Category Archives: cookordie

Geek cooking: In search of vanilla

Vanilla beans

Winter is a great time for baked goods. Or as we like to call them in this household, baked awesomes. Baked awesomes usually involve a splash of vanilla extract. Our supplies are dwindling. The 500ml bottle of Posa pure vanilla extract that W- brought back from Mexico a number of years ago is down to maybe four batches of cookies’ worth.

W- and J- are maple syrup snobs (nothing but pure maple syrup, and even then, only particular kinds!), and I suspect we’re all that way about our vanilla extract, too. so I’m not even going to try to suggest the artificial vanilla extract readily available in supermarkets. Besides, I think it’s awesome that W- had a 500ml bottle of pure vanilla extract in his kitchen when most supermarkets only sell these tiny little bottles of vanilla (and fake, at that!).

So W- was searching the Net for a good place to order pure vanilla extract, preferably from Mexico. Turns out this is a dicey proposition because a number of companies add coumarin to bottles of vanilla extract (Wikipedia:coumarin). It’s cheap and it tastes like vanilla. It also does Really Bad Things to your liver.

Along the way, we discovered that you can make vanilla extract at home. It involves vanilla beans and vodka, neither of which we keep handy. We’re looking forward to experimenting with it, though.

And just as an example of how amazing the Internet is: we found that recipe on an entire site dedicated to the vanilla bean – varieties, comparisons, recipes, and so on.

I’ll keep you posted on the awesomeness. =)

Vanilla beans photo © 2009 acfou Creative Commons Attribution License

Cookie recipe: Oatmeal (chocolate chip/raisin) cookies

This recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking Quick Oatmeal Cookies recipe (1st edition), but modified to make chewier cookies. Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cream in a bowl:
    • 1 cup butter
    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  3. Beat in another bowl, then combine with butter mixture until thoroughly mixed:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 4 tablespoons milk
  4. Whisk in another bowl and gradually add to wet mixture:
    • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Gradually add two cups of rolled oats while mixing. Mix until everything is moistened. Batter doesn’t need to be smooth.
  • Use a teaspoon to drop cookies on a silicone-lined or greased-and-floured cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

    I usually make raisin and chocolate chip cookies from the same batch of dough, because J- doesn’t like chocolate and I don’t like raisins. (I bear a grudge towards raisins because raisin cookies often masquerade as chocolate chip ones. Disappointing!). Instead of mixing the raisins or chocolate chips into the cookie dough, I press raisins or chocolate chips into the cookies by hand. I usually make the raisin cookies first, since they’re not as popular as the chocolate chip ones. After I finish adding all the raisins, I can then manually add chocolate chips to each cookie, or dump chocolate chips into the cookie dough and mix it some more.

    Cookie photo © 2008 Pink Sherbet Photography Creative Commons Attribution License

    Cream meringue tart cockaigne

    Finally, a chance to sit down after one solid morning of baking! We
    made cream meringue tart cockaigne and devil’s food cake cockaigne,
    both from the first edition of the Joy of Cooking. The cream meringue
    collapsed a little bit when we took it out of the oven, but the
    meringue tasted yummy. I can’t wait to add the strawberry whipped
    cream filling. I’ll practice baking this cake until I can do it
    consistently well. It was W-‘s third time to make the devil’s food
    cake. The cake came out beautifully thanks to the spring-loaded pans.
    I’ll insist on using those pans the next time I bake a cake. ;)

    I know that I can get prettier cakes from any supermarket, but those
    cakes won’t have stories baked into them. Cooking is a terrific hobby.
    It not only keeps me busy and learning, but also increases the
    pleasures of eating and entertaining. It’s a good way to develop my
    ability to track multiple things and to adjust when something doesn’t
    turn out according to plan. It’s a hobby that will grow with me. I’m
    looking forward to finding out what I’ll be like when I’m seventy!

    Getting back to the two cakes: I don’t know how many people will come
    later, or at what time they’ll arrive. But at 3:00, we’re going to
    assemble, cut, and serve the cakes, because *we* definitely want them.

    Random Emacs symbol: eshell-process-wait-milliseconds – Variable: *The number of milliseconds to delay waiting for a synchronous process.


    It seems very inefficient to use the Broil/Grill function on the oven
    to heat up a peanut-butter sandwich, but this suite has three rice
    cookers and no toasters. Go figure. =) I won’t have a toaster at the
    other side yet, either… I’ll add a toaster oven to my wish list.

    I’m a little uncertain about the prospects of living off peanut butter
    sandwiches for the next few weeks. My mom told me stories of managing
    it when she was in college, though, so it can’t be *too* bad for me.
    I’m looking forward to having a proper kitchen, though! I will be very
    slow and very careful about buying things, but I’m looking forward to
    properly doing once-a-month or once-a-week cooking.

    I hope to get the paperwork for the lease together in time. Thursday,
    I’m going to run around and pick up paperwork. I’m looking forward to
    eating more than peanut butter toast…

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    Random Emacs symbol: minibuffer-window – Function: Return the window used now for minibuffers.

    Twice-baked potatoes

    One of the simple joys in life is waking up (relatively) early on a weekend morning and preparing a proper breakfast. I made myself a twice-baked potato that was pretty decent, although it wasn’t as good as the ones I enjoyed in childhood. The idea is to scoop out the insides of a baked potato and mash that up with cheddar cheese, then bake it again until the cheese browns. I settled for microwaving the potato for 7 minutes, mashing it up, mixing it with grated cheddar, and broiling it for a short while. I also cooked bacon bits on the side.

    Ah. Happy girl.

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