I’m not a baker, but I have baked.
My mother baked a lot. I probably participated in baking at home, but my first memorable baking experience was with a lemon meringue pie. The occasion was a dinner, prepared with Wally (Carol’s roommate’s boyfriend at the time) in Carol and Sue’s apartment kitchen as a preface to my asking Carol to please marry me. I think I asked her before in Doug’s beat up ’53 Chevy, parked in front of my fraternity house (in the front seat!). But this occasion was with ring. The pie, crust made from scratch, was a success, as was the proposal.
I don’t bake because a whole pie or cake is a real commitment to desserts and Carol and I are not dessert eaters. I’m not particularly fond of sweets, either, except for the occasional mid-morning or mid-afternoon cookie. That’s why it struck a chord when I read of San Andreas Cookies in the Wednesday Chef: “But I’d be lying if I said that an afternoon chocolate fix isn’t something I look forward to on most days. It has to be dark and not too sweet. It has to be the right size: not so big that I’ll feel gluttonous after eating the whole thing, and not so small that I keep reaching for more.” The cookies you get at a corner store or coffee shop are just too damn big, and expensive. So I copied this recipe and went shopping for baking stuff.
Another thing about baking, it takes a lot of equipment, okay, a mixer, food processor and a flour sifter. Then again, this gives me a chance to highlight another of my eatsforone essentials, the Braun MultiMix with mixer, blender and chopper attachments. It’s the perfect size for small batch stuff, doesn’t take up a lot of space for storage and is easy to clean. I used the mixer part on the eggs and the chopper part on the almonds (in two batches). Otherwise, this recipe is about assembly.
And assembly is where I screwed the pooch. First of all, my timing got screwed up when I realized that these puppies have to chill overnight in the refrigerator. Okay, they’ll be a day late. I had my almonds chopped, dry ingredients measured and sugar and eggs beaten and I put that stuff together, as the recipe said, in a bowl, into the fridge. Saturday morning I took the bowl out of the fridge and the dough was ROCK HARD. I scanned the recipe and found an overlooked six tablespoons of milk that go in along with the dry ingredients. That would explain it. That’s a lot of milk to go missing. I let the dough sit out all day and it got no softer, so I zapped it into a gooey mess and kneaded in the milk by hand, back in the fridge.
Sunday morning, the dough is somewhat workable and I make the requisite balls and bake. Out of the oven they are, well, balls; not “cookies with a dark interior and a snowy, crackled top.” And if you squeeze, they crumble. They taste okay, very chocolaty but dry, not “tender and melting within.” For the second batch, I make patties, they are terrible, totally dry and bitter.
I’m not one to throw things out, but I did dispose of the second batch, the first batch is just good enough to eat, although it will take a long time, as nobody wants to share.