Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle

It is literally too cold to do anything but go from my home to work to home. Anything beyond that requires too many layers of clothing and too much discipline.  I did, however, manage to get my fat ass out to play some pick-up basketball last night and was somehow sore enough today that I tripped (twice) walking up the stairs at work because I had trouble lifting my feet.  Unfortunately, my diet has not exactly compensated for my lack of exercise, so this has only attributed to my winter “coat”.  So.  Here I am, growing horizontally, and writing about writing.  Yes folks, this what it’s come to.

I really appreciate a good writer.  I am doubly impressed by people who not only write their own material, but can flawlessly deliver it too.

I started this blog in September of 2010 to an audience of… probably five.  I was a novice baker and amateur crafter. I was somewhat still impressionable, so naturally my writing was way too filtered and thoughtlessly contrived out of fear of your judging eyes. I was hungry (pun intended) to learn and taught myself an immense amount about baking and technique in the last couple of years.  Crafts and sewing took their places on the back burners atop the stove of life, while using that damned oven became an obsession.

I’d like to think my skills have indeed improved over the years, and thanks to some help from Andrew, my photography is closer to bearable. And as for my writing, I just don’t have the energy to filter what I’m writing about anymore. Too bad.  I’ve made humble strides in getting a small but regular viewership from people who are interested in my baking adventures, as well as  a even smaller but very loyal readership from those who think my life’s mishaps are as entertaining as I do.

Lingie and I had an intense debate about writing in general as a craft and hobby a couple of weeks ago. (Note: deep debates between Lingie and I means some philosophical rebuttals interspersed with random YouTube videos of pure genius. Instagram dat joint.) And while Lingie is from the type of audience that could care less about the importance of forming stiff peaks in egg whites before you gently fold (NOT STIR) in the almond flour, the baking enthusiasts could probably probably not muster up a half of a shit about my house getting robbed by an ex porn star even if they tried.

And so, here I am, flattered that my audience of 5 readers has grown exponentially (for the record, 5 to the power of 2 is an exponent – it just sounds sexier than “25”, ok?) in the last few years. Yet, I still frequently ask myself who to write for between the two types of people that follow this blog.  So, til I get there, I’ll just continue to do whatever I want and inefficiently cover both.

Here we are – the last cookie of my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012, and SURPRISE!  It’s still tea-themed!

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle
Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle

What I really liked about the recipe (from My Baking Addiction) is that black pepper was one of the myriad of spices incorporated into the cookies.

Rolling the Dough in the Sugar-Spice Mixture
Rolling the Dough in the Sugar-Spice Mixture

As far as technique goes, it really is made like a snickerdoodle, except the top cracks nicely like a sugar cookie.

I like a good snickerdoodle, but the addition of the black pepper, allspice, cardamom, and extra dose of cinnamon made the delicious spiciness of this chai cookie really something to remember.  YUM.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by me through my hideous photos, my terribly formed thoughts, and the baking trials and tribulations. I can only hope you’re getting as much amusement (maybe even some inspiration) out of this as I am!

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Society has taught men to chase women. Everywhere.

Men chase women at coffee shops, at the grocery store, in the restroom line (which I actually find to be pretty clever because the girls can’t escape), at church (“Oh hay girl, I like the way you prayyyy”), on the freeway, just everywhere. However, the one place I find really annoying where men chase women is at the gym.

Veiny-armed man in tight dri-fit shirt:  “Hey, do you need some help lifting the 45’s off that bar?
Girl in sports bra and black yoga pants:  “Ohhhh hehehehehehe, only if you don’t mind.

WHAT was that? And ladies, you are enabling this behavior. What I really don’t understand is why girls that wear booty shorts to the gym get mad that guys stare at their ass.

The gym is my sanctuary from the series of stressful or embarrassing (usually both) events that make up my everyday life – work, neurotic family members, rush hour traffic, everything. Exercise is also the yin to the sweet tooth’s yang.

Skinny probably 20-year old Asian guy waving 5 times:  “Hi there. Hey. Hello. Ahem, hi. Um,  I couldn’t help but notice you might be doing your deadlifts wrong.
Me:  “Actually, no I’m doing them right. I was waiting for you to finish with the 70lb barbell so I could use it, but you looked like you were struggling so I went with the 75. You’re going to throw out your back out if you keep letting the weight pull your shoulders forward. Maybe you should go lighter til you’re strong enough to do them properly.

Yes, I’m a bitch. Would you interrupt a meditating monk to ask if the towel service is free for all members? No.

So leave me alone when I’m in the zone and trying to get a good workout in. And I’m not even going to delve into detail about the weird old guys with Asian girl fetishes. Ok lurky 60-year old Spanish man, I really don’t care if you can speak Japanese.  I can’t.  And stop watching me in the mirror.

I’ve always been about comfort and efficiency at the gym, and never dressed girly to exercise – just the normal t-shirt and running shorts. But after being interrupted (and creeped out) enough times, I did what any girl who wanted their solitude back would do.

I started to dress like a man.

I have an endless supply of basketball shirts from the tournaments and leagues I play in, and made cut-offs out of a number of them. And I don’t mean the Carl’s Jr. commercial cutesy crop-top cut-off t-shirt, or even the cut-offs of a Never Nude. I mean a DUDE’s cut-off. And I even made them out of gray shirts so you could see my sweat. I would pair them with the baggiest of my basketball shorts and crew socks pulled up.  Oh yeahhhhh, no one’s going to bother me now.

It definitely worked for a while, but it really didn’t last long. One of the employees at my gym started to make pretty normal small talk with me regularly. “Is that a Keppel basketball sweatshirt? Shawty, you play ball for MARK KEPPEL HIGH SCHOOL? You look like you still play in high school. HAAAAA.”

It was a girl. And she was big. And aggressive. She knew my name even though I never gave it to her.

After workouts, I normally hop over to the basketball court to shoot around if it’s empty.  It was too crowded to shoot one day, so I turned around resolving to go home. Aforementioned she-brute was RIGHT behind me but played it off like she was intending to go into the employee break room. As she opened the door, she looked me up and down and said “You not gon’ BALL today gurrrrl?”  I said no, and that it was too crowded and I didn’t want to play pick-up with those boys.  She said, “Oh come on, you can BAWLL girl. I seen you on the cameras and in the hallway bawwwwllin dem foos up.”

She’s watched me. On the security cameras. And from the window in the hallway peeking into the gym. A lot.

I stopped going to that gym for a month after that and went back to delightfully find that she no longer worked there. Now, I dress for the gym with hopeless androgyny aiming to confuse people, ultimately getting bothered by neither sex. I want to be left alone.

So alone that here I am, writing about going to the gym instead of actually going.  Here’s another update from my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012 – the lemony yang to my cross training yin.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart. I chose these because lemon is a great compliment for tea, though there is no actual tea in these cookies themselves.  The cookies themselves were good and really easy to make, but what I really liked was the tart glaze. I’ll totally use it for something else in the future – maybe atop some scones or muffins?

Here are the directions for the glaze as taken from Martha’s website.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.
Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze
Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze

After zesting the lemons for the glaze, I squeezed out the lemon juice on top of the zester to catch the seeds instead of picking them out after the fact. Those slippery things are too hard to grab sometimes. And no, not like that.

Glazed Lemon Cookies
Glazed Lemon Cookies

Overall, the cookies were really refreshing!

Chocolate-Mint (Nightmare Before Christmas) Pinwheel Cookies

Lingie sent me a FANTASTIC link about writing earlier today. Please read it, especially if you write. I was totally inspired to flail my fingers away helplessly across a keyboard after driving 90 minutes in rush hour traffic to a restaurant my mom picked for her birthday dinner only to find out it was closed on Mondays.  I have also had a glass of wine as a result of said experience. Yup. This is gonna be real pretty. Here we go.

I had the brilliant idea of walking 4 miles to do errands and have brunch with BBKF Joyce while my car was getting an oil change this past Saturday right before playing a basketball game.  Bad idea.  One of my giant calves cramped up so bad at the end of the game, I couldn’t even put weight on that leg and had to sub out for the last few minutes of the second half.  Of course, this was the play right after my legs gave out after running so hard for a loose ball that I fell flat on my face. Smooth, real smooth.

Somewhere while traipsing along the sidewalks towards the auto shop, Target, the bank, brunch, or Old Town Pasadena, I thought of something… Everybody poops, but that’s no excuse to be full of shit. True story. How many people do you meet in your everyday life that make you wonder, “how have you gone through life this whole time thinking that way?”  They’re full of shit.  Also, the older we get, the more we tend to believe our own bullshit. You’ll be convinced you turned the heater off before you left for work, but end up coming home to the pre-heated oven that once was your home. Or you’ll say “pffff… I totally took everything out of my gym bag after basketball” only to find that your sweaty gym socks from 3 days ago pleasantly smell like fresh cut flowers. Or, does the latter only happen to me?

The point is, check yo’self before you wreck yo’self. This applies not only to preventing your house from catching fire and common hygiene, but it’s a good reminder to not make other people as crazy as they make you.  Make sure you’re assessing your thoughts and actions as objectively as possible.  It will help your friendships, relationships, road rage, everything.  Don’t live in delusion, unless you are above the age of 90. Then everything is unicorns and rainbows…and very big diapers. Besides, you won’t remember who you are anyway. What was it I just said earlier this week? I look forward to getting older?

That was my rant.

So, who’s in the mood for some COOKIES?!

These were part of my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012, in the vein of the tea theme I had going. Mint tea! Yes, it’s a stretch but mint and chocolate do go together. These are also probably the ugliest cookies I’ve ever made.

I followed the recipe that I found on First Look Then Cook pretty meticulously, but I think I should have used a small rolling pin to flatten my layers before rolling them into the log.  The recipe said to just use your hands to push the layers flat. DON’T JUST USE YOUR HANDS, unless you’re aiming for the Burton-esque look.

Hulk Mint Smash
Hulk Mint Smash

They were supposed to come out in nice smooth swirls, but they remind me of that weird looking hill that Jack is always singing on top of in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Chocolate-Mint (Nightmare Before Christmas) Pinwheel Cookies
Chocolate-Mint (Nightmare Before Christmas) Pinwheel Cookies

I’m just going to pretend it was my intention all along.  They still tasted right at least.

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies (And Holiday Preview)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Shit got real this past weekend. As of yesterday, I am proud to say that I have completed the Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012 (*inserts shameless plugs from 2011, 2010, and 2009 here*).  I may churn out a couple more things before the year is over, but will do so leisurely (versus the stressful, intense 14 hours of baking I conquered this past weekend).  I decided on a tea theme for this year’s holiday homemade gifting, as I have really been enjoying a warm cup of Earl Grey on afternoons where a low-cal pick-me-up was needed.  I mean, who doesn’t love Earl Grey?  Even Captain Picard does! The smell is intoxicating!

Encrusted in sugar
Encrusted in sugar

Andrew  graciously and unknowingly was my guinea pig for this new recipe I wanted to try out, since his 50th birthday was conveniently a month before Christmas.  I found the recipe on Taste Space but had to convert several of the ingredients from grams to teaspoons/cups, most of which didn’t come out into whole measurements. I had to eyeball ingredients once we got into the decimal range, which is why I wanted to test this out before jumping right in to make these as gifts.

Bake til the edges become golden
Bake til the edges become golden

I think they turned out ok!  They are much lighter and airy in texture (almost wafer-like?) than your average shortbread cookie – less buttery, too, which I like.  Rolling the dough logs in sugar before slicing the cookies added a nice little extra crunch to the cookie, but I found that those coming from the dough that I dabbed in water prior to rolling in the sugar had too thick of a sugar “crust”. The moisture from the cold dough is enough to get sugar to stick to it, leaving just the right amount of sugar around the edges of the cookies, in my opinion!  The flavors are also very delicate, and they smell amazing thanks to the bergamot in the tea.  The orange zest balances the bitterness of the tea, too.

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies
Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies

Here’s the recipe with the converted ingredients!

Ingredients (converted to US measurements):

1/2 C + 2 TBSP powdered sugar1 C butter
0.6 TSP salt (1/2 TSP + pinch works!)
0.6 TSP vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1.585 C all-purpose flour (1 C + slightly heaping 1/2 C)
3/4 TSP baking powder
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 small lime
1 TSP crushed earl grey tea leaves
1/2  C coarse sugar

Directions:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add salt, vanilla and zests and continue beating.

2. Add egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl afterward.

3. Add tea leaves and mix together.

4. Sift together flour and baking powder and add to the mix. Blend dry ingredients into wet, only until just combined.

5. Transfer dough to a table dusted with flour and lightly shape into a tube shape. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each piece into 1-1/2 inch diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill in fridge for an hour (or longer).

6. When ready to bake, dab logs with a bit of water and roll in coarse sugar.

7. Slice logs with knife (I used my Chef’s knife) into 1/4-inch slices.

8. Bake on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper or a silpat at 360F for ~12 minutes, or until a light golden colour.

Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies
Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies

Waking up at practically dawn to see Les Mis again, and then lots of cooking to do! Off to bed!

Martha Stewart Cookie Boxes

Sadly, I’m already caught-up on my backlog of holiday baked goods.  I thought I’d wrap-up with a short ditty on how I packaged the treats. I typically opt for a cellophane bag, some festive Glad Tupperware, or a little Christmas bag or box. However, I am quite the sucker for all things Martha Stewart, as well as cute paper goods.  Naturally when you combine the two, I’ll wreak all kinds of domesticated havoc.

Such a Sucker for Cute Paper Goods

But seriously, is this Martha Stewart Cookie Box not the cutest?  It seemed like a great way to showcase my Grinchmas Cookies, S’mores Cookies, Walnut Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies, and Martha Stewart’s Snickerdoodles.  And it even has a freaking window on it for Pete’s sake.

Close-Up of the Nomness

I didn’t create a separate post for the Snickerdoodles because I made them at night-time and the photos were just awful. Plus, no one would be impressed by the process of making a Snickerdoodle… not that anyone is impressed by anything on this blog anyway.

Getting excited to bake this weekend!  My hiatus is drawing to a close!

As an aside, I usually take a lot of pride in carefully selecting things to hyperlink to throughout my posts to shed a little light on certain situations. Well, I’m shamelessly swallowing that pride and am admitting to having absolutely no tie-in to the one I’m about to share.  It just plum made my week.  Hell, it’s made my year so far and I couldn’t find a clever way to include it.  So here it is.  #nerd