Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Better(?) Living Through Chemistry

Well, chemistry has failed me twice in the last two days. The first mishap was an attempt to make Pecan Pralines from this recipe (click on it--the title alone is hilarious). I boiled the stuff for the requisite 5 minutes and (rare for me) actually followed the recipe exactly, but I ended up with very flat, slightly gritty "pralines", actually a few very large ones that had to be broken into pieces, as the too-liquid mixture did not lend itself to the neat little candies pictured there. I think it needed to be boiled longer, which is why I prefer my candy recipes to tell me what temperature the stuff should be brought to (or at least a vague guideline like "soft ball stage"). The resulting...stuff...actually tasted very, very good, and there were even unsubstantiated reports of someone licking praline bits from the waxed paper after the stuff had been transferred to tupperware (vicious rumors!), it just wasn't exactly praline-like in appearance and texture. I think I'd try it again, but boil a minute or two longer.

The second problem is not so much a chemistry problem as a "living in an apartment with appliances selected by people who knew they'd never have to use them" problem. Our refrigerator is...well, this is a family blog, and I can't think of an appropriate term for mixed company. It has cold pockets in which things freeze, but if we turn up the thermostat, things spoil. It's a delicate balance that I've never really mastered, as the cold spots MOVE AROUND, so that a formerly safe spot to keep, say your *sourdough starters that took A WEEK to make,* turns into the arctic tundra. It is with great sadness that I must announce the unfortunate demise of Bert and Ernie. Yesterday, I mixed new starters, which I have named Steph and Lula since I am reading Janet Evanovich at the moment. I had planned to make sourdough bread for my book club, which I'm hosting Tuesday, but I'm not sure it'll be ready in time. I may have to do French bread or ciabatta or something instead.

Knitting: Here is Gift Scarf #1:

Pattern: The Lacy V Scarf
Needles: Size 8 (dictated by yarn, and I wanted a narrower scarf anyway)
Yarn: Berroco Softwist in Burgundy, two skeins

I like this pattern a lot. It's a 14-row repeat that's quickly memorized. Simple, but elegant. I wasn't that crazy about knitting with the Softwist, as it was rather splitty, but I like the finished scarf quite a bit. It's nice and soft, and the drape is lovely.

Here is Gift Scarf #2, just started. It's the Airy Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Heaven in Watercolors.

Reading: To The Nines.

Writing: Chapter 7.

Cooking: Besides the fiascos described above, not much. It was too warm the last couple of days, but now our warm spell has ended (Stefaneener, I hope I sent it your direction...). Ha! Martha Stewart is the one who makes me long for better decorating abilities, too. Her darn royal icing in perfect colors. I try to remind myself that I don't have an army of minions to actually do all my work for me, but I'm still disappointed when my sugar cookies look like they were frosted by a five-year-old.

Yarnthrower, your challenge has intrigued me! Healthier cookies out of a cookie A google search for "low fat" and "cookie press" yielded...nothing at all. Yikes. Low-fat baking isn't all that difficult, but it's harder with cookies because of their texture. In fact, searching Cooking Light for cookie recipes brings up almost nothing. They have low-fat bars and biscotti, but they steer clear of cookies, for the most part. I did find this recipe for Hazelnut Cookies in a press that contains only egg whites, ground hazelnuts, and powdered sugar that fits the bill. It's not going to taste like a traditional butter cookie, but well, there's a reason they're called butter cookies :) I think besides the nut version, your best bet is going to be to select a recipe with strong flavors that can mask substitutions. I'm thinking pumpkin as a substitute, maybe in this cinnamon recipe or this gingerbread one. You'll need to leave about 2 TBL of butter in the recipe or they'll turn out funny, but substitute the rest of the butter with an equal amount of pumpkin (or drained applesauce). Eggs can be replaced with egg whites or egg substitute. They won't be delicate butter cookies, but I think they could still be good, especially frosted to look like pumpkins. I also think there might be some potential in using reduced-fat cream cheese as a partial butter replacement. It would still have some fat, which should help with the texture. If I start playing with these in the press, I will post updates!


YarnThrower said...

WOW - Thank you so much for your extensive report about low fat cookies for my cookie press. I am definitely going to try some of your tricks -- I especially like the idea about using the pumpkin. I'm very excited about the possibilities! So again, thank you!

Your scarf turned out to be very beautiful! I love the pattern and the finished product!

Stefaneener said...

Oh, well, if you're after health food cookies, I won't pass on my to die for coffee pecan chocolate cookies. Heee.

It's still cold here, but Bert and Ernie would be fine on the counter. Want me to mail you our biga? It's still sitting in the fridge waiting for the day to become bread. . . I hope your second starter takes off nicely.

String Bean said...

Hi Allison! Long time, no comment from me! I love that gift scarf you knitted. I have some Lorna's Laces I could use to knit a lacey scarf. Hmmm...
Healthy cookies? No way! I'll stick to my chocolate chip. Want the recipe? It's yummo.
Nice pics of Mirando and Geronimo in the last post. Are they getting ready for winter? My kitties are unusually fiesty.
If you have a mo, stop by my blog and read the latest post. Have you seen the thread that Trillian posted on Knitty? Knit a hat for Alex. It'll be an RAK.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, psycho-fridge; we had to bury one like that, so you have my sympathy. Lovely knitting work- you are truely multi-talented. The recipes sound wonderful & my hubby is lusting after the sourdough starter (btw, condolences on Bert & Ernie)

Rain said...

The scarf is gorgeous and such a lovely colour. I really like the way the airy scarf is coming out too.