Back on track

I like to bake.  When I have a little free time, when I run across a recipe that seems easy enough, looks tasty and not too unhealthy, when I had a long day and need something sweet or when I am upset and need time to think; these are all reasons I like to be in the kitchen.  I like to cook main courses and don’t mind trying new techniques, ethnic food or adhering to specific dietary restrictions.  But, the truth is, I really like the efficiency and ease of popping a batch of cookies in the oven for an already prescribed amount of time and coming back when the smell brings me to the oven to find a perfectly golden browned and edible product.

Nothing has changed about my affinity for baking since having moved to Spain. My kitchen and my tools have changed, significantly.  My first baking project in Laredo was overall successful.  I started out making a decent zucchini bread that gave me false confidence in a kitchen surrounded by the metric system and an oven calibrated to celcius.  Suffice it to say, I tried out two more quick breads (apple cake and carrot banana bread) and failed miserably.  They have both been accurately described as having the texture of a tortilla española, which is also known to have a gummy, eggy, dense texture, noticeably lacking in flavor.  What a setback!  What a hit to the fragile ego!  I immediately blamed it on the lack of proper measuring cups in our kitchen and began a frantic search for common items in the US that are nowhere to be found in España. Handy measuring cups apparently are not used and are not missed on the peninsula.  Now I have settled on the idea that the recipes, coming from the same source, must have been what was faulty.  It couldn’t have been the sweet, floured covered baker herself.

Today, inspiration hit after a particularly successful day in the classroom.  My confidence level had been given a boost, so I reached for the last of our natural peanut butter from home (thanks Mom!) and searched for a suitable peanut butter cookie recipe.  I decided to meticulously convert each cup measurement from the recipe to grams and proceeded with little hope that the cookies would turn out as described.  After creaming together the butter and peanut butter by hand, whipping in the sugars and carefully folding in the flour, I had a decent looking batter.  But, this, as I have recently learned, means nothing.  Twelve minutes later, by following the instructions almost exactly, I was rewarded with beautiful, golden brown discs of crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Please try this recipe.

Here is the recipe I used for the cookies, adapted just a tiny bit: http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/12/peanut-butter-cookies/

Instead of brown sugar, I used a little less than the amount called for of brown cane sugar and added back in a touch of honey so it would have a gooier texture. For the milk, I used soy milk.  I omitted the peanut butter chips and just added extra chocolate.  For the chocolate chips I used a Milka chocolate bar that had been chopped into chip sized pieces. Also, the more chocolate, the better.  The only critique we could come up with was that we would love to taste gooey chocolate in every bite.

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