Monday, August 30, 2010
Happy Monday, folks!
Back in the kitchen today baking cookies. After all the cake, frosting and fondant I was working with last week, simple cookies sound wonderful. In fact, perhaps I'll make a theme of it this week. Nothing but cookies.
I can do that and recharge my exhausted baking batteries.
So this recipe is an adaptation of one of the first cookies I ever baked. A basic Snickerdoodle recipe from my ancient, tattered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Mother Humble taught me how to make cookies with this recipe, demonstrating that how you make and bake cookies makes all the difference in the end result. She taught me to use high quality ingredients, how to properly cream butter and how to aim for slightly under-baking chewy cookies to give them the best texture when fully cool.
When my own batch of the ubiquitous Better Homes and Garden's recipe took a place for best in show for baking at the state fair when I was seven or eight, it cementing into my child-brain that good technique and quality ingredients are key to baking well.
Today we're taking that same old recipe, and putting a citrus twist on it. These lemon snickerdoodles are fragrant with lemon, soft and chewy, yet pack a big sugar crunch.
Simple and delicious.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Completely swamped today so you'll have to forgive me if the post seems a little hurried.
I'm wrapping up various non-blogging related projects as well as handling all the baking for a baby shower. Ack!
You see, my sister has a way of volunteering to provide desserts for various social events. Of course, you know who really ends up doing the desserts?
Today, I'm elbow deep in fondant for a baby shower cake and I've only just begun tackling my sister's wishlist. Hopefully she'll come visit and help me clean up (HINT).
So earlier this week, I was turning out batch after batch of sugar cookie dough. Burning through pounds of butter. It was a good time to experiment, as the test batches of dough were used to produced cookies for Mr. Humble's lab and this baby shower.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Happy Monday, everyone!
We're giving away a set of cookie cutters today!
You may remember this set from the last science cookie roundup. They're made by scientist Sherry of sciencecookiecutters.com and she has kindly offered to give away a set to one of the blog's readers.
Interested in baking up your own nerdy cookies?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Happy Thursday, all.
Yesterday, I found myself very busy using up all the wonderful summer fruit I have hanging around. Fruit that was in desperate need of a purpose, and soon.
Usually, when faced with an excess of fresh fruit I do two things: make purée to freeze and save for future baking and candy making or I make fruit leather.
Fruit leather is so simple to make and a great way to take advantage of the summer markets that are flooded with inexpensive fresh fruit. Kids love the stuff too... who will be going back to school soon, right? They might need a reasonably healthy treat in their lunchbox. Something better than the usual fare I supply on this site.
While fruit leather is generally made in a dehydrator, you can make it at home in your oven too. All you need is plenty of time, a blender or food processor, an oven that can hold a temperature more or less around 150°F, and since most ovens don't have a mark on their dial for that, an oven thermometer too.
That's all you need to turn all this into this...
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Blogging about macarons today!
Yes I know, I blog a lot about macarons but even with all the information I've posted on the blog, I still get a ton of questions in my email box. An overwhelming number of emails, emails that I don't always have the time to answer punctually, so I felt a need to address the questions in one space on the blog.
I'm posting a troubleshooting guide to help folks with their macarons.
I'm also posting another french macaron recipe. One that I've been working on for almost two months. I've been crafting a recipe that produces a cookie that is a bit more reliable.
|French macarons don't get any more perfect than this.|
Monday, August 16, 2010
Happy Monday, all!
Today we're going to talk a bit about jam, because I spent a good part of my weekend making it with Mother Humble and I don't have anything else ready.
Mother Humble has this thing about jam, while other mothers might worry about their children's health, finances or career. My mother seems primarily concerned with how much jam we have.
It is so obsessive, that I seriously feel I could tell her some crazy story about my life being in total chaos and the first thing she would ask me would be, "...but sweetie, do you have enough jam?"
She asks about it during each of her visits. She never believes it when I say we're stocked, that we have tons of jam. Instead, she checks my supply and determines--regardless of how much is actually in there--that my supply is woefully inadequate. Inadequate, only if I want to serve scones to all of South Asia.
Maybe that's the life lesson she's gleaned from her half century of existence, you must stockpile jam.
A lot of jam.
War? Societal collapse? Armageddon? Llamas?
No problem. I have a lot jam. I'm going to make it.
You can make it too. Freezer jam requires no cooking or canning know-how and since it isn't heat treated the fruit flavor stays bright and fresh.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
We're going to pretend that the wrinkled cloth looks super-artistic
and that I'm not too lazy to iron. Okay?!
and that I'm not too lazy to iron. Okay?!
We're baking donuts today!
Yes, I know we did donuts last week and yes I know it is going to be hard to top Thomas Keller's donuts but I think there should be special blog-space allowances made for donuts.
After all, donuts are good.
But are baked donuts good?
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I should clean the crumbs off the cake stand before snapping photos...
but sometimes you're just too busy eating chocolate cake to care about such things.
but sometimes you're just too busy eating chocolate cake to care about such things.
Today I'm trying out something new in my kitchen, a steamed pudding.
This dessert, as it turns out, was just meant to be.
Allow me to explain.
About a week ago, Mr. P of Delicious Delicious Delicious and I were discussing steamed puddings and sponges. It came up that I lacked a pudding basin--one of the more basic items in an English kitchen--or even knowledge of what a pudding basin was. In my defense they're not exactly easy to find around here. The bowls with their thick rims are no longer common place, outside of a few high-end cooking supply shops. Not to mention, pudding in my part of the States is limited, with few exceptions (save perhaps bread pudding), to the Jell-O sort. Sad but true.
So Mr. P was extolling the wonders of steamed goodies and I figured I was missing out and should venture into that baking realm. Eventually, should I ever find myself in possession of a good basin.
Then while at Sur la Table the following weekend, poking through the clearance baskets hoping to find some discount cooking treasure, I pulled out one of these.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.
We spend the weekend on a little road trip down to Oregon. We had a family wedding to attend and we decided to drive from Seattle as Oregon always provides a lovely view.
While Mr. Humble and I really enjoy road trips, this was the little Humble's first one and she didn't approve of the long hours spent in a car seat. Toddlers seemingly can't take in sights at a distance, they want to get out and run around.
So we satisfied her when we could, the rest of the time we plied her with ice cream.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I'm looking through all the fantastic science cookie roundup submissions in my email box this morning--scattered amongst the mountains of emails telling me I've won £500,000,000--and it looks like it is time for another roundup!
This time I have a few of my own cookies to include.
Though you must forgive the pastel colors. While crafting these cookies I was also making butterfly cookies with the young daughter of our UK house guest.
We've got beakers, flasks and test tubes! Best of all, I didn't have to hand cut them. I got my hands on a set of science cookie cutters. The first I've ever seen.
The set included cutters for flasks, test tubes, atoms and beakers.
I came across these cutters after reading an email from a physicist/chemist who works at a science museum. She was tired of hand cutting shapes (totally understandable) and ordered a custom set of cookie cutters from a manufacturer. Only she had to order a minimum of 2000 sets to have her design made. To unload the surplus cutters she decided to offer them up to the science-cookie loving public:www.sciencecookiecutters.com
I think Sherry is onto something. When she sells out--and she probably will--I think she should consider having other designs made up. Please? The nerdy baking community needs you. I need you. At the very least, I will buy them. Hand cutting macrophages is a pain!
Sherry sent in the cookies she made for a teachers workshop for the round up and a picture of her custom cutter set. As well as a brain cake they made for their biology meeting.
We have a lot of cakes this round up!
The next cake I received was from Carmela of Mela's Baking Adventures, whom I'm now hopelessly in love with.
I am a Pre-Med student going into my Junior year of undergrad. I was accepted into a program that gives early acceptance to medical school. One of the requirements of the program is to take classes at the medical school each summer, and at the end of the summer, we celebrate our hard work with a dinner banquet and talent show.
For the talent show, I decided to make a cake of an anatomy model (something that all of us at the program could relate to). I have included pictures of the cake, which is red velvet and is sitting on a blue sterile field. If you'd like to see the "surgeons" (aka caterers) in action, I posted those pictures on my blog.
Good thing he/she is only partially anatomically correct, eh. I will take a slice of liver, please.
I have also included the link to the video that I presented at the talent show. My brother put the video together since my talent is not in video editing, but in baking. I hope you like it and will consider posting it in the next Science Cookie Round up.
Love the video, check it out:
If the idea of eating a human torso doesn't disturb you, the next cake may...
Christine, an entomology grad student, of dragonflywoman.wordpress.com sent me this email and cake:
A friend of mine (Cheryl) in a wildlife and natural resources program defended her Ph.D. about a year ago. In her department, it's customary to turn defenses into potlucks and almost everyone shows up with some sort of treat to share with everyone else. Another friend, Jess, was interested in bringing a cake to the defense and asked if I wanted to help out and of course I did. Cheryl studies crayfish and Jess used to be one of Cheryl's employees for the project, so we planned (while on a boat taking water samples for work) to make a somewhat realistic crayfish cake based on Jess's knowledge of crayfish habitats and behaviors. We then scoured every toy store, party supply shop, and grocery store in the city looking for crayfish or lobster toys to put on the cake with no success. In desperation, Jess (an excellent fisherwoman) eventually thought to look at a bait shop. She bought four fantastic, rather realistic plastic crayfish lures and the crayfish cake was born.
Crayfish make burrows in mud at the bottom of the streams where they live, so we dug some holes out of our chocolate cake to represent burrow before we frosted everything with chocolate frosting. We went with chocolate in part because it is delicious and in part because we needed the cake to look muddy. We then tucked three of the four crayfish lures into the "burrows" after we carefully removed the hooks. They have their claws out like they would in the wild so that they're ready to defend their burrows from challengers. The fourth crayfish didn't have a burrow, so we placed him claw to claw with one of the burrow-holding crayfish to illustrate that it was challenging the resident crayfish to a fight for the burrow. We further decorated the cake with green sprinkles (representing algae) and chocolate sprinkles (representing clumps of mud or small rocks - the piles in front of the "burrows" are there to represent the materials they've excavated while digging the burrows) to give the whole thing a more realistic feel. It was an easy cake to make and the decorations were very simple, but we were quite proud of the realistic feel and scientific accuracy of our cake - until we brought it to the defense and NO ONE WOULD EAT IT! Apparently we had made it too real and people were scared to eat it, thinking that we'd put dead crayfish on it. Jess and I each had a big piece to let everyone know that it really was cake and that it was in fact edible (and tasty!), but we didn't get any takers. Still, Cheryl loved it, so we considered it a success.
Say it with me, folks: AHHHHHHHHHHGGGGG!
So realistic! I love it... after I got over my initial horror.
The next cake is from Carolyn, a grad student working on marine evolutionary genetics.
A few months ago, I helped teach a course in Molecular Ecology. For the last class, I made the students a gel electrophoresis cake as a reward for all their long nights at the gel bench. It's a simple chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream icing. It's iced to accurately reflect the size of the DNA fragments they were amplifying, complete with primer-dimer and a blank well as a control.
Electrophoresis cake, fantastic! It is about time! Now I want to see someone in the field get over their agar repulsion and make a pertri dish cake.
The other cake depicts a kelp forest ecosystem, and was made as a submission to a friend's Art Show and Garden Party. We're mostly all marine biologists, so the cake represents a classic ecological interaction between sea otters (which eat sea urchins), purple sea urchins (which eat kelp), and of course, kelp (which shelters sea otters). The breakdown of this system with the removal of sea otters is a classic example of a trophic cascade-- but this cake ecosystem is balanced and happy, and even has a few garibaldi for color. This is a dark chocolate cake with brandied ganache, decorated with fondant (of course).
This has to be one of the prettiest science cakes submitted to date. Gorgeous.
Our next set of cookies comes from Catherine, a biology undergrad.
I am finishing up my undergrad in Biology this year and taking an 8 week Microbiology class. I decided to spice things up a bit and make micro cookies to share with them all! Here are a few of them: agar plates, scientists and my favorite virus (to learn about not acquire)... the T4 Bacteriophage!! I ended up making these cookie cutters by cutting out the bottom of an aluminum lasagna pan and shaping them around a design I had made on some thick cardboard, and then I stapled it together.
Love the little piping gel goggles on the scientists! And the lasagna pan-cardboard cutters did a great job! Going all Macgyver on the science cookie creation. Right on!
Kristina, a post-doc biochemist/biophysicist sent a sample of her baking. These perfect female spectral karyotype cupcakes!
Based on Martha's Caterpillar Cupcakes.
Because a science cookie roundup wouldn't be complete without some version of a lab mouse, we our next cake by Sunmi.
For the past two years I have been working in a transplant immunology research lab, spending most of my waking hours with the thousands of mice that my lab uses. When I started working full-time, I found myself with free time on my hands for the first time since middle school, so I began trying out new recipes, churning out baked goods faster than my roommates and I could eat them. Of course the natural solution was to bring the excess food to the lab, and pretty soon I became established as the resident baker of the lab. I even received a marriage proposal the first time I brought cookies for the animal facility staff!
I wanted to make something special for this past Friday since it was my last day at the lab, so I turned to your science cookie posts for inspiration. I settled on a mouse(-shaped) cake (not a cake made of mouse!), which got a great reaction from everyone who saw it. Its proportions are like those of a 2- to 3-week-old mouse, which is my favorite age for mice. I like to think of it as the mouse equivalent of the human 2- to 3-year-old, when it is impossible for anyone not to be adorable. :)
The cake in progress:
Great idea for the whiskers!
Our last submission is from one of the youngest bakers to contribute (16!), Chelsea Ann of Chelsea Ann Coconut.
Chelsea sent in these absolutely fantastic cookies representing neurons, neuromuscular junction, spine with nerves.
I just finished a week of work experience with a neurosurgeon! It was absolutely amazing and to say thanks, I made these cookies. I'm a bit proud :)
I think I got everyone in this month's round-up. If I missed you (the blog's email box is roughly 99% spam, it happens), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to be in the next round up, shoot me an email with links or photos of your science-themed edible goodies. Including "Science Cookies" or "Science Roundup" in the subject line helps ensure I don't miss you.