Friday, May 27, 2011

i hate baking cocoa.

Well, not really. But it is quite possibly the only relationship in my life I can define as love/hate. There are far too many dimensions to baking cocoa, and an even longer list of things that can go wrong when baking with it. So normally my baking cocoa stays tucked away in my cabinets, growing older and richer over time. And then of course there comes the occasional recipe I feel like playing around with-- whether it be my Chocolate Peanut Butter Shaysters, Tuxedo Chip Cookies, or even just a chocolate cheesecake. I head to the store to scrounge up some supplies...and inevitably buy yet another can of said baking cocoa! So now the oldie has a new younger sibling to hang out in the cobwebs with.

This week I found myself with a bag of white chocolate chips. I also found myself unwilling to play it safe with a simple white-choclate macadamia nut cookie. So of course I began my google search while at work, pulling ideas from a few co-workers. And all I could find were recipes for cookies with nuts, or cocoa powder. At first I wondered, why in the world would we treat something as rich as white chocolate so poorly? And then I realized...because it's not really chocolate at all. We just think it is because it's perfectly molded into a creamy texture. But this is all beside the point. I decided I would try to make a decadent cookie recipe that would match the rich flavor of the poser chocolate. And this is where I turned to my baking cocoa. Things would have started out normally but when I grabbed my container of flour I realized I wouldn't have enough for a whole batch. So I decided on making a half-recipe. And for those of you who bake, or who at least know how particular baking tends to be, this can get tricky. Doubling or cutting the recipe in half can drastically alter the consistency of any recipe, though logic is screaming out to tell me otherwise.

If I use two-thirds of a cup of something in a regular recipe, why wouldn't I use one-third for a half recipe? But you just can't. It has to be cut in half...and then played with ever so lightly. And so the process began.

Of course the cocoa gave me issues right off the bat and spilled all over the counter. And this is why I hate baking cocoa:

1. It sticks to anything and everything it touches.
2. When used with a mixer, it will fly into the air like dust particles and stain your white MacBook. (just me? okay.)
3. The canister it comes in is barely big enough to fit a quarter cup measure in, and most chocolate recipes call for at least a third of a cup.
4. It will always spill. On white counter tops. On white tiles. On anything white.
5. It is the most dense powder I have ever worked with, but only seems to dry out the dough instead of thickening it.

For years I've tried to perfect recipes so that I can bypass such an ingredient and opt for the more seductive sounding one; melted chocolate. But even then, the consistency comes out all wrong. So why do I continue to bake with such a pain-in-the-butt ingredient? Because of the perks...

1. A rich and creamy batter comparable to chocolate mousse, only in a more sinful form.
2. The mature flavor of the chocolate is only experienced when baked. (Trust. If you eat a spoonful of this stuff you will definitely choke on the bitterness)
3. The cookie somehow remains soft throughout baking, no matter if you cut the time short or go longer.
4. Licking the spatula after mixing is the most sinfully blissful experience in the world.
5. The sexy chocolate smile that comes after biting into a hot cookie.

Besides, where else can you get something as dark and sweet as this? (...aside from on South Beach during Black Beach Week of course.)

The only thing more fun than dressing up a sugary cookie during Christmas is dressing up a chocolate cookie with loads and loads of rich white chocolate. So that's just what I did tonight...chocolate chips mixed in and melted on top in a buttercream overload. Who says Friday nights can't be sexy while staying at home?

Bon appétit mes chéris. Je dois faire la vaisselle maintenant.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Strange Beginnings

How often do we greet each other on the street? And I'm not talking about saying hi to someone you know on the way to your next class at the University, I mean really saying 'hello' and 'good morning' to complete strangers. When I walk Tache in the mornings, I am either greeted by a stranger with their face pointed downward, scooting their dog past mine without so much as a sniff, let alone a human good morning. And at other times I get a very brief 'how's it going' as they pause for a moment to let the dogs sniff. But as soon as one starts to grumble or get the least bit excited, they yank the leash and turn away if some social code has been shattered.

Maybe I'm just used to growing up in a smaller area where there is time to stop and say hello, but there has definitely been something lacking in human connection the past few months. And then yesterday, I found myself oddly surprised. After walking out of the leasing office with a very minor complaint about my pedestrian keycard not working, a worker stopped me dead in my running shoes and told me, "Smile! It's a beautiful day out. Don't let the sun get you mad. Go on and throw on a bikini and head to the beach...I know that's what you were thinking!!"

And that's when it hit me. People don't say hi to people who are frowning down here. And the second thing that hit me, that workman is not from Miami for that very reason. In Saint Louis, I grew up understanding that saying hello and smiling to a stranger could make their day, and that smiling is contagious. But in Miami, people only want to speak to you if you're smiling. And when the workman said something to me, I didn't even realize I was frowning. So what kind of signal do I send out while walking Tache? While running down the street? I know we Phipps women have rather stern looking faces when we're just relaxing.

Is this why no one seems to greet each other anymore? So many people in Miami have their heads down while running down the street to their next appointment, or they have house music blasting so loudly in their cars that they have no real connection to the outside world. I think that the insane amount of consumerism we have bought into is destroying us socially. People only socialize in settings they consider normal. (ie: work, Church, school, sporting events) Anywhere else, they feel out of place, or don't bother trying to connect.

Goal of the day: Wear my Saint Louis smile proudly and share the love.

That of course will be applied after my trip to the doctor, where I will inevitably be bumped and forgotten on the waiting list. But alas, it is what it is.

A gift for you: May your day shine like fresh molasses.

Monday, May 9, 2011

If I am crazy, what does it mean to be sane?

I go through these phases of loving my life, wanting more from my life, absolutely hating the majority of my life, and then back again. What's scary is that very rarely is this change of heart caused by a major event, or a sudden revelation. It truly is my mind that takes me there. Sometimes I find myself extremely aware of my surroundings, completely conscious to my situation and my connection to the world around me. And it can be terrifying-- to feel so insignificant in a world full of billions of people, and yet feel like the center of something at the exact same time.

Sometimes I envy the common person who has no clue where they are in life-- simply happy to be here. And I'm not saying they're less of a person because they aren't awakened, but they certainly have less worries. What is the trade-off for knowing? How much sleep do I lose at night by knowing what type of person I am, what type of person I'm not...and the worst one, what type of person I could be?

This isn't one of those times where I'm suddenly awakened and hating life...not even close. I'm actually just studying for my World Literature Final Exam. Dostoevsky to be exact. The Underground Man feels the same way, but mostly just hates himself for who he is. And he also hates everyone else...for being who they are. Not taking life for face-value, The Underground Man criticizes the way man perceives the world, easily believing everything they hear. For me, it doesn't really bother me to know that some people just take things as they come, because I know I fall victim to that type of living from time to time. But what gets me is when I open my eyes and take a good look around, and I actually see the things I've been missing out on. I see the passion and the beauty, but I also see the disparity and tragedy on every doorstep. And then I stop to think about how I can't change every tragic story I read about, and I fall victim to my insignificant thinking. I fall victim to my insecurities about remaining a genuine human being.

And now that I've completely gone off track from the Underground Man's angry thinking, I will return to my studies, somehow a little more disconnected from his pessimism this time around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Late-Night Baking.

There are very few problems that a baking/music session can't fix. Probably something to do with the melodious sound of the blender mixed with the current song humming through the air. Mix in the sweet scent of brown sugar and vanilla...and there's nothing you can't do. And who doesn't love a little challenge? My boyfriend has a large glass bowl, miniature blenders and no measuring spoons...and so we begin.

Luckily, the only measurements that require the spoons are vanilla, cinammon, salt...and baking powder. The first three I can manage by taste alone, but the powder is slightly more important. So we'll just have to wait and see how high or low these cookies rise.

What's a baking session without a companion? Puppy number one is of course laying at my feet, waiting for me to drop spoonfuls of this delicious batter all over the floor. Puppy number two is of course chewing away at his toys, while resting at Evan's feet.

Now I personally like to add a little extra butter to my oatmeal-raisin cookies, usually when I add in the oats...oh and I like to add some extra cinnamon to those puppies too. It adds a little extra warmth to the batter, and it softens up any of the dough that has become a little too dense from the stirring.

When in doubt, stir with your hands, it makes a fun mess, mixes the batter way better...and did I mention you get to lick your fingers afterwards? Because you do in fact get to lick your fingers clean. It's wonderful.

I should probably stop eating dough and wait the 8 minutes that remain until the cookies come out of the oven. Especially because I haven't had dinner yet, and it's 11 pm. (Just enough time to finish solving the conundrum pounding through my temples.)

"Nobody said it was easy." -Coldplay


Bon appétit!!