Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Snickerdoodles; I think I'm finally getting it

Lat week was a hard week.  My husband took the entire week off from work.  Both he and my oldest were attacked by chiggers on our recent camping trip, and are nursing about 900 bites between the two of them (I won't mention who is handling it better).  My youngest, Sam, has a pretty bad shiner from where Max's airborne toy came in contact with his face.  Also, it rained...and rained...and rained.  All of these things conspired to keep me in the house most of the week, and I couldn't let those stormy days pass without baking something.  But what to make?  I got out my Baking Illustrated cookbook (I am borrowing it indefinitely from a chef friend that has no interest in baking).  A pie...I'd have to run to the store; a cake...we would have leftovers and end up throwing half away; cookies...those would be just the thing.

I know people who claim snickerdoodles as their favorite cookie, and I've never understood that.  In truth, I'd never had them homemade. Store-bought snickerdoodles seem like an overly sweet sugar cookie dusted with cinnamon.  I'd never made them myself because they just seemed boring.  Not bad, but why make snickerdoodles when you can make cookies with more exciting ingredients, like chocolate, or peanut butter, or chocolate, or nuts, or chocolate?  I'm not sure why I paused this time to read the description under snickerdoodles.  I have been reading a great deal of Robert Frost's poetry and writings, mentally spending time in New Hampshire, so maybe the fact that they are a New England favorite appealed to me.  Also, I love to learn the etymology of names, and I read that the word snickerdoodle is a corruption of a German word meaning "crinkly noodle."  These two things, the cloudy sky, and the promise of a cinnamon scented kitchen convinced me to give it a go.

I'm glad I did, because I have to say, I'm starting to get the deal with snickerdoodles.  Homemade, they get that crisp/chewy, sweet/tangy contrast that makes them so much better than their cousin the sugar cookie. Not to mention, they're pretty delicious with a piece of chocolate and a warm, roasted marshmallow between them for snickerdoodle s'more.  Still, I don't think that they will ever be my go-to cookie.  What I need is an aunt or family friend that makes them as their specialty, and sends them to me around the holidays.

Snickerdoodles adapted from Baking Illustrated

First, I have to say that I've been snacking on these cookies for the past week, and they will definitely be showing up again in my kitchen.  I really never gave them a fair chance before.

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 3T for rolling the dough
2 eggs
1 T ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.   Stir with a whisk to combine.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, shortening, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar until for about 1 1/2 minutes.   Scrape down the sides f the bowl and add the eggs.  Beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until combined.

In a shallow dish, mix the 3 T of sugar with the ground cinnamon.  Take about one heaping tablespoon of dough, roll it into a ball, and then roll the ball into the cinnamon sugar, coating it evenly.  Place each ball onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  (Try to leave at least two inches between dough balls.  I used two half sheets and baked all 30 cookies at one time, but they ended up bleeding into each other, making square sides.)

Bake for about 10 minutes, until the centers look soft and the edges start to look set.  Let them cool on the pan for about 3 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Should make about 30 cookies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Funny Cake Pie (or Why I've Been Gaining Weight)

This summer I have gained between three and five pounds.  Normally, I would rationalize the extra pounds as water weight and not let it get to me.  This past year, though, I have worked very hard to lose about twenty-five pounds.  The scale stopped going down a few months ago, and I didn't mind that.  I could stand to stay where I was; I just didn't want to see the numbers start creeping up again.

If you saw my last post (it's been a while), it's easy to see where the extra pounds are coming from. Four pies in four weeks will do it. I've also been taking the easy way out and have been making cheap, calorie-rich meals in order to save money, instead of looking for ways to eat healthy on a budget.  Oh yes, and I'm eating things called Funny Cake Pie for breakfast, which I am sure doesn't help.

I am not sure that Funny Cake Pie is meant to be a breakfast food. I think it's an Amish dessert.  My husband made it for me on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago.  The night before I had told him about my weekend-morning fantasies.  It starts out with my getting to sleep in until 7:30 or 8:00 am.  I glide down the stairs to the smell of coffee and perhaps David Byrne's "Somebody" coming through the ipod.  When I get to the living room, both of the boys are clean and dressed, and Edward is making me breakfast, using as few dishes as possible.  There is no fighting from the boys in the living room, and no angry muttering in the kitchen.  It's a perfect Saturday morning.

I can't remember all the details of the actual Saturday in question, but things didn't go exactly according to my fantasy.  It was still a great morning though.  Edward woke up early to make the pie crust (the night before I had told him cinnamon toast would be great, but he wanted to try this), and finished the chocolate sauce and batter while I took Sam up to the tub to wash his breakfast off.  When Sam and I came down, the pie was in the oven, Max was playing quietly on the floor, and coffee had been poured.

Funny Cake Pie

I realize that I have not yet mentioned what Funny Cake Pie actually is.  It starts with a pie shell, then there is a layer of chocolate sauce, and on top of that you pour cake batter.  As the pie bakes, the chocolate sauce thickens and comes up around the outside edges of the cake layer.  My husband got the recipe from a colleague of his at work, who was late one day because his wife was preparing this, and he had to let it cool so he could bring a slice for breakfast.  Hence, we thought it was a breakfast pie.  In fact, the cake is very much like a fluffy, crumbly pancake, so it probably can go both ways.

You will need:

Unbaked 9" Pie Shell (see this post for great crust recipe)

Cake layer:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla

Chocolate layer:
1/2 cup sugar
6 T water
4 T cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake layer:  Cream together the sugar and butter. In a small bowl, combine the egg and the milk.  In another small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  To the butter, add the milk mixture alternately with the flour mixture. Add vanilla and stir until just evenly mixed. Set aside.

Mix together the cocoa, sugar, water, and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Pour chocolate sauce into the unbaked pie shell.  Over this pour the cake batter.  It will seem to float on top of the sauce. When baked, the chocolate comes up around the outside edge of the cake. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes out clean.