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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bake Talk

Greetings, KuKd/TTC-Regulars and Inquisitive Guests,

When it comes to cooking, I've decided there are two kinds of people in this world.

First, there are people who can dig their hands into any recipe, whether from a book or website or their own free-flowing minds, and invariably spin it into something perfectly tasty and aesthetically beautiful in a seemingly effortless fashion. Take, for example, my friend C - who baked this spread of yummy goods for the baby shower (at which I did, per readers' advice, give a verbal shout-out to Zachary, and felt good doing so):

I know, I know. You don't even have to say it: f**king gorgeous. Jen, who hosted the shower, is also one of those superhuman people: everything she cooks, I mean literally and astoundingly everything, is always among the best of that thing I've ever tasted. And she does it with a shrug.

Then, there are who - no matter how good our intentions or how much time and effort we exert - manage to turn recipes into sloppy muck. Cakes turn into the sunken rectangle variety you find at church bake sales. Roasts turn tough. Cookies too crunchy. Or - although the flavor might be there - the food itself looks like a kindergartner made it. When something turns out, it's an accident - and oftentimes can't be replicated. You might have a small repertoire of dishes that you know turn out well - but if a NEW recipe ever works, you know deep down that it worked not due to your tremendous talent in the kitchen - but because some cosmic ray of culinary luck happened to slant its way across your kitchen at the exACT right moment in time. And those sorts of recipes - the kind that turn out brilliantly - will never be duplicated, unless that culinary ray of luck returns.

I consider myself an oft-frustrated member of the second category. Actually, "resigned" is probably a better word - for I've come to accept my propensity to screw up recipes, spill things, drop things, over/under-cook things, or - worse - get tired of a cooking project right in the middle of it, and finish it out the lazy way.

This is what happened when I tried to make these:

Who wouldn't want to produce these as a late Valentine's day treat?

It started off okay: a batch of regular old sugar cookie dough, which I dutifully chilled in the fridge. I always end up wondering why you're supposed to chill sugar cookie dough anyway, because that turns it into a miniature boulder that you practically need a steamroller to flatten. This was no exception:

Hard, rock-like fragments of stone cold dough. Already, I could sense my ambition fizzling. It was getting late, and approaching time to watch TV with my feet in K's lap. So I put away my rolling pin, as well as my awesome heart-shaped cookie cutter - the one I purchased specifically for this once-a-year occasion, and grabbed a knife instead:

So what if they weren't pristinely beautiful rolled-out hearts? Nobody would know the difference. These were more like modern abstract hearts.

After melting a bag of chocolate chips with a wee bit of shortening, I decided to try dunking the full cookies instead of just half-cookies, in order to hide their hidden ugliness and make them look more professionally abstract/modern/chic.

Alas, the full-on dunk didn't quite work, as evidenced above. You can see what happened to the one that got the full immersion: not only did it soak up half the pot of chocolate itself, but turned into what looked like a chocolate dog turd.

So I ended up doing them all in the half-dunk style.

Not exactly what I'd been aiming for, but my friends didn't act surprised, instead gobbling them up out of Zip-lock bags. That's the good thing about being in that humble second category of people: the bar is set so low that people don't expect much from ya. ;-)


Michelle said...

I am DEFINITELY in the second category. I have set stoves on fire, shattered glass pans, melted plastic on the stove, forgotten name it I have done it...and my hubby wonders why I don't like to cook. Good thing he does.

I think those cookies look YUMMY!

Hope's Mama said...

Ok, so they don't look so pretty but damn, your chocolate dog turd cookies sure do look YUM. Send a bag to Australia for me?? I'm a ravenous hormonal woman!
And would I be blowing my own horn too much if I said I was in the first category? I'm not good at much, but cooking is definitely my thing. Keeping babies alive, no. Making pristine food, yes.
And I'd be keen to hear more about the shower. You know, if you want to share....

Kara's Mom said...

Holy shit - you crack me up. I laughed out loud reading this post and seeing those damn cookies. Looks like one of my projects!

Megan said...

roll the cookie dough out before chilling. then cut shapes, roll out the leftover dough and chill again. Works like a charm.

pandadiaries said...

Hey, as long as they are tasty it's all good! At least you tried making them from scratch instead of just buying the pre-made dough rolls!

Sonya said...

I'm an in the middle. My food tastes good and is usually made from a combo 'taste/texture/color/feel/go with the gut' method.. but it never looks like Inmate Martha Stewert made it... It usually looks.... okay. Maybe when I'm not feeding teenagers, running a business and standing on my head trying to make sure baby doesn't fall out I'lll start to master the visual aspect of cooking. BTW - sugar cookies rock no matter what shape they are!

Sharon said...

I fall into a third category, I can cook, I can follow a recipe and it will come out well but most of the time I'm just too darn lazy to do it!
Hahahahaha on the chocolate dog turd!

myskytimes said...

Hilarious post... yummy looking stuff. I am in the 2nd category too. Had a can of tomato-soup explode in my kitchen one day (repaint wall needed). Since then I have definitely improved my cooking-skills, but still... mediocre. But I am good at eating, if that makes it any better.

Boogie to the bakery now, need some sweets after seeing this. Yum.

Pundelina said...

I akshully LOLed at 'chocolate dog turd'!

I love to cook and usually everything turns out tasty but ugly. Never magazine-perfect, that's for sure!

Glad your shower went well and that Zachary's shout-out was both present and good-feeling.


KuKd Chick said...

Yeah, the chocolate dog turd. It was definitely the look I was going for.

Chris said...

I sympathize with your cookies. I too am big, awkward, lumpy, and delicious.

Nice post!

KuKd Chick said...

Chris, that's a nice way to describe yourself: big, awkward, lumpy, and delicious. These days I'd say I'm those first three, most definitely.

AnxiousMummyto3 said...

In the end, if they tasted good, that's all that matters. I mean, it may have *looked* like a dog turd, but if it tasted good, well that's awesome! Plus you have made some really well presented items-I remember that ice cream cake you made way back when, now that looked fantastic and I would never be able to do that!!
Take care

Anonymous said...

You know, I found the best sugar cookie recipe...and no chilled dough required. It's from the 2009 Holiday issue of cooking light. Probably easier to just look it up on their website. Super yummy, rolled pretty easy, and "light". Ha! At a few sticks of butter, I don't think so, but they're yummy :)

Kris said...

"Dog turd" - made me chortle out loud. To be honest, I would have probably eaten them happily, they looked good to me (sugar cookies and chocolate - yum).
I am definitely in the second group. I am one of the "looks edible" but tastes either too bland, or you could say ward off the Underworld vampires with your breath due to extreme amounts of onion and garlic. Mind you, this is even when I follow the recipe. Luckily my hubby is just so happy I even try he usually is very supportive and eats it anyways.
I always say, I am really good at drinking wine with you in the kitchen while you cook and leave it at that.

*~*Lis*~* said...

I am SO in that second catagory! Thankfully I have picky kids and a husband who figures if he's eating something it's good enough.

Right now we're getting ready to dine on my weekly special - grilled ham and cheese.

$hit do I smell something burning...

Lara said...

You go girl-you may suck at baking-laughed so hard at your cookies-but you rock! It is brave and wise to have a baby shower and a tribute to zachary and his little brother.

Much love Lara

Desiree said...

I busted out laughing at the photo of the abstract hearts and I happily join you in the second group - I went on a cooking bender and made five full meals. I messed up an element of every. single. one. Thankfully, the hubby has an iron stomach and ate it anyway.

Drew is the one in the first category - he just throws things together and it comes out gourmet. If it weren't for him, we'd be LIVING on Kraft mac and cheese.

Which isn't necessarily a BAD thing...