This is not an atypical way I proceed through a baking project. I know many more experienced bakers have come before me, so I usually start with some basics from a recipe that I’ve found that sort of sounds like what I want and I alter it (sometimes significantly) from there. Sometimes I make a colossal mistake and manage to make a save in the end. Take my recent foray into peanut butter cookies, for example.
My younger son Scott and I had made Ovenly’s Salted Peanut Butter Cookies a few weeks before from a recipe my partner Jenn had clipped from the newspaper. I thought the cookies were very good, but thought they might be even BETTER if they had chocolate chips and maybe some oats mixed in. This is the sort of thinking that gets me into trouble.
At 6:30 am on this particular Saturday, I couldn’t find the clipped recipe, so I went to the google machine. If it had been in the paper, surely it was also on-line, right? I came up with this: http://munchies.vice.com/recipes/peanut-butter-cookies. Go look there now. Bookmark this page because you’ll want to make the original version some time. Note the very pretty font, and how artful it makes the numbers look. Now imagine you are 50 and looking at it on your iPhone and you’re not wearing your reading glasses. Proceed apace.
6:35 am – Find the recipe on your phone and begin amassing the ingredients on the counter top: Five ingredients, plus the addition of chocolate chips and maybe oats. Decide to double the recipe.
6:37 am – You preheat the oven to 350 and remember from last time that your brown sugar is rock hard. Google “How to soften rock hard brown sugar.”
6:40 am – Check the recipe and carefully measure ¾’s of a cup X 2 of brown sugar on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel and microwave until soft. Fail to notice that you’ve misread the quantity of sugar you need.
6:45 am – While the sugar is softening, put two eggs in each pocket of your jeans to quickly bring them to room temperature. Pat yourself on the back for being so clever to think of this the last time you made these cookies and having it work so well when there was just one egg per pocket.
6:46 am – Drop the kitchen towel. Bend over to get it. Hear/feel an egg break in your right pocket. Stand upright and immediately fish the eggs out of your right pocket. Assess that only one egg broke, and, thanks to that weird egg membrane thing, discover that most of the goodness of the broken egg is still contained. Salvage what you can. You decide that there is enough egg substance to not add more egg. Put a dry paper towel in your pocket to absorb the wet egg. Take the other two eggs out of your left pocket. Decide that they are warm enough already, dammit. Make a mental note to not do this with more than one egg per pocket again.
6:50 am – Add the warm and soft brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk them together. Since the recipe calls for even parts sugar and peanut butter, you measure ¾’s cup X 2 of Skippy and begin mixing, feeling kind of smug that you have the exact brand name that the authors suggest. Last time, you used a mixer (trying to mitigate the chunks of rock hard brown sugar), but this time you decide to just mix by hand as the recipe directs.
6:55 am – You note that the batter/dough is much runnier than last time. You decide it’s because you are mixing by hand. You get out the mixer. The batter/dough remains runny, nothing like the Playdoh consistency they suggest. You disregard the evidence in front of you that something might be amiss. You decide to skip the chocolate and oats for this first pan and proceed dripping the mixture onto the parchment paper-lined baking pan.
7:00 am – After drizzling the batter into circles on 2/3rds of the baking pan, you finally put on your reading glasses and check the recipe again, noting your error and swearing off delicate, swirly fonts forever. You consider trying to scrape/pour the batter back into the bowl, but determine that the batter loss would be too substantial. You finish out the pan and put them into the oven. You suspect the cooking time of 16-18 minutes will be too long, so you set the timer for 11 minutes.
7:02 am – You realize that you forgot to sprinkle sea salt on the top. Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the blobs with salt. Put the pan back in the oven. Reset the timer for 10 minutes.
7:03 am – Drink some coffee. Decide to add equal yet random amounts of brown sugar and peanut butter to the remaining batter to see if you can rescue the batch.
7:07 am – Add in ¼ cup oats and spoon half of the now-Playdoh-like dough onto the pizza pan lined with parchment paper. Forget to add the salt. Put them in the oven. Set a second timer for 13 minutes. Peek at the PB blobs to assess their likelihood of being food later. Leave them in the oven.
7:10 am – Add ¼ cup of chocolate chips to the remaining cookie dough. Drink coffee and browse facebook while waiting for the timer on the first pan. Decide that buying in a second cookie sheet might be worth the investment.
7:12 am – Turn off the timer. Check the first pan. Decide to leave them in a little longer. Reset the timer for 3 minutes. Return to Facebook.
7:15 am – Turn off the timer. Decide that the first batch of cookies are done. Take them out and set the cookie sheet on a cooking rack.
7:17 am – Without waiting long enough, slide the sheet of cookie-laden parchment paper directly onto the rack so that you can use the cookie sheet to pan the last of the dough.
7:18 am – Line the pan with parchment paper. Spoon out the chocolate-chip-peanut butter-oats dough. Remember to add the salt on top. Peek at the pizza pan of cookies. Decide to move them to the bottom shelf and put the last batch in the oven on the top shelf. Set the timer for 13 minutes.
7:19 am – Peel a peanut butter blob off the parchment paper and give it a try. Decide that they are edible and dub them peanut butter wafer cookies. Realize you forgot to take a picture of the wafers on rack and snap one anyway.
7:20 am – Turn off the timer and check the pizza pan cookies. Give them a couple more minutes. Drink coffee. Watch that adorable baby in the tub with dachshunds video.
7:23 am – Take the pizza pan cookies out of the oven. Slide the parchment of cookies immediately to a cooling rack since it looks like they might be a little too brown on the bottom.
7:30 am – Sample a pb-oats cookie. Decide they are awesome. Be very self-satisfied.
7:32 am – Take the final pan of salted choco-oats-pb cookies out of the oven. Turn the oven off.
7:35 am – Split one of the final cookies with your son, who has wandered downstairs in his pajama bottoms to see what smells so good. Declare the warm cookies to be maybe the best ever created.
7:37 am – Know that you will never be able to replicate these cookies. Be pleased anyway, because you can probably get close to replicating them. Forget to take a picture. By the time you remember, your appreciative family will have eaten all but the weird peanut butter wafer cookies.
There you have it. Bake on!