Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Child Baker

I remember my very first baking experience. I must have been 10 or 11 years old and was completely clueless in the kitchen. I had this sudden urge to bake (or perhaps eat baked goods.. sometimes it's like the Chicken or the Egg situation. Which came first? Wanting to bake or wanting to eat baked goods?). At that age, I did not know of all the recipes and treasures that could be found online. To me, the Internet was for homework or chatting on mIRC or ICQ (remember those days?)

So, craving something sweet, I opened the cupboard and there it was sitting. In all its glory, a jar of peanut butter with a recipe printed on the side! That was it!



I frantically ran around the kitchen to gather all the ingredients and trying to decode what was baking soda and baking powder, what a "big enough mixing bowl" looked like and how and with what exactly was I suppose to "beat" the butter, peanut butter and sugar (I did not speak "kitchen language" back then). I wanted these cookies to be a surprise so I refused to ask for help and I forbid everyone to come into the kitchen. I was on a mission to make the best peanut butter cookies ever!

I stood in front of all my ingredients and was excited to get started! I slowly got the answers to all my questions I had asked myself earlier (for example, my initial bowl was in fact NOT big enough). I followed the recipe step by step: measuring, sifting, mixing, beating and sneaking a few pieces of cookie dough along the way.

I did my best and was very pleased with the cookie dough result. All I had to do was put the baking sheet (with the perfectly aligned cookies that were perhaps exactly 2 inches apart like the recipe said) in the oven and my first baking experience would soon be a great success!

Suddenly, I faced another obstacle. Which knobs do I turn on the oven and what buttons do I push? Of course, figuring out how to set the temperature to 350F was easy but what was that extra knob for? Do I turn it to the right or to the left? Again, determined and a little stubborn, I did not ask for help. I went with my gut and turn the knob to the right. I waited for the little light on the oven to tell me that it was preheated and popped the baking sheet in.

Minutes away from delicious peanut butter cookies. This was when I made the official announcement to my family: we would be having freshly baked cookies soon! (and they no longer had to keep out of the kitchen).

Impatiently waiting for my "masterpiece" to be ready, I started smelling a peculiar smell. Where is it coming from? I followed my nose and it took me straight to the now-smoky oven. I quickly opened the door and found my once-beautiful cookies had turned into a charcoal-like mess! My gut feeling of turning the oven knob to the right was wrong!! I later understood that I had put the oven on "broil" instead of "bake".

Since then, it is safe to say that I have learned my lesson and have never tried to bake cookies on broil again. I have also found better peanut butter cookie recipes. Here is one recipe that I've made time and time again and is always a success: bite size, peanut butter cookie balls.

Peanut Butter Cookie Balls

Ingredients

- 3/4 cup room temperature butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- dash of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 3/4-2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions

1. Beat together butter and brown sugar. Add the egg, peanut butter, chocolate chips, salt and mix.

2. Sift in baking soda and flour and mix until well combined.

3. Refrigerate mixture for approximately 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 375F.

5. Roll cookie dough in little balls (a little bit smaller than a ping pong ball).

6. A few at a time, toss the cookie dough balls in the granulated sugar.

7. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

9. Let cookies cool slightly on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them.

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