"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baking: the good, the bad, and the buttery

It's been a baking kind of week. Monday was my coworker Rosie's surprise birthday party at work, so I made my now-famous red velvet cupcakes for her party. I don't mind tooting my own horn and saying that they are DELICIOUS! And come on, who doesn't love cream cheese icing? How can one not love an icing that consists of a block of cream cheese, a stick of butter, and cups of powdered sugar? YUM. So those were a big hit. Some people even had seconds. All hail the cupcake queen! I'm actually thinking of making red velvet cupcakes for our Christmas Eve dinner party. How cute would those be for dessert, especially with some nice green sugar sprinkles on top? I also just like the portion control of cupcakes. We have our relatives over for Christmas Eve dinner at my parents' house, and by the time we're all done stuffing ourselves (separate entry on the food tk), most people can't fathom eating a slice of cake for dessert. But there's something about a cupcake that makes it okay to just eat it up. Not to mention that the red, white, and green would be super cute. I've taken to making dessert because my aunt always used to be in charge of making it, and she would make and bring a flan. Now I know there are some people out there who love flan, but I sort of hate it. The texture is just gross. And after eating such a big, heavy dinner, no one really wants this dense, rich piece of custard. So red velvets it will be. I considered making an orange spice cake with a glaze, but honestly, I can't say no to an opportunity to make cupcakes.

Today is a cookie swap at work, and so last night I attempted to make orange cream cheese cookies. I say "attempted" because the whole experience was just sort of a disaster. I decided to make two separate batches, because sometimes doubling a recipe can just be horrific, so here I was thinking I was smart. Turns out, not so much. First I grated off part of my right thumb knuckle while trying to grate some orange zest. So I rinsed off my thumb and tried again on a different part of the grater. And I grated the same spot, AGAIN. After applying a band-aid and then grating the rest of the orange as carefully as possible, I discovered that the recipe called for not one stick of butter, as I'd originally thought, but two. Dear LORD. I'd already had one sitting out for what I thought would be the second batch, so at least it was ready to go, but as I tossed things into the bowl to mix, I realized that these cookies were going to consist of butter and not much else. Don't let the name fool you, friends: there is barely any cream cheese (not even half a block!) and even less orange in these things. They are ALL BUTTER. UGH! Paula Deen would be so proud. Of course I discovered this too late. And the portion of batter I tasted must have been the only spot where orange zest and juice happened to get mixed in, because after I pulled these things out of the oven, they just tasted like butter cookies.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Rewind. I finished mixing the decidedly cream-cheese-and-orange-devoid butter batter and doled out one sheet of cookies. Part of the reason I chose to bake these things is because the first time I made them they were delicious, and the other reason is because they only take 10 minutes or less to bake per batch. This short baking time, I figured, would allow me to make the 30 or so cookies in the first batch and then pop in the second batch without ending up going to bed at 1 am. This was my plan. But unfortunately, when I pulled out the first tray, the pot holder somehow slipped out of my left hand and I ended up planting my left thumb DIRECTLY on the burning-hot cookie sheet. Dear GOD, that was painful. So now I was out ANOTHER thumb, and I still had cookies to put in the oven and continue doling out. Thankfully Jeremy came to my rescue. He put the other tray of cookies in the oven, tended to my wounded thumb with a frozen gel pack, and washed the sticky, buttery mess of dishes I'd made. He also removed the first round of cookies from the cookie sheet, washed that, and then (with my expert tutelage) doled out the last of the dough to bake the last of the cookies. All while I moaned and iced my thumb and squeezed aloe gel all over it.

So I ended up with only about 30 cookies, which is less than what I'm supposed to have for the swap, and out two thumbs. There was no way I was going to try and make ANOTHER batch of evil, butter-centric batter while I had one shredded thumb and one burnt one, not to mention the fact that I was going to try and make some lentil soup for dinner. So I ended up with an extra orange, a nearly full carton of orange juice, one and a half packages of cream cheese, and less cookies than I needed, not to mention eating just cereal for dinner.

So I'm sparing everyone by not sharing the recipe for these cookies, because honestly, they are crap. I sort of hate butter cookies, and these hardly taste like anything else. I swear that last time I made them they were so much better. Perhaps it's because then I had a stand mixer at my mom's house and now I only have a hand mixer. It's a decent hand mixer, but it's just not the same as having a stand mixer. Maybe someday, when I have money and counter space, I'll actually have a stand mixer. But until then, I'll just have butter-covered, bandaged thumbs.

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