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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just Another Reason to Love Paula Deen

In some ways, I am very much a 40-year-old desperate housewife trapped in a 21-year-old’s body. I enjoy interior decorating; I could spend hours in a craft store; when I get down to it I really don’t mind doing dishes; and more than anything else, I absolutely LOVE baking. One might innocently compare me to a smaller, higher-pitched Martha Stewart, but I could never allow that. Why? Because Martha Stewart is a fucking liar, that’s why.
I own Martha Stewart’s Cookies, one of the most fabulous cookie cookbooks around. That thing is more my Bible than Cosmo and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants combined, but Martha will never be my Jesus. This immense loathing all comes down to one single recipe: Chewy Molasses Crinkles.

Now I’ve stated time and time again that I’m not exactly the best at following directions, and that totally goes for abiding by recipes. Sifting dry ingredients together in a separate bowl only dirties another dish, and that just wastes time and water; I’m trying to be green here (and I might be a little lazy). Regardless of my method, my baked goods always turn out phenomenal so there’s really no room for regrets…and then I tried these cookies. I am completely positive that I did everything correctly in terms of measurements and bake time and all that jazz, and the dough didn’t show any signs of mischievous behavior, so upon popping them in the oven, my tummy and I were fully prepared for the delish treats that Martha promised. Sixteen minutes later I find a cookie sheet of paper thin crispiness that was flatter than a seventh grade girl. “Eff,” I thought, “Did I forget the baking soda? Too much butter? What the crap is this nonsense?” I recheck the recipe and don’t notice any major whoopsies, so I served them to my family with an apology and quietly pondered the mystery. In the book, the recipe is filed under the chapter Soft and Chewy, and these cookies were neither. I don’t have a lot of excitement in my life so clearly this whole ordeal bothered the hell of out of me. It took a few days, but I got over it, and they certainly didn’t taste bad – which is usually the only factor that really matters to me – so I followed the words of Tim Gunn and carried on.
A year later I was flipping through the book following one of my frequent baking whims, and ran across this recipe again. A person can change quite a bit over the course of twelve months, so I figured I’d give it another go. Maybe it was just beginner’s luck, but opposite. Practice makes “almost perfect,” right Martha? WRONG. From the first batch, I got the same exact pan of flat, crunchy, contradictory cookies that I did the year before. Like any good cook, I adjusted my process for the second batch, decreasing the bake time by a whopping four minutes, hoping that the oven was just too mighty for Martha’s soft-spoken, Brooks-Brothers-shirt-wearing, no-sense-of-humor recipe. Yet again, I was defeated. I don’t take well to failure, and on a perseverant try three, I went so far as to make the cookies smaller with an even shorter baking time and only came up with a pile of uncooked molasses pancakes that seemed to mock me with their gooey centers. Say it with me now: FUCK THESE SHENANIGANS.

The review note I wrote to myself on the page of the cookbook. Clearly not amused.

I considered trying this recipe for a third summer in a row this past week, but then I said to myself, “NO, I will not go through such unnecessary agony again. I will not give Martha the sweet satisfaction of loyalty and trust that she expects simply because she’s a domestic goddess and has her own line of scrapbooking supplies at Michael’s. I have HAD it.” Martha Stewart is like the poster child for the obsessive and meticulous, and I never thought she’d steer me so wrong. Is she aware of this atrocious lapse in culinary instruction? Has she demanded a recall of all future publications of this cookbook until a change is made? Have we all caught on to the fact that I still refuse to believe I was the one at fault here? If anyone tries the recipe (reprinted below) and gets perfect results out of it, you have full permission to slander my name all over the internet. Until then, I’m going to go on record saying that Martha is an imposter and might as well stick to making paper cherry blossoms and decoupaging keepsake boxes before I discover another one of her mistakes and ruin her career forever.

Erroneously “Chewy” Molasses Crinkles
·         1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
·         1C packed light brown sugar
·         2 large eggs
·         1/2 C granulated sugar, plus 1/4C for rolling
·         1/2 C unsulfured molasses
·         2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
·         2 C All purpose flour
·         1 tsp. baking soda
·         1 tsp. ground cinnamon
·         1 tsp. ground ginger
·         1 tsp. allspice
·         1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1. Put butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 c granulated sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by the molasses and oil.
2.  Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt.  Cover dough with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
3.  Preheat oven to 325 F.  Put remaining 1/4 c granulated sugar in a bowl.  Using a 1 3/4 inch ice cream scoop, form balls of dough.  Roll balls in sugar to coat, and space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are flat and centers are set, about 17 minutes.  Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.  Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.

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