Tuesday for me is grocery shopping day, which means I spend a portion of Tuesday afternoon (it’s usually quiet at work) planning suppers for the week. Somehow, this is always an agonizing process where I just can’t think of things to make.
Having a very long list of things to bake helps, because I can pick a few days a week to make something to incorporate into supper, or pick a day when I’ll bake something sweet that kind of replaces a meal, because we’re not health zealots and stop looking at me so judgmentally.
However, plans fail when the whole attention to detail thing doesn’t come through. When I made a pie at Easter, I accidentally made a double pie crust recipe. No problem, I thought. I’ll make some other kind of pie in a week or so.
Well, that week or so got stretched for two and a half, and that disk of pie crust in the fridge had gone kind of gray and off-flavored. So, the free form apple pie I had planned was down. However, I had bought some baking apples for the occasion, so what else could I make? Basic fruit cobbler, I decided, after looking over ingredients lists for recipes.
According to King Arthur Flour, crisps are fruit topped with a streusel topping, sans oatmeal; crumbles have oatmeal in the topping; and cobblers are fruit “baked under (or in) a blanket of crust or cake.” Works for me. Their basic fruit cobbler, which can be made with any kind of fruit, has fruit baked on top of a cake base.
I only mostly had the ingredients for this recipe. At the outset, I really planned to make each recipe 100 percent correct to the book, but I’ve realized that’s just not always going to happen with how quickly I decide I want to bake things.
My missing ingredient was half a cup of sherry, brandy, or bourbon. Their suggested replacement for alcohol was a complex mix of flavor extracts and water, which I could have made, but decided instead to opt for rum. I have half a bottle in the bottom of a cabinet Husband got mostly to try and I’ve been using it just a tablespoon or so at a time in appropriate recipes. Husband and I don’t drink much–in fact, at the age of 25 I can say I’ve so far failed to develop a taste for alcohol–so I want to use it up. Sure, the alcohol content and flavor profile may be different, but since it was unlikely I was going to buy any of the other options for a solitary recipe….
The alcohol and some sugar get cooked into a syrup, in which the fruit is coated before being poured on top of the cake. I was impatient, so I’m not sure my syrup got syrupy enough. I also failed to read the text closely, and made my syrup in a small saucepan, rather than a medium, which meant I had to coat the apples in the syrup in batches because the pot was too small.
I was worried that my syrup was just too liquidous and that the cobbler wasn’t going to turn out, and though it was slightly gooey, possibly from being underbaked, it turned out quite good. So good, in fact, that Husband ate all the leftovers over two days.
Yesterday saw another last-minute recipe with an ingredient substitution, though a slightly more reasonable one. We decided we wanted something sweet after supper, so I whipped up the simple sugar cookie recipe. I substituted a mix of plain yogurt and milk for the buttermilk.
Things went together pretty smoothly, but again, lack of attention to detail caused problems. KAF says the recipe makes about 1 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies. I scooped out the dough with a 1.5 tablespoon disher, which made 16 perfect balls of dough, which I then pinched small pieces from until I had dough for the last two cookies, which really was entirely unnecessary. Interestingly, in the final cookies, I could tell the difference, as they kept their shape. Mixing the dough with my hand mixer made it very light, and the cookies made from pressed-together dough looked more smushed and smooth.
The two options for these cookies were to scoop them, which would leave them chewy, or press them flat for crispy. I love chewy cookies, hence the scooping, but upon tasting them I really think this dough suits a crispy cookie better. They’re not overly sweet, so the crunch–perhaps with a layer of icing–would really add something.
My main detail-oriented problem was that I left my lower oven rack in the bottom position. Since I rotate my cookies halfway through, I thought eh, it’ll be fine. Halfway through the cooking time, the bottom pan was already brown on the bottom, though a little doughy on the top, so I moved the rack for the latter half of baking. Some of the cookies were almost burned on the bottom, but not quite.
All in all, the cookies were quick and easy, but I’m always going to like a butter-flavored cookie over one made with shortening.
I’ve been writing this post in between turns of puff pastry, for which I did do a lot of planning. There’ve been some hiccups so far, but I’m getting excited at how these are going to turn out. Come back tomorrow to see how croissants de pâtissier respond to the power of planning ahead.