Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Book of Cookrye goes forth to learn how we've done it all wrong

This is a special time here at A Book of Cookrye. We are going forth to... cooking school! That's right, we are going out in public, where we always receive a lot of side-eye, and attempting to get a piece of paper that says we can successfully wield both spoon and fork.
I don't know what to expect out of this, aside from hopefully getting actually paid to cook at some point. And when I say paid, I mean paid enough to actually pay my own rent in a not-dangerous neighborhood and still have funds left over to eat better than rice and dried beans.
In the meantime, I have made sure I do not show up at the community college without the truly vital things in life.

Holding true to the spirit of A Book of Cookrye, the cookies were a post-Christmas discount and the tea was on clearance. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Icing Macaroons!: or, Avoiding Christmas waste

It's a new year, and as everyone (who's honest) would say, "New year, same excuses!" We at A Book of Cookrye are no better, but we have finally gotten around to cleaning out a lot of things in the kitchen. And so, we found these!

Bags upon bags of leftover icing which we cannot throw away. We have lemon icing, cinnamon icing, cream cheese icing, and lots of other glazes and icings in various colors. We have extra icing from cakes, cookies, and other assorted confections, all bagged and frozen in case we for some reason need a very small amount of icing and had no powdered sugar in the house. You may think we should throw this out, but whenever we at A Book of Cookrye ever consider throwing away food that is not utterly rotted in the refrigerator, the though of food waste inspires this:

But we at A Book of Cookrye have wonderful news! Your leftover icing can be made into... these!
In the spirit of cleaning up, this is on a leftover Christmas paper plate.

And these are actually the best macaroons I've ever made! Granted, the only other recipe I ever use is the one on the bag of coconut, but these are better. We actually got this idea from Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery. One of the cake recipes has this line at the end:

Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss Leslie, 1837

"Whatever icing is left, may be used to make maccaroons or kisses."
Miss Leslie doesn't explain how one might make macaroons or kisses (which are meringue cookies- see here) out of icing, which is surprising since most of the recipes in the book are very detailed, without any annoyingly vague instructions like "Prepare in the usual way." In a book so detailed she even describes what to feed your hogs before she gets to cooking a ham, she just mentions offhand that icing macaroons can be done and says nothing more about it. But we at A Book of Cookrye always like a challenge, and so we figured it out!
And so, we present, a Book of Cookrye picture tutorial: Icing macaroons!

You will need only five things:
Extra icing from whatever you were baking (canned or homemade),
Shredded coconut  (sweetened or unsweetened, I can't tell the difference once they're baked),
Baking powder, and

All right, so obviously the extra icing you have (probably) won't be in a nice, even amount in cups. That won't matter, you'll be eyeballing a lot of the ingredients anyway. The first thing we will do is get all the icing in a bowl. Well, actually, the first thing we do is heat the oven to 350°, but then we put the icing in a bowl.
As a note, you don't need to save and stash icing in the freezer until you have a lot of it. The extra icing from one cake or a single batch of decorated cookies will be enough to make a nice-sized plate of macaroons- just right if you want cookies but not want a lot of them.

You may correctly think icing isn't supposed to look like that. I guess all the time in the freezer and refrigerator hardened it.  So, into the microwave with it! You don't want to melt it, you just want it to get softened.

Now, we take a whisk and flog all the icing together. There may be some hardened icing flakes that do not mix in- don't worry about them. If they don't soften and mix in before they bake, they the coconut flakes will camouflage them.
I didn't plan this, but it just so happens that all the icings were somewhere in the yellow-to-orange part of the color wheel. This will help your cookies come out a nice color, as opposed to the weird gray-brown you'd get if you mixed something like purple, green, and red. So, whatever colors you have, it will help if they're from the same part of the color wheel. If you do get some weird gray color, you can fix it by adding food coloring in whatever color it's already leaning towards (for example, if it's a blue-ish gray, you can add a lot of blue). You'll have darker-colored cookies, but they won't be the color of unfortunate rocks.

All right, we will now add the things that turn the icing into cookies! We'll start with the eggs. The basic unit of icing measurement we're using is the small single-layer cake (or about half an icing can). For every small cake's worth of icing, add one egg and one teaspoon of baking powder. As you can see, we have about enough icing for either a two-layer cake or a sheet cake. Since that's about two small cakes' worth of icing, there shall be two eggs.

When you add the baking powder, be sure to whisk it really well to break up any clumps.

We are almost done! The next thing to add is enough flour to make a dough. It's hard to measure out, so just eyeball it. You don't want to add so much flour you could shape the dough into balls, because that would make the cookies bland. But you do want it to be a lot thicker than cake batter. We're going to make drop cookies.

See how the dough almost holds up the spoon? And how it holds a shape but falls back on itself instead of standing up when you scoop it out? And how it's still really sticky? That's what we want. Now, we'll just dump in the coconut and we're ready to bake!

You can decide how much coconut you want to add. Some people like so much coconut in their macaroons that they seem like solid coconut with just enough cookie dough to hold them together. Others like to put in less. As for myself? I dumped in the last of a coconut package leftover from some recipe or another and decided that was exactly what I wanted.
Now, just drop this off a spoon onto a greased baking sheet. They will need room to spread. Bake them until they're golden at the bottom edge. If you're like me and forgot to turn the oven and let it heat up, the temperature for today is 350°. You can make the cookies small and dainty-sized, really big and American-sized, or any size in between. As you can see, we at A Book of Cookrye decided to make them big.  They took about 15 or 20 minutes to bake. If you bake them long enough to get really browned on top (as opposed to just the protruding bits getting browned), they'll be really crunchy.
Some cookies you can lift off the sheet once they're cooled, but for these you should get out a spatula.

And so, the icing that would have been thrown out has become... these cookies!

They'll be really crispy on the outside and soft in the middle when fresh, and soften completely by the next day. And these really are delicious. But you don't need to stash icing in the freezer forever- you can get a nice plate of cookies out of the extra icing from just one cake (or one batch of iced cookies). And they are so good.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

More Mayonnaise!

Mayonnaise has featured in a two more cake recipes than it should have on A Book of Cookrye. One of them also had carrots in it. In the spirit of ringing in a new year hopefully full of weird culinary perpetrations, we present with no further comment this picture.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from A Book of Cookrye!

We started this year attempting to eat pudding out of a mayonnaise jar, and found the pudding all leaked out before we could eat it. It was a metaphor for what the year would bring.
As the first hours of Christmas arrive (in our time zone, anyway),  we at A Book of Cookrye extend wishes for a nice Christmas to everyone. Note: we didn't say wonderful or the loveliest or anything like that, just nice. All those other ones are too much pressure.
We would like to remind everyone of something else: You have the same right to be tired today as you do at any other time of year. So many people are grimly determined to put on Christmas cheer that they try to stomp out any sadness, frustration, or blatantly open displays of fatigue in their vicinity. Others think that being jolly on Christmas is a capital-D Duty. If you're happy today, then be happy. But if you're not, no one says you have to be. Well, all right, a lot of people say you should force yourself to be happy anyway, but you can ignore then and leave them to frantically wear themselves out in the name of the holiday spirit. If you're a bit tired of hearing Jingle Bell Rock on the radio for the fifth time this morning*, you have the same right that you've always had to change the station or turn it off. Don't make yourself miserable trying to force yourself to enjoy this day as much as possible.
And, as a special note to anyone who will have guests over (related or not), don't fret about obsessively removing every bit of dirt and each smudge from every corner of the house. If the people coming over would mutter in disapproval that there was -O the horror!- fingerprints on the windows, they will snoop and find some spot you missed in your cleaning efforts no matter how thoroughly you scrub. And anyway, why worry what such picky, persnickety people think? You already know they won't be satisfied even if you hand-stenciled the platters. Such people never approve of anything, so you may as well let them be their disapproving selves while you relax instead of hunting down every last speck of dust in your entire house.
On a more materialistic note, Marcus noticed my "subtle" hints and got me an Otamatone!

And so, we at A Book of Cookrye are spending the earliest hours of Christmas morning attempting to play songs on a Japanese squeaky toy. Merry Christmas everyone!

I'm leaving this here because Connee Boswell is awesome and I love her voice.

*As an aside, at least one radio station in my city switched to 24-7 Christmas music in early November and have been playing the same 50 recordings ever since. Even if someone likes Christmas music, surely they would get tired of hearing so many people perform vocal gymnastics to the tune of Oh Holy Night before December began.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Second-Stab Saturday: Cinnamon Pie, or Finding new ways to fail

Remember when we attempted this?
The [Los Angeles] Times Cook Book, no. 2, ca.1905

You may recall that the last time we tried this recipe we just mixed everything, dumped it in a pie pan, and baked it. The result was scrambled eggs floating in this brown stuff that was burnt on top.
 However, this recipe seemed like it would be good if it actually worked. Also, this is a community cookbook. Theoretically, all the recipes are ones that the contributors were particularly proud of and therefore are guaranteed to work. Furthermore, not only did they publish the names of each recipe submitter, but they also put her address. If a recipe failed, you would know who to blame and where to find her.

CINNAMON PIE. Mrs. C.C. Norton, 1407 Girard street, Los Angeles, Cal.--(Original.) Sift together seven tablespoons of sugar, two level tablespoons of flour, four teaspoons of ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Stir into this four cupfuls of sweet milk, butter size of egg* and two eggs beaten well. (Filling for two pies.)

 *Since I had to crack an egg open anyway, I measured its contents before mixing them in. "Butter the size of an egg" is about a quarter cup, give or take.

It seemed we made a very simple, easily-corrected error in our first cinnamon pie attempt. This pie theoretically could easily fixed with a double boiler.
Looks as gloriously cinnamon-brown as it did the first time.

Indeed, this recipe yielded a really nice custard. However, as much as the kitchen smelled delightfully of cinnamon by the time it was done, the contents of the pot tasted curiously bland. It seems that over the course of the extended boiling, all the cinnamon oil evaporated right out of the pie-to-be. Fortunately, this was easily fixed. And in future makings of this recipe (which surely would prove so good as to be made again and again), it would be very easy to just add the cinnamon after taking it off the stove.
There's no such thing as too much cinnamon when your recipe is called Cinnamon Pie.

All signs pointed to this being a successful recipe. Our Mom of Cookrye had tried some of what remained in the double boiler and said it was delicious. The pie itself looked amazing, even if it didn't fill the pie pan as much as one might wish.
Feel free to ignore the random splots of who-knows-what on the counter and focus on how delightful, delicious, and de-lovely the pie looks.

We brought this to Thanksgiving with great excitement. However, as is often the case when bringing experimental recipes out in public without first making sure they'll work, this pie never actually set. It was basically a slightly runny pudding that happened to be in a pie crust. You could put it in little Dixie cups (for bonus points, with a blob of whipped cream on top) and been the hit of any potluck. However, this recipe was sold as a pie. And so, no one really ate it. It spent the day in my aunt's oven, steadfastly failing to set.

This pie's failure to actually turn into an actual pie is really galling given how good it tasted. How could you, Mrs. C C Norton of 1407 Girard Street in Los Angeles? Is there some crucial step we missed since you barely put any directions? Is there some ingredient you forgot to list? Why do you tease us so?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Apple pie! Apple pie! Apple pie!

Happy weekend after Thanksgiving! Today, we at A Book of Cookrye are really pleased to present... apple pie! And this is such an easy apple pie recipe, the only tedious part is cutting up the apples. The only other things you have to do are: melt things in a pot, stir spices and apples into the pot, put it all in a pie crust, and sprinkle crumbs on top.

Apple Pie
1 unbaked pie crust
3-6 apples*
¼ c butter
¾ c brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice (leave it out if you don't have any- it's not exactly crucial)
Any other spices you would like (nutmeg, ginger, mace, etc)
3-4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp white sugar
Flour to make it crumbly

First, figure out how many apples you will be using by putting as many apples into the pie pan as you can fit in a single layer.
Put the butter and brown sugar in a big pot and melt them together. Stir in the salt and spices.
Heat oven to 350°.
Cut up the apples. You need not peel them. Also, don't worry about bruises or soft spots on the apples- no one will ever know once the pie is baked. Stir the apples into the pot of brown sugar, then pour it all into the pie crust. Pour any extra butterscotch sauce left in the pot over the apples.
To make the topping, mix the butter and sugar. add flour until it crumbles, then sprinkle it on top of the pie. If you made your own pie crust or if you bought a frozen crust that you put in the pan yourself, you can take the scraps, work in about 2 spoons of sugar and enough flour to make it all crumbly with your hands, and use that instead.
Bake until the apples are tender when you poke the pie with a toothpick, knife or skewer-- about 1 hour. This pie will be fine if the oven is opened multiple times as it bakes, so feel free to push it to the side of the oven and cook other things alongside it.

 Note: If you're either trying to do a lot of things ahead or if (like me) you got a big bag of apples from the clearance bin in the produce section and they're already looking squishy in some places, you can make the filling, freeze it, and then later thaw it and put it in a pie crust.

*I used Gala. Use any apple you think is good enough to eat- the best way is to taste one of the apples and see if it's good enough that you want to eat the rest of it. Avoid bland varieties like Red Delicious. Also, I've found that as much as I like Honeycrisp apples, they seem to turn into a really bland mush when baked. So just eat those as they are and use another variety for baking.

You just know whatever you're making will be good when it starts out looking like this.

This is the hardest part of making any recipe that involves butterscotch-like things: trying not to eat everything in the pot.

However, this time it looked kind of runny. We like it to be this really thick butterscotch stuff, especially since the apples will let out a lot of juice. Fortunately, there was an easy fix:

You may be thinking "It looks just the same as it did before!" And to that I say, "You're right." But it is definitely a lot thicker, which you would be able to see if you weren't just looking at a picture.

And now, we add spices! I usually just add cinnamon, but found a long-forgotten shaker of allspice in the back of the cabinet. It turned out to be perfect for this. But there's no need to grab your money and go to the spice aisle if you don't have allspice- the pie will be delicious with or without. Besides, if you didn't already have allspice, you would probably use it so rarely that you'd have yet another shaker taking up cabinet space for a long, long time.

Lookit the pretty spice swirls!

If you can actually mix the apple slices in without eating at least one, you have no soul.

And now, we just dump the whole thing into the pie pan! Which today is a cake pan lined with foil. It works great when you realize you forgot to get enough disposable pie pans- you can just lift the whole pie out when you get to wherever you were taking it and drop the empty pan in your vehicle. That way, there will be no fuss over whether you got your pans back. Besides, you won't have to wash it.
This looks so good...

For those who also find pie crusts a lot of bother, we at A Book of Cookrye have good news: You can just take the excess scraps from the crust you already made, mix in some sugar with your hands, and just sprinkle it on. There. You've made a crumb topping- which I think is better than a crust on top of apple pie because the juices will boil up and soak into the crumbs- so good. Also, you don't need to bother trying to do a top crust which is so much harder to patch than the crust in the pan.

Although, if you decide the extra dough didn't make enough topping, you can make some more in a pinch. Just kind of mash the ingredients together with your hands until they're mixed.

And here it is, ready to bake! If you couldn't be bothered to get the flour off the countertop from rolling out the pie crust, you should at least wipe the bottom of the pan. Otherwise, the flour will land on the bottom of the oven and make your kitchen smell like burnt.

Tada! Apple pie!

But don't take my word for how good it is. This is how much was left at Thanksgiving:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Second-Stab Saturday: Cucumber Boats

Today, we at A Book of Cookrye are venturing into territory we so rarely bother with: little appetizer things!

Cucumber Boats

First, decide how many of these you want to make and therefore how many cucumbers you'll be getting. You can get 8 of these from the average-sized cucumber.
Wash cucumbers and cut off stems. You don't need to cut off either of the rounded ends of the cucumber, just nick off the stem. Cut the cucumbers into 1½"-2" lengths. Then cut each cucumber piece in half. Stand the pieces up on their ends and then cut them in half. (If the cucumbers are straight, you can cut them in half lengthwise and then cut them into pieces, but that can be annoyingly tricky if they're curved.)
Then cut or scoop out the inside of each piece, leaving a hollow space. You can use a small sharp knife for this, but it's easier with a small metal spoon (even for cutting out the firmer flesh instead of just scooping out the seeds). One of the smaller teaspoons from a set of measuring spoons will do nicely. Don't worry if you accidentally slit or puncture the cucumber skin- unless it's a wide hole, it won't matter.
Fill them however you like. I used shredded extra-sharp Cheddar seasoned with salt and cayenne, with just enough mayonnaise to hold the shreds together.
They will keep overnight in the refrigerator if tightly covered, but the cucumbers will exude a lot of juice as they reach room temperature. If you're going to leave them out on a table for a while, you should find a way to keep them cold- like putting the container in a larger one filled with ice.

As aforementioned, we brought these to Thanksgiving. Being the extremely organized people who plan ahead when provoked, we were getting ingredients less than two days before the big day. It was a strange experience seeing so many people crowded in the baking aisle. Many of them were staring at the flour and sugar sacks like they'd never seen such arcane things in a grocery store. However,  one section of the supermarket that even in the pre-Thanksgiving rush remained as ignored as ever: the vegetables!

Remember the cucumber baskets from when we fed people the cuisine of Depression-era Britain? They had been surprisingly well-liked, so we thought to ourselves: What if we skipped the damn basket handles? As aforementioned, making them into little baskets had resulted in an awful lot of wasted cucumber. Furthermore, cutting vegetables into cutesy baskets gives them a certain air of "I HOPE YOU APPRECIATE ALL THE TIME I SPENT CUTTING ALL OF THESE INTO CUTE SHAPES FOR YOU" which we would rather the food not possess. And so, instead of making theoretically adorable cut them in half and gouged out the insides. Here we must note that while we were at first trying to carefully cut them out with a paring knife, it turns out one of these demitasse spoons Our Mom of Cookrye got works a lot better.

It was so much easier to just have at them with a spoon than it was to use a knife at all- and it worked better, too.
On the left, hacking at the cucumber with a spoon. On the right, carefully using a knife to cut out the inside. You'd think the knife would work better, but it doesn't.

And so, we at A Book of Cookrye were ready to bring these lovely, healthy vegetables to Thanksgiving! However, Our Familye of Cookrye, though most of us are on diets the rest of the year, don't bother with this low-calorie business on Thanksgiving day. Look at the way we do the corn.

 And so, we are going to replace most of the cucumbers with.... this!

In the name of looking out for everyone's health,  we are using light mayonnaise. Having spent about two minutes stirring the cheese with just enough mayo to glue it together, see how simple these things are when you don't care about basket handles?

I'm not going to lie, it was still tedious to hollow out all those cucumber pieces. If you're doing more than two cucumbers, you might want to sit down at a table when you hollow them out instead of standing at a counter. But at least it was easy and there was far less waste of cucumber. Also, it was something to do while waiting out the long baking times on other things- and while very deliberately ignoring the utter mess in the kitchen.

As for how people liked them: They were indeed very popular! I was honestly kind of surprised, since most of the "take your food stuff and glue it together with mayo" type things tend to be these sticky things that taste like mayonnaise. Maybe the trick here is that you don't just put huge amounts of mayo in there, but just enough to make the cheese hold together.
 In the name of not subjecting everyone to dissertations about the food I brought, I didn't bother mentioning that they were tasting the British Depression.
However, while these can be made the night before, it turns out that cucumbers exude a lot of juice when they get warm. Since I just them in a container with only waxed paper between the layers, the ones lower down in the tub got soggy. So, if you are going to stack them in a container (instead of, say, laying them out flat on a platter), you want to be sure that each layer is sitting in a cozy nest of paper towels to soak up whatever juices the cucumbers exude. Also, keep them cold.
Er... yum?

This wateriness kind of surprised me since the cucumber baskets from when we made an entire picnic didn't have this problem. Someone suggested the salt in the filling drew out the cucumber juice, but the picnic ones were also salted and didn't leak like these did. But, when thinking about it, the ones made for the picnic were barely out of the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving, while these sat out on the table all day.
In addition to packing them with lots of paper towels, you might consider putting whatever container you packed them in in a larger container full of ice. Or, you might salt the cucumbers a few hours beforehand and let them do all their dripping before you put these together.
As a postscript, when faced with the last bits of cheese and also a little bowl of scooped-out cucumber insides, we avoided waste by making a pretty good ham sandwich.