In the spaces between beading and sewing and paper-crafting lately, I’ve been baking. It is the Christmas season, after all. Time to make so many batches of cookies that they start coming out of your ears. Last week was a week of baking mishaps, but really, is it ever truly a mishap when it’s made of sugar and butter? After scoring big with Dorie Greenspan’s most delicious World Peace Cookies, I turned back to my new favorite cookbook, Baking From My House To Yours, and decided to make the Brownie Buttons. These are tiny brownies baked in a mini muffin pan, then dipped in white chocolate. Mmmmm… As mysterious as the World Peace Cookies were for having no eggs in them, the Brownie Buttons were similarly curious, having almost no ingredients and only two tablespoons of flour. Unfortunately when I pulled my mini muffin pan out of the cabinet, I found that some strange chemical reaction had been happening which caused the non-stick coating to bubble off of the pan while it sat. Yuck. I scraped the flakes off and scrubbed the pan, but didn’t want to bake the brownies directly in the pan in case the coating was still flaking off. Instead I used little paper liners, figuring that I’d peel them off when the brownies cooled so I could dip them in the white chocolate and they’d look as pretty as they were supposed to. Well, it was a nice thought. The paper will absolutely not come off of the brownies. They taste good, that’s for sure. (I had to “dispose” of the brownies I crushed and tore apart while trying to pry the paper off.) But I can’t make my pretty Brownie Buttons, so in a bag they went, labeled “Failed Experiment – PLEASE EAT” so Luke would know it was safe to taste them.
Then I baked a new batch of World Peace Cookies and screwed those up, too. I didn’t realize until it was too late that I didn’t have enough brown sugar. I substituted granulated sugar for the bit if brown sugar that I was short, but knew that brown sugar provides moisture to the dough, so figured I’d wait to see how dry they were an maybe add a little water if needed. I also wanted to try making them with dark, dark chocolate to see how they’d taste. I used Lindt 85% cacao chocolate that I chopped into little bits. One of the keys to this recipe is not overmixing the dough. In fact, undermixing it is the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the missing brown sugar problem resulted in crumbly dough, forcing me to add water and mix more than I really wanted to. The dough didn’t feel right as I was wrapping it up to chill in the fridge, and the next day when I baked them, they came out all wrong. First off, they were flat, which I think is a result if the extra mixing. And secondly, the dark chocolate was so dark, it was bitter. But the cookies still had a great texture, they were soft and chewy, and there was no way I was going to throw them out. Vanilla ice cream to the rescue! The sweetness that was missing from the dark chocolate was replaced perfectly by making the cookies into ice cream sandwiches. They are so amazingly good that I have to force myself to forget that they’re in the freezer. I almost ate this one when I took it out to photograph, but forced myself to put it back.
Then on Monday, I was trying so hard to not leave the house at all, but we didn’t have any of the basics, no milk for breakfast, no English muffins. Luke had nothing to eat for breakfast (at 10:30pm) but I really didn’t want to get dressed and go to the grocery store so I decided I’d make muffins! I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry that was aching to be cracked open. Pumpkin muffins it would be. I got everything out, preheated the oven, and realized that I didn’t have any eggs. Grrr! I would normally pester my neighbors for eggs in a situation like this, but they were away in Maine and Luke won’t let me get chickens, so I had to come up with another plan. I turned to my absolutely favorite cookbook, Cookwise. It explains the science of cooking, the hows and whys. If your cookies come out flat, this book will tell you why, and how to fix it. Don’t have any butter and want to use oil? This book will tell you if you can get away with that. I love this book. So I looked up eggs. What do eggs really DO in baking? Can I go without them? It turns out that in baking, eggs are really a binder to hold the crumb together. They also provide moisture, but mostly they provide structure. Fine! I can put up with crumbly muffins. But will they rise? I can’t put up with flat muffins. Those are called pucks. Just to be safe, I added a little more baking soda and baking powder to the batter, both of those provide the rising power, and I added a bit more pumpkin to add the moisture lost from not adding the eggs. Amazingly, they came out perfect. They’re light and fluffy and crumbly and delicious! This is what I love about baking, and truly the point I wanted to get to nine hundred and forty nine words ago, don’t be afraid of baking! Baking is fun, and things don’t always turn out the way they were supposed to, but they still turn out. Make something else out of them. The brownies that won’t part with their liners – I’m going to crumble and put in the freezer to sprinkle over ice cream later, or make into a pie crust. If the muffins hadn’t turned out, I would have crumbled in the food processor for a crumb topping, or at least given them to the birds to eat, but at least I tried. That’s what matters. Baking is fun, and you can always eat your mistakes!