People often ask Alex and me if it is difficult living near a trendy NYC bakery, the kind with the mind-bogglingly long cupcake lines outside at what seems like all hours. It probably would be if I found their generic cupcakes, brownies and cheesecakes more tempting but come on, this is me and you just know I think I make these better in my tiny kitchen.
December, 2007 Archive
In my mind, there are few higher callings in the baking world than cookies, and simply no higher cookie callings than shortbread, so I cannot think of a better place to start my Week-O-Cookies. They are firm enough to pack in a tin but manage to taste soft. Bites seem to dissipate in your mouth, but not so quickly that you feel you were shorted. They get better with age–and really, who doesn’t want that? And while I will never, ever (ever) complain about a plain one made with some of that Danish butter with sea salt flecks, I’m continually impressed by the myriad of ways shortbread can be adapted and still be as delicious as the original.
It has been over a year since I sounded-off about my mild irritation with Michael Chirello–salient takeaways included that I found him fussy and often in excessive use of needlessly pretentious ingredients–and I’ve spent most of it feeling bad about it. I mean, he cooks honestly; he uses as good ingredients as he gets his hands on and he’s not afraid of adapting old stand-bys to make them more feasible for entertaining. These are all good things. I will not now nor ever abide throwing fistfuls of carefully cultivated gray salt into boiling pots of pasta water, but I’d rather pay attention to someone who cares enough about the nuance in flavor that they create than someone who acts like it doesn’t exist.
Unfortunately, we’ve had another setback. A significant one, one so bad I have had to something that crushes my spirits and raises my shackles and throw the entire dish in the garbage. And the error was so easily avoidable, I just… can’t let it go. I hate throwing away food.
I’ve been thinking this week–probably more than anyone should–about what it means to be a perfectionist. I never considered myself one before; fussy, maybe; needly and exacting at times. Oh, and I have been known to cut cookie bars with a ruler, but I never thought it was about being crazed with perfection–I just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t use a tool readily available to them.
Nope, I’m thinking that being a perfectionist isn’t about so much what you do, but how you react when little, obviously unsubstantial things go wrong. You over-browned an edge of the cake but it has absolutely no bearing on the final flavor. You accidentally measured wrong and now the aforementioned brownie bars aren’t all even.
It’s not exactly news that I have a soft spot for pretzels. I’ve made pretzels into rolls, soft pretzels for a Superbowl Party and once, in the words of Alex, intentionally ruined dinner so we’d have no choice but go to the neighborhood restaurant with some curious egg noodle dish with crushed pretzels on top.
I see pretzel cookies all of the time, but they’re usually just cut from pretzel-shaped cookie cutter, and not actually twisty and knotted, which I consider totally unacceptable. It’s like one of those things I saw Sandra Lee use the other day which cut her pie lid into the shape of a lattice, without actually weaving it. Meh, I say. That would totally ruin half my fun.