29 April 2007

Perhaps baking as a form of therapy.

I was channel surfing yesterday and caught a few minutes of "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" on Food TV. I wasn't fully focused on the telly, having the laptop in my lap and reading fan's accounts of Jensen's new movie Ten Inch Hero from the Newport Beach Film Festival. Lucky, lucky, lucky fangirls who attended the screening!!!! Part of the cast, including Jensen, was there. So since I was more engrossed in reading about how one fan got to take his picture and hear his voice in person, ('scuse me while I swoon!) I missed exactly how Sandra Lee made the cookies that I thought looked good.

I don't like most of what she does, because I vastly prefer to make my own stuff instead of doctoring box mixes or using some of the other shortcuts that she uses. Yes, she makes homemade cooking more accessible to folks who think the kitchen is a scary place, but for the rest of us who really enjoy the process, the chemistry, the end result, her recipes are usually a "pass". Besides, pre-packaged mixes are always full of the worst things for you, bleached flour, white sugar, tons of salt, high fructose corn syrup, even tBHQ. If you are trying to avoid those things, as I am, you've got to read the label on positively EVERYTHING you pick up in the grocery store, because you never know what you're going to get in that box of Hamburger Helper, or sugar cookie mix.

I've been so weighted down by the depression which I've been trying to work my way through that I haven't made anything from scratch, or created a new recipe, or even fussed much in the kitchen over about the last two months. Y'know things are not good when the food writer isn't working in the kitchen, doesn't want to eat, and can't focus enough to make dinner, right? Something about these macadamia nut cookies made me want to get in there and bake something, though, so today I went rooting through the cupboards and discovered that yes, I did have an unopened container of macadamia nuts. I'll take the spark of inspiration wherever it comes from, I'm not picky.

I next went to my cookbook shelf, which takes up an entire section of my library's built-in bookcases. I was looking for a sugar cookie recipe that didn't require rolling out on the countertop (more mess than I could currently handle having to clean) or chilling in the refrigerator (I want COOKIES and I want them NOW).

Much like collecting shoes is an issue for me, collecting cookbooks is a habit that I can't break. I will actually sit down and READ a cookbook, just like I'll read a novel, learning new techniques or getting an idea for a concoction of my own. I own somewhere around 70 cookbooks, at last count. Go ahead, point at me and say, "Lucy, you're a complete geek." Yes, I know that and am OK with it. I have, at a minimum guess, about 10 cookbooks that are strictly cookies, and several of the old standby all-purpose cookbooks, like the red and white checked gingham covered Better Homes and Gardens, the Joy of Cooking. I couldn't find a recipe that I wanted to use, and even leafing through the huge three-ring binder full of things I've clipped out of magazines, printed from the web and photocopied out of library cookbooks didn't bring any inspiration. Dejected, I put the books all back on the shelf and went to lie down for a bit.

Christ, how ridiculous is it that something like that will put me into a tailspin? The anti-depressant seems to be helping a bit, but not enough, yet, to bring me out of that horrible funk. In my defense, I did only sleep about 3 hours last night, from around 3 am until about 6:30, so perhaps a short nap was just what I needed.

After napping for about a half hour, I thought about the bag of chocolate chips that I'd seen while hunting for macadamia nuts, and I decided that instead of a kind of sugar cookie with macadamia nuts in them, I'd make macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies. There are any number of good chocolate chip cookie recipes out there; I'm fond of the original Tollhouse recipe, with a few small modifications such as using all brown sugar instead of white, and the addition of a little bit of milk, but in about the last two years whenever I've made chocolate chip cookies, I've used Alton Brown's recipe for "The Chewy" which seem to stay soft after baking. I don't like rock-hard chocolate chip cookies. It is very much a personal preference.

A quick second of OT gushing...I heart Alton Brown's show Good Eats. Love how he explains the chemistry of cooking and baking, love his insistence that the only tool in your kitchen that only does one thing should be a fire extinguisher, love how he shows unique ways to accomplish complicated kitchen tasks with things that you already own.

When I'd finished mixing the dough, I looked at the lump of it sitting in the bowl, and was overwhelmed at the idea of scooping out four dozen cookies. (I make them much smaller than Alton recommends.) Just more than I could handle, I guess. So instead I put the whole thing into a round 9-inch cake pan and baked it for 30 minutes, and now cooling on the countertop is what looks like a cookie pizza.

I certainly don't NEED these cookies in the house. One of the problems that I have with food is that I can't eat just one cookie, I want a dozen. I don't want just the recommended serving size of potato chips, I want the whole bag of them. So I don't normally have things like that in my house to avoid temptation. I know this and can plan for it so it doesn't become a problem. When I am testing recipes, or working on a foodie article, I will give whatever it is away after reserving a small portion for myself.

This cookie pizza is cute, though, and I won't cut into it until DH gets home so that he can see what it looks like. And then it will go with me to work tomorrow, so my staff can eat it instead of me. They love it when I'm testing recipes.

Progress, however, in that I was able to get the house cleaned up today, I made something in the kitchen, did some laundry and I'm on the computer looking for story ideas for posts next week. The sun's out, birds are singing, distantly I hear lawnmowers chugging along as people cut the grass for the first time. My house smells like cookies and clean laundry, good, homey things that are sure-fire spirit lifters.

If only baking wonderful things was the answer. Wouldn't it be nice?


MotherMe said...

Mmm.... cooky pizza... my mouth is watering!

Speaking of homey, I hung my laundry on a clothesline yesterday. Talk about smelling FRESH!!

And, by the way, I heart Alton Brown nearly as much as I detest Sandra Lee. In fact, you might even call me a bit of a fangirl there...


Lucy Arin said...

mmmmm clean clothes! I hate doing the laundry, but I love having clean clothes.

Somehow, I'm not surprised that you're not a fan of Sandra Lee. ;)

I have several of AB's cookbooks, wanna borrow?

MotherMe said...

oooh, yes! Didn't he write "I'm Just Here For the Food", or somesuch clever title?

AB makes me drool.... lol...