Thursday, December 20, 2007

What a beautiful mess: Part I

Shall I be so bold as to call it a blessing? I got let out of the office at 4:30 today after a presentation. It was quite the mercy after a bad yesterday.

I've been itching to try out some new cookie recipes for weeks now, so what better way to spend the rest of the evening than with a holiday bake-off? I went ingredient shopping, poured myself a glass of wine, gnawed on some cheese, and got to work. I felt like the king of the world having the kitchen all to myself for so many hours.

For the ingredients, I used as many organic as possible (and when available, local) with the main exception being the butter. I spent a precious hour or so rummaging through the butter section of 4 different stores looking for my favorite butter, Plugra, with no luck. I ended up buying an (expensivo) Italian brand. Why so picky about butter? Whether you want to believe it or not, it's the main ingredient in cookies. If you need to see it to believe it, just look at this picture. Woa Nelly, that's a lot of butter. [And hey, that's the beautiful Le Crueset dutch oven from M. Thanks, M. It was the best present ever. No exaggeration.]

The cookie I'm most excited about is one that requires brown butter (sorry, names of actual cookies may not be revealed till x-mas time). I've made a little brown butter for pasta dishes (with sage!), but never in such large quantities. It's quite a satisfying process to brown up a big pot of butter: As soon as it melts, it starts to bubble. The bubbles are quite cute. Then in about 11 minutes, it forms a thick foam right before it starts to caramelize, turn a beautiful golden brown, and give off a nutty aroma. It takes on such a personality of its own you almost want to yell out, "It's alive!"

The one mistake I made was when I doubled the recipe, I miscalculated the flour and had to add in more last-minute. I hope they still turn out o.k. My kitchen math could definitely use some improvement. I could also really use a KitchenAid mixer. I can't decide what's harder - hand-kneading pasta dough or hand-creaming butter and sugar.

The final product of the day was a pile of dirtied-up bowls, a table and floor covered in white flour, and and 4 nice batches of dough wrapped in plastic. Pure satisfaction. They will rest peacefully overnight in my mini-fridge and be thrown (gently placed) in the oven tomorrow night. Till then, good night my little babies.

An addendum: "Liquid gold,"
a great article on browned butter "


Carmen said...

Annie, I printed out that brown butter article you link to back in January and ever since, I have fallen in love with brown butter. Delicious!! Thanks so much for introducing me to it via your has changed my life. I didn't think it was possible for me to love butter any more than I already did!

Undercover Cook said...

Hey Carmen,

So glad to hear it! Don't you love the process of making it, too? Especially when it hits that sweet spot and it starts to smell like heaven. Happy browning!

Carmen said...

Yes, I love when it starts to turn..i have the urge to start applauding the show of bubbles and aroma!

Carmen said...

Btw, the March 2008 issue of Saveur is all about Butter! yay.

Undercover Cook said...

Yay for bubbly, caramel-y butter. I wish I could eat the smell in ice cream form, without the butter, if that makes any sense.