Don’t Tell Jim*…

…But these cookies are made with coconut.

*Jim is my mother’s fiancé. And Jim hates coconut. However, Jim loves these cookies. Like, really loves these cookies. As in he won’t share them with anyone else. So I don’t want to ruin them for him by telling him that he actually likes coconut.**

**And I realize, that by posting on a completely public blog in an open forum, there’s pretty much no chance that he won’t see this. But I figured I needed to share this information with all of you, in order to put into perspective how absolutely, completely freaking awesome these cookies are. But seriously, if you see him, don’t tell him why they taste so good…

Moving on:

Yesterday was my day off, and it was one of those absolutely perfect yoga-and-farmers-market-and-long-walks-up-the-side-of-a-small-mountain-with-my-dog kind of days. Which made it the perfect kind of day for finally trying out the recipe I’ve been writing and rewriting and fretting over for the last week.

Long walks up the side of a small mountain with my dog...

My last recipe, the More Than a Spoonful of Sugar Caramel Meltaways, was good, but the caramels were missing…something. Jim, who has this thing for pointing out minute details in taste, texture, and mouthfeel, let me know: the cookies were good but the caramel was…just alright. I really do appreciate that kind of feedback–because in order to get better, I have to know what works for my potential customers and what doesn’t.

So I looked at the caramel recipe. Now, caramel is a really difficult beast to tackle. It’s not a beginner’s food–it involves split second timing and a low margin of error…a single sugar crystal on the side of the saucepan can ruin a whole batch of caramel, and a few seconds of extra heat can leave you with a pan full of burned sugar that needs hours of soaking and scraping.

The secret to caramel involves watching that thermometer very carefully...

For the last cookie, I spent hours searching the web for comparing regular and vegan caramels. All of them used sugar, some form of cream (be it soy or true dairy), some form of fat (butter or its vegan equivalent), some form of sugary “interfering agent” per David Leibovitz (i.e. corn syrup), and then salt or vanilla to taste. However, I didn’t want to use vegan butter or Soy creamer to make caramels. I don’t know why, but the concept of using processed “foods” to make the caramels didn’t appeal to me–and I was right in assuming that the end result wouldn’t be the knock-your-socks-off stellar kind of caramel that I needed in order to make my cookies shine.

So I decided that I was going to write my own recipe.

I first searched the web for alternatives to the Earth Balance/Silk dominated vegan caramels, but I found literally nothing. This meant that I would have no foundation on which to build, at least not in a concrete sense. I wracked my brain for alternatives…and settled on coconut.

Full fat coconut milk (which, if you’re concerned contains a healthy medium chain fatty acid, which has been making waves among the health food community of late) could take the place of processed creamers or heavy dairy creams, and coconut oil could, after factoring in its lack of water content, take the place of butters and margarines. I also got rid of the corn syrup by substituting brown rice syrup and a small amount of molasses. I kept the sugar, salt, and vanilla, since they needed no substitution.

After a week of doing math (which, for this former English major, was no small feat!), I figured out what seemed like the best ratios for caramel success, and I set to work at the stove.

To die for? I think so.

The result was a resounding absolute success. Yummy, delicious, sticky caramel, which would wow even a coconut-hater.

This meant I needed a cookie to stick it in.

Sticking with the coconut theme, I made a coconut oil based chocolate chip cookie (and they don’t even taste like coconut!), and then put a small piece of caramel in the center of each cookie before baking.

Chocococonut Caramel Cookies!

Jim loved them. So much so that he had to talk everyone in the house out of trying one, just so he could have them all for himself.

I’m okay with that–so long as no one tells him what’s in ’em.

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS I’m still raising money to pay for my commercial kitchen and insurance costs so that I can start my business. If you (or anyone you know) can donate, please do so here: Help Bring KP’s Cookies to the World!

Taking a leap…

Two days ago, I drove to San Francisco.

This, if you don’t know me very well, is a big deal.

I live an hour and a half away, and I’ve never driven on these California freeways for an extended period of time, AND I don’t have a GPS. Not even a GPS app on my iPhone, if you can believe it.

I don’t have a great track record for finding my way in a new city–in fact, I regularly got lost when I lived in NYC, which, if you’ve never been, is laid out in an easy-to-get-around-with-the-possible-exception-of-the-village grid. But still I got in my car and drove north.

I wasn’t going to San Francisco to hang out or even to explore; I was going to San Francisco because the Small Business Administration was holding a seminar entitled “From Kitchen to Market: Selling Your Specialty Foods.” As soon as I saw the title, I realized that was what I needed to be doing with my day off from work.

While the seminar was targeted more toward potential wholesale and packaged goods businesses (like people selling hot sauce or prepackaged cookies), I learned some invaluable lessons, and the seminar helped put a lot of things into perspective.

I am starting to get very excited about my first real venture into the entrepreneurial world–I finally have direction, and things are starting to look like they’re going to fall into place. I’m confident that I’m going to be able to be up and running by the spring or early summer, provided I can put the funds together.

I think moving out to California was the best possible move I could have made…this is the year of taking leaps and not looking back. This is the year that I do things like start a business or drive to (and from!) San Francisco without a GPS and without getting lost. This is the year that I spend my day off learning how a business is run, and the year that things like business licenses and health permits and operating costs and business plans become part of my vocabulary.

I’m so excited that I’m finally going after my dreams instead of just hoping they’ll come true. I’m learning that “hope,” in the context I’ve always used it, is a victim’s word. I’m finally taking charge…so you can all expect to see good things as the days pass and my business takes flight.

Thank you all for being part of my journey, GPS or no,

Love and Cookies,

KP

P.S. If you’d like to donate to my startup fund, please visit my donation page. Even a few dollars helps–I have started a wish list on the site, so you can see what your donation is helping to fund! Thank you in advance for any and all support!!!

 

Donate to KP’s Cookies

Friends, Romans, Cookie Lovers, lend me your cookie jars:

I have taken a giant leap–head first–into the scary world of business ownership. In order to fund my project, I need your help.

I need AT LEAST $5000 to get started–so that I can do important things like rent a commercial kitchen & buy health permits & liability insurance. I also need to buy packing and shipping supplies, and pay for entry fees at my local farmers’ markets (not to mention the flour and sugar with which to make the cookies!).

Why should you donate? Because the sooner that I am able to get up and running, the sooner I’ll be able to figure out how to pack and ship my cookies to you!

Every dollar that you donate puts another cookie in the oven–and also gives me an oven to put them in! I’m not rolling in dough, but the sooner I have some funds, I can be rolling in cookie batter!

Please, please, please donate–even just a little bit will help! You can donate at my GoFundMe page–and, if you love my cookies, send the link to your friends, family, and distant Facebook acquaintances! I thank you so, so, so much, from the very bottom of my heart,

Love and Cookies,

KP

It’s All About the Process

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about making cookies.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about my process, and how I’ve finally, finally learned how to streamline it.

When it comes to baking, I used to be a haphazard everything-in-the-pantry-ends-up-spread-out-on-the-counter- and a if-it-wasn’t-in-the-recipe-I-won’t-touch-it-or-else type. A combination of the two can be lethal. I’ve learned over the past several years, however, that a good recipe is all in the deviation, and that a good day in the kitchen is one that’s organized and planned.

Sounds rather contradictory, no?

Sugary caramel meltaways!

Well, here’s how I bake cookies:

Step one: I do my research. I look at other peoples’ recipes and see what has worked for them. That often means hours (literally, hours) of surfing the internet, trying different search terms and reading every recipe that looks like it might be worth its salt (literally and figuratively) and then comparing the ingredients, the ratios, the results, and, when applicable, the reviews.

I ask myself, do I want chewy or crunchy? Puffy or flat? Rich or light? And then, after looking through the recipes, I start to write. I’ll have guides near me, like Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks or Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food, since they go in depth into the science (chemistry and mechanics) of the craft. Maybe a recipe looks good on paper, but I have to consider the potential outcomes as well as the alternatives. Recipes aren’t written in stone, and often they get better when you use them as a guide but not a commandment.

Then it comes time to test. This is where it can get tedious and often messy (and expensive!). One way I’ve started to combat the tedious mess (and, in a very slight way, the financial piece, although I’m taking suggestions for making extra ingredients appear out of thin air…) is by using weights instead of volumes. In other words: instead of  spilling sugar all over my counter while trying to pack it into one of my 18 measuring cups or several bowls, I now use one bowl and a food scale. Not only are my measurements more accurate, I can pour all of my ingredients over one large bowl*, and I can do the clean up in less than 5 minutes while the cookies bake.

Using my grandmother's food scales to test a Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookie recipe

*I do use a small bowl to set the flax egg up at least 15 minutes before I start baking; the flax needs time to absorb the liquid before I can add it to the wet ingredients, so I do have a small second bowl to clean…

Weighing ingredients is also more cost effective, because I’m using the exact same amount of flour, sugar, etc etc in every single recipe. Using measuring cups is incredibly inaccurate; I can scoop 1 cup of flour 5 times, and get a different weight with each scoop, depending on how I pack the cup. With weights, I can, at the very least, budget my baking so I’ll know exactly how much flour I will get out of each bag.

Now, when it comes to the actual recipes, I go through several before I find the right one. A good example of this process can be found in my Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, which took me a good four days to come up with and then test. Another is the last recipe I baked, the “More Than a Spoonful of Sugar” Caramel Meltaways. I’m still not 100% in love with the caramel recipe I used–I’m thinking of experimenting with coconut milk and oil to see if I get a richer flavor than using Soy creamer and vegan butter–but the cookie itself is exactly where I want it….and it only took me three tries!

Making caramel

Both the first and second recipes I made up came out too bready. The first recipe was similar to my Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I used oil instead of butter, and cornstarch as a thickener. My brother said that they tasted like pancakes (and then asked for me to pour maple syrup on them…).

Not so yummy pancake balls...

The second recipe was a complete deviation from my norm: I used soy milk in the recipe, but that thickened the dough to the point of un-stir-ability (and yes, that’s a word now.) They came out extremely dry, and the caramel seeped out of the bottom and adhered to the parchment paper.

Dry, dry, and dry...and all of the caramel melted out during baking!

The third recipe was exactly what I wanted–I eschewed the milks and the starches, and went for the simplest combination of ingredients–and it worked! Now I just have to tweak the caramels, and I’ll have another killer cookie to add to my arsenal.

Getting ready for the final test...

Speaking of which, now that I’m an official business, I’m going to work on not making killer cookies–i.e. I’m on my way to finding a good commercial kitchen and a health permit, as well as some good old fashioned insurance. Since I’m still small-time, I started a GoFundMe account. If you want to help get KP’s Cookies off the ground, I would really appreciate any and all donations–or, if you know friends who might like to help, I would love it if you could pass my link along to them. Frankly, the sooner I have all of the necessary business-and-health-permit stuff taken care of, the sooner I can focus on important things, like actually shipping my cookies to all of you who have requested such a service.

If you’d like to donate, please click HERE-and thank you, thank you, thank you in advance, from the bottom of my heart,

Love and Cookies,

KP

P.S. I totally just realized that The Bloggess has a post about The Process too…

More Than a Spoonful of Sugar Caramel Meltaways

I’d like to dedicate the following recipe to my friend Jen, who I’ve known about 8 million playground minutes (roughly translated, to those who speak grown-up, into 17 years). Why Jen? Because she’s my hero, plain and simple (PS, this post is going to get real wordy real quickly. There’s a picture of cookies at the bottom to reward the intrepid readers amongst you):

Two nights ago (for those of you on East Coast time…otherwise, it’s still two hours until yesterday…um, right. Moving on:), Jen proved (as she has, time and time again over the last several years), that it is fully possible to live your dream. Hokey? Absolutely. Doesn’t make it any less true.

Jen is the girl sitting right in the center & I'm on her right. Things haven't changed all that much since 1997!

I met Jen in a drama camp at the local JCC, where we became “orphan sisters” in the summer production of Annie. I was eight at the time, and she was nine–and already Jen was the ring leader of what would become an incredibly strong group of friends, (the inexplicably named) Tuna Fish Club.

Members of the Tuna Fish Club...I honestly don't know how that name happened.

Even at the ripe old age of nine, Jen loved theatre. And as the years passed, Jen made it pretty clear that it was her mission in life to work on Broadway, and to be the person whose words would transcend history with the story of drama in our time.

That’s a pretty heavy mission to carry around on nine year old shoulders, but Jen carried it–all the way to New York City, where she studied theatre and later fell in with a crowd of up-and-coming theatre hopefuls. With them, she made it to Broadway…and that was only the start.

Remember that time we "went to the Tony Awards" by standing awkwardly outside of Radio City for an hour?

About a year and a half ago (give or take), Jen and one of her friends started a small cabaret style theatre show called If It Only Even Runs A Minute, which revived forgotten musicals, and put them, and their stories back on stage. It was part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and it apparently turned a couple of heads. I say that, because two nights ago, Jen brought If It Only Even Runs A Minute 8 to Joe’s Pub–and for those of you in the know, that’s a really, freaking huge deal.

Why tell this story? And what does it have to do with cookies? Well, in my life, I’ve realized that there are three kinds of people: The people who have dreams that fall into their laps by way of luck, money, or magic; the people who sit around hoping their dreams will come true; and the people who actually just go out and make things happen.

Jen has always, always been one of the latter kinds of people. She’s been fearless in her pursuit of her goals, and now I’m firmly convinced that Jen is poised to become a theatre historian for our time, one of the definitive voices of our generation. I am so incredibly proud of her–and at the same time, I’m in awe of her courage. She is and always has been one of my heroes…and I’ve finally come to the point in my own career that I am ready to stop being a hoper and become a do-er like her.

I’ve realized that I cannot live fearlessly–but I can live courageously. I can do things, like pack up my life and move across the country. Or lease a car in my own name and start a new job. Or hop into a car I’ve never driven onto a highway that’s completely foreign and get to my destination without getting lost. Or walk into the Office of the Clerk-Reporter and fill out the form to declare my business official in Santa Clara Valley.

So, as of two days ago, KP’s Cookies is a real thing. I may not have any money, but I have a plan. And I’m looking forward to making my dreams come true–and I know they’ll run more than a minute.

I said all of that to set you up for the cookie to follow. I’ve called them “More Than a Spoonful of Sugar”* Caramel Meltaways. Jen, these are for you!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*This title only makes sense if you know musicals.** Or Julie Andrews. Or if you can’t stand musicals or Julie Andrews (which is none of you, because that’s obviously blasphemy) but just want to get literal (since there’s sugar in and around the cookie), then that works too…

**And, yes, I realize that Mary Poppins was a movie first. It still counts. Mainly because I thought about making a She Loves Me Vanilla Ice Cream Cookie, and the logistics of making a vegan, potentially shippable cookie made my head spin.

EDIT: If you would like to help me get KP’s Cookies off of the ground, please visit my GOFUNDME Page!

Change is Good…

It’s official…I’m a grown-up. I just signed the lease on a car, and the car is in my name. I’m officially overwhelmed.

Signing the lease...

That being said, I’m also incredibly excited. I love the West Coast so far…spending time hanging out with my little brother (and, yes, watching as much iCarly as possible) definitely balances out the fact that my cookie dough is coming out a little dry in the cold weather & high elevation.

And my dog loves California too!

It’s still very surreal–and as I move forward with my new life, I find myself still tying up loose ends. Like cookie videos from my old kitchen, which haven’t yet debuted on the site.

So, while I unpack & tweak my current cookie doughs (and before I treat you all to a new recipe), I’m going to leave you with a couple of batches of Florida-born cookies.*

Enjoy!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*PS These cookies are my mom’s favorites, so I’m featuring them today. She has graciously allowed me to come and live with her, and I cannot, cannot, cannot thank her enough. (I also made her a batch of these before I left Florida so she could enjoy them as soon as I landed in San Francisco!)

Do You Like My Hat? (And My Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookies?)

Hello, again, blogosphere. It’s been a while. (I seem to have this terrible habit of disappearing for long stretches of time, but I promise that it’s been for a good reason:

At this exact second*, I’m sitting on a plane bound one way for San Jose, California, and all of the time between my last post and now has been consumed with the energy of packing and shipping my life several thousand miles, working my last few weeks at my old store, and working on an art project at my grandmother’s house–details of the latter to follow.

*Disclaimer: This post was written on the plane, but I wasn't able to publish it until today, since there's no way in hell I'm paying $8.00 to use in-flight Wi-Fi .

So why am I sitting on a plane to San Jose? Because, as of today, I am no longer a resident of the state of Florida. I’m moving across the country to live with my mother & brother, and to wipe the slate clean and get started on living my life. I figured that 2012 was as good a year as any to follow my passion and finally just live…if the world ends, great. If it doesn’t, even better.

For just over a week, between the first of the year and now, I’ve been living with my Grammy & Papa. I don’t know what I would have done without them–especially since I was cornered in my own kitchen & *ahem* “politely” told that I had to be out by the first unless I wanted to pony up my portion of the entire month’s rent. I’ve had an amazing couple of days, especially since my Grammy & I spent much of the time making my mother’s Christmas present [granted, a few days late, but I’m blaming that on Amazon.com for losing the materials in shipping].

Merry (Belated) Christmas, Mom!

My mother’s family has a strange love for the book Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman (aka Dr. Seuss). There’s just something about the “do you like my hat” bit that is unendingly funny…and so it is an oft-quoted part of our every day exchanges.

After discovering a really cool hack for turning an old book into a purse on Epbot, Grammy and I spent a good several days researching the “recipe,” if you will, for trying the project on our own.

My grandmother and I bonded. Literally.

Of course, I can’t ever make anything easy, so we started to deviate from the recipe, and, despite some setbacks involving Gorilla Glue and an industrial stapler, the end product was nothing short of really darn cool.

What does this have to do with cookies? Nothing, really, but in the midst of the chaos I ended up baking a batch of Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookies, which my grandmother loved–and to me, seeing her happy was the very best part. Also, I’d apologize for making you read a page-long parenthetical, but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop apologizing for everything. So there.)

Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookies are not peanut butter cookies. I substituted part of the Vegetable/Hazelnut Oil mix that I use with my Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peanut Oil (which can be easily obtained from the surface of an un-mixed jar of all-natural peanut butter). I crushed up regular pretzels and threw in some diced Pink Lady apples (which I chose because they have an incredibly dense makeup that allows all of that tart juicy goodness to hold up when baked).

These cookies are all kinds of awesome…I may do some experiments in the future with dehydrated apples as opposed to fresh, just because the fresh apples saturate the cookie with excess moisture, so they, like my pumpkin cookies, are best eaten just after they’ve been baked. I’ll keep you all updated on the results.

As for California, I’m on my way…I am excited to be starting my new life, and to be one step closer to opening my cookie company for real. 2012 is the year of possibility, and I’m going to make that possibility my reality.**

See you on the West Coast!

Love & Cookies,

KP

**P.S. My good friend Steve has challenged me to “Oprah” a cookie by 2013. Think I can do it?

Pigging out. Sort of.

Hello, 2012. It’s so nice to see you. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to meet you…I’ve been in a dysfunctional relationship with 2011, and I’m not sorry to see it go.

Like any good relationship, 2012, this one will start with cookies. I’ve been wracking my brain thinking of the best recipe with which to welcome you into my life.

There are so many cultures that welcome New Years into their lives with food…Almost always, those foods are circular (so cookies were a go). But grapes have been done (in the form of raisins); collard greens, though okay in smoothies, might have been visually unappealing; and sauerkraut? Well, I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

And then, 2012, I remembered the New Year’s Eve I spent in Austria with one of my best friends and his family. On New Year’s day, they served us little marzipan . And that made me think of the New Year’s ham that had, in the past, graced my step family’s table (kosher we are not). And then my feeble little brain, already overtaxed with visions of sugar plums past, made the almost unimaginable leap to the cookies I made for one of my former roommates as a thank you gift  earlier in the year: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Covered Candied Bacon cookies. (Adapted from the ridiculously inspirational How Sweet It Is.)

The thought looked something like this: Bacon. Ham. Pigs……vegan? Yes.

And so, 2012, I took a risk. A leap of faith, if you will. And I ask you to take that leap of faith with me. Because, oh my god, was that little leap worth it:

I give you 100% Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter “Bacon”* Cookies!

Happy New Year!

Because it looks like bacon...

...and it smells like bacon...

...and it tastes like bacon...

...But it's 100% VEGAN!

Let’s make this relationship a good one, 2012.

Love & Cookies,

KP

*My “bacon” is a recipe adapted from Just the Foods‘s Imitation Bacon Bits and made with Textured Vegetable Protein, which is just a fancy word for defatted soy flour, or, more colloquially, soy crumbles. Sounds kind of not-yummy, I know; you’d be surprised, however, just how ridiculously tasty this fake bacon can be. I’m not a huge fan of “fake meat” when it comes to dinner; I prefer to accept that I’m not eating meat and enjoy the unique tastes of the different vegetable, nut, and legume proteins that I’m adding to my diet. But that said, this fake bacon is really, really, really good. And, somehow, it works when you throw it in a Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookie.