Tag Archives: baking

Cookies And Kindness

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Paris wins September.

Hello out there! Are we really half-way through September? That’s just crazy talk. It’s still in the high 90’s here in Austin, despite the fact that I have banished all my white and light-colored cottons in celebration of fall. Good news is that the forecast teases that a week from tomorrow we may plunge into the mid 80’s, so we will plough through one more week, gnashing our teeth each time we are confronted with a pumpkin-spiced anything or instagrams of people wearing sweaters.

You know what else is crazy talk? Soooo  many of the words being spewed at us from the television during this nutso presidential race. Much of it makes my heart hurt and my stomach clench. Don’t worry- not going to use this as a platform for my political views, but I will say that I was pretty sad to see Michelle Obama’s optimistic convention proclamation that “we will take the high road” take a steep dive to the low road in a deplorable basket. Let’s all try to get through the next two and a half months without name-calling, shall we?

I did read about a campaign that made me very happy this week. Dorie Greenspan is a force of nature in the baking world, having published twelve fabulous cookbooks. Her newest, Dorie’s Cookies, is due out next month. I had the pleasure of meeting Dorie in New York City several years ago, and she is just as precious in person as she is in print (and she seems to be in print everywhere I look). Somehow Dorie manages to maintain an active on-line presence, and that is where I came across her campaign for Cookies and Kindness. In a nutshell, Dorie is sharing  cookie recipes from her new book in hopes of encouraging us to bake and then share on-line and in the real world. This month’s recipe was for Two Bite One Chip cookies. They are tiny balls of cookie hiding a chip of your choice. I couldn’t pick just one, and tucked chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips inside my cookies (but only one in each- they are tiny!).

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How many cookies can you fit in a margarita glass?

I plan to pop these babies in the mail tomorrow and send them to a family that could use a sweet surprise. There is my own bit of optimism for you- it will be an exercise in restraint to avoid eating all of these up before I make it to the post office.

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Go forth into the week with kindness, cookies, and optimism, mes amis. We could all use a good dose of each, I think.

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Baking oatmeal cookies, and other herculean tasks in the day of an ex-pat

It has been brought to my attention that my recent posts have been a bit too perky, a bit too “isn’t my life wonderful”, for some of you.  So here is an old post that I never got around to publishing, which describes a baking experience that could just as easily happen again today.  I am still flummoxed by the French butter and flour and how to use them in American recipes.  And I still wander around grocery stores totally bewildered.  It’s really not all Cordon Bleu and Costa del Sol around here, people.  Enjoy.

After the untimely demise of my Cuisinart, I decided not to risk the life of my beloved, surviving KitchenAide mixer without adding this lovely culinary accoutrement to my kitchen counter.

you know you want one

Isn’t it sexy?  It’s a transformer and it’s supposed to allow me to run my mixer on French current without blowing it up.  No more kitchen casualties.  Stop the carnage.

My sweet husband lugged this baby home from Houston two weeks ago and I have been eagerly awaiting my first baking opportunity.  Martha was home sick today and this afternoon we were both ready to make some oatmeal cookies from Stay At Stove Dad.  Simple enough , right?  Yeah, simple like the breadcrumb pasta  debacle.  Nothing is simple when you’re new to France, people.  NOTHING.

First, I had just used the last of our eggs for chocolate mousse.  No big deal- Saint Martha agreed to run over to the little store and pick up some eggs.  She was home 15 minutes later.  We started again.  Baking soda.  Hmmmm.  I know I brought baking powder with me because  France doesn’t  have the same kind, but had I brought soda?  That would be “no”.  Damn.  This time I grabbed the purse and ran to the store, not bothering to stop and do any research because I thought I had the soda thing covered.  I stood in front of the baking section (all three feet of it) and wondered why I couldn’t find baking soda or anything that looked like it.  I was even desperate enough that I tried to ask a young woman who was grabbing items off the shelf like it was easy–“Parlez…..” was all I got out before I realized she had music playing in her ears.  Kids.  So I stomped home to admit my total fail to Martha.  I flipped through my little “Guide to Grocery Shopping in France” and read the following: baking soda- Bicarbonate.  Found with the salt. Also found in pharmacies.  Of course.  What was I thinking?  Martha grabbed the purse and went back.  20 minutes later she was back empty-handed.  She couldn’t find the salt.  She didn’t want to ask anyone because they would have answered her in French, and then where would she be?  Back home without baking soda, I guess.  Determined not to be defeated in my very first baking endeavor, I snatched the purse and the bag of kitchen trash begging to be taken downstairs.  By the time I ran down the three flights of stairs and threw the trash in the can,  red wine had dripped on my hands  and on my white Wash U t-shirt.  Back upstairs.  Martha gives me the Camp Longhorn t-shirt  off her back and starts soaking mine in cold water.  I head back down but this time go to the pharmacy, because I need a change of scenery.  The very nicely made-up woman behind the counter gives me a look that says I really need to buff up a bit before coming in her pharmacy, and she is so right.  I look horrible.  But right then I needed baking soda, not beauty tips, and certainly not criticism.  And guess what?  She gave me baking soda- after I wrote it out for her because she couldn’t understand me. I was asking for “biocarbonate” instead of “bicarbonate”.   Whatever. Finally.  I took the soda and ran.

I miss my little yellow box.

We make the cookies- the dough smells and tastes incredible.  It’s only when they come out of the oven do they fail.  One big flat, greasy cookie spreads out on the sheet like an oil slick.  Tastes great, but definitely not right.  At first I think it has to be the damned soda, but now I am wondering if the rich French butter might have been the culprit.  I am going to do some research on it because I WILL make these cookies again and they WILL come out perfectly.  I refuse to be defeated by a batch of oatmeal cookies and a crazy country that sends me to the pharmacy for baking soda.

Here is the link, if you would like to try them and then gloat about how easy they were and how nice and puffy they turned out.  Go ahead- make my day.  Send pictures, while you’re at it, and I will post them to show how the cookies are supposed to look.

This has got to get easier, right?  Tell me it’s going to get easier.

P.S.- As I mentioned in the intro, it really hasn’t gotten much easier.  However, I will say that those cookies, despite their pitiful appearance, were fabulous.  We ate every crumb (and they were eaten in pieces, by necessity) and quickly forgot that we had originally considered them to be a “fail”.  I added pecans to half of them, and they were particularly good.  

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