So I Can Sorta Kinda Bake S*** or Screw You Ichijo-San!
I like to cook, this we know. Lately though I’ve been taking the more scientific route of the culinary arts more seriously. That is a fancy way to say I’ve been trying my hand at baking. This isn’t to say I’m going to be on Ace of Cakes or anything like that. I’ve just been dabbling with various and sundry recipes as of late. The results have been mixed thus far. I’ve been doing free form cooking for so long that to rely on things like exact measurements is a bit of tedium that I need to adjust to. I’ve severely upgraded my baking abilities. Provided me old baking skills used to be buy a cake or cookie mix, follow instructions and viola Baked Goods!
The baking bug kind of bit back I n2008 when living in a house with my friends Ichi and Jack. The three of us were strapped for cash and all we had in the fridge was cheese, garlic, butter and ground beef. The cabinets were just as bare, save for ramen and one box of Jiffy Baking Mix. So I decided to season the ground beef and make biscuits with the jiffy. The problem here is that I can never leave well enough alone. No, I had to go ahead and add the cheese and garlic to the Jiffy biscuit recipe. The end result was way better than I expected. Jack devoured his biscuits. When Ichi woke up a few hours later his initial reaction was positive. When he asked me how I made the biscuits I told him. He ate 1 biscuit before the word “Jiffy” was said. After the word “Jiffy” was said he refused to eat anymore. All I got from him was a simple response of “You cheated”.
Ichi was many things in the years before I met him. One of those things was an apprentice pastry chef. To Ichi using a mix to make anything is just plain cheating. Initially I disagreed with this assessment. Jiffy is essentially just flour and baking soda pre-mixed. It removes a step from the measuring process. Ichi explained to me that if I used a mix then I really didn’t make the biscuit batter, Jiffy did. I couldn’t argue that point. It didn’t matter how much garlic and cheese got put into the mix, I wasn’t the one to actually blend the ingredients. Still it would be 2 years before I stopped using Jiffy.
Last Christmas I went to visit Ichi and his darling wife Dorrane in West Virginia. There was much cooking done. Ichi refused to let me bake. “As long as you are still using Jiffy, you will not bake in my house”. Again he stressed to me that my use of Jiffy was disingenuine and I really couldn’t put forth anything made with it as my own recipe. More importantly I couldn’t make the claim of it being called homemade. He then made a simple challenge to me; make something wholly from scratch without a mix and then he would deem me a true “Cook”. I pondered this challenge for some time and then returned to Toledo, Ohio. 1 month later the challenge was met.
I decided to start simple with Chocolate Chip Cookies. I hunted online for a simple CC recipe and came up with 3 that were simple enough and that I could borrow enough from one another that the end result would be my own recipe. So one Saturday afternoon I went about making my first actual homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies. I took a bit of each recipe, got rid of things that would make my own a bit too cumbersome and set those bad boys to bake. The result was mixed. My initial tray of 12 cookies were to thin and not baking up the way I wanted. I added a little more flour to stiffen the batter and then made my next 12 cookies.
The second batch was a vast improvement over the first. I got the right shape and consistency for the cookies but they kept coming up burnt on the bottom. It took many more attempts at making the cookies before it was pointed out by my friend Cindi that my cookie sheet was too close to the heat in the oven. It was as simple as that. Four months after the first batch of cookies, I had finally gotten the cookies I wanted. More importantly my friends loved them. They always ate the cookies I made before then but usually the complaint of “Burnt bottoms” plagued me. Now I had the recipe I needed. I called Ichi with the good news. His response was not exactly what I expected.
“I don’t believe you” he said flatly. I explained to him, I didn’t use a mix, the cookies baked perfectly and everyone loved them. What could he possibly not believe about my triumph?
“Are the cookies in my mouth?” he asked. It was a simple yet stupid line of reasoning. If Ichi had no cookies as proof then he had no reason to believe I had finally made a great cookie. I told him that if he wanted the cookies then he was going to have to haul his ass from West Virginia to Ohio to get them. With his driver’s license under suspension that was not an option for him. What we had was a true stalemate.
Since then other baked goods have come and gone from my kitchen. Apple Cinnamon Bread made for Cindi was a rounding success. Apple Spice Bread, well that needed some work. My Dark Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Icing went over like gangbusters. The Dark Chocolate Cookies with Butterscotch chips were just ok by my standards; they got almost overwhelming praise from everyone save Breann. My latest concoction was an “attempt” at a Pecan Pie. It was my fist pie and it came out decent. My caramel was a little too runny. I should’ve baked the pie at a lower temperature and for longer so the filling could firm up. Still, the pie got eaten because my friends, God bless them all, ravenously hungry people.
The only person who hasn’t gotten any is Ichi. I usually torment him by snapping picture of what I bake and then sending that to him as a phone message. He still doesn’t believe me. He’ll get what is coming to him soon enough. He is coming to visit in a month or so and the only way I’ll be satisfied is if I send him home with a mouth full of rotted teeth from too many sweets.
So my adventure in baking continues. I’m going to try the Pecan Pie again this weekend simply because I want to get it right. Life is too short for mediocre Pecan Pie so this needs to be spot on. Even if it isn’t all my friends, save for Ichi, will still eat it. I guess it is comforting to know that even food I consider mediocre by my standards is still devoured by those I make it for. In the end, I must be doing something right.
Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
¾ Cup Granulated Sugar
¾ Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Cup Butter, softened
½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 tablespoon Dark Molasses
2 Packages (24 Ounces) Chocolate Chips
1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
2. Combine Sugar, Butter and eggs in large bowl.
3. Stir in flour (1/2 Cup at a time), Baking Soda, Molasses and chips until dough is stiff.
4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake 9 minutes in Pre-heated oven.
Recipe will yield 36-48 cookies.