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

Back to food (and food blogging) with BEEF

Well, as you may or may not have gleaned from various Tweets and status updates or from real-life knowledge, the hubby and I had a busy first quarter. We went to Rio de Janeiro in late February, where hubby served as the wedding officiant for two great pals. Then we came back, almost immediately closed on our new house, and then almost immediately moved and have spent almost every waking second on home improvement or spending loads of money on theoretical home improvement. Oh, yeah, and both of our day job companies are gearing up for major releases. Busy!

But oh, so worth it. Don’t worry, some Brazil-specific posts are coming soon, about all the deliciousness therein. But for now, let’s focus on COOKING in a KITCHEN that I OWN. Not only did I make some interesting appliance discoveries, but I just care so much more about the place since it’s mine! We’ve tinkered with a few meals or dishes here and there, but this is the first fully cooked at home DISH that I did in my new cuisine, upon Grant’s request: Beef Stroganoff.

I used the Epicurious recpie with some substitutions and quantity wild guesses, and it turned out lovely (though I prefer a higher meat-and-sauce-to-pasta ratio so I might use half the noodles next time, or double the rest). Grant wanted to make it with ground beef instead of steak like the recipe calls for, so we compromised on inexpensive but still not ground up stew meat. (The idea of it with ground meat totally grosses me out, but maybe that’s just me?)

I also played around with the new oven last night and figured out that it runs, if anything, slightly hot. Good to know for muffins, cakes and cookies! Mmmmm, cookies. My banana sour cream cinnamon muffins turned out lovely and moist and yummy, but they had been cooked for almost exactly the minimum that the recipe specified and were still a bit browner on the bottom than I like. Learning new appliances is never easy (our microwave LOVES to splatter/assplode) but it sure is fun! I’ll have to post a video of Grant reacting to our oven vent, which is built into the top of our microwave, opening and closing at the push of a button, with the microwave text narrating the whole while. Crazy technology.

My personal baking tips

They say there are two types of cooks — bakers and chefs. Bakers are generally thought to be methodical and rule-abiding, and they deal mainly in chemistry. Chefs are innovators and risk-takers, and they deal more in physics. I had always thought myself to be more of a chef than a baker (as evidenced by my complete inability to follow a recipe exactly) — but I believe one can learn to bake even if one’s heart sings a main-course song.

I’ve received lots of compliments and inquiries about my baked goods, and I think I’ve managed to put my finger on the specific chef-like risks that I’ve incorporated into my baking practices with great success. (This is not to say I haven’t had MANY failures — I just don’t blog about those!) So here’s a list of some of the specific tweaks I tend to apply to most baking recipes.

Continue reading “My personal baking tips”