What I’ve Been Baking

IMG_6749.JPGThis is the end of my third week of freedom — I mean, freelancing. I admit I took some much-needed time off, even though I was fielding calls from recruiters and had some interviews and landed a freelance gig. I have been running more. I have been blogging more. I have been reading more. And I’ve started baking again.

Right now in my oven are the vegan chocolate chip cookies I recently posted to FB about. The description on Food52 contained this phrasing, which caught my eye (talk about an understatement): “. . . its soft-bellied, chewy, caramelly-crisp-edged, rippled and ringed and puddled with melty chocolate, well-salted . . .” Why hello, cookie of my dreams.

But before we talk about them, here’s what else I’ve been baking:

  • A crumb-topped apple-pear pie. The apples were mostly local, the pears picked from a running buddy’s pear tree a few blocks away, the pie crust and topping recipes were from Peter Davis’s Fresh & Honest. If you want a cookbook of simple, honest food that’s about as New England as you can get, this is the cookbook for you. Despite my longstanding phobia about homemade pie crust, this came out ok. (Confession: I used my food processor. But I still had to roll it out!) The crumb topping was divine (it’s hard to go wrong with sugar and butter).
  • Parsnip-apple-raisin-walnut muffins. Like Morning Glory muffins, but with parsnips. I had one at a friend’s house and it was excellent. So I went home and found a recipe and made them (I mean, how many recipes can be out there for such a combo)? I accidentally shredded, rather than grated my parsnips, resulting in long thick tough strands. Did I let that stop me, or details like proper measuring of the shredded parsnips? No way! Did I bother to notice that the recipe made two dozen muffins instead of just one? Nope! Do they look like weird little porcupines with all the shreds of parsnip sticking out? Yup! Does anyone here besides me like them? Of course not. Would you like one? Please?

    An appearance that's hard to love

    An appearance that’s hard to love

  • Gingerbread. The deepest, blackest, most gingery gingerbread ever, also from the Peter Davis book. It is excellent on its own or with whipped cream, and everyone here likes it, so that’s a win.
  • Vegan chocolate chip cookies. And this all brings us back to the cookies. I love chocolate chip cookies, and these sounded really good. I don’t care that they’re vegan. I mean, I fully support their vegan condition, but that wasn’t a draw for me.

I did what I was told, mostly, except I used half white, half whole wheat flour instead of all white, because I always do. I tossed the chocolate chips into the flour. The flour didn’t coat them, and it looked like an awful lot of chocolate chips. I beat the oil, water, and sugar. I combined everything thoroughly but minded the warning not to overmix. I tried not to be concerned that it looked like a sandy mix, like pastry dough before you add the few teaspoons of ice water to hold everything together. I dutifully refrigerated it overnight.

Scoop this?

Scoop this?

After my second run today (don’t ask), I took it out, hoping to follow the next step and scoop it onto a parchment-lined tray. You cannot scoop loose sand that’s littered with chocolate chips. I added more water and (if you’re a diehard vegan, don’t read this part) a beaten egg.* While I still think there were about 1/4 cup too many chocolate chips, at least the batter held together this time.

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Onto the cookie sheets it went! The recipe suggested freezing the trays with the scooped batter for ten minutes before baking, but — oh-so-hilarious to discover after I’d emptied a shelf in our freezer — my baking trays are too wide for our freezer shelves. A quick grind of sea salt on top (Himalayan pink, if you must know) and into the oven they went.

They certainly smelled good. And they taste really good. You don’t get the butter and vanilla flavor you might be used to, but they’re still really good. And they look fine — not like the picture in the recipe, of course, but fairly normal.

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Yes, I said they look “normal” because my chocolate chip cookies always look like this. They’re never lovely and round and flat. They’re baked lumps, always.

Would I make them again? Definitely. Would I add an egg next time, too? If I needed to. Would I add vanilla next time? Hell yes. Will this be my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe? Probably not. The one I used before was just fine. But these would be handy if I were out of butter or wanted to make delicious vegan cookies. I don’t love the 12-hour lag time, because I am a fairly spontaneous baker.

But these are a good, butter-free cookie, and next time I will pay extremely close attention to the measurements instead of just eyeballing the water, and next time I will not add an egg. I swear. And also now I will stop eating them so that my family can actually enjoy a few, too.

*Also we had one egg left in the carton, which always seems ridiculous to me, so I was happy to add it to the cookie batter.

Note: I am aware that I am a terrible photographer. One day I might work on that. Or I might not.

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