Supafine? No, ULTRAfine

ULTRAfineKnow how I was all cocky about my great cookies the other day? Well, ONE coworker gave me a less glowing but more helpful piece of cookie feedback: my bud Cristina mentioned that she could detect the large crystal size of the sugar I used. I tend to go for organic bulk evaporated cane sugar, which does indeed have a noticeably large crystal size. In fact, said crystal-crunchiness had always bugged me too, but even the finer organic evaporated sugars I’ve found have still been kinda chunky like that. I’ve occasionally been precious enough to grind it down to a supadupafine size in a coffee bean grinder in order to, say, sugar a cocktail rim, but never have I done this with enough sugar to bake anything. Who has time for such frivolities?

A: The C&H company. (OK, by “time” we should probably round up to “massive industrial complexes and machinery and infrastructure” or something.) So check this out: you can buy supafine and also ULTRAFINE (“baker’s”) sugar in the grocery store! I knew that sexy fine cake flour existed, with a creepy name that makes it sound like knockoff Dove Body Wash, but I never realized that a fancy sugar also existed. I bought some recently, mainly because I was at a sketchy little mini-mart that didn’t have great selection, but I’m SO GLAD I did. Its deceptively weird milk-carton packaging is actually way easier for storage, and the stuff inside is amazing.

Cookie jarrrI’ve been using it to make the odd cocktail, such as my standby Sidecar or more recently, an Old Fashioned, which I started enjoying thanks to the most recent The Talk Show with Marco and Gruber. Anyway. Great for Old Fashioneds because you want something that dissolves quicker in less water, so you can move on to filling the majority of the drink with the important part (the whiskey). And today, I tried making white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies with it—delish! I actually under-estimated the amount I would need, since I thought my cookies from before were both too sweet AND too crystally-crunchy. Turns out they may have only been the latter. But I daresay the texture is much improved now!

I can’t wait to try this stuff for cakes, as well as any recipe where I need sugar to dissolve fast. I think I’ll always keep a carton on hand. However, I do wish that I could get a luxury product like this in a less processed format—I know, what a brat, right?—because I do think organic sugar tastes better. It’s kind of like how I wish they made unbleached recycled Charmin, or unbleached recycled Bounty, ya know? It’s a real shame when natural products are inferior products. If I ever get windfall-rich and accomplish all my other many MANY windfall-rich goals (get a Ph.D. in linguistics; pitch a movie about online dating and actually get hired to do something with it; buy the silly ice cream joint by my house and turn it into a combo ice cream joint/neighborhood pub; get a legal pet ocelot somehow; ever fix our goddamn deck; start up a natural skincare line; buy the overpriced .com equivalents of all my silly domain hack websites; the list goes on and on) then I totally plan on making a company that makes Luxury Natural Products. Eh, maybe I will grind up a bunch of organic evaporated large crystal sugar for my next confection, just to see how it goes.

Oh, and isn’t my new foxy cookie jar adorable? It’s still on clearance at West Elm if you hurry. (Curse the lack of affiliate link.) We’d been wanting a sleek, mod-looking yet fun cookie jar for ages, and this could not fit that description better. They have some other cute animals too. Happy baking!

foxy

Maple syrup sidecar

The sidecar is my favorite go-to cocktail. Or rather, go-to cocktail where I can tell there is a decent bartender — at shitty places, my go-to is a glass of cheap sparking wine. (This comes from having a horrifyingly bad sidecar made with cheap brandy and no sweetener from Brasserie Margaux a couple years ago. *shudder*)

Aaaanyway, why am I mixing cocktails at 3:07 on a Friday? Because it’s my Sunday, baby, and it’s almost Christmas, and I vacuumed and swept and mopped up a storm and made banana bread out of the worst bananas ever, AND we needed to use up some lemons.

It should go without saying that this drink is better with the highest quality ingredients — I use Cointreau because it really does taste better than other cheaper Triple Sec type options. My brandy this time around was Raynal VSOP, but I would welcome recommendations of other good ones to try. I use organic lemons and organic Grade B syrup — it has a stronger mapley flavor than Grade A.

Maple Syrup Sidecar
2 oz VSOP brandy or cognac
1 oz Cointreau or equivalent
2 oz lemon juice, strained
1/2 oz Grade B maple syrup

Combine all and shake well with ice, pour directly into glass, or strain into chilled glass if desired. Skip the sugared rim unless you need it for the aesthetics; if you must sugar the rim, reduce syrup in drink by 1/4 oz, grind your sugar to superfine using a (well-cleaned!) coffee bean grinder or food mill, and use maple syrup to make the sugar stick to the rim.

Indispensable tools for the job: shakerstainless steel funnel with strainer, mini measuring cup

Cheers!

Tales of cocktails

Every once in a while, a strange invention will come out of needing to use up a certain ingredient. Two odd cocktails were born out of such circumstances over the winter holiday break, and I figured I might as well describe them since both turned out surprisingly tasty.

First was the scary greenish concoction pictured here, for which I am accepting name suggestions. (Ideas so far include Zombie Plague and Antifreeze.) This occurred because a bottle of my fancy Q Tonic had been erroneously opened the night before, and was about to go flat — and at nearly $2.50 per 8 oz bottle, I wasn’t about to let that happen. But we had no cucumber or lime, and thus could not properly enjoy a G&T with any sort of gin on hand.

So inventiveness reigned! I mixed fresh lemon juice, Hendrick’s Gin, Midori Liqueur, Cointreau, and shook them with ice, then combined with the remains of the Q. And threw in a couple ice cubes because I figured it might take me a while to down it all, and I like my drinks chilly.

These are all the lovely spirits (or spirit-specific mixers) I used. Sometimes I just want to look at liquor bottles all day long -- so elegant.

The verdict? Surprisingly not terrible. (High praise, I know — but when you look at the thing, you can understand my skepticism, right?) I might actually make this in the future — the end bitterness of the tonic has a nice contrast to the normally-too-candy-like Midori, and I like pretty much anything that has Hendricks and/or Cointreau poured into it. (Yes, I know Cointreau is über sweet, but it’s also “spirited” so hush.)

Next up was what I guess is a variation of a Creamsicle. See, for this one, we had planned a ladies’ night out… but one pal forgot her wallet, which contained her ID (and she’s babyfaced and infallibly gets carded). Through some creative problem solving, we were able to enjoy a night of revelry anyhow, but after the fact I was left with a stainless steel flask that had about a shot and a half of Absolut Mandarin in it. Not wanting to let that stuff go to waste (or take on a metallic taste as it sat too long in said flask), I decided to put it to good use in a cocktail.

Another massive leftover we have is San Pellegrino Aranciata (and Limonata) soda, because we bought them as refreshments to include in the hotel welcome bags for out of town wedding guests this summer. We certainly don’t mind having a handful of cans left over, but we don’t often drink these normally so they haven’t disappeared yet. So I went ahead and repurposed one for this cocktail invention.

Now, so far we have orange vodka and natural orange soda. Those go fine when simply combined together, but I’d had enough of SP soda-based half-assed cocktails in lazier moments that I wanted to really jazz it up a bit and go a bit dessertier. So I juiced a satsuma, added a dash of our old friend Cointreau, and shook the alcohols and juices with ice, then poured them with the soda and added a generous measure of half and half and an orange slice to garnish.  Rich, creamy, yummy, and stealthily potent!

And the best part is, I didn’t waste a single drop of anything.