November 29, 2009
This is not a baking blog: NaCoBakMo Day 2
The odd thing about starting something goofy like baking a fresh batch of cookies every day between now and Christmas Eve is not really the fact of doing something so unnecessary and calorific. I’m more alarmed by the idea that my blog, defunct though it has been for quite some time, will have a completely different focus for the next month or so.
I fully appreciate the goodness that baking and cooking blogs have to offer. I enjoy them and frequently turn to them for recipes and tips; I admire the alluring photos and mouth-watering descriptions; I envy the authors’ family-feeding competence and creativity. However, I do not feel a writerly kinship with food bloggers.
Most days, I fear, my meal preparation activities would fail to impress a food blogger audience. I enjoy cooking and do it reasonably well, but my great accomplishments have little to do with creating innovative, spectacular meals with handpicked produce and the like. When I was first married I was a weekend-type cook, making huge, complicated meals as entertainment, then ordering the same stupid-waste-of-money baked spaghetti delivery meal night after night on weekdays. Now I just long to make food my kids will eat, and I am engaged in a perpetually valiant, often futile struggle not to waste the ingredients I buy. In perfect seriousness I am proudest of having truly mastered the art of the roast chicken and a spectacularly consistent omelette technique. It’s no exaggeration to say that I worked on those for twenty years.
All this is to say that my blog is a Pictures from a Nervous Breakdown blog. Only for a very good cause (supporting the Irving Park Community Food Pantry through a cookie care packages-for-donations scheme) will it be suffering from a significant Am I a Food Blog? identity crisis for the next thirty days or so. Still, I’m certain that the nervous breakdown aspect will hardly disappear. In fact, I’m anticipating it will be tough to find the cookie recipes buried in the raving mania around December 15 or so.
Well. Now that the legal disclaimers are out of the way, I present yesterday’s efforts: soft pumpkin cookies with maple icing.
I went with pumpkin because we were feasting on the backup turkey I had squirreled away in my refrigerator on the day before Thanksgiving just in case my H1N1-infected daughter had not recovered in time for us to accept our friends’ invitation (she did, and we went, and it was fantastic). I wanted a cookie that would complement the turkey (done on the Weber kettle, by the way; the secret is to forget about the upper grate and place the turkey in a roasting pan on top of one or two clean bricks surrounded by hot coals), mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, fresh bread, and champagne feast we were having in honor of Unfocused Me’s NaNoWriMo win. These were very successful in that they really, really taste like pumpkin pie. A lot. Alternatively, they suggest a gorgeous, extra light and fluffy pumpkin muffin top.
Sadly, I think they will not be so successful in the shipping process. The icing was tricky: I really wanted to use a royal icing recipe, so it would firm up nicely for transport, but, not having any meringue powder hanging about, I started to worry about salmonella from the uncooked egg whites. (Mind you, I would never be concerned about this for my own family’s sake. I think nothing of living dangerously in such a manner. However, on your behalf I will be more cautious.) The icing application waited until today (I was a little swamped with the whole turkey dinner thing yesterday) so I’m going to wait a bit to see how it sets before making a determination on these cookies’ destinies.
Soft Pumpkin Cookies with Maple Icing
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Maple Icing (see note below)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixer bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm (mine took 18 minutes). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle glaze over cookies.
Maple Icing: I completely made this up. It had probably more of a frosting consistency by the time I was done tinkering with it, as I was hoping to get it to set up well. Basically I went with a bunch of powdered sugar, a little vanilla, and some maple syrup. I tested that mixture out, then decided to add some butter. Then some more powdered sugar, and, well, maybe you ought to turn to teh Google for a better idea of how to handle this. Very tasty, though.
Tomorrow: chocolate makes its first appearance!