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Apr
28
2011
Rebirth And Chocolate

I have a bit of a nostalgia problem. Also, once I experience something a certain way and like it, it’s “tradition.”

Growing up Catholic, Easter was, to use religious parlance, “a big fucking deal.” I still celebrate Easter with an enthusiasm completely out of proportion with my belief in its purpose…well, I celebrate the parts that are pagan in origin anyway.

Winters in Erie always kicked my ass. Skies were grey, air was frigid, days were short, snow was deep. Through the winter holidays, this weather could be charming. Like the time more than 20 years ago when my Mom and I drove home after seeing a play during the first snow of the season. The way the snow glittered in the lights as it fell took my breath away. Dreaming of a white Christmas and all that. Unfortunately, while I had no further need for winter after Christmas, it would hang around for several more months each year.

Living in this barren winter landscape, the other rebirth, Spring, was the most attractive part of Easter. Well, rebirth and chocolate I suppose.

In recent years, I have actually looked forward to Easter more than Christmas. And that’s saying something.

Why do I love Easter?

*Spring where I now live is lovely unlike the cold, yet snowless Christmases we get here (rebirth, blah, blah, blah).

*It’s an excuse to eat chocolate.

*I get to take vacation time without the hassle of going somewhere. At Christmas, we lose two days to travelling and have to pack the car with us, gifts, our crap, and a dog as if we were playing Tetris. At Easter, my Mom comes to us.

*Instead of making a bunch of different kinds of cookies and the dreaded buckeyes, all I make for Easter is this white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.

This is one of the few things that tastes mindblowingly good to me even though I had to make it. There is only one piece left right now and Dave’s entitled to it, and I’m near tears.

*Decorating for Easter takes about 5 minutes and involves this fabulous fiber optic light up Easter bunny. I don’t know about you, but this screams “Christ is risen” to me.

*None of that annoying gift giving crap. The only thing I have to shop for is chocolate. Here is a picture of this year’s Neuhaus Easter eggs.

*Easter is one of our Wegmans occasions and I love going there.

Thoughts on Easter 2011

The Peeps diorama contest (for some reason I feel the need to point out this is brought to you by the newspaper that broke Watergate) always helps me get into the holiday mood, and this year was no exception. My favorites never make the finals, I guess I’m not a good judge of art. My favorite is this take on Magritte.

Of course, how could I resist this Moses-themed diorama?

Mom came down on Wednesday and her job is to supply us with Romolo’s chocolate. Here’s what she brought this year. As you can see, we had to make due.

I have to give a shout out to the only grocery store Easter candy in our repertoire, Cadbury mini eggs. Maintaining my weight during Lent and Easter would be a lot easier if I didn’t know these things existed. I never knew about these until Dave’s Mom included a bag in an Easter care package she sent him the first year we were dating. We sat in the common room in my dorm and ate the whole bag in one sitting. I smell a tradition!

Seriously, about the smell? Ever notice how overpoweringly good the unopened bags smell? It’s intoxicating. I cannot buy these or open a bag without taking a deep breath and moaning with pleasure first.

In other chocolate news, I was super excited about this Easter bark from Romolo’s, milk chocolate studded with colored mini marshmallows and malted eggs, but the reality didn’t live up to my expectation. The marshmallows got stale.

I broke down and bought The Ten Commandments on Blu-ray. The gift set is awesome. The box splits open in the middle, parting like the Red Sea to reveal the discs stored in a replica of the Ten Commandment tablets and several extras.

Unfortunately, we only made it to intermission. We got a late start watching the movie, and it was almost midnight by the time we finished the first disc. We gave up, so the slaves didn’t get freed this year. Oops. I blame Lifetime. We simply were unable to turn away from the horror of the movie about Prince William and Kate Middleton.

I had to work on Easter Monday, which is NOT tradition. I like to have all of the named days off (OK, I don’t usually take off Maundy Thursday, even though I love saying Maundy). So we decided to have Easter dinner on Saturday and then go out to a fancy brunch on Easter. There was a buffet of appetizers and dessert, plus a choice of entree and side. The food was fabulous. That plus the ridiculous cost of the brunch encouraged me to eat myself sick (unfortunately, literally).

The weather was nice enough over the weekend to sit on the front porch, which I hardly ever have time to do even though it is one of my favorite things. I sat in my rocking chair, ate chocolate, sometimes read my mindless book, other times just watched over my neighborhood like the old lady I am while listening to Dave play the bean song on his guitar (it’s a real song that he plays over and over. Since I’m not familiar with it, I made up my own lyrics about beans).

Mom and I went shopping on Thursday (Maundy!) and I was pleased to find that I’ve gone down a size. This is almost certainly due to the discipline I had over Lent in reducing grains and sugar. We have a ton of chocolate left. I’m going to eat it. Uh-oh.

What are your Easter traditions? Do you have any chocolate left?

Mar
9
2011
Cupcakes Part The Last (!)

The cupcake eating must and will stop…on Ash Wednesday, which is technically today, so I need to get my latest reviews posted now. The last thing I’m going to need while trying not to eat cupcakes is to write a cupcake review.

We tried Bake Shop in Arlington a couple of weeks ago. The reviews I’d read were quite favorable, and it’s local and not part of a chain so I wanted to like it, but this place didn’t do it for us. The cupcakes were small, I’m talking tiny. They weighed a bit over 2 ounces. I got red velvet, since that’s my head to head comparison flavor. Bake Shop doesn’t frost its red velvet with cream cheese frosting. I think I would have been OK with this had the buttercream been really good, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t sweet enough, it tasted like barely sweetened butter and the texture of the frosting was unpleasant–very greasy feeling,  like whipped butter. Dave didn’t think his toffee cupcake was anything special either. For people who don’t like things sweet, these might be the cupcakes for you. We are not those people. The cupcakes there were cute though…

I knew that there was an Arlington location of Crumbs from New York City, but we hadn’t tried it yet. During a recent staff meeting at work, I learned that there was also a location very close to my office. This was information I really didn’t need. I lasted one day with that knowledge before stopping by. I got a “fluffernutter” cupcake that day and ate the whole thing but should have stopped at half. It was good, but so sweet. I love sweets and have never really tasted anything too sweet, but this was close. These are about as far removed from Bake Shop as I can imagine, and strangely I didn’t love the cupcakes from either shop. Here is a photo of the cupcake I ate after lunch at work (stooping to new lows, eating dessert with lunch!).

Dave surprised me one night with Crumbs’ red velvet and I couldn’t even finish it. It was overpoweringly sweet and half was more than enough. These cupcakes aren’t really horrible, but they are huge, taste processed rather than homemade, and are so sweet that they burned my throat about half way through. They are just too much. I also thought about shipping these cupcakes to my nephew for his birthday because they seemed like a treat a teenager might enjoy. But the cost to ship 6 Crumbs cupcakes is $58. You can buy a dozen from Georgetown Cupcake and ship them for less than that. Insanity. Here is me being artsy with my macro lens on the Crumbs red velvet.

Finally, the long-awaited Sprinkles opened in Georgetown on Thursday of last week. They even sent me an email about the opening…how did they know? By Sunday, I was shaking like a junkie with the need to try them. So Dave and I drove to Georgetown in the rain. Even with rain and the new Sprinkles competition, the line outside Georgetown Cupcake was as long as I’ve ever seen it, so we didn’t bother to get their cupcakes for a head to head. We’ve eaten enough Georgetown Cupcake to do this from memory.

There was a short line at Sprinkles, and it seemed like a place that had only recently opened. Even though there was what seemed like a reasonable number of customers, it was chaotic. Everyone was very pleasant, but there were a lot of people behind the counter and too many of them dealt with us. It was very confusing. Also, some flavors are available in sprinkled versus non-sprinkled versions and Dave hates sprinkles. Luckily I told the girl who waited on us this fact, because it sounded like the default would have been sprinkled. So I saved myself listening to some whining.

I got a red velvet and a carrot. Dave got a chocolate with dark chocolate frosting and a vanilla with milk chocolate frosting, which was the closest available to his usual flavor (vanilla with dark chocolate frosting). Sprinkles cupcakes are bigger than Georgetown’s, with the important and annoying caveat that Sprinkles does not appear to be very careful about portioning their batter. The dark chocolate cupcake was noticeably smaller than the other three (one of the things below is not like the other…).

Here are the weights:

red velvet:  4.8 oz.

milk chocolate:  4.6 oz.

carrot:  5.0 oz.

dark chocolate:  3.4 oz.

I think the dark chocolate discrepancy is unacceptable.

When I removed the red velvet, I noticed a greasy feel to the cupcake liner (see the picture of the bottom of the box after I’ve removed the red velvet and notice the grease mark the cupcake left behind). That didn’t seem good to me. I was also worried based on the look of the cupcakes that there wouldn’t be enough frosting but the look was deceiving as once I bit into the red velvet there was clearly enough frosting. The circle decorations on the top of the cupcakes look nice but are hard as a rock and don’t taste good, unlike the fondant decorations on Georgetown’s cupcakes which are softer and taste fine.

I liked the flavor of the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet a lot. The cake was very moist and flavorful as well. The cake was pretty delicate, almost like a boxed cake, and didn’t seem to want to hold up the frosting once I’d eaten about half. The carrot cake was moist as well. It was very spiced and flavorful and I liked that it didn’t have any fruit in it, just nuts and carrots. The cream cheese frosting was flavored quite heavily with cinnamon, which I didn’t like at first but grew on me. This cake also had a delicate feel and crumb and a somewhat greasy feel. This one actually left a film on my teeth which I could have done without. Here is a picture of the frosting depth on the red velvet.

I realize that these comments might make it sound like I didn’t like Sprinkles, but that’s not accurate. I did like them, but they reminded me of boxed cake mix (which I happen to like). The resemblance, both visual and texture-wise, of the cupcakes to boxed cake made me start to think that Sprinkles must use oil rather than butter. That would also explain the difference between Sprinkles and Georgetown in taste and texture, since I know Georgetown uses butter. But then I found a review of Sprinkles red velvet cupcake mix and the directions clearly call for butter, not oil. So much for that theory.

Dave didn’t like his vanilla cupcake. He said the cake was tough. He let me have a bite and I loved the flavor of the cupcake (I much prefer milk chocolate to dark, so this cupcake was right up my alley), but I could see his point about the cake part, as it did have a tougher crumb than either of my flavors. He much prefers the Georgetown (and Baked & Wired) version of that flavor. He really liked the dark chocolate cupcake, although he said it was as good as the chocolate cake I always make for his birthday (from the can of Hershey’s cocoa), and given the price of these cupcakes, maybe the cake should be better than what I can do at home. In terms of the delicateness of the cake, the dark chocolate split in two when Dave tried to take the cupcake out of its liner.

Dave says we should stick to Georgetown and Baked & Wired. I think I want to give Sprinkles another chance (perhaps next week, when they offer “green velvet” for St. Patrick’s Day…what? green is my favorite color!). It’s weird how all three of our favorite cupcake places are so close to each other. When I looked up the location of Sprinkles on Sunday, I noticed that Georgetown Cupcake, Sprinkles, and Baked & Wired were situated in a sinister looking compass-like shape on the map. I guess the Masons are behind the D.C. cupcake trend too.

Feb
19
2011
Gluttony (Cupcake) Wars, or It Wasn’t That Hard to Eat 5 Cupcakes

Hey, have you heard about the cupcake craze that is sweeping the nation?

Oh, you have? Well, I didn’t have a blog when it started, so now you’re just going to have to bear with me as I write about it.

I’m of two minds on this boutique cupcake bakery thing. Part of me realizes how insane it is to stand in a long line to purchase a tiny dessert that is somehow 500 calories and 3 dollars. I can hear my Dad saying “We can make cupcakes at home.”

But then there’s the other part of me, the part that says, “Dad, this is just a small indulgence in a life so full of obligation. And Dad, sure we could make our own cupcakes and save money, but then we’d have a dozen cupcakes sitting around the house when we just want 1 (or 4, but who’s counting). And they’d all be the same flavor. Don’t you want variety, Dad? Don’t be such a “stara baba” (wow, that’s rude Polish for “old lady,” and I had to look up how to spell it and can’t believe that’s right).

Since the cupcake-loving part usually wins this argument, several times a year, I end up standing in a ridiculously long line at Georgetown Cupcake (my reigning favorite since 2008) while the scroogey-Dad side of me engages in self-loathing, muttering “why am I doing this?”

For awhile, my plan was to try as many of the crop of cupcakeries (?!?) in the area as possible. I’m a researcher, I like to be thorough in my gathering of evidence. I’ve tried: Baltimore Cupcake Company, Buzz, Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery, and Lavender Moon Cupcakery, and while they weren’t bad (well, the chocolate frosting at Baltimore Cupcake Co inexplicably tasted like maraschino cherry, which wasn’t good), none of them inspired me to go back for a second try.

In the middle of all of those, we went to Georgetown Cupcake. We waited a few months after they opened before visiting because I figured after a while the hubbub would die down (uh yeah, good call…). Maybe I just got hoodwinked by the popularity and the tony location and the adorably perfect cuteness of the cupcakes and the packaging, but these cupcakes tasted really really good to me. Like worth going back and standing in that line again good…moist cake that wasn’t too delicate and a generous allotment of frosting (I’m a frosting girl). Since then, all of my cupcake reviews use Georgetown as my benchmark. Are they good enough compared with Georgetown to warrant going back there instead of Georgetown? They didn’t even have to be better, given the annoyance of getting to the overcrowded-no parking available Georgetown area and that god damn line, they just had to be good enough. None were.

Then the Washington Post ran a “Cupcake Wars” series and declared Georgetown Cupcake the overwhelming winner. After confirming what I had already suspected, that I’d already found the best, my cupcake tastings came to a halt. Now we occasionally brave the traffic and crowds to partake in Georgetown Cupcake. Tip: if you are ever in Bethesda, the location there is much less crowded. Sometimes my running group meets in Bethesda and I ironically end my run with a stop to buy cupcakes.

I will admit to a lingering curiosity about another bakery in Georgetown–Baked & Wired. I kept hearing great things about it, that it was better than Georgetown Cupcake. Baked & Wired’s average rating on Yelp is higher than Georgetown Cupcake’s too. But I just couldn’t commit to going there. I don’t go to Georgetown all that often, so if I’m bothering to go there, I go to Georgetown Cupcake. Then some new friends did their own tasting and told me that Baked & Wired was better. OK, OK, you’ve twisted my arm people, I’ll try Baked & Wired.

Valentine’s Day weekend, my running group met in Georgetown, so I decided to pick up some cupcakes from Baked & Wired. The bakery was charming, they had a wide variety of different cupcake flavors (along with other baked goods), and there was NO line. Already promising. I bought four cupcakes: two to mirror what Dave and I usually get at Georgetown for comparison purposes (red velvet for me and vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting for Dave) and two wild-card flavors.

When the cashier handed me the box, I was stunned. It was HEAVY. Even when you buy a dozen at Georgetown, the box is light as a feather. Promising…

I never intended to do more than get some cupcakes at Baked & Wired. I figured we’d eaten enough Georgetown Cupcake that we didn’t need to do a side-by-side tasting. But Georgetown Cupcake was essentially on the way to the car. Maybe the line wouldn’t be long so early in the day? I could just quickly walk by and see how the line was looking. If the line wasn’t long, wouldn’t it make sense, wouldn’t it be the rigorous thing to do to get the red velvet and vanilla chocolate from Georgetown as well? What’s two more cupcakes? I could write about this on my blog! Don’t tell me I’m not committed to my craft.

That’s how I came to be standing in a line outside Georgetown Cupcake about 15 deep holding a Baked & Wired box and wearing only my running gear (it was a bit cold). I carefully placed my running gloves over the “Baked & Wired” sticker and hoped no one would notice. Even though I already had four massive cupcakes, I started wondering what the free secret flavor of the day was. I don’t have a smartphone so I had no way of checking. I asked the cute tourists in front of me if they could check (hey, it got them free cupcakes too!). “Chocolate Chip” they said…hmmm, it’s free, maybe I should get three cupcakes instead of only two? Once I got inside, I realized that one of the monthly flavors was strawberry lava fudge, one of my favorites. OK, I’ll just get four, they are small, one is free, and it’s for the good of the baking sciences (adding “s” to science makes it more “science-y”).

The person who boxed my cupcakes offered me a bag (Baked & Wired didn’t by the way, even though their box of cupcakes weighed 100 pounds) and then nicely offered to put my other box in the bag too. I sheepishly handed her the Baked & Wired box and hoped she wouldn’t say anything (hey, it could’ve been filled with hand pies!).

Her: “Baked & Wired, huh?…the competition, I don’t know if I can put those in our bag.” She said this with a smile.

Me: “Thanks, I’m sure I’ll like yours better.”

But after seeing (and carrying!) Baked & Wired’s cupcakes, I wasn’t so sure. I was really starting to think I’d like the Baked & Wired better and quite frankly, I wanted to like the Baked & Wired better (no line!, larger!, no ridiculous clearly dramatized “reality” show!).

I immediately fell in love with the appearance of the Baked & Wired cupcakes and was impressed by their size. I’m never satisfied with one Georgetown Cupcake, they are way the hell too small. Here are some pictures of the cupcakes. Note that I somehow ended up with 5 Baked & Wired cupcakes, even though I had only ordered 4. I only paid for 4, so each bakery ended up giving me one for free, although only Georgetown did it intentionally!


Here are some numbers (importance of data, blah, blah, blah, just eat the cupcakes already).

COST (per cupcake, ignoring free cupcakes):
Baked & Wired: $3.85
Georgetown Cupcake:  $~3.03

WEIGHT
Baked & Wired:  about 5 oz.
Georgetown Cupcake:  about 3.5 oz.

So as the Washington Post pointed out, Baked & Wired is cheaper by weight.

Comparable flavors (head to head)

The proof was in the eating. Dave is pickier about cupcakes in that he doesn’t care for many different flavors. He loves Georgetown’s vanilla & chocolate, which is their vanilla cupcake with stiff (heh, heh) chocolate frosting. Strangely enough, this is one of only two cupcake flavors I’ve tried there and haven’t liked. I like fluffy, light, and creamy frosting. The chocolate is just too much and it’s dense. But Dave loves it. Every time he tries another flavor, I ask him what he thinks and he says “It’s OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate.” Dave had this to say about the Baked & Wired version (vanilla with chocolate satin frosting): “pretty fucking tasty.” When I pressed him to compare the two bakeries, he said he would be pretty hard pressed to pick which was better. So that was pretty high praise given how much he loves the Georgetown version.

As for my head to head flavor (red velvet), I was disappointed in Baked & Wired. The cake part wasn’t dry per se, but it didn’t really taste like anything. So the fact that there was so much cake and relatively little frosting was not good. It was also hard to eat, I couldn’t get a bite of the whole thing, I had to break part of the bottom off first. The frosting was good, there was a nice balance between the taste of cream cheese and sweetness. But there wasn’t enough of it. Oh, and you wouldn’t think the three little red dot sprinkles would be worth writing about one way or another, but they tasted noticeably bad, like cough medicine. Overall, it wasn’t a bad cupcake, but I didn’t really want to finish it, which is a bad sign when one of my main complaints about my favorite cupcakes is how small they are.

I ate the Georgetown red velvet right after even though I wasn’t that jazzed to eat more cupcake and while I definitely liked it better than Baked & Wired, I noticed that the cake part of the Georgetown red velvet didn’t taste like much either. It’s the frosting that wins it–it’s so fluffy and sweet and there’s enough of it to mask the fact that the cake isn’t flavorful. The texture of the Georgetown cake was better as well. It actually felt velvety, whereas the Baked & Wired was more dense and like regular cake.

Random flavors (no head to head)

In retrospect, I realized that Baked & Wired’s Razmanian Devil (lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting) wasn’t so much of a wild card flavor. Georgetown Cupcake has a lemon berry flavor that I’ve had before and remember quite vividly HATING (this flavor and Dave’s favorite flavor–the frosting really–are the only flavors I’ve had there that I’ve disliked). I actually wondered if I’d gotten a bad cupcake that day because the lemon berry (I think it was the electric pink frosting) tasted like poison. So while I didn’t really love the Baked & Wired lemon raspberry, it kicked the shit out of Georgetown’s because it didn’t taste like they were trying to kill me. The Baked & Wired Razmanian Devil tasted like a cross between the lemon pound cake at Starbucks and a jelly donut. Not a bad combination, but I don’t think I’d get it again.

I had a bite of Dave’s wild card flavor from Baked & Wired (Texas sheetcake) and from that one bite thought it might have been the best of the ones I got there. I would prefer a little less cinnamon, but the cake was moist and the frosting was sweet and not too overpoweringly chocolaty. Dave gave his usual assessment of any new cupcake flavor (“OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate”). So he preferred his wild card flavor from Georgetown, which was the free secret flavor of the day (chocolate chip). It’s essentially the same thing as his favorite cupcake only with chocolate chips baked in.

My wild card flavor from Georgetown Cupcake was strawberry lava fudge. I adore their lava fudge cupcakes. My favorite is the one with peanut butter frosting, but the strawberry isn’t far off. And that’s all I’m going to say about that one because if I discuss how they are packed with fudge, I’m going to go all Beavis and Butthead on you.

Even though I was kind of disappointed in Baked & Wired, I can see going back to try some different flavors before making up my mind. Unfortunately, the madness doesn’t stop there as there are still more cupcake options. Sprinkles is opening a DC location soon. Then there’s Bake Shop in Clarendon yet to try, as well as a cupcake truck that sounds interesting (and stops near my office weekly…).

UPDATED 2/22 to say that cupcakes are a sickness. Dave and I went to the zoo yesterday since we both had the day off. Georgetown is on the way home from the zoo, so of course it made sense to get more cupcakes. The line at Georgetown Cupcake was probably 40 deep out the door and it was raining. So we went to Baked & Wired. Their strawberry cupcake is absolutely lovely. The cake was extremely moist and flavorful. The frosting was sweet and pink and perfect. So so good. So score one for Baked & Wired.

Feb
6
2011
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I’ve never been fully satisfied with any chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. My search for a perfect homemade chocolate chip cookie has been going on for years. My mother-in-law made excellent chocolate chip cookies. I remember fondly the care packages she sent to Dave filled with these thick, chewy, beautiful cookies, both because I never received care packages myself (I was so deprived!) and because her cookies were so good. I wonder if she knew that the reason I had tried them is because I stayed in Dave’s room a lot of the time (scandalous!)? When I asked her for the recipe, she said she used the Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of bags of Nestle morsels. However, when I tried that recipe, it did not yield her cookies. I tried probing to see if she did anything special that she wasn’t spilling and she insisted she just followed the recipe.

Since then I’ve done some research and have tried various other recipes. While I’m not going to say that the cookies I made were bad (most chocolate chip cookies are pretty tasty, but we’re talking about finding “the one” here), the recipes I tried weren’t yielding what I wanted, a rich and chewy cookie. It’s also important to me that the cookies have some heft to them, that they don’t spread out and get too thin.

One recipe that seemed very promising was Alton Brown’s “The Chewy.” While the chewy was good, it wasn’t my perfect cookie. While people seem to agree that melted butter is a key to chewy cookies, these cookies came out very greasy to the touch. They were also flatter than I wanted.

The next really promising recipe came from David Leite’s 2008 NY Times article. I was very excited about this recipe. Leite was essentially doing the same thing I was doing, searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but he had access to all kinds of resources (well-known and accomplished bakers) I didn’t have. The fact that he published a recipe must have meant he’d found the perfect cookie, right? Well, they weren’t the perfect cookies for me. These cookies were good right out of the oven, but were nothing special at all once they had cooled. By the next day, they were dry and lacking in flavor. They actually weren’t even worth the calories (looking back on the recipe in my disappointment, I realized that Leite himself had essentially said as much in the recipe–“eat warm”). The cookies were better if you reheated them a bit, but I didn’t feel that they were worth making again. I hadn’t found the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

It has been a couple of years since I tried making chocolate chip cookies. Then two weekends ago we saw an America’s Test Kitchen episode with the rather pompously named “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.” A lot of what I had already learned matched their recipe, with a few new twists. It seemed worth a try. Four things caused me some concern:

1.  the melted butter would yield greasy cookies (a la the chewy),

2.  browning the butter would be a pain and would make the cookies taste burnt (on the show they were so busy discussing the depth of flavor browned butter adds that I think they weren’t paying enough attention because all I was seeing was burnt butter…I actually think they made a mistake on the show, because the picture on their website doesn’t show butter that dark)

3. the recommended chocolate chip wouldn’t appeal to my tastes

4.  the enormous size/ridiculously low yield

I don’t care how big a cookie is, a yield of 16 cookies isn’t worth my time. Also, their insistence on having to make monstrously-sized cookies in order to obtain that elusive chewiness seemed like a cop-out to me. It implied to me that they had not actually perfected a technique that yields chewy cookies. If they had a perfect chewy cookie technique, why couldn’t you use that technique to make normal sized cookies that would be chewy?

Last weekend, I made these cookies. I solved concerns 3 and 4 by doubling the recipe. Doubling the recipe meant I’d get a non-laughable yield and it meant I could use their recommended chocolate chips in half of the dough and good old Nestle Toll House morsels in the other half (Just like the Test Kitchen, I’m a little bit of a chocolate snob too, but I started wondering if the missing link in duplicating my mother-in-law’s cookies was actually the chip. I usually use fancier chocolate chips and I’m sure she just used Nestle-so that seemed worth a try). So there would be a chocolate chip competition thrown in too.

The first step was the dreaded browning of the butter. I was very worried that their instructions would yield burnt, unusable butter but as it turned out I had trouble getting any color on the butter whatsoever. Even though Dave is a fabulous chef, we don’t actually have the pan they suggest for this task (10 inch skillet that is not dark or nonstick), so I ended up having to use a saucepan. The saucepan provided less surface area for cooking. That, plus having double the amount of butter (since I was doubling the recipe), seemed to stop the butter from browning. After going a couple of minutes over their maximum suggested time for the browning, I freaked out and just stopped because I had this vague recollection from watching the show that they had said  the reason they stir a few more tablespoons of solid butter into the stuff that has been melted is due to evaporation during the melting. I worried that I wasn’t going to have the right amount of butter if I kept it on the heat any longer. So check out this flavorful browned butter…

Other than that, everything went fine. I thought the added steps of waiting for the sugar to dissolve might be annoying, but it didn’t take long and seemed necessary (the batter certainly didn’t look ready for the dry ingredients after the first whisk). The next two pictures are of the result of the first whisk of butter and sugar and then what the mixture looked like right before adding the dry ingredients.

I almost forgot to split the finished dough in half to mix different chocolate chips in, but remembered just in time. We had the right size scoop (3 tablespoon) so portioning the dough was super easy. I ended up making the appropriate number of what I started calling “Dave’s cookies,” but only got 15 of “my cookies.” Dave’s cookies had the dark Ghirardelli chips mixed in and mine had the Nestle morsels. The next two pictures are a batch of my cookies waiting to go into the oven and a cute singleton of Dave’s dough. I started calling the cookies “mine” versus “Dave’s” because I know Dave likes dark chocolate and I generally don’t and I confirmed that through sampling some chips during the whisking and waiting steps. I really wasn’t wild about the dark chips, while the Nestle just tasted like normal chocolate chips to me.

I baked each sheet of cookies for about 11 minutes, which seemed perfect. I also got them the hell off the cookie sheets to cool immediately because I didn’t want them to continue baking. Here is a batch baking in the oven and what they looked like after I moved them to the cooking racks.


So what was the verdict?

I ate one of my cookies when they were still pretty warm. It tasted good, but was pretty greasy (like the chewy). A few hours later I had another and it was just lovely. The butter must have solidified or reabsorbed or something because they weren’t greasy any longer. I was saying to Dave that they reminded me of something when it hit me–his Mom’s cookies! Strange, because I know she didn’t melt her butter or use dark brown sugar or any of these other recipe changes. But they are the closest thing I’ve found to her cookies. Maybe the size mattered; my memory of her cookies is that they were pretty large. I froze most of the cookies the first night. We ate some of what I hadn’t frozen the next night and they were still very good at room temperature. The next night they were starting to get a little dry but were still good. Since then, we have reheated a couple from frozen and they are about as good as freshly baked that way (it is key to use a low power level on the microwave otherwise the cookie regains that fresh out of the oven greasy quality, you want the cookie thawed and maybe a little warm, but not hot).

What about the chip test?

Dave strongly preferred the Ghirardelli dark chips. While I liked the dark chips better in the finished product than when I tried them raw, I strongly preferred the Nestle. I’m sure there are better chips than Nestle, but I just don’t care for dark chocolate. I prefer semi-sweet or even milk chocolate. After deciding for myself, I checked the Test Kitchen’s website and read their chocolate chip reviews. I could tell just from the first line of their review of the “highly recommended” Ghirardelli that they are not for me:  “Distinct “wine,” “fruit,” and “smoke” flavors made this “adult chocolate” a clear winner.” The Test Kitchen tasters hated the Nestle chips and rated them as “not recommended.” They noted the high sugar content and said they were “unpleasantly sweet.” I guess this is just further confirmation that I have the palate of a 5-year old, because a.) I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted anything “unpleasantly” sweet; sweet is an inherently pleasant flavor to me and b.) if having an “adult” palate means I have to want my chocolate to taste like wine, fruit, and smoke (I mean, smoke…really?), I’ll just stick to being childlike.

But in reading their reviews of other chips, I think the Hershey’s semi-sweet might be a good option for me to try next time. While the description doesn’t make it sound like the tasters liked them, they did rate them as “recommended.” Their biggest concerns were that they were “too sweet” and had “a distinct “milky” flavor…more similar to milk chocolate than semisweet chocolate.” But the tasters thought they had “good cocoa flavor in cookies.” Those chips totally sound like a good fit for me.

Summary: I wanted to shove my face in the dough the whole time I was making these cookies. Writing this post and looking at these pictures again makes me want to go get another cookie out of the freezer. Not sure that they are “perfect,” but they are the closest I’ve found so far. I will totally make these cookies again. Next time, I think I’ll use Hershey’s chips in my batch and that I will brown the butter for the two batches separately to try to get the browning the recipe calls for.

“Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies” From Cook’s Illustrated.

Makes 16 cookies.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

Ingredients
1 3/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2     teaspoon baking soda
14       tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2     cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4    cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1         teaspoon table salt
2        teaspoons vanilla extract
1        large egg
1        large egg yolk
1 1/4  cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (they recommend Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
3/4     cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

LOGY EXPRESS NOTE: I slid the cookies, parchment and all, off the cookie sheets onto cooling racks immediately on taking them out of the oven, because I didn’t want them to keep baking and because I only have two appropriately sized cookie sheets and needed to reuse each for the second batch of dough. After a few minutes, they were set enough to GENTLY slide them off of the parchment if you want to reuse your parchment.

Dec
28
2010
Christmas Wrap-Up

Well, Christmas is pretty much a wrap (HA!). Here are some remaining odds and ends about the holiday.

Since our first Christmas at our current house, I look forward to one card above all others. Unfortunately it’s not addressed to us, but whatever. Each year, this lovely family of strangers takes a photo for their Christmas card that includes their absolutely adorable Bernese Mountain Dog, which is my favorite breed. I was thinking about scanning the card and photoshopping out the people so you could see how adorable this dog is, but it seems too risky. I don’t want these people to figure out that their friends (well, whatever you call people who are close enough to be on your Christmas card list but not close enough for you to realize they’ve moved even after five years) don’t live at our address anymore, because I love seeing their dog every year!

I made five kinds of cookies this year (plus the buckeyes). Each year I try to make something new and each year I try (and fail) to make soft and chewy gingersnaps (I realize that I shouldn’t insist on calling them snaps if I want them chewy, but that’s my way).

This year, I ended up making three of the five from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies. This year’s new cookie was chocolate chocolate chip. I thought my nephew in college would like them, so I made a double batch and sent half to him for his finals, and froze our half so they’d last until Christmas. They were OK, but they were more of a pain than drop cookies should be and they were not as good as my usual chocolate Christmas cookie (chocolate cracked cookies from a small paperback Crisco cookie cookbook I’ve had since high school). Carole Walter says to chill the dough for an hour, but before I could even transfer the dough into a smaller bowl for the fridge, it had stiffened up like a…well, never mind. Scooping the dough out to drop the cookies onto the sheets turned out to be more like hacking at it with a pick axe. Thumbs down on these…never again.

Her pecan tassie recipe is excellent though. This is the second year I made these, and I love them. And I think I finally have a gingersnap winner. Her molasses spice cookie stayed soft and chewy (although I replaced all of the white sugar she called for with brown, not sure what they would’ve been like as specified in the recipe). My sister-in-law loved them and asked for the recipe so I guess that one’s a keeper too.

One other thing I’ll say about the Carole Walter cookbook is that she’s either smoking crack or my oven runs cold. She insists that her recipes are tested for lighter bakeware and that if you use darker, non-stick bakeware you need to reduce oven temperature and baking times. However, I found that her temperatures and times were about what were necessary for the batches I baked on my darker non-stick and not nearly enough for my lighter bakeware. I had to leave all of my cookies in for several more minutes on my light bakeware and the tassies I did in my lighter mini muffin tins never browned, even after an additional 10 minutes. 

Rounding out this year’s cookie selections are two rolled and cut out cookies. I’ve been making raspberry linzer rounds (also from the Crisco book, although I always use butter) for at least 18 years, maybe longer. I took a break from making them for a couple of years, because the dough is kind of hard to work with, and the fact that they are sandwiched together means the yield from your hard work gets cut in half. But the raspberry jam thumbprints I made instead just weren’t as good. Having a marble table top to roll out the ridiculously soft and sticky (even after chilling overnight) dough and getting specialized linzer cookie cutters has made these cookies a lot easier. Much better than the year my tiny apartment kitchen got all hot from baking and the cut cookies kept completely losing their shape between the counter and the cookie sheet and I threw the cookie cutter at Dave in a huff and told him to make them (yes, somehow it was his fault). I am nothing if not mature.

The last cookie was my second, and maybe final, attempt at my sister-in-law’s (of buckeye recipe and molasses spice cookie-liking fame) almond butter cutouts. I usually don’t like iced or frosted cutouts, but hers were so good I asked for the recipe a few years ago. Her frosting was so sweet and fluffy, almost like buttercream, but following her recipe the following year yielded a thin icing rather than a spreadable frosting. I think she’s been making them so long she doesn’t use a recipe anymore, like my Gram, who could never tell you how she made something, she just knew how to do it (and now no one else does!). This year, I did some frosting research and ended up with something a lot closer to what I wanted. But my cookies still weren’t as good as what I remembered. I was hoping to do a side-by-side tasting at the in-laws’ get together, but hers were gone by the time we arrived. I think I give up. If I cull any cookies from my list next year, I think these will get the axe. Next year I’ll just have to make sure I get some at the in-laws’. 

I had planned on taking pictures of the cookie-baking as it happened, but I was lucky to get the baking done at all this year. I took these pictures once we got to my Mom’s. Her kitchen lighting is rough and I had a hard time trying to find a decent wall to bounce my flash off of and an even harder time not getting my own shadow into the picture. I ended up standing on a chair to get some of the photos and I could’ve fallen and cracked my head open, so there’s blog commitment for you. 

Dec
2
2010
A Great Big Bundle of Joy

Holy shit, it’s December.

This turn of events is horrifying–where did 2010 go exactly? On the other hand, yesterday I got to open door number one on my Neuhaus advent calendar. Beyond all reason is a good way to describe the way I love Neuhaus chocolate. Look at how adorable this year’s advent calendar is…

So this means it’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid.  But I am a little afraid of my to do list.

Christmas was magical for me as a child. What’s not to love about Christmas as a kid, with the special events, vacation from school, the cookies, and the much-anticipated presents. Some of my childhood home life was, shall we say, unsatisfying, but at Christmas things seemed different. Christmas somehow lightened my father’s mood and the tension in the house that often permeated our day-to-day existence dissipated during the holidays. The front two rooms of our house were transformed by the tree and the beautiful soft glow of Christmas lights and our ridiculous, but awesome life-size light-up Santa. I can still feel the warmth and coziness of our house at Christmas and remember fondly all the traditions we religiously upheld (cutouts frosted in pink, orange-flavored drop cookies frosted in green, driving around the neighborhood to see light displays–the house with lights that blinked in different colors blew my mind, and even where we all sat to open gifts on Christmas morning). Christmas was like cuddling under a favorite blanket.

I started counting down the days more than a month out and created elaborate color-coded countdown calendars (now I have an electronic countdown timer because I am more mature and sophisticated).

I’m not sure when I turned this corner exactly, but lately I’ve started to see Christmas more as something to get through than something to look forward to and that depresses the crap out of me. Now if I want cookies, guess who’s baking them? Right, that would be me. (Shout out to my Mom for still making the traditional green-frosted orange cookies I loved as a child). Even if I don’t want something, I just might be making it.  Also, as a child, your Mom wraps up shaving soap for your Dad for you and your gift-giving is complete. As an adult, you are expected to put more effort into the giving. When I have a great gift idea for a loved one, usually my Mom or Dave, I get pretty jazzed about the giving. When I don’t have great ideas, or even OK ideas, which seems to happen more and more frequently, I feel gift-giving performance anxiety.

A couple of years ago, I found myself lingering in a surprisingly wistful way on a catalog page depicting a mother and daughter in matching flannel nightgowns sitting by their Christmas tree. Panic-stricken, I thought “am I changing my mind about having children?!?” I started to imagine myself in this catalog scenario and realized that I didn’t see myself as the mother in that picture. Imagining myself as the mother did not replicate the warm and fuzzy feeling. No, I was wistful about being the kid.

As I was writing this post, one that was originally intended to be about my Christmas to do list and trying to rekindle the joy, a possible explanation hit me for the dampening of my enthusiasm (I mean, in addition to having to create the magic myself now rather than my parents being responsible). Christmas used to be more interactive, a shared experience among family and friends. My immediate family was never large,  but through the early years of high school, my Gram was around to celebrate with and now she’s gone. In high school, my music class practiced Christmas songs for weeks and it was so engaging and special. We sang this absolutely hideous yet wonderful song called “Jazzy Jinglin’ Bells” (go ‘head, baby) which I will never forget even though it’s been 23 years (gulp). Our foreign language teachers taught us “Silent Night” and we sang the song in English, French, and Spanish at the Christmas assembly.

Making many different kinds of cookies has felt like such drudgery during recent Christmases. I was in high school when I first started this tradition. My friends used to come over and keep me company while I baked. In fact, there’s a cookie I can’t make without them. Napoleon Hats are almond-flavored cutouts filled with a ball made of almond paste and shaped to look like a tri-cornered hat. I’m too spatially challenged to shape these cookies myself. I get the dough made, rolled out, cut into circles, the almond paste balls placed in the middle and then… Yeah, try as I might to make three equally sized folds on a circular-piece of dough, I cannot do it so that it stays or looks like a Napoleon Hat. Miss you Erin and Sarah and Kristen, come help me make cookies!

In college, the University Choir hosted an annual “Boar’s Head” dinner. As a member of the choir, I helped serve the dinner to my fellow students and prior to each course we sang a festive holiday song. Wassail! In college and the years immediately after, visiting home at Christmas was a chance to catch up with everyone. In more recent years, I’ve lost touch with some friends and others have since moved away from my hometown.

One of my favorite Christmas-related memories is from a visit to Dave’s hometown when we were still dating. I can still make myself crack up thinking about the time we went shopping with Dave’s friend Jim on this visit. Dave and I were looking to spice up our Christmas music collection and Jim offered to buy him a CD for Christmas. Dave selected Acid X-mas. We popped the CD into the car’s player and cranked it up for the drive home. I will NEVER forget the look on Jim’s face as the first strains of “Carol of the Bells (A Demonic Christmas)” washed over us. We laughed so hard I thought I’d be sick. I can’t even remember how long it’s been since we’ve seen Jim.

So adulthood might take some of the shine off Christmas for more than one reason. At this point, I no longer want to provide a boring list of my Christmas to dos. Suffice it to say that it’s long, and that in my new time management spirit, I have created a spreadsheet (I know!) to ensure that completing it all is actually a do-able feat. I’ll probably share the fruits of some of the tasks here, but as for the list, who gives a shit. I’ve thought about cutting back, but I realize there’s a reason I do all this stuff. The tree is pretty. The gifts give people pleasure or at least let people know you care about them. The photo calendars let me use the photographs I’ve taken over the year in a creative way rather than just staying trapped on my computer. People enjoy the cookies and the buckeyes I make. And I’m GLAD that people enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Happy Advent!

Nov
21
2010
How to Make Buckeyes

The 2010 buckeye making is complete. It didn’t seem quite as bad as usual. Making the dough the night before was a good idea. That took about an hour on Friday (it took longer because I was taking pictures and had to set up the camera, etc…). Then I spent between 5 and 6 hours on the buckeyes on Saturday. It’s a commitment.

Here are the ingredients. Healthy-looking, no?

The first step is to mix the softened butter and peanut butter together. Not that this picture is critical, but because I love my green mixer, here is what the peanut butter and butter look like after they are mixed together.

Adding the powdered sugar is where this gets interesting. Every year I try to use the mixer to get as much of the 3 pounds of sugar into the dough as possible and every year I have to give up and use my hands to knead the last pound or so. I hate having to knead the dough by hand so I like to take the mixer part right to the brink of buckeye dough explosion. The dough in the next picture is trying to make a break for it. Thankfully, this year I made considerably less mess and inhaled considerably less powdered sugar than usual. Dave thinks I might be able to get all the sugar mixed in if I had the larger 6-quart Kitchen Aid, but they don’t make it in green, so that’s not an option.

Here is what the dough looks like with all the powdered sugar almost fully incorporated. I chilled the dough overnight since I planned to roll the buckeyes the next day. After I took the dough out of the fridge, it took about an hour for the dough to warm up enough to roll.

The recipe I use says that the rolling “takes forever, so turn on a good movie and begin to roll balls.” The first few years I made buckeyes, I fought the movie-watching suggestion. I was worried about spilling dough in the living room and didn’t want the process to take any longer than it had to. But you end up standing for hours to dip the buckeyes, so it’s silly to stand for rolling when you can sit and be entertained by something else. The first year I took the movie suggestion, I chose “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” That wasn’t a good selection. Some crying took place during that movie, which interfered with the rolling. This year I watched “Marie Antoinette,” which save for a scene in which they take away her dog, was a tear-free choice.

The recipe also says to “try not to eat too many during the movie.” I have never been even remotely tempted to stick a piece of buckeye dough sans chocolate coating into my mouth. But if that turns you on, go for it, who am I to judge? The rolling took me about 2 hours and 45 minutes this year, but I was distracted by the movie. I think I’ve been able to do this in 2 hours before.

My favorite part of the recipe is the uselessness of the instruction on size. The recipe calls for the dough to be rolled into balls that are “buckeye size.” I use a small ice cream scoop (size 70) to portion out the dough. The recipe says it yields about 100-120 buckeyes, but I have always gotten about 12 dozen. My feeling is that if you are going to go through all this work, you might as well try to get as many buckeyes as possible. This year I made 138 buckeyes and I think they are plenty big. Here they are—chilling before their chocolate dip.

The recipe calls for melting chocolate chips with some paraffin. The first year I made them, I followed this suggestion and they tasted fine. But because mixing wax into my food freaked me out and also because I like to make things more difficult, the next few years we tempered chocolate for the dipping. I say “we” because I needed Dave’s help to do this. So then we were both cranky. Then we moved on to trying to melt chocolate chips without breaking their temper. Don’t do this, you will want to kill yourself. To avoid breaking the temper, you have to keep the chocolate at a temperature which won’t allow the chocolate to get thin enough to dip the balls easily. And it takes forever to melt chocolate chips this way (if you try to do it faster the temperature will get too high and then the chocolate won’t set up after dipping the balls). Now I use milk chocolate melting caps from Romolo’s. Romolo’s is a handmade chocolate shop in my hometown that I visit pretty much daily every time I’m in Erie. The caps melt easily and the buckeyes are just as good dipped in this chocolate. In fact, several people actually noticed the difference and said the buckeyes were better this way. So yea, Romolo’s!

Once the chocolate is melted, you can dip the chilled balls. I use a wooden skewer for the dipping and a second skewer to ease the dipped buckeyes onto wax paper. The second skewer becomes less necessary the more the balls soften. When the balls get too soft, they’ll dive right back into the chocolate before you can get them to the wax paper, which is not at all annoying. The dipping took me 2.5 hours this year. Here is a ball getting its buckeye chocolate dip.

I tested one the night I made them and it was perfectly fine. But the magic of eating them is gone for me. All I taste is my effort, if that makes any sense. Here is a shot of the buckeyes resting before I packed them for freezing.

Here is the recipe.

BUCKEYES

1 lb. butter, room temperature

2 lbs. peanut butter, creamy

3 lbs. powdered sugar

******

2 bags chocolate chips (NOTE: I used slightly less than 3 bags—1 lb. each—of Romolo’s milk chocolate melting caps)

2-3 oz. paraffin (NOTE: I don’t use this)

******

1.) Cream peanut butter and butter together. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix well. By the end you may need to use your fingers and knead it to get it all mixed.

2.) Roll mixture into balls* – buckeye size. Makes between 100-120 balls. Refrigerate balls for at least an hour. They dip better when chilled.

EDITED 12/4 to ADD: Just saw that someone found this post by searching on “buckeye recipe keep in freezer until ready to dip in chocolate.” Maybe it won’t matter if you use paraffin, but I strongly recommend not freezing the undipped buckeyes. We did that one year to save space in the fridge, and the condensation on the balls as they thawed messed up the chocolate when we started dipping (water and melted chocolate don’t like each other).

3.) Melt chocolate and paraffin in a double boiler. Test your chocolate by dipping one ball and letting it sit for 5 minutes. If the chocolate has set, your chocolate is ready. Continue to dip balls by using a square toothpick (thick ones). Press toothpick into chilled balls and dip into chocolate leaving an eye opening on top to look like a buckeye. Then, take another toothpick to gently press perpendicular to the toothpick in the buckeye to slide it off onto wax paper.

4.) Chill dipped buckeyes until firm (NOTE: if your chocolate is tempered properly this is unnecessary). Then, line the buckeyes in containers with wax paper between layers and keep in the freezer until ready to serve.

*Note: this takes forever, so turn on a good movie and begin to roll balls—try not to eat too many during the movie.

Nov
18
2010
The Fucking Buckeyes

The season of buckeyes is nigh. Buckeyes are balls made of a sweetened peanut butter and butter mixture dipped in chocolate.

Sounds delicious, no? They are especially delicious if someone else makes them. My sister-in-law from Ohio (buckeyes = Ohio state tree) brought buckeyes to my in-laws’ Christmas get together a few years ago. I ate 900 of them. Seriously, none of the others got any. Since I thought I couldn’t live without them, I asked how to make them.

The next year, I made them. Making buckeyes myself has been successful from a weight-maintenance perspective, because I have completely lost my desire to eat them. I only know that the buckeyes I make are any good because friends and family seem to love them. Socially speaking, I suppose I would still be allowed to go home for Christmas and be invited to holiday parties without bringing buckeyes, but the welcome would be more tepid.

So since I introduced my family and friends to the buckeye goodness, now I have to make them every year.  And verily, verily I say unto thee, making the fucking buckeyes is a pain in the ass. I plan to document the merriment of the annual buckeye making this weekend, complete with tips and photos. I’ve enlisted Dave to take the photos since my hands will be coated in buttered peanut butter all day. Dave’s also been instructed to leave me out of the photos since I generally don’t have time to shower or brush my hair the day I do this thing.

I’m writing about the buckeyes now prior to the tutorial so that I can get the use of the word fuck out of my system in case anyone ever reaches this site through an honest desire to know how to make the fucking buckeyes.

Also, because I’m documenting my tasks and productivity here I want to assert…this year is going to be different. This year, the buckeye making is not going to suck. Plans for reducing the suck include:

  • breaking up the three stages of grief buckeye making into two days by making the dough the night before
  • doing the rest on Saturday rather than Sunday and starting earlier in the day (procrastination usually leaves me dipping the damn things in chocolate in the wee hours of Monday morning)
  • sitting down and relaxing with a movie during the two hours of rolling time

A buckeye-loving friend suggested a couple of years ago during my endless bitching and moaning about the buckeyes that I should have a “buckeye-making” party. I had trouble getting past the oxymoron of “buckeye-making” and “party.” It reminded me of the time I was invited to a “tree trimming party.” I went to this party, and while it was pleasant enough, I couldn’t help thinking what a brilliant con it was. The whole time I kept throwing out other party ideas. But my plans for a “weed my garden party” and a “do my taxes party” weren’t enthusiastically received. Unfortunately, the timing for a buckeye party this year didn’t work out. But if the buckeye making still sucks after my proposed changes this year, I’m totally having a buckeye-making party next year. The guests will make the buckeyes, I’ll supervise. Or I might just go to the basement and play Rock Band.