Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Baker's Report

Well, the oatmeal cookies came out...fine. That's it, just fine. The recipe I chose had five out of five stars, based on a total of 868 reviews, so I really expected a bit more, but I am prepared to blame my Costa Rican ingredients, just this once.

Brown sugar isn't, I guess, the most common staple in local food preparation, but you usually can get it, even at the little Mom & Pop store near my house. Recently there have even been two or three different brands to choose from. But last week when I went to buy brown sugar in preparation for the Cookie Extravaganza that was yesterday, there wasn't any at all. I debated a bit, then bought a bag of ground-up tapa de dulce. It's dried, unrefined, unbleached, naturally evaporated sugar cane juice that is normally molded into a brick-hard cylinder or cone shape. [The cone is set in a pan of boiling water and some melts off to form a syrup. The syrup is used for general sweetening and, especially, to prepare a hot drink aptly named agua dulce or "sweet water."] The ground-up dulce I bought is, in fact, sugar, and it is brown. It's maybe a little bit coarser than what I'm used to and I know the flavor isn't exactly like regular brown sugar but, in the bag, it looked, felt and smelled pretty close to brown sugar.

But there might be some kind of difference that affected the cookies. They're not bad at all, they're just...fine. And I anticipated something a little better than "fine" based on 868 reviews averaging five out of five stars.

Anyway, when the first tray came out and didn't seem to be ruined, I went ahead and mixed up the peanut butter cookies, which also call for brown sugar. I haven't baked them yet because the dough had to chill, but the batter smells and tastes very good, so I'm optimistic about those.

As for the other thing...."The cornstarch, she is a mystery" is more of a one-liner than a punchline - there's not much story there.

All it is, is, when Lisa and I were making her wedding cake, we wanted to put cherry filling inside each of the three layers, but we were worried about it leaking through the white frosting, so we decided to thicken it. We understood the science of cornstarch, but were a little iffy on the actual application of it and ended up having to add more than we thought. And more. And more. (Yes, we dissolved it in cold water before adding it to the sauce. Yes, we brought it to a boil.)

And, well, that's pretty much it. The sauce did eventually thicken enough to use. The cake turned out fine. There were no leaks (we built a pretty significant wall of icing around the edges).

And the cornstarch line was born so, I'm thinking, win-win-win.


Scott December 20, 2006 5:48 PM  

Seems the cake was an all nighter and half a dayer

Jennifer December 20, 2006 5:58 PM  

Yeah, there may have been some optimistic scheduling at the outset there. But it turned out nice, and I don't recall we had to delay the wedding at all, so I'm still looking back on it as a successful endeavor.

lisa December 20, 2006 9:59 PM  

I'm sure you know this, but you can use white sugar and molasses instead of brown sugar, if molasses is any easier to come by.

Sandy January 02, 2007 8:57 AM  

Your talents never cease! Beautiful cake.

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