Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I'll Give You a Viennese Finger...

The blogger is back! I haven't blogged since September and that's very sad. Stupid life getting in the way. I actually have done a lot of baking lately, including 6 types of Christmas cookies, 2 pies, those damn eclairs, and a few breads. I was just a lazy blogger. I even missed my one year bakerversary! Oh well. Nevertheless, new semester, new year, new baking books, new levels of ineptitude. Hold on to your hats because this one's a doozy!

So, on this frigid Connecticut afternoon, I decided to ring in a new semester of colloquium by bringing in some cookies. I didn't want anything too challenging or with too many steps so I consulted a new book that I got for Christmas called "Cookie Heaven" and found a recipe for Butter Viennese Fingers. There are pictures and these ones are cute. They look like fingers dipped in chocolate at both ends. And there's only 4 ingredients! Perfect!

Not perfect. I like to believe that I didn't magically lose all of my cooking skills but I must have. This was an epic disaster. Step 1: cream softened butter and confectioners' sugar. Easy. Step 2: Add flour. Easy! Step 3: Use a piping bag to pipe 3 inch finger shapes on the pan. Fail. I really should have known better here. As I was scooping the dough into the pastry bag, I knew it was going to be too cold and too thick to ever be able to squeeze through the tube. Did that stop me? Not a chance. I huffed and I puffed and I got a blister on my hand. But not even one iota of dough came out of that pastry bag. Fine. I can be creative. I decided to run the pastry bag under hot water. It seemed like it was starting to work a little so I went through several rounds of this. Finally, I managed to get one teensy tiny dot of dough on the pan. Ridiculous.

I needed a better plan. I couldn't think of one. I tried leaving the bag on top of the hot oven while I went to answer some emails. I tried mixing the dough some more. I tried using a larger tip on the pastry bag (which, by the way, made a complete mess because I had to take all the dough out and then put it back in) but none of these techniques were doing a thing other than frustrating me. And so, with a great roar of frustration and anger, I threw all the dough back in the mixer, took out my cookie scoop and just started scooping round cookies instead of precious finger shaped cookies. Take that, Cookie Heaven!

Of course, this warped the bake time a bit. I took them out when I was supposed to and the bottoms were only slightly browned and the middles were definitely not cooked. So I tossed them in for another 10 minutes or so. At this point, I was beyond caring about the potential for overbaking these cookies. Pretty much massively frustrated. So after baking, there was one step left: Melting chocolate to dip the cookies in.

I apparently forgot how to melt chocolate. This appears to be a running theme in my baking because no matter how many times I melt chocolate (which is really, really often!) I seem to screw it up. So, stupidly, I followed the directions in the book that said I could microwave the chocolate. How many times have I told myself not to microwave chocolate? I could probably look back and find out but it will just make me feel dumb. Nevertheless, I microwaved. Things were looking good. The chocolate was getting nice and smooth and then BAM! It all just congealed. I don't know what happened. Possibly I burned the chocolate but it didn't smell burned. It just had no interest in melting. Yes, I have sentient chocolate.

So I went back to the old double boiler. Except I just got a small pot and stuck the bowl I had been using in the microwave on top of it. Normally this works. Normally it doesn't take 20 minutes for 2 oz of chocolate to melt. But it just wasn't working. Then I thought that maybe I shouldn't use that bowl. So I grabbed a metal mixing bowl from my new 6 bowl mixing bowl set that I got for Christmas from the restaurant supply store that is absolutely magical (sidebar: seriously, that store is AMAZING) and I put the chocolate in the small metal bowl. No luck.

Now I say to myself, "It must be a chocolate problem, not a tool problem. You must have screwed the chocolate up when you microwaved it." So in the garbage went my partially melted, partially congealed chocolate. I grabbed some new chocolate, stuck it in the metal bowl and waited. And waited. And added some more water in my pot because all of the water had evaporated. And waited. By this point, there was cursing and anger. Finally, I just gave up. I seriously contemplated throwing all the cookies in the trash (a notion I had been developing when I couldn't get the dough through the pastry bag) but I decided I'd just make do with what I had. I dipped the cookies in the (somewhat) melted chocolate and noticed that the cookies were practically crumbling in my hands. So, with cookie and chocolate under my fingernails, I finally set them out to dry. They look like this:

I waited about half an hour and then went to check on them and the chocolate was still completely wet. Well then. As if these cookies hadn't put me through enough. So I left them out on the stove and left my house. I have no idea how they taste. I have no cookies for colloquium. I am so massively annoyed by these cookies that it's not even funny anymore. And it's cold out. So much for my first adventure out of the gate. Maybe the next one will be better. Who would have thought that just four ingredients could have treated me so badly? To pick up my mood, I'm going to include a couple pictures of successes from the last few months:

FYI, that pecan pie was fantastic. Until next time, loyal readers!

A Disney Moment: Mulan
Ok, so one of the [many] reasons I slowed down blogging was because we're entering another Disney movie slump. It's hard to summon the desire to watch some of the movies coming up. As a result, I watched Mulan probably 4 months ago and finished Emperor's New Groove (the last in this group of 5) maybe a month ago.  This from the people who would marathon 3 movies in one day. Plus it's a hard sell getting my grandparents (who are now living with my mom and sister thanks to Hurricane Sandy) to watch an animated film. Anywho, on with Mulan!

I love Mulan. I love the notion of a female character breaking out of a stereotype box a bit (much like Belle does with her READING) and that Mulan is not romance obsessed. I am not saying that there is perfect execution here but I respect the attempt. My sister and I have started doing this fun thing where we re-edit the movies we watch to make them better. For instance, we would say that we don't need the pet dog character at all or they should cut the scene with the ancestors. Again, all in the noble name of pacing and flow. But we still really like Mulan, despite its flaws. The song "Reflection" probably should have been left on the cutting room floor but we get such gems as "I'll Make a Man Out of You" and that matchmaker song right at the beginning. And the sheer devastation and destruction when they come across the town that had been burned to the ground packed a heavy punch.

Overall, we like it and it's the best of this group of five movies. Of course, that's not saying much.