Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Baking Lesson

This past Friday, we didn’t have a whole lot to do, so I decided to give Penny her first baking lesson.  Penny calls me “Cookies”, a nickname my husband gave me years ago.  It came about when I bought him one of those giant chocolate chip cookies when we were dating.  Before Penny arrived, we were chatting on Messenger and she gave me quite the interview about what kind of cookies I like.  (I decided finally that Hershey Kiss cookies are my favorite).  Before she left, Penny’s mom Linda told her that she should learn some baking techniques from me so that when she goes back to Thailand, she can make them some treats.

I went through the cupboards and found that I had enough ingredients to make Chunky Chocolate Jam Bars, a real favorite in this house (probably my second favorite cookie!).  I decided that bar cookies would be easy, since the bake pretty uniformly and it would be fun.  Penny was excited about it, so we agreed to meet in the kitchen during Leah’s nap time!  This is the recipe we followed, making only the slight change that instead of using raspberry jam, we used the strawberry jam I canned earlier this year after spending way too much time in the Pick Your Own fields at Westmoreland Berry Farm.

Penny is a very precise chef, so consequently, the cookies came out very well.  One thing we are learning about her is that she hates to waste anything.  And she only uses exactly what she needs to use.  When she cooked dinner for us the other night, she made exactly one chicken breast for 3 people.  Needless to say, The Chief and I were rooting around afterwards trying to find a little something else. :-D  She was also scandalized when I asked her to dump out a half a container of milk that had gotten old and gone bad.  She agreed it smelled funny and the color was not good, but she was very upset we couldn’t do something with it.  I have a few items in the fridge that she’s been hanging on to and when school starts next week, I am cleaning house.  I just don’t want to upset her in the process!

Anyway, she was extremely deliberate while measuring out the ingredients.  After she’d measured out exactly 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal, there was about a tablespoon of oatmeal left in the container, and she wanted to put it away.  I told her it wouldn’t hurt anything if she tossed it in with the rest of the cookies, so that’s what we did.  We had to decide what went against the grain more—using more than she needed or tossing a tablespoon of something in the trash.  We erred on the side of utilitarianism.

Teaching Penny some baking was very useful.  She got to try out using my stand mixer, and we got to have a lot of dialogue using numbers and fractions and food items that we might not have discussed otherwise.   We got to talk about foods she likes and dislikes and things that her mother likes and dislikes and The Chief and I like and dislike as well.  Unfortunately, I forgot that Penny does not like oatmeal, a key component in these cookies, but oh well!

Penny got warm with the oven on, something that is quite rare.  Usually she is wearing a sweatshirt and long pants to counteract the effects of the air conditioner.  Here she is, having stripped off one layer of clothing to reveal her much beloved “Child of the 80’s” t-shirt.  The shirt cracks me up in that Penny was born in the early 90’s for a start, and it has a Bob Ross “button” which says something about setting fire to the happy little trees, a decidedly un-Bob-Ross-like sentiment.  Given that she does not seem to know what her t-shirts say and that it just seems to be cool to wear English sayings on things, I would gather this is one of the “coolest” things in her wardrobe.  And I happen to love it as well!  Oh yes, the above picture is of her measuring out coconut.  I’m forgetting the point of this post!

The sole point of miscommunication we had while baking was in getting the bottom crust ready.  I told Penny to eyeball about half the mixture into the pan.  She thought I wanted her to use 1/2 a cup of the mixture and press it into 1/2 the pan.  But we worked through that and she made a beautiful crust.  Here she is preparing to spread the jam over it.  (Baker’s hint:  if you decide to make the recipe yourself, I always spread the jam on the crust and then top it with chocolate chips, instead of sprinkling broken chocolate bar over the crust and then attempting to cover that mess with jam.  The cookies come out just fine and are way easier to make!)

Here is a picture of Penny’s finished product:


Let me tell you, people, she was not happy to learn we had to wait for them to cool off before we cut into them.  We wound up putting them up on a baking rack so they would cool off faster, but after about 30 minutes, the wait was unbearable.  Leah was awake, so I brought her downstairs and then we cut into them.

This is not a great picture on account of the fact that somehow a fingerprint got on my lens.  I’ll give you one guess how it got there.  Was Penny proud?

You betcha!!!  What did Leah think?

“Thanks anyway, but I’d rather eat some dried cherries.”

Later that night, we fed some to The Chief, who pronounced them an overwhelming success.

P1080157 In October, we’ll be making some delicious pumpkin cookies and in December at the holidays, I always go a bit cookie crazy!  So Penny’s culinary education will continue.  I have my doubts that anything will quite add up to Texas Toast in her book, but we will see!  Cooking with my “daughter” is everything I dreamed it could be!

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