Black and Whites, or, Why I Should Stick to Pie

17 May

Hello, lovely readers!

I have recently discovered the joys of reading baking blogs. I love reading about all of these delicious things and fancy baked goods that all the talented bloggers out there come up with. Though I have found quite a few that I enjoy (Bake It In A Cake, Angerburger , and Sugar Derby, for example) my favorite by far is Bakingdom. Full disclosure: I love this site because it is not only full of delicious treats but also fun crafts! Did I mention the blogger, Darla, is a big Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan? I know. Amazing! Plus, when I emailed her with a question about the aprons she makes (and they are fabulous), she actually emailed me back. Twice! And she emailed me a pattern! I fully intend to have my very own harry potter apron by the time the Deathly Hallows Part 2 comes out. Hell yes.

Anywho, in this little slice of summer I’ve carved out for myself here in Texas, I have been doing absolutely nothing since finishing my research design and thesis proposal. I’m still waiting to hear back from my chair and readers, and until then I see no reason to get started. Plus, who wants to start working on research when there is family around and tex mex to be had? Certainly not this feminist.

So, this last week and a half has consisted almost entirely of down time, and that down time has included devouring all ten of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the books that True Blood is based on), starting Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and trying my hand at some new-to-me recipes.

First, I made flour tortillas a la Zac. They turned out great, and they were so easy! If you want the recipe, just drop me a line. Perhaps I’ll do another blog about them later, because they actually came out well. Then, I made green beans a la Aimee. It was my first try at making a dish that has become one of my absolute favorites, so even though my mom and my step-dad say they were yummy, I still think I have a long way to go to get them just right. Finally, I gave in and decided to stop drooling over all of the gorgeous pictures and delicious recipes on Bakingdom and actually give one a whirl!

I chose to try out the recipe for Black and Whites, because no one here was familiar with them. It’s like the reverse of what I’ve been experiencing in New Jersey about most awesome foods (Blue Bell ice cream, Shiner beer, and queso, to name a few). It seemed pretty straightforward, and we had all of the ingredients except cake flour, so i figured I’d just forge on with all-purpose and try it out.

I had an excellent time experimenting with a family friend’s standing mixer, but because I was working in a kitchen in the middle of a group of people trying to talk, I don’t think I mixed the butter and sugar long enough, nor the egg, and I certainly overdid the mixing once adding in the flour mixture, but I had no idea about any of this as I spooned the batter onto parchment paper using an ice cream scoop.

The batter, on its way to becoming cookies

I dropped these onto the parchment paper, and everything looked (and tasted, because I cannot resist cookie dough of almost any kind) right, so I forged ahead.

All the little mounds of dough, ready for the oven

While they were cooking, I checked to see if their progress matched all of the awesome pictures from Bakingdom, which you can look at by clicking on the link listed up there somewhere.

Can you tell they're on the way from poofing to flattening?

I absolutely love the intense amount of step by step documentation that so many baking blogs give you, especially Bakingdom. These pictures should not be of any help to anyone, I just thought it would be fun to pretend that I was as good at this as the baking bloggers I love to read and that I could show you the kind of fun, finished product process that I so enjoy reading about. Hahaha. False.

I love black and whites because they are soft and cakelike in consistency, citrus-y in flavor, and covered in shiny but delicious vanilla and chocolate icing. The only part of the process that I stand by is my vanilla icing, which came out perfectly.

All iced up and nowhere to go... because I'd never take these out in public.

You can see that the white part is glossy and shiny. I have absolutely no idea what went wrong with the chocolate side, as its just the white plus melted unsweetened chocolate, but that was the least of my worries. The cookies were far too rounded, and way too hard. I have determined that multiple things could have caused this:

1. Distraction during measuring, which was not entirely my fault, and I don’t really think has anything to do with anything, but I’m putting it here just in case.

2. Overbeating/underbeating: my baking guru Aimee (yes, the Aimee of the green beans) explained to me, after reading through the recipe and in response to my sad texts of “my cookies! they are le horrible!”, that the first two steps (butter and sugar, then adding three eggs) should involve a lot of heavy mixing and beating, but then the last part (adding in the flour mixture and milk) should be as minimal as bakingly possible. I didn’t exactly do that. Nope. Not even kind of.

3. Overbaking: I thought that the cookies didn’t look brown enough on the edges, but I have since come to suspect that in that particular oven, fifteen minutes would have done just fine (instead of the eighteen I let them cook).

4. Wrong flour: The recipe called for half all purpose flour and half cake flour, but I didn’t see the point in having my parents buy new flour made specifically for cakes when they already had enough all purpose flour to make all the cookies and then some. I found out, later and from Aimee of course, that “cake flour is to all purpose flour as confectioner’s sugar is to sugar,” which made things make a bit more sense.

Long story short (or maybe just not as long), my cookies came out too hard, too thick, and too dry. Something in the chocolate icing was also out of whack. The great thing about cooking for family and friends of family is that they will almost always eat what you make, even if it is kind of horrible. They all maintained that the cookies had good flavor, and that they would go great with coffee for breakfast. I don’t care, I just hope someone actually likes them, since my personal response is immediate mortification.

My dad doesn't like soft cookies anyways, so he honestly thought they turned out great. In these picture, he is being proud that he figured out that the consistency problem could be tied to choice of flour.

All in all, I felt awful, because I’d dirtied someone else’s kitchen (which I also cleaned) and used up some of my parent’s baking supplies making cookies that did not look, taste, or feel quite the way they were supposed to. No one else seemed to share these sentiments but me. I fully intend to revisit this recipe later this summer, perhaps while in Madison, to see if I can finally conquer the black and whites.

Until next time…


2 Responses to “Black and Whites, or, Why I Should Stick to Pie”

  1. Aimee May 17, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    A little more troubleshooting:
    Your chocolate icing needs some milk or something wet. The chocolate made it too thick.

  2. Kendra May 22, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    The honey mixture would have fixed that chocolate icing. And Aimee’s totally right, cake flour is the main root of the problem here. If memory serves, double- or triple-sifting AP flour is the almost equivalent to cake flour. So the next time you need cake flour but don’t feel like buying any, that will work in a pinch.

    Did I ever tell you about the first time I made Snickerdoodles? They were beautiful, and I had worked so hard on them. BUT – they tasted DISGUSTING because the shortening I had used was rancid. I’d never used shortening before, I just thought it was supposed to clear-ish.

    So you totally aren’t alone in this. We all mess up.

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