Monday, January 30, 2012

The One Where the Baker Won't Share

Hello all! Sorry for the long absence. I spontaneously decided to go home last weekend which was nice because I got to go out to dinner for NYC restaurant week. Hey, check out me embedding links like that! I'm getting better at this! But don't go look at that yet. Finish reading this first, of course! Anyway, I planned ahead and brought one of my new cookbooks home with me (from now on, books related specifically to baking will be referred to as cookbooks because baking books sounds weird). I brought with me Martha Stewart Cookies partially because the next recipe in the Cake Boss book is for peanut butter cookies and my mom doesn't care for peanut butter and partially because the book has so many pictures! Seriously, instead of an index, it's just pages of pictures with the name of the cookie and the page number listed underneath. Can't go wrong with that.

So, this time, I let my mom choose the cookie we would make because I'm sick of deciding myself. She decided on the Pecan Tassies. Now, to paraphrase every graduation speech ever, the dictionary defines tassie as "1) a cup, goblet, or glass or 2) the contents of such a vessel." Yes, I did just have to look that up because neither my mom nor I knew what a tassie was and in fact, we kept calling these cookies Pecan Tartlets by mistake. Martha is very big on tartlets so that's where our confusion came from. Anyway, I'm rambling without even giving you a clear idea of what we're making! Silly me. Essentially, what we're looking at is a pastry shell molded into a mini muffin tin and filled with pecan filling and baked. I guess that's where the cup definition comes in because they look like little cups of delicious.

Now that we know what we're dealing with, let's get down to it. The first step was making the dough for the pastry crust. I put my mom in charge of finely chopping the pecans to go in the dough. It's a good thing I was making this cookie at home because guess what I don't have in my kitchen? That's right, a food processor! So my mom pulls out this teeny tiny food processor that looks like it hasn't been touched for twenty years. Seriously, the base was caked with grime. It grossed me out. My mom thoroughly cleaned it though and used it to chop up a bunch of pecans. Cool. Meanwhile, I had the extremely challenging job of combining butter (only half a stick!) and mascarpone cheese. I'll be honest, I don't really know what mascarpone cheese is but I'm told it's like Italian cream cheese. Sure, I can buy that. Oh, and by the way, it wasn't extremely challenging. It was actually absurdly easy. I could have combined this stuff with a wooden spoon.

From there, I added the flour. The recipe called for "a pinch of salt". Now, I don't really know what a pinch is and we used salted butter instead of unsalted so my mom and I decided that there was probably a pinch of salt in the butter so we eliminated that step. A pinch...Martha obviously thinks I'm more knowledgeable than I am. Then, we stirred in the finely chopped pecans and voila! The dough for the crust was done.

I forgot to mention that while all this was happening, we had the remaining pecans for the filling in the oven to be toasted before adding. Wow. Toasted pecans. Here's a tip: always toast your nuts. The smell is amazing. Fortunately, Martha specified that the pecans should be toasted so I got to experience the beauty of toasting nuts. It's not too challenging. Just stick them on a baking pan and put in the oven at about 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. It really brings out the flavor and aroma of the nuts and it's magical. Just keep an eye on them because burnt nuts do not smell good. I know that from Thanksgiving chestnuts that we forget about in the oven pretty much every year. Alright, that was my ode to toasted nuts. Let's return to the baking, shall we?

From there, I gave my mom the job of molding the dough into the mini muffin tin. She had to roll the dough into 1 inch balls and press it into the bottom and up the sides of the cups in the tin. I appreciated her taking that job so I wouldn't have to get my hands dirty (Thanks Mom!). Meanwhile, I was busy making the filling. The filling only contains an egg, vanilla extract, maple syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and pecans. Mmmmmmm. You just can't go wrong with those ingredients. Martha instructed me to whisk all those ingredients together. It mostly went well except for the butter. I whisked my hardest but I still had some small lumps of butter. After that, my mom took over and she was able to get everything a bit more combined. Mommies always save the day. From there, I just had to fill the cups of dough with the filling and bake for 15 minutes.

Let me tell you, letting those tassies cool completely in the pan was torture. They smelled so so so good and we just wanted to dive in and eat them. Not fair. Eventually though, they did cool and we were able to easily lift them from the pan. Here's two pictures of the result, including a side shot so you can see how tall these tassies are:

Adorable, right? Only Martha makes desserts that adorable. And the taste, oh the taste! They're delicious! They're amazing! They're scrumptious! They're not really sweet at all, the crust is soft but neither soggy nor crumbly, and the whole thing together just tastes light and delightful. Now, all that said, here's my dilemma. My mom and I each had two last night and they were lovely. I left some for her when I headed back to CT this morning. Which means that I have about 10 for myself. 10 isn't a lot to share with people, right? I mean, I can't bring them to colloquium because there wouldn't be enough. I could just share with a couple people but you know what? I don't want to! I'm trying to justify not sharing these with people but (as I pop another of these into my mouth) they're just so good that I don't want to share them! I'm sorry! I will not give up my Pecan Tassies! And if that makes me a bad person, then I don't want to be good!

Side notes: I am eliminating the Critical Reception part of my blog. It isn't fun to write and I'm fairly sure it isn't fun to read. Also, please somebody let me know if I should start including links to these recipes in my blog. I get all of my recipes from cookbooks but many of them can be found online. If anyone is interested, please leave a comment so I know to include recipes. Baking is fun! Get in the game with me!

A Disney Moment: One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Here it is, the winner of this group of five, 101 Dalmatians. The movie kicks off with a great tone. The credits at the beginning are fun and are not just lists of names. This is the first instance we see of Disney really having fun with the opening credits. This is a trend that continues through the next few movies and can include some of my favorite moments in the film. So anyway, the credits are adorable and fun. That's the first positive point about this movie.

The second is that, remembering that I am not a dog lover, these puppies are all adorable. I just want to hug them. Pairing that cuteness with the pure and slightly psychotic evil of Cruella De Vil really lets you feel the fear that the puppies have for her. I mean, her character design and her voice is just fantastic. I love it.

Musically, there isn't a lot to say because there are only three songs. But "Cruella De Vil" is a classic. I love the jaunty quality to the song and the lyrics are clever and fun. And I know it's barely even a song but the Kanine Krunchies jingle is awesome. It always gets stuck in my head but it's so cute.

Other small things I loved were the dogs matching the owners in looks, the narration at the beginning by Pongo, the What's My Crime game show that the villains were watching, the cameos by characters from Lady and the Tramp, and the smooth pace of the film. Honestly, the only place where the movie felt like it dragged was the scene with Sarge which lasted about two minutes too long. That's my only complaint though. The movie just works. Loved it from start to finish and that's why it's ranked a 1/5 (though, admittedly, a very close 1/5 to Sleeping Beauty).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Showdown

Welcome back! Today I continued powering through the Baking with the Cake Boss cookbook. The second recipe in the book is for Double Chocolate Chip cookies. I was excited to try these and compare them to the Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge cookies in the Death By Chocolate cookbook. Those cookies were basically magic so I was having trouble imagining a cookie being any better than those. So let's begin and find out, shall we? 

Step one was the usual creaming of butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Have I ever mentioned how much I love the smell of brown sugar? Seriously, the second I open the bag, I start to smile. It's pretty much like crack to me. Happy happy brown sugar. Yes, I know I'm crazy, moving on. Step two was adding the cocoa, extra-large egg, and vanilla extract. Buddy mentions the importance of using good cocoa in recipes. He specifies a couple brands I've never heard of but said that it's really where you should spend your money to get good quality. So, I decided to splurge and get Ghirardelli cocoa (which was the only option in the store besides Hershey's). I also now have extra-large eggs so I didn't even need to substitute for those. So far so good.  There was a slight glitch with the vanilla today. I used up the last of one of those tiny bottles of vanilla extract so I had to open up the big bottle that I have. I'm not sure why but it didn't pour nicely. I was holding it upside down and it was barely drizzling out. It was very odd. And yes, I did remove the protective paper stuff from the top of the bottle. This may continue to be a mystery to be explored further at a later date. 

Oh! I totally forgot to mention something super important! Santa brought me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas!!! So this was my first chance to use my brand new, super shiny, totally awesome KitchenAid mixer. The MixMaster has been retired to the basement. It served me admirably these past few months but it was time for something more advanced for some more advanced baking. I was especially excited that the KitchenAid has a big whisk for whipping egg whites and a dough hook. The possibilities are endless! 

Ok, geekout over. The next step was to add two tablespoons of whole milk. Yeah, I definitely don't have whole milk. I'm more of a skim milk sort of person. However, here is what Buddy has to say on the subject: "If you have a preference for low- or reduced-fat milk, I respect that, but I encourage you to use whole milk in your baking if at all possible. The final product will taste better, and that fat helps bind the ingredients." Duly noted. That does make some sense so maybe in the future I'll consider buying some whole milk for my baking. Any thoughts from my readers on that one? Is it like the difference between salted and unsalted butter where I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter? 

Next step was adding the flour and baking powder which was uneventful. Finally, just added some semisweet chocolate chips and was ready to go with the baking. I was instructed to break the dough into small pieces and roll them in my hands to make meatball-size balls. Really? Meatball size? Big meatballs or little meatballs? What are non-Italians supposed to do with such a direction? Additionally, is it really necessary to roll them into balls so that my hands are a mess? Couldn't I have just used a spoon to measure out the cookies? So many questions! Now, the recipe was supposed to yield 24 cookies. I strongly disagreed with that assessment. I made 37 cookies instead. If I had made 24 cookies, they would have been gigantic and that would have been silly. 

Bake until flat and hot. Wait, really? Bake until HOT? That is perhaps one of the stupidest directions I've ever read in a cookbook besides "Do not overbake." Of course they're going to be hot, they're in an oven! Also, the cookies did not entirely flatten out. Which makes me wonder how they would have cooked if I had them made them the prescribed size. Plus, I was instructed to "not leave in the oven for more than 15 minutes, no matter what." Cake Boss is a little bossy. Anywho, I tried one and I think they were actually a little bit underbaked (so I left the second batch in more than 15 minutes and screw the directions!). I'm going to declare that they're not quite as good as the Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge cookies. They're a bit more cakey and are pretty sweet whereas the Deep Dark cookies were more, well, deep and dark in flavor. As far as looks go, they look like Double Chocolate Chip cookies. See for yourself: 

Critical Reception: 
I haven't gotten a lot of feedback on the butter cookies. I still think they're delicious. Not that many people ate them. One person said that these were good but the butterscotch cookies were still the best cookies he has ever had. Ever. Which I consider to be a high compliment so happy!

A Disney Moment: Sleeping Beauty
Onward to the next group of 5 films! This grouping includes Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats. In a somewhat controversial decision, I will be ranking Sleeping Beauty as a 2/5. However, I will say that Sleeping Beauty ranks a 1/5 in beauty of animation. It really is a beautiful film. Here's some of my other random thoughts: 

The fairies are not the brightest. Seriously, hide the princess through all of her birthday! Lie about when her birthday is so that you don't have to use magic to make a birthday cake! Don't let her wander off alone on her birthday! Anything! Yes, yes, I know that without these poor choices, we wouldn't have a movie but it still bugged me. My sister and I (but mostly my sister) were also bothered by the prince's disproportionate hands. Otherwise, the prince was much better animated than other princes but his hands were way too big for his tiny arms. I also didn't really care for the time that was spent on the kings of the two kingdoms chatting. Ok, those were the negatives. 

There were many positives though. I like the personalities of the faires. I think that for the brief times that we see Aurora and the prince, they are good characters. The music is awesome. I like Once Upon a Dream, the other choral pieces were kind of forgettable, and the adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty score fits well and is beautiful. Tchaikovsky is the shit. I could listen to his music all day. Let's see, what else? Oh, Maleficient is absolutely fantastic. She is terrifying to an epic proportion, and not just when she's a dragon either. I love her character design. She puts the evil queen in Snow White to shame in terms of pure evil. So overall, an excellent movie and very very close to a number one ranking but the couple of negatives brought it down just a hair. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

There's a New Boss in Town

Here I am, back again, as promised. In a fit of insanity, the day after finishing the turtle cookies, I decided that I needed to bake again. One of my Christmas gifts this year was a cookbook called Baking with the Cake Boss written by, of course, TLC's Cake Boss. Another example of bad tv I watch pretty religiously. Despite never having been to Carlo's Bakery, I've heard good things from people who have gone and watching the show is like magic to me because of the artistry that comes out of completely edible materials. I aspire to create one of those crazy looking, beautiful cakes. However, I'm not nearly there. It'll be a while.

This book is a pretty good read actually. It's written with a sense of humor and practicality and a lot of really helpful hints. Including how to tell if your eggs have gone bad! (You put them in a cup of water. If they float, they're bad.) As a result, I was really looking forward to starting through this cookbook. In the introduction, Buddy recommends cooking straight through this cookbook in order because the recipes at the beginning help you develop techniques used in the later recipes. Alright, Buddy. First stop: Butter Cookies.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I just made butter cookies very recently and made the fun shapes like Christmas trees and camels etc etc and they were delicious so what can be gained from baking this recipe? Well, you'll see. The recipe is completely different from the Joy of Cooking recipe for butter cookies. First off, some of the ingredients are very specific. For example, Buddy only uses extra-large eggs in his recipes. Hmm. Now, I wasn't about to buy extra-large eggs for one recipe so I consulted a handy dandy conversion table in the back of one of my other new cookbooks and discovered that 4 extra-large eggs=5 large eggs. In the future though, I will have extra-large eggs so as not to make that substitution. I really can't believe I'm going to buy extra-large eggs for use in recipes from only one cookbook. Cake Boss is really gonna cost me some serious money by the end. (No, seriously, he calls for a lot of ingredients and tools that I just don't have.) The second very specific ingredient is for cake flour. I wasn't inclined to substitute this one with all-purpose flour because the recipe specifically said NOT to. Ok, fine. I went out and bought cake flour. I also bought almond paste. I have no idea what almond paste is. I hear it's kind of like marzipan but marzipan is one of the other great mysteries of my life so that's not really a useful reference point.

Ok, enough of all that, let's get to the baking already! First step was (as usual) creaming. But this time, I had to cream butter, sugar, AND almond paste! I had to use 3/4 cup of almond paste. I had bought what I thought was a large tube of almond paste. It was actually rolled up kind of like a stick of butter and was exactly 3/4 cup. Happy! Also, the recipe called for 4 sticks of unsalted butter. There was a stick and slightly less than a stick of unsalted butter in my fridge and I was too lazy to look for any more. So I substituted 1 and 7/8 sticks of unsalted butter and 2 and 1/8 stick of salted butter for the 4 sticks of unsalted. I'm pretty sure that one won't matter. The combining of ingredients went fine. Nothing too exciting to report. But here comes the hard part. Buddy doesn't want me to simply spoon the cookies out of the dough. He wants me to pipe them into fun shapes with a piping bag.

Disaster. We only had a polyurethane piping bag in the house. And butter cookie dough is notoriously greasy. I think you can see where I'm going with this. The recipe suggested piping 2 and a half inch circles of dough but didn't specify the thickness. I measured out my first cookie and decided that 2 and a half inches was too big for one cookie. From there I just eyeballed it. However, piping is hard. The dough was too cold so it was only manageable by the time I got to the end of the bag. It hurt my hands. My hands kept sliding off the bag because, inevitably, my hands got covered in the dough. It was just a disheartening mess. Really, I should have been using a canvas bag with a dough that thick but live and learn, right? Anyway, after much hand cramping and cursing, I finished two trays of circle cookies. And had only used about a third of the dough.

After baking (and deciding that the future cookies should be a bit thicker), I decided to get creative with the later batches. I made some hearts, some straight line cookies, and some Christmas tree cookies. Then I discovered the most awesome shape of all to pipe: Mickey Mouse heads. It's so easy! It's just two small circles and one big circle! And, in my frustrated state, I was excited to not have to maneuver the piping bag much. I just had to point and squeeze until the circle was the right size. So, as a result, most of my cookies are Mickey Mouse and that makes me quite happy. Here they are, to bring a smile to your day:

The taste is interesting. You can definitely tell it's a butter cookie but the almond flavor is much more prevalent. I think I would probably cut the almond paste just a little bit if I ever make these again. They're definitely still yummy though and I departed from my usual tradition of just having one cookie and ate about five. The consensus in my family was that they weren't as good as the green cookie press cookies but they were better than the red and plain colored cookie press cookies. Don't look at me like that. They taste different, I swear! Next time, I'm dyeing the whole batch green. So there.

Critical Reception: 
Besides thinking that the pecan turtles were cute, people really thought they were yummy. In a head to head comparison with the white chocolate macadamia cookies, the turtles won as far as taste went. That said, I don't really think I'd make them again. Too annoying to make, even if they are cute.

A Disney Moment: Lady and the Tramp
And here we are folks, at the winner for this group of five: Lady and the Tramp. I'll be honest, this was a surprise for me. I remembered liking the movie as a kid but it never garnered the same enthusiasm as Alice or Peter. Plus, I'm not wild about the "He's a Tramp" song. But wow, here's a movie that just got it right.

The animation is beautiful. I really thought it was an animation leap from Peter Pan to Lady and the Tramp. Now, I'm not a dog person (at all) but when I saw Lady as a little puppy and their heartwarming attempts to discipline her into staying in her bed, I just melted. I know exactly what kind of dog I want now. An animated puppy. My sudden love of animated puppies aside, the movie is well paced, the characterization of all the dogs we encounter is charming, and we get to see a really delightful romance develop. For a "kid's movie", there's a lot of adult themes as far as the relationship goes, particularly when Lady hears about all the other dogs that Tramp has been with.

The horror elements were back in the film as well, particularly with the rat in the baby's bedroom. The tension really builds well to that scene. And how about when the one dog in the pound goes to take "the long walk"? Aaaaah! That was pretty messed up. But of course, it all comes back to Bella Notte. That scene affected me more than I thought it would (because it's so famous and I knew it was coming) but it still had charm and romance and it made me smile. The whole movie from start to finish was engaging to me and it really took the cake as the best movie in this group. In fact, it may even be a close tie with Dumbo. It even ended with many adorable little cartoon puppies! So cute! 1/5!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Oh, so much baking has been happening. For once, I'm actually behind in my blogging! Many apologies to you, my readers. As penance, I promise to put up another post tomorrow to get all caught up. Then again, I'm planning on baking tomorrow so then I'll be behind again. Vicious cycle.

Anywho, I've reached an interesting point in my baking journey. My sister and I were flipping through the Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook and were dismissing recipes not because they weren't delicious sounding (which they were) but because they were too easy! That's right; if all I have to do is mix a couple of ingredients together, then it's not challenging enough for me and I'm not learning anything. I reserve the right, however, to bake those cookies on days when I have homework to do. So in the end, we decided on a recipe called "Snappy Turtle Cookies" because there was a picture and they looked cute and there was some assembly required. Onward!

The first steps were pretty simple what with your basic brown sugar and butter creaming. After that, I had to add the vanilla, eggs, and the optional imitation maple flavor. Umm...what? Does anyone out there know what imitation maple flavor is? Or where you get it? Because the supermarket didn't seem to have any. My sister decided that maple syrup would be a good substitute. I don't know if it is a good substitute or not because I still don't know what imitation maple flavor is but it's what we used so that's that. After that, added the dry ingredients and then tossed the dough in the fridge to chill.

After chilling, we had to arrange pecan quarters (lengthwise quarters) into groups of 5 to look like turtle arms, legs, and a head. Then we had to roll the dough into balls to be the shells, dip the balls into egg white which was acting as glue, and then plop them onto the groupings of pecans and somehow that makes a turtle. Well, in some cases it made a turtle. In other cases, it made a tortoise or a blob or a starfish crushed by a rock. Also, since the baking pans were greased, the pecans kept sliding away and we had to chase them down to stick them onto the ball of dough which made me question the whole "laying them out on the pan in advance" process to begin with. Seems a little excessive. But sure, I guess some of them look like turtles so that makes it worth it, right?

After baking, the final step was to make the icing to add to the top of the turtle shells. We had to melt chocolate chips, milk, and butter on the stove and stir until smooth. My sister got tired of my stirring before the pot had even heated up and took the pot away from me and stirred in my place. Apparently I was stirring too slowly for her taste. So I got relegated to measuring the powdered sugar. Yup, got demoted in my own kitchen. Now, the icing was supposed to have 1 cup of powdered sugar but it's ok to add more until it's spreading consistency. We probably used at least double the amount of powdered sugar. Oh well. The last step was to frost the cookies. I frosted the first couple with a spoon and my finger until I realized that I was still at home where there are real baking tools including an icing spreader spatula tool. Yeah, I have no idea what it's called but I know what it does! After that, it was smoother sailing. My sister tried to frost a few but she got frustrated and let me finish them up. Then we tasted them and they were yummy. You could really taste the maple syrup in them but it was very good so I think it was a good substitution in the end. So here they are, the snappy turtle cookies and you can decide if they look like turtles or not:

Critical Reception: 
The chocolate macadamia cookies were a hit. I served them up to some friends at home and they liked them a lot. One friend even ate about 6 of them while we were waiting to leave for dinner with another friend (because he was half an hour late and she was hungry)! I still have some left so they'll be brought to colloquium tomorrow.

A Disney Moment: Peter Pan
I love love love Peter Pan. I mean, just about every incarnation of the story is beautiful to me. I love J. M. Barrie's story (from the adapted play), I get chills when I hear Mary Martin's portrayal of Peter Pan, I went out of my way to see the Peter Pan statue in London, I can't help but love every single second of Finding Neverland, and I even love the movie Hook as a spin-off from the original story. So maybe I was too excited going back to visit an old favorite movie but I'm saddened to say that Disney's Peter Pan was a bit of a letdown for me.

That isn't to say that it isn't a fine film. In fact, it's still a great film. But as an adult viewing the movie and knowing the story so well from so many different perspectives, I think I was hoping for a bit more emotional depth in the film. We get to see some lovely character arcs in Wendy and even a bit in Peter but I just wanted more. As I was watching, I found myself thinking that the movie felt more childish than its predecessors. Still fun but not well, scary, for lack of a better term. The villain isn't actually scary at all. In fact, Captain Hook is downright comical, so much so that he barely needs Smee as a comedic foil. The situations the characters get into are never that scary either. The horror elements of earlier films are completely gone in Peter Pan. So for the first time in this project, I really felt like I was watching a movie meant for a child. Which is such a shame because Peter Pan has such beautiful moments and themes about growing up, abandonment, faith, fear of mortality, etc etc that could have been given their due instead of having the kids play Following the Leader for five minutes.

That all said, it seems like I'm really hating on the movie and I'm not. I just wanted more. There are still some moments that I love. I love the very end with the ship shaped cloud. I think Tinker Bell is a well-executed character. I think that Peter Pan impersonating Captain Hook in the cave is hilarious. But most of all, I love the You Can Fly song. I love it for many reasons. The first is that if any choir anywhere ever needs a good example of how to properly do dynamics, they should give this song a listen. The harmonies and the crescendos and decrescendos are perfection and the singer in me geeks out every time I listen to it. The second reason is that my sister and I shamelessly crack up every time Michael has a line. Most notably, when he says, "He flew!" and "Cmon Nana!" I really can't explain it but we just think he sounds ridiculous anytime he talks and we enjoy impersonating his extremely childish voice. And aside from those two reasons, the lyrics (in the latter half of the song) are so joyful and just awesome.

Ok, so this was a long review but it's a classic so there was a lot to be said. In this grouping, it's only earning a 3/5 which was a bit surprising to me because I honestly thought it would be 1 or 2. Oh well, I guess that this whole project is an "awfully big adventure" of discovery.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Here's to a New Year Even Nuttier than the Last

Happy New Year everyone! Please forgive the long absence. I was on vacation for a while and then I was doing little besides watching Disney movies on my couch. Yeah, the blog posts won't reflect it for a while but I am actually on film number 26 of 51 even though this post will be talking about number 13. Anyway, Christmas and the new year brought much happiness to my life, particularly in the form of new baking books! Yay! So for all of you sick of the same three books I was baking out of (as I was), I now have enough material to keep me busy for a very very very long time.

The first book we'll be delving into is the Pillsbury Best Cookies cookbook. I just love making cookies. They're so easy to share with people. Anyway, I let my sister and mom pick what cookies I should make because I'm still at home and they chose the Chocolate Macadamia Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks. Or as I generally abbreviated them, "White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies".  By the way, this cookbook has pictures. Yay! So we went to the store for the ingredients. I actually made a list of what I needed and then left it on the kitchen table so as a result, we bought way too many macadamia nuts. Oh well. Now, the macadamias are supposed to be coarsely chopped. I was completely dreading this task because macadamias are small and rolly and are probably annoying to chop. Then my sister duh-ed me and said we should just put them in the Cuisinart. Oh. Yeah. Good call there.

While my sister took care of the macadamias, I got the rest of the batter going. I did the standard creaming of butter, sugar, and brown sugar with no problem (other than kinda making a mess but that's what sponges are for) and moved on to the almond extract and the egg. Also no problem there, though it always surprises me that almond extract is clear. It seems like it should be brown or something. Whatever, I'm crazy, moving on. Then we added in the dry ingredients and the white chocolate chips and the nuts and bada bing bada boom, we're done.

These cookies were so easy to make that my sister even commented that I would have nothing to write about. She was pretty much right about that. Here's the pretty cookies!

Upon tasting, I proclaimed them delightful but nothing to really write home about. My mom and sister really liked them a lot though and ate several. My sister also mused that there was probably too much almond extract. So, like any good budding chef (bakestress?), I made a note in the margin of the recipe so that if I ever make these cookies again, I'll reduce the amount of almond extract by about 25%. I feel like I'm getting so advanced, talking about modifying recipes like that.

Critical Reception:
I already talked about the Martha cookie ornament place settings and how they were received (to recap: people thought they were adorable and yummy). I'm still toying with eliminating this section. Hmmmm....

A Disney Moment: Alice in Wonderland
I really hate ranking movies in this group of five. All of the movies (except Mr. Toad) are truly classic films. So let me preface by saying that I love Alice. I have always found the movie charming and delightful and whimsical and it is one that I have seen several times over the past few years. So, rewatching Alice didn't bring any surprises for me.

That said, Alice is only ranking a 4/5 in this grouping. Not for any negative reason, mind you. It's just that the other three movies were better. One thing that I did notice was that Alice almost seems like short vignettes that don't tie together very well. Especially the section in the Tulgey wood. The whole movie is obviously pretty tripped out and that scene was really wacky. Same with the scene with the deck of cards marching around. By the way, who noticed that the soldier cards are all either aces, ones, twos, or threes? Anyway, not much to say about Alice because most people are already familiar and I still love it. That is all.