Friday, May 24, 2013

Cookie disaster

ie, when the literary and the culinary don't mix. Yesterday's experiment taught me that. But before yesterday, imagine me walking into a bookstore and strolling over to the cookbook section. Imagine me picking up and paging through every volume on display of the "Les chefs cuisinent la littérature" series. (That's "Chefs cook literature," and their tag line is "Reading makes you hungry.") There was a book with a complicated seafood recipe based on a mention in Melville's Moby Dick and some other books with recipes I passed on. However, I thought the "eat me" cookies inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland would make a good rainy day baking project. The slim booklet included two chapters from Alice in Wonderland translated into French (how fun!) and then the cookie recipe put together by none other than Apollonia Poilâne, the head of my favorite bread shop in Paris.

I bought the book then headed off to Poilâne to purchase the "bread flour" called for in the recipe. Then the book and the flour sat on my shelves for a few weeks, while we went off to Scotland and while Malanga Girl turned five. (Oh yes, she's FIVE now!) Yesterday, we came home earlier than usual after school due to a sudden temperature drop outside and some nasty sideways rain. It seemed like a perfect day for making cookies, especially since we have a playdate coming up. Malanga Girl got right to work, as you can see below.

Measuring flour

Adding cherry jam to the cookie centers

Then came the agonizing wait while the cookies baked, then cooled off. We knew as soon as we bit into them that something was off. The texture was too crumbly and the flavor was just, well, not so good. Malanga Girl suggested baking them for longer. I obliged her, but went over the ingredient list while the cookies were back in the oven. Tahini, eggs, butter, pistachio flavoring and cherry jam. Hmmm, no sugar? Maybe that's what made them taste so very not cookie-like? But what about the texture problem?  Out of the oven they came and they were still crumbly and still blah-tasting.

Was it the use of bread flour instead of regular flour? Did I overdo it with the tahini? If I were to add sugar next time, would that improve the texture or just the taste? I continue to ponder these questions, but in the meantime must declare that Alice could not possibly have eaten these when she went down the rabbit hole. No playdate participants will eat them, either. This morning, I made some brown butter poppy-seed financiers from Béatrice Peltre's cookbook, a recipe that was a big hit with the kids in Malanga Girl's yoga class this past winter.

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