Friday, October 23, 2009

Cookie Scoop

I have been interested in getting a cookie scoop for a long long time.

When I was a kid I loved to mix up the cookies, but hated using the two-spoon process to put the cookie dough on the cookie pans. I turned the kitchen over to my Mom for that and went outside to play. She always did a great two-spoon job.

Now that I have my own home - OK, I've been on my own since High School, but... - I make cookies for the fans at my house! It is so fun that Jun loves cookies. Must be the taste of Mother's Love - or the sugar. Hmmm. Anyway, I have been doing the two-spoon process all the while pining away for a cookie scoop.

On various trips back to the States I have looked for the right sized scoop - whatever that is - and FINALLY found one on my trip this summer. My parents' smallish town has a very very well stocked kitchen store. I paid over my $14 for a cookie scoop - is this NOT expensive? - used it once at home and, when packing to come back to Japan forgot it!

A couple of weeks ago my folks sent a package of stuff I'd ordered and threw in my cookie scoop too! Today I mixed up a batch of cake mix cookies and got out my cookie scoop. I had cookies on the pan in nothing flat.

Then I began to think. (My husband often tells me I think too much.) Each and every cookie is the exact same size. With the same amount of dough. The same shape. They'd be the same color too, if my oven was a bit more uniform in heating. And scooping out the dough really took so little time, the cookies could not be called a labor of love at all. Well, the fact that I started with a cake mix might have made you all wonder about the love, but cake mixes are spendy here, so the fact that I did use one was an expression of love - oh, and thanks to my friend for giving it to me!

So, I'm in a quandary about the cookie scoop. It is the process of baking that helps me relieve stress. That helps me use some creativity. It isn't the end product, though if it is good, I'm happy. It isn't exactly the ease of it, though this blog is called "kantan" (easy) cooking. Being able to do the two-spoon process well was kind of an initiation into adulthood. Anybody can use a cookie scoop.

But, I must admit, I DID pay $14 dollars for it. And it was really easy. And kind of fun. And...well, we'll see if I put it in a box when we move next, or pass it on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biscuits - Drop, Oil

This blog is really for EASY cooking - not fancy, but stuff Ryu gives the "umai" (delicious) vote to. These biscuits fit that role. I am not a biscuit maker. If you have read any of my other posts, you will perhaps remember that I do not like to cut shortening or butter into flour. I have a pastry cutter and CAN do it if necessary, but will go to great lengths NOT to do so. Also, big old cans of Crisco are not available to me and butter is too spendy for daily consumption. However, a student received many many bottles of oil for a mid-summer gift. She and her husband are not great oil consumers, so she gave me a bunch of them. I don't use oil in much of my regular cooking, is FREE!

Then, I found this recipe for biscuits - using oil. And they are sufficient if you like drop biscuits. If you are dead set on cut out ones, don't try this recipe - though the original recipe says you can roll the dough out between pieces of wax paper - why try to do the impossible???

As this recipe is not the same as the one Betty Crocker has on her web site, I'll post it all here:

Baking Powder Biscuits - Drop, Oil

1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil

Heat oven to 450F or 230C. Mix dry ingredients together. Combine milk and oil and dump into the dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until all is moist. Avoid over-mixing. Using a spoon, drop the batter into a greased cookie sheet (I never grease mine.) Bake until golden brown. 10-12 minutes (cooking time depends on the size of your biscuits - so check on them.)

Source: Betty Crocker's Cookbook, New and Revised Edition, Copyright 1978. Baking Powder Biscuits page 194

In the original recipe, the oil is shortening and is cut into the flour mixture.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bread Crumb Cobbler

Our family is more or, as was THIS day, LESS bilingual. On the "less" days, that seventh sense is really important. If someone is tired, this seventh sense is usually out of service and strange things happen.

I was on a bread baking binge this winter. Yes, it is now fall again. Months later, and finally this post is applicable! Finally! My husband KNEW I'd been baking bread. Our minuscule kitchen was covered in flour. He'd been EATING the bread! How could he not have understood me when I gave him the shopping list and asked for...

OK, let me back up a tiny bit and give you a tiny Japanese language lesson so you won't think I was totally crazy! We put the word "ko" before or after things/people/animals to make them small. Like "dog" is "inu". A puppy is..."ko inu." Pretty cool, huh? Many women's last names end in "ko" - like an endearative. (Was that English? Oh well.) In the kitchen we have items that have been ground up and are called "something something 'ko'". Like flour is "mugi ko."

Now, I suppose there are tons of different kinds of flour in the US too, but I never had to feed a family there so never thought about it. But, here the flour that I usually buy here is definitely NOT bread flour. And I needed bread flour. The word for bread is "pan". I asked Ryu to buy me a bag of "pan ko." Now, doesn't that make sense to MOST OF YOU OUT THERE? OK, I know some who speak Japanese are howling in their green tea, so I'll let the rest of you kind folk in on the joke.

Ryu came home with a HUGE bag of Bread Crumbs. Yep. And I KNEW this, of course, the heat of the moment spaced right out - "pan ko" means ground up crumbled bread. Thus began the 1/2 year long search for ways to use up this huge bag of bread crumbs.

I always suspected that they could be used as a topping in dessert but never experimented to figure out how. Then, just yesterday evening - when I was FINALLY down to a mere 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, I ran across this recipe when I was drooling over individual pie slice pans. I made a 1/2 batch of it - see above at the mere 3/4 cup of bread crumbs remaining - and it was so so wonderful!

Let me tell you why it was wonderful. Cobbler is basically a fruit pie filling with no crust on the bottom and one of a few crusts on the top. The first common crust is a standard pie crust. My Grandma Mary used to make this. I couldn't understand why someone would go through the torture of cutting shortening into flour for a mere cobbler! My Mom (she'll surely correct me if I'm wrong), would make the drop biscuit type top crust for cobbler. This is fine if you can actually get the fruit done and the biscuits neither soggy or burnt. The third type of crust that I am familiar with is the oatmeal crust. Frankly it is usually too something. Too sweet, too...something.

So, that is why this crust is so wonderful. It is TRULY crunchy! It was way too sweet, but THAT can be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The recipe states that you can use prepackaged "panko," which I understand is on sale in most supermarkets in the US now, or that you could use fresh bread crumbs. You may be scratching your head at the oxymoron of fresh bread crumbs, mother in law makes them when she makes pork cutlets. Grab your fresh bread and a cheese grater and give it a try! I think a "crunchy" bread with nuts and stuff in it would really add to this topping! Mom - why don't you try it and let me know?