if I were you. I think the brown color would be disturbing.

Here is the finished product, along with my bottle of vinegar. It looks okay, doesn’t it? I mean, if I told you it was lemon custard pie that JUST HAPPENED to be sitting next to a bottle of vinegar, you’d think it looked okay, right?

vinpie_finished

Here is Josh’s slice, topped with some whipped cream:

vinpie_slice

And the verdict? Did Josh change his mind, decide he prejudged unfairly, and beg for seconds?

“It’s … interesting,” he said, after his first mouthful.

Interesting good or bad?

“You can taste the vinegar,” he decided, “but it’s not a bad taste necessarily. It is strong, though.”

I thought it had a faintly apple juice-y flavor, due no doubt to that apple cider vinegar. Truth be told, it wasn’t the most pleasing flavor. I thought it a little peculiar.

“Mmmm,” said Josh gamely, rubbing his belly in an attempt at appreciation.

But if you were holed up in a dugout in Minnesota, ready to face the long winter, wouldn’t you appreciate the sweet end to a meal? Or if you were a sharecropper in Tennessee, looking to stretch your budget as far as at would go?

“Sure,” nodded Josh carefully. “But I don’t know how much more of this pie I’m going to eat right NOW, if that’s okay.”

It wasn’t okay. I slammed my hand down on the table and demanded he continue eating another SLICE OF HISTORY. He did. But I knew in my heart of hearts he was eating it because he was scared of me, not because he really liked it.

Has anyone out there had Vinegar Pie and liked it?

Ah well. This Monday is Josh’s birthday, so I’ll be making another kind of pie then. Some time soon, however, I’ll be tackling another unusual early American dessert. Stay tuned.

You WILL be educated about historic desserts. Don’t make me come out of this blog and force you! –katy

Alton Brown’s Burned Peach Ice Cream

I have decided that you should buy an ice cream maker.

Here are my reasons:

1) It’s not terribly expensive. It will run you about $50 for the Cuisinard brand that I bought. Maybe $50 is out of your price range, but think about it this way: how much do you spend on ice cream already? And cones? And funny white hats?

2) Making ice cream is incredibly easy and incredibly rewarding. It will taste better than any ice cream you’ve ever had.

3) Your social life will improve ten-fold. People will say, as you walk by, “Who’s that?” And other people will answer: “That’s the person who makes ice cream!” “No way,” will say the first person. “Yes way,” will say the second person. The second person hasn’t watched a movie since the 1992 smash hit “Wayne’s World” and therefore thinks that “yes way” is still a hip term.

But the best reason is #4:

4) If you make great ice cream using a mostly cream-base as I will show you tonight, it will stay soft and delicious in your fridge for the rest of the summer! Or until it’s gone. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Tonight I made Alton Brown’s Burned Peach Ice Cream. Actually I started last night because it requires a night in the fridge.

This recipe was e-mailed to me a while ago by a loyal reader whose e-mail I now lost, so thank you loyal reader whoever you are.

Alton asks you to get cream and half-and-half. I was in the market without the recipe handy so I only bought cream. This proved wise, anyway, because it makes the ice cream softer. I find that milk freezes more like water and becomes icy in the fridge. Cream stays creamy. Only problem is, you’ll die sooner…but who wants to be alive when Jenna Bush is president?

Now then you also have to buy peach preserves:

IMG_1.JPG

“Not jelly,” writes Alton in the margin of the ingredients list. He wants peach preserves.

I tasted a spoonful to see what a preserve tastes like as opposed to a jelly. I came to this conclusion: a preserve tastes like a jelly.

The first night (last night, for me) you basically just throw everything into the pot. The cream, the vanilla bean, and 1/2 cup of the peach preserves. And sugar. It looks like this:

IMG_2.JPG

You cook it until it reaches 170 degrees and then you strain it:

IMG_3.JPG

Place the lid on the Tupperware (I strained it into Tupperware) and refrigerate overnight. Or in my case, overnight and all day.

Thus, this afternoon I began Phase II of the process. Phase II involved turning on my broiler. You know “broiling” is one of those things that eluded me for the longest time. If you told me that my fish was broiled, I used to think that meant it was thrown directly on a flame or cooked in an ancient Mayan crockpot. Now I know that it means that the top of your oven gets very very hot and basically shoots heat rays downward to whatever you put on the topshelf. In today’s case, that would be peaches.

I bought 3 peaches yesterday, though the recipe requires 4. When you make it, then, you should buy 4.

I cut the peaches in halfway and put them on a cookie sheet:

IMG_4.JPG

Alton says to broil them until they are brown. I put them in the oven, left, came back 5 minutes later and they were not brown.

I left again. I came back. Still not brown.

Left. Back. Not brown.

What was going on?

Finally, some of the skins started to blacken so I had no choice but to take it out pre-brownness:

IMG_5.JPG

If I had to do it over again, I’d have sprinkled some sugar on the top like the Barefood Contessa does in her roasted fruit recipe. That would help in the caramelization process which is what I think we were going for here. No matter, I cut a piece off and it tasted great.

Now we pour the refrigerated cream mixture from yesterday into our ice cream maker:

IMG_6.JPG

I licked a bit in transference and it tasted marvelous. Vanilla beans are the mac daddy of homemade ice cream. They’re worth every penny, I say. I’m going to start a vanilla bean farm when I move to New York. Land there is cheap, right?

Now we chop our broiled peaches:

IMG_7.JPG

You can see some brownness, can’t you? Maybe I didn’t fail completely.

After the ice cream churns for a while (and “the volume has increased by half”) add the peaches:

IMG_8.JPG

And churn it some more.

La la la la la lo. La la la la la lo. Churn it churn it some more.

Pour into another container and freeze:

IMG_9.JPG

While that’s freezing, ruin your dinner and lick the freezer bowl clean:

IMG_10.JPG

Holy cow is that delicious! I love peaches. I love vanilla beans. I love ice cream.

Hours later, Lauren came back and I served up two scoops.

Lauren is a tough judge. She’s the Anton Scalia of food-tasting. She’s bald and goes duck hunting with Cheney.

Her verdict?

“Wow,” she says, “I really like it. Really interesting flavors. Mmmm.”

Another satisfied customer. Won’t you help the poor retail people at Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma? Won’t you get them their commission and buy an ice cream maker today? Think of the children. More importantly, think of the ice cream.

Chocolate Chip Carbohydrate Celebration Cookies

Sixteen very generous people replied to my post requesting the best recipe for a chocolate chip cookie. I went with my friend Katy’s suggestion because (a) it sounded good, and (b) if it came out bad I could blame her.

Her suggestion came from Marcel Desaulniers’ cookie cookbook. I do not know who Marcel Desaulnier is but apparently he makes really good cookies. Katy wrote: “I am in love with both of these [recipes].” (She posted two recipes, one for bars one for cookeis). “I want to share them with the world. Your readers should try them out. So should you. After you do, would you please bring some over? Thank you.”

Easy now, Katy. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

The recipe begins, as so many do, with sifting. Specifically, the sifting of flour, baking soda and salt:

IMG_1.JPG

I find the sifting process enjoyable. As I sift, I shift my hips and picture myself on a tropical aisle with coconuts on my breasts and flowers on my ears. And then I snap out of it and notice that I am done.

The next part requires my favorite kitchen tool: an electric freestanding mixer.

First you open some butter:

IMG_2.JPG

And you take a picture of it. Chop it up and put it into the bowl.

Then hold Dark Brown Sugar up for the camera:

IMG_3.JPG

And dump 2 cups in with the butter. This ended up using the whole box! That’s because I packed the sugar. You can take this information with you, then: one box of brown sugar contains two cups, packed.

I put it in the bowl with the butter:

IMG_4.JPG

After whipping for a bit, I added eggs:

IMG_5.JPG

Clay Aiken and I both find it offensive when people use the word “retarded” gratuitously, but Lauren buys retarded eggs. She buys genetically modified or vitamin enriched eggs and I’m always like: “No! No! No! Buy natural! Buy organic!” In her defense, though, the eggs in the fridge–despite being Omega Enhanced–were from free range chickens. Aside from that, they were from Kroger.

Anyway, Katy’s recipe calls for dark rum. We didn’t have dark rum. But earlier in the day Katy and I had this exchange on the phone:

Katy: And don’t forget the liquor, that’s an important part.

Me: Oh, but I don’t think I have dark rum.

Katy: That’s ok. Sometimes I use a liqueur…

Me: You do?

Katy: Yes.

Me: Wow.

Katy: I know.

Me: What kind?

Katy: Well I have this really good caramel liqueur…

Me: I don’t have that.

Katy: Oh.

Me: Oh, but we have White Chocoalte Godiva liqueur left over from a party.

Katy: Perfect! I bet that will be yummy!

Taking her advice, then, I went with the Godiva:

IMG_6.JPG

“That’s LADY Godiva to you, short pants.”

Sorry, Lady.

Anyway, I added 2 Tbs of that, then 1 tsp of vanilla:

IMG_7.JPG

Mix it all up good:

IMG_8.JPG

And then you add, very slowly, the sifted flour et al:

IMG_9.JPG

There is a lot of flour in this recipe: 4 cups. And the yield is quite great: the recipe says it makes 2 dozen cookies, but my batter made 3 dozen. Far too many cookies if you ask me! So what I’m trying to say is that if you’re cooking for a small audience you might want to half everything.

Ok.

So here’s the finished dough pre-chips:

IMG_10.JPG

It actually tasted pretty good. The liqueur gave it an interesting flavor.

Now we add the chips. Two bags of semi-sweet Giardelli:

IMG_11.JPG

Hoomp:

IMG_12.JPG

Mix it up a bit in slow spurts:

IMG_13.JPG

I really enjoyed this part. Turn it on, turn it off. On, off. Quick quick. On, off. Zhrrp. Zhrrp. [It’s not me, it’s the carbs making these sound effects…]

Anyway, ok, two rounded Tablespoons for each cookie on two cookie sheets that I prepared with (exhibit A) Silpat:

IMG_14.JPG

And exhibit B, Parchment Paper:

IMG_15.JPG

They went in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes; I rotated the sheets; 10 minutes more. What’s that haunting aroma? Why is it: the best chocolate chip cookie ever?

Lauren thought so. Look:

IMG_16.JPG

Those are the finished cookies.

Here’s a cookie up close:

IMG_17.JPG

And after biting into it:

IMG_18.JPG

This cookie IS delicious, it’s true. If you like your cookies moundy and cakey and rich and thick, this is the cookie for you.

I’m looking for an elusive cookie I had in New York once. I tried to describe it to Lauren:

“I was at Lisa’s office in New York and I went down to the concourse and there was this bakery with these large dry looking cookies that I settled on because I was hungry. Well, I got it and I bit into it and it was perfect. It was flat and crispy on the outside and the inside was chewy.”

“Why would you want that?” answered Lauren sardonically, devouring her cookie.

“Because I like a snap and then a soft interior.”

Lauren rolled her eyes.

Ok ok, so these cookies are great. And there are so many. Look how many cookies we have:

IMG_19.JPG

A perfect ending to a perfect, albeit semi-delirious, Carbohydrate Awareness Day. Here’s to carbs!