2014: The Year of Cookies

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I cannot fight it: cookies are one of my favorite treats to indulge in.  We all know that cookies are THE BEST when they have just been taken out of the oven, have cooled for a few minutes, but are still warm and chocolate bits (if any) are slightly gooey.  To me though, I will still crave a cookie from the cookie jar 5 days after it’s been baked, so long as it’s a chewy cookie.  Drop cookies, above anything, must be chewy.  They can’t be too thin, especially around the edges, or be too thick in the middle (a sign that the wrong flour or leavening was used).  Cookies should be the same thickness throughout, so that when you bite down into the cookies, the cookie gives the perfect amount of resistance to slow down your upper jaw from touching down on your bottom jaw.  This way, your taste buds get a little more time to distinguish the star ingredients of whatever cookie you’re enjoying.  I simply love the cookie experience!

Cookies are the perfect dessert for social gatherings. Because they are individual sized, you can take as many or as little servings as you’d like.  They are not heavy as brownies, cake, or pie.  They can be made to compliment any meal (i.e. – Green tea cookies for Japanese night or Mexican hot chocolate cookies for Mexican night!).  Furthermore, cookies are the sweetest surprise, as they are always appreciated as presents, in care packages, or as dinner party contributions!

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Sometimes I include a little reminder on the packaging:IMG_5394

This past year was a great year for building my cookie recipe box.  Oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip used to be the main cookies that I would bake, but now, I am constantly looking for fun and interesting recipes that everyone will love.  Part of this desire to explore different cookie recipes comes from my time working as a curriculum designer for children’s cooking classes.  My job was to put together lesson plans that included recipes that we would teach children to cook.  Often times, there would be a cultural theme I’d have to follow, so I would try to find cookie recipes that are traditional to a certain country’s cuisine.   Another reason I went on a cookie recipe binge was because my wonderful boyfriend invested in my very own KitchenAid stand mixer for my 25th birthday.

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For years I have been mixing my wet ingredients with my dry ingredients using a vintage hand mixer (pics coming soon).  I didn’t want to part with this thing and even considered asking my boyfriend, Shaun, to return the KitchenAid.  I always thought I would need the stand mixer later on in my domestic baking career.  I mean, it’s a big investment after all.  However, after some convincing from fellow home cooks and bakers, they assured me that I would love the appliance. (It has the capability to roll out fresh pasta dough, for crying out loud!) My last question before getting the courage to open the box: “Do I have to retire my hand mixer?”  In case I haven’t made this clear, this hand mixer has been in my family for decades.  It is what my mom used in the 80s to make cakes and sweet breads when she, my pop, and my brothers first moved into our home.  It is also what I used when I was first learning how to bake when I was a teenager.  My aunt, Tita Bia, was the one who showed me where my mom had kept it.  She taught me to always stow away the metal attachments in the same place immediately after washing them, so they wouldn’t get misplaced among the many kitchen drawers.  To this day, the mixer works great after all these years.  Sure, the motor can get a little tired if the batter is especially thick, but it has never failed me.

So, I wanted to know if my kitchen was “big enough” for the two appliances, or would this be the end of my old hand mixer’s career?  The answer was no – well, not necessarily.  The women I consulted about this told me I could use the KithenAid for heavy duty baking and mixing and still use my hand mixer for smaller batters, like pancakes, let’s say.  (In truth, my hand mixer has not been used since I began using my KitchenAid, though I will probably still keep it around.)

When I was ready to open the KitchenAid box a few days after my birthday, I used my pocket knife to slice open the packaging tape.  I did it quick and fast, so as not to give myself enough time to want to return it again.  When I opened the two panels of cardboard, I realized there was a big section of mixer not covered by styrofoam, and to my absolute horror, I saw that my pocket knife left a 2 inch long, barely-noticeable scratch on the paint job of my formerly mint condition stand mixer.  I had weathered it before it was even taken out of the box!  In that instant, I wanted to hang my apron up and give up on baking for the rest of my life.  Shaun assured me, as I had my face in my hands, that it gave it character.  Now my KitchenAid is, truly, the only one of its kind.  So if my KitchenAid ever went to a party with other red KitchenAid mixers, mine would stand out.

My box cutter went a little deeper than intended and left a 2 inch long scratch at the top. Most people would not be able to notice, but I did…

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Here, you can see I went from 0 to slightly too high which caused the dry ingredients to make a little dusting on my table.

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The first batter I ever made with my KitchenAid was for funfetti cupcakes.  Shaun had been asking for funfetti cupcakes, so I thought it would be appropriate.  I was amazed at how easy it made everything.  Batters can be made in 10 minutes or less!  There were no cramps in my hand from a rumbling hand mixer.  The attachments and stainless steep bowl were a cinch to clean-up.  Like I said, I haven’t had a need to use my hand mixer since.  The KitchenAid is, as Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes says, like having a Ferrari in the kitchen.  It’s true.  In the past three months, I’ve used my KitchenAid to make 1-2 batches of cookies a week and I’ve also used it to help me make croissants multiple times and get practice with my cupcakes.  Needless to say, it’s been a delicious (and fattening!) past couple of months!

Even more than I love the taste and experience of cookies, I love the feeling of sharing cookies with a group, which is why I will be posting some awesome recipes with pictures on here in the next couple of months.  For the sake of post consistency, I have designated Wednesdays as Cookie Jar Wednesdays!   Also, my next venture is to create HEALTHY cookie recipes that are still a) fun for me to make and b) chewy and consistent in texture as the cookies I love.  Ideally, they won’t break apart even when I use alternatives to all purpose flour, sugar, and butter.  (I can’t stand when cookies easily crumble apart when I bite into them!) Expect to see some new and classic cookie recipes each week on Live life. Love others., and towards the end of the year, I will start to post my trials with more health conscious cookie recipes.  For now, everything in moderation! 🙂

My kitchen ‘Chalk Talk’ inspired by Black Kids lyrics:

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In addition, Fridays are going to be Freshly Baked Fridays that will include posts on the awesome tales and fails of my artisan bread and pastry making.

Hope you enjoy and get to try some of these recipes in your own kitchen!  Happy baking!

How about you:
– What is your favorite cookie OF ALL TIME?
– Do you have any kitchen appliances that you just can’t seem to part with?
– What are some of your special techniques or substitutions when baking healthy cookies/treats?

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