Let me start by saying I’m not a big fan of social media.  I don’t care what your lunch looks like, what 144-character brain dropping has just emerged unbidden from your cranial cavity, or what pages you “like” if not actually like.

I realize, too, the irony of posting that on WordPress, which I believe is technically billed as a social media platform of sorts.  And yes, it’s tremendously flattering when someone likes (or at least “likes”) one of my posts – but I do this more for my own amusement than any third-party corroboration, so while a “like” is a nice bonus, it’s not my primary goal.

One of my complaints about social media, especially Instagram, is how carefully curated it can be and what a false sense of reality it provides.  After all, when’s the last time you saw an #ootd featuring sweatpants with defunct elastic and a fine coating of cat hair?  I’ve come to realize, though, that I’m guilty of the same thing.  I don’t post sunken cakes on here, or scorched cupcakes, or curdled frosting.  But we’ve all had recipes that just didn’t quite work out, right?

A little more than a month ago, I was perusing baking blogs before work – as in, at the office, but not on the clock, when a voice behind me asked what I was making to bring in for everyone.  So I showed my coworker this recipe for strawberry cookies, but voiced my doubts: those nonpareils could be murder on the teeth, and anyway, wouldn’t the cookies taste kind of artificial?  The conversation quickly turned to not being able to find more esoteric extracts at a small-town grocery store with new owners, and what ever happened to the guy who used to bag groceries there, anyway?  Construction!  Really?  And then, the clock magically turned over and I turned my attention to work, putting the whole concept of strawberry cookies behind me.

I was therefore surprised when this same coworker caught me on my way to the break room a few days later and handed me these:

Strawberry Cookies 1-2

I had honestly had no intention of making the cookies, but I had a patron of my art for the first time ever, which was terribly flattering and made it hard to say no.  How bad could the cookies be?

Strawberry Cookies 2-2

They’re pretty, aren’t they?  They’d be great for a little kid’s princess party because kids generally aren’t discerning, but they’re going firmly on my “Do Not Bake” list.  Probably.

I don’t mean to sound completely negative.  They had some bright points.  For example, the cookies themselves were nice and soft and chewy, and not at all greasy.  My parchment paper looked seriously pristine when I was done.  They’d likely be tasty using simple almond or vanilla extract.  The nonpareils really weren’t as tooth-shattering as I expected.  From a technical standpoint, the recipe worked out well.

But oh, that optimistic little instruction to stir in the gel colour?  Nothing stirs into dough that stiff – I had to knead it in with my hands.  The strawberry extract made them extremely fake-tasting, and when I put them in a container and tried to burp out the air as I put the lid on, I was caught with a blast of what smelled like a strawberry fart.  I brought in a baggie of eight to the coworker who had so kindly provided the sprinkles, and although she and her daughter apparently liked them, nobody that I usually bake for did.  After The People Who Will Eat Any Kind Of Cookie politely choked down one or two, these strawberry farts were quickly relegated to the kitchen garbage.

This isn’t meant as a general indictment of that particular website (quite frankly, her mini cheesecakes look delish, and I’ve got them on my to-try list), nor am I saying I’m a bumbling fool in the kitchen.  But as Osgood Fielding III said, “Nobody’s perfect.”, despite what filtered Instagram posts would have us believe.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Cookies for Cats!

June 13, 2015

Well…you might not want to actually feed these to your feline friends, but….

One of the local no-kill shelters had an open house and bake sale last weekend to raise some much-needed funds.  (They do this twice a year – last year, I baked Tiger Blondies for them.)  I knew I wanted to make something to help out again this year, and even booked a day off work to do so, but it took me a while to decide on a recipe.  As luck would have it, my mom had made these wicked monster cookies a couple of weeks before that yielded the perfect oversized-but-chewy snack, and she was willing to contribute to the cause the half-bags of mini M&Ms and mini Reese’s Pieces she had left over.  Sold!

meowster1

I packaged them in some cupcake boxes I had had laying around for ages, and did up snappy labels in Word.  Some co-ordinating Hello Kitty stickers sealed the deal (so to speak), and voila: a sextet of fund-raising yumminess.

meowster2

Thanks for looking!

Or so says comedian John Pinette.  I generally try to not take standup comedy as gospel, but I’m kind of inclined to agree with him on that count.  If you read this blog with any regularity, you know my feelings on gluten-free baking.  I’m certain that if I had to go gluten-free, I’d lose 20 pounds within the first month, easy.

But…remember the coworker who asked if I could find a good gluten-free corn bread recipe for her? (“A very corn-y joke“)  Evidently my baking didn’t kill her, and she decided she had to get more of what I had to offer.  *snerk*  “Here’s my Christmas wish,” she began as she appeared at my desk one morning, and spread out a recipe clipped from the newspaper.

“Pumpkin-almond cookies?” I read.  The ingredient list seemed fairly straightforward, except for the almond butter and – oh, crap! – having to spend an hour reducing pumpkin purée before baking.

“But gluten-free.”  Of course.  She went on to say that she had a big jar of almond butter at home, all-natural, from Costco, that she wasn’t using, and I could have the whole thing.  How can you refuse an offer/request like that?

When I went to the bulk store for gluten-free flour, the little information slips attached to the bin recommended adding xanthan gum for best results.  Of course, they didn’t sell xanthan gum in bulk, only in huge bags, so that necessitated a trip to another store to get a smaller package.  (At 1/4 tsp per cup of flour for cookies, a 100 gram bag will last me forever.)  Ingredients procured, I got a-baking yesterday:

2876

I have to say, they’re not half-bad.  Maybe adding xanthan gum really does make a difference!  I think part of the reason these worked is because the moisture in the pumpkin helps counteract the dry crumbliness that usually befalls GF baking…that hour spent reducing it was worth it, by the way.

My mom says that it’s the best gluten-free baking she’s ever had, and certainly the best that I’ve ever made – high praise, from someone who can eat the plain old glutenous version with impunity.

Now I just have to wait and see if my coworker thinks they were worth the wait.  I’ll be bringing a tin of them in for her tomorrow for a Monday surprise!

All over the blogosphere, I’m sure, crafty types are posting some wonderful St. Patrick’s Day projects.  Green sugar cookies, or homemade Shamrock shakes…maybe shamrock-shaped earrings or a tutu with orange-white-green tulle, or a cross-stitched Irish blessing.  Me?  I made Oreo Cheesecake Cookies.

I saw the recipe on Brown Eyed Baker (http://www.browneyedbaker.com/), and thought, “Hey, these would be easy to veganize!”  And they were!  Tofutti may very well be the most useful mock-product ever.

And just so you know, there is just a little Irish in these cookies.  I wore this while I was baking them:

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!