Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Baking

I will have made nearly 300 cookies by Christmas. This has taught me three things:

1. I really, really, really miss American size ovens.

2. I strongly desire a stand mixer.

3. Our apartment tends to be very humid.

I can only put 9 cookies in our oven at one time. Nine. The good news is that both kinds I tried came out well, and I hadn't ever made either of them before. They came out so well, in fact, that multiple people have asked for the recipe and I even made another batch of the gingersnaps to bring to Christmas gatherings. Even Lee liked the gingersnaps! I also made an anise sugar cookie. This one uses whole aniseed (or at least the recipe didn't say ground, and it did say ground cinnamon, so I used whole seeds) and is then rolled in a cinnamon sugar mixture when still hot. These were also very good.

The day I tried making the gingersnaps was not a good day for baking. First, we couldn't find any ground ginger. There's lots of fresh ginger, but we couldn't find any ground. So, I decided that tossing the fresh ginger into the blender was a good idea. It's not. The ginger is too big to be adequately minced in the blender. Some of it was small, and there was a good amount of juice which will be good for the flavor, but there are definitely some cookies with extra large crunchy ginger bits. We bought a ginger/daikon grater for the next batch - got it down to a perfect size. When making the cookies, you are supposed to roll them into 3/4" balls and then roll them in some granulated sugar before placing on the cookie sheet and into the oven. I had to add nearly an extra cup of flour to get the dough into a non-flowing state, and then decided to go with 1.5" balls instead of the recommended 3/4" ones. Apparently, these cookies spread out when they bake:

They look more like muffins in the oven than the tiny little cookies I was expecting. They came out as one giant cookie with some perforations. It tasted pretty good, considering, so I froze the dough to make more cookies in about a week. I was trying to be proactive with the baking, and knew the day I wanted to bring cookies in, so I wanted to make the dough and a test batch early enough to make sure they would actually work. These ones were much better in smaller sizes and a bit less time in the oven.

Next I tried to make some frosting. I wanted to make a Red Velvet cake for Christmas, and wanted to try a couple of different frostings with it. This one was roux based, so I cooked the flour and milk and tried to cream together the butter and sugar. This did not work so well. The sugar flew everywhere and the butter just did not cream, leaving lumps of butter in the frosting. This (and mixing other doughs and things) made me realize that I really do want a stand mixer, especially the dough hook, and I convinced Lee by showing him the pasta maker attachment. As of yet, I have not found the necessary distilled vinegar or buttermilk for the Red Velvet cake, and have the frosting in the fridge, waiting for something chocolate to coat. It must be chocolate. I know, because I have tested various cookies in it and the chocolate ones taste awesome. Everything else, not so much.

Finally, to end the baking extravaganza, I made my tried and true biscuits. They came out...weird. Very watery, and I decided to just go with it instead of adding flour for a better consistancy. Not bad, per se, but definitely not what I was going for! No pictures of these. They confirmed the abundance of moisture in our household. I've made these things dozens of times, there's (almost) no way the consistancy was my fault, it must be the air. I shall attempt these again, for science. And my taste buds.

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