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I love to bake. I mean, I really love to bake.
My seven-year-old used to love to bake with me though that’s gone by the wayside a bit with the discovery of Legos, Minecraft, and lightsabers. Despite also adoring the aforementioned, my 4-year-old continues to enjoy the process and she and I often make bread and cookies together. She likes to run the mixer. And eat the chocolate chips.
The terrible kitchen you see in that picture? That’s my terrible kitchen. We live in a turn of the century rental we thought was charming four years ago and which we’re now extremely glad we don’t own. We’re grateful the washer and dryer aren’t in our creepy basement but they do take up a third of the room. We have no pantry to speak of. Our dishwasher leaks and I have to run bleach through it periodically to get rid of the mold. Our oven door is held together with a zip tie because the handle broke a year ago and the landlord hasn’t fixed it yet. The cabinets are peeling, the floor is ugly as hell, and there’s only so much I can do to clean the place or make it look any better.
But, I love baking. So I bake.
That love has led me to embark on a quest. A quest to bake every cookie on Good Housekeeping’s 50 Most Delicious Cookies by State list. I am going to execute this quest in my terrible kitchen. I do this, in part, because the cookies all look really good and my husband, the kids, and I couldn’t narrow down which ones we wanted to try. But I’m also doing it to prove to you awesome, baker-geek parents out there that you don’t need a fancy oven or a super-spendy equipment to indulge your, or your kids’, baking habit.
First up: Alabama’s Pecan Pie Cookies.
Just for reference, here is the picture of the pecan pie cookies from the list. A picture that was likely taken by a professional photographer after being set up by a food stylist and may not even be of an actual cookie (Food Network occasionally has food stylist competitions. Whenever I watch them I am both amazed and appalled). If it is a real cookie, it was likely made in a professional, or at least gourmet, kitchen:
To reiterate, this is my kitchen. On a good day:
But, as a great man once said, EXCELSIOR!
Here is the recipe from One Little Project:
Pecan Pie Cookies RecipeAuthor:Kelly | Typically SimpleServes:12Prep time:10 minsCook time:10 minsTotal time:20 minsIngredients
- 1 pie crust
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 2 eggs
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup chopped pecansInstructions
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Combine melted butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs, and salt in a saucepan. Mix in pecans.
- Over low heat, stir the mixture until it thickens. Remove from heat, set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut circles out of pie crust, place on baking sheet.
- Pinch edges of crust upwards, if desired.
- Add about a tablespoon of pecan filling to each pie crust.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, until filling sets.
- Cool completely on wire rack.
Get to know your terrible oven a little bit before you try to bake something delicate, like cookies. Over time, I’ve learned my oven thermometer is pretty accurate but the oven tends to retain heat (unlike the rest of the kitchen) so cookies and pastry are generally ready at the shorter end of the cook time rather than the longer and, the longer the oven is on, the less time a given cookie needs before it starts to carbonize.
My husband kindly did the shopping for this project for me; I failed to be specific about which kind of pie crust I needed, which was totally my fault. As you can probably tell from my terrible kitchen, I wasn’t about to spend the money to buy more pie crust so I worked with what I had (this column is all about working with what ‘ya got):
If you’re using frozen pie crust, as I did, let it thaw just enough to be easily reshaped; if it’s mushy or sticky, you went too far but never fear! Shove it back in the freezer for a few minutes and the fat, whichever fat it may be, will firm back up. Handle the dough as little as possible and, if there’s going to be a significant break between the squish and the roll-out, throw it back into your terrible fridge for the interim.
As you can see, the pot I used to mix/cook the filling isn’t anything special. It’s also about a million years old. The rubber on the handle actually conducts heat instead of buffering it at this point and I’m forced to admit I’ve lighted more than one tea towel on fire using them to prevent injury. I do recommend silicon spatulas for sticky stuff because it’s easier to clean hardened sugar and caramel off of plastic than it is off of wood but silicon certainly isn’t necessary.
See? Still works fine with nicks and after accidentally being slashed with a knife in the sink.
Now, I do have a french rolling pin, which isn’t 100% necessary for rolling out pie dough or anything else. I like mine because I can get the dough to a more uniform thickness with less manipulation. Pie dough can be very temperamental and also tends to get greasy if you mess with it excessively. Besides, I didn’t say you couldn’t have fancy things, I said you didn’t need them. Get the most out of your dough on that first roll-out because you only get the initial and one re-roll; more than that and your dough will either seize or turn into a puddle of butter which, while not necessarily bad, is not conducive to the cohesion necessary for use.
I put my own geeky spin on these cookies using Star Wars cutters I got for <$10 on Think Geek just before the holidays. The cutters are still available but, alas, they are no longer on sale. If you don’t have cookie cutters, fear not. You can use the open end of a juice glass or a jar lid.
I loved these cookies. The girl loved these cookies. The boy, whose texture issues have improved but do still rear up, especially with new foods, was hesitant at first; he nibbled around the edges and licked the filling but once he got the flavor, he was all over it. Hubs didn’t try them – he is nut-averse with the exception of peanut butter and roasted peanuts at baseball games.
Achievement #1 unlocked in My Terrible Kitchen.