Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baking is Important (White Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies)

**Note: This is a long post and only 15% is about the actual cookies.  If you want to read about the cookie, without the glorious content needed to appreciate the complexity of said cookie baking experience, scroll down and read 2 to 3 paragraphs from the end.**
I do not know whether to call these cookies “a long time coming,” “a labor of love,” or a “thank God I had time to bake” cookies.  Let’s just call these cookies special, extra special!  You see, I have been trying to bake these cookies for about a week now.  I have gone as far as taking the butter out of the fridge to come to room temperature, only to realize I did not have enough butter (gasp).  I have also taken the butter out the fridge, only to put it back in the fridge 10 minutes later when I got the rude awakening that I did not have enough time to bake.

It all started last week some time.  I had gone to the gym and had gotten home within an hour and a half.  From there I was supposed to make three quick stops to get coffee, pick-up my Bridesmaid dress from the tailor, and run by the grocery store to get almonds, more butter, and white chocolate chips for these cookies.  Well, my errand partner got distracted at the mall, where the tailor is, and I spent nearly two hours in the mall.  After leaving the grocery store and getting home, it was after 9PM.  It was too late to even think about make cookies, considering I still had to eat dinner and for some reason, I cannot eat while I bake.  It is always bake first, eat second.

Then approached the weekend; the perfect time to make cookies because hello, I had all weekend.  Except, I really did not have all weekend.  Saturday consisted of bootcamp, errands for a wedding related party I am planning, lunch with a friend, more wedding party related errands, and then when I finally came home I had enough laundry to do to keep three full-time employees busy.  While folding one of my many loads of laundry, I was so tired that I fell asleep.  But wait, there is still time; the weekend has one more day. Right? 

Technically, yes.  But, oh Sunday, Sunday!  Sunday started off with church, followed by finding and purchasing my technologically challenged mother a digital camera, and then do not forget the unfinished laundry from Saturday, half of which still needed to be washed, and parts needed to be re-dried to remove wrinkles.  I forgot to mention on Saturday, I stripped my bed and put on a new quilt and throw.  Well the throw shed like a lamb ready to be sheared and my PJ’s were the recipient of a new furry coat.  I had to re-wash that throw as well (and it still was shedding, excessively after, which has made for an interesting week of trying to not get lent balls on all my clothes.  Which I still did and then had to remove by-hand, as the lent brush has mysteriously disappeared).  But wait, there is more.  Sunday is our normal grocery-shopping-for-the-week day.  Generally, we stop at the grocery store after church, on the way home.  But, not this Sunday.  This Sunday we went home first to eat lunch.  Therefore, we did not proceed to my favorite grocery store until around 7PM.  And yes, I was still doing laundry at the point.  “Baking” and “cookies” were not in my vocabulary for Sunday.

So, now we are at Tuesday.  I decided, prayerfully, that Tuesday would be the day.  I thought maybe I could squeeze in cookie making if I lost an hour of sleep and finished rock climbing early in the evening.  Well, when I got off from work it was lovely outside, absolutely gorgeous.  How could I not take advantage of such great weather and go for my first outdoor run of the season?  So, I pushed up my run to 5PM, instead of 6PM, thinking I would make cookies in between running and going rock climbing.  Yes, I am a little nuts.  I got out the house and was doing well on my run.  Around the 2.5 miles mark I noticed drops on the ground, and then a few more before an on slot of rain started.  I sought cover in the doorway of a model home.  I was stuck there for about 10 minutes.  The only thing I could think of was that the rain was seriously interfering with my cookie-baking plan!  Once the rain started to letup, I decided I could not take it anymore, running the last 0.5 miles, in the rain, to make it home and bake these cookies.

And when I got home, bake cookies I did!  These cookies are quick to make up.  I started making them at 6PM and was finished by 7PM—making, baking, and all.  I am telling you when I am on a cooking-baking mission, DO NOT GET IN MY WAY!  To prepare the batter I used my general chocolate chip cookie recipe batter.  I added one teaspoon of almond flavor emulsion to the batter to really carry the almond flavor throughout the cookie.  I have also been tampering with the amount of leavener I use in my cookies and in these cookies, I used about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder.  I was pleased with the cookies as they did not rise nor spread too much.

Taste and texture wise, I thought these cookies were great.  I am a huge fan of almond, so I loved tasting that flavor throughout the cookie.  The cherries were a bit tart, and provided an extra chewy texture, which paired nice with the sweet white chocolate chips.  The almonds added flaky, crunch throughout the cookie as well.  As I always look for improvements, next time I would toast the almonds first (as you can see from above, I did not have time for this here, but would recommend), just to bring out their flavor a bit more.  Also, I think aesthetically white chocolate chunks as opposed to chips would look better, and more rustic, in the spirit of the cookie.

Even with my crazy busy schedule, I found time to whip up these cookies, which had been on my mind for a while.  The funny thing is, even when I have to work so hard to find time to bake, it is always a welcomed experience.  Baking does not stress me out.  Even when recipes do not come out perfectly or it is 11PM and the frosting I made has turned to unrecoverable soup, I may feel disappointed and look at the time thinking, “I will be tired and paying for this tomorrow,” yet, I still roll-up my sleeves and get to making a replacement/fixing the error.  There have been times that I have gotten home after midnight from a late work meeting, and I still made brownies to take into the office the following day.  There were no worries, no stress, just fudgy squares of deliciousness to share, and then off to bed.  That is why I make time for baking.  Even in the midst of it all, baking allows me calm moments and that is why it is important.

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