Courage in the kitchen

There’s an old saying that “cooking is an art, but baking is a science.” And if I had to choose, I’d say that I am more artist than scientist. Which is why it is utterly baffling that I am a baker.

The saying comes from the idea that, when cooking a dish, a pinch of this here and a dash of that there is really all about creating a tapestry of flavors that suit your tastebuds as you cook; when baking a dish, if you add a pinch of baking soda but were supposed to add a pinch of baking powder, you’re looking at a potential disaster.

What I’ve discovered, however, is that once you understand the fundamental mathematical & scientific process that govern the successful creation of a baked good, then you can start to look at the dish from an artist’ s perspective.

Which is how my Vegan Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookies went from “really good” to “freaking amazing.” All it took was a little bit of experimentation and scientific guidance from a guy named Mattie. Mattie doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall, but I discovered his website, veganbaking.net, the other day, and it’s changed my life. He has an incredibly scientific approach to the conversion of conventional baked goods (the butter-and-eggs kind I’m used to baking) into vegan ones. It was on that site that I discovered his recipe for vegan banana butter–which sounded like it might be the perfect ingredient to kick my cookies into the “freaking amazing” category.

Vegan Banana Butter!

I’m really proud of these cookies–and I’m starting to feel more confident in experimenting with flavors and even fundamental ingredient combinations, which can only make my cookies better. And I’m grateful for people like Mattie–as well as Alton Brown (but who isn’t grateful for Alton Brown), and Jeff Potter (who wrote Cooking for Geeks)–because they do the dirty work of figuring out the exact ratios of xanthan-gum-to-lecithin to create perfect vegan butter, or explain the hows and whys behind mixing one ingredient before another to create the perfect cookie consistency.

The yummy result

And now that I’m gaining that confidence, my cookies are only going to get better. I’m hoping that with every batch, I am one bite closer to becoming a professional baker, and not just an amateur with a little luck.

And thank you all for reading as I start to grow into myself and into my kitchen. Your support is what keeps me baking.

I love you all & have a happy Thanksgiving!

Love & Cookies,

KP

PS I’ve made a commitment to myself today that in one year–on my 26th birthday–I will have a fully functional, successful cookie business. And by making this public declaration, well, I have no choice but to live up to my words and make it a reality. Get ready, world. KP’s cookies are on their way.

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Cookies in the bread box?

Friends, followers, fellow cookie-lovers, lend me your ears…or, um, your eyes. Or even, you know, potentially your tastebuds:

I had overripe bananas.

I over-ripened them on purpose.

My purpose could be considered nefarious, if by nefarious you mean THE BEST IDEA EVER.

It wasn’t even my idea. You can blame my friend Sidney.*

As of today, there exists in the world Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookies.

You heard right: Banana Bread Cookies.

You might ask, how can they be cookies and bread? And I appreciate that question. They’re not banana bread. But they taste like banana bread, and that’s the important part. I substituted stone ground whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, and added in oats for texture, so these cookies took on a hearty taste. The addition of the banana kept them moist and soft, and the addition of cranberry and walnut? Well, see the reference to “nefarious” above.

Of course, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. I made two batches of the cookies, one regular (your plain ol’ butter-‘n-eggs scenario) and one vegan.

Here are the substitutions I made:

Starting with the butter, I used equal amounts of regular unsalted sweet cream butter and vegan Earth Balance. For some reason, even though the Earth Balance is not actually butter, the vegan cookies tasted much more buttery than the butter-based cookies. I suspect this has something to do with the salt content of the Earth Balance, but methinks I need to do a little more research.

I also played around with flax eggs for the very first time. Eggs are the glue that hold the recipe together, and there exist a bunch of different vegan options…I felt bad enough about using fake butter, so I decided to shy away from using something like “Ener-G egg replacer.” (I’m going to make my own vegan butter as soon as I can figure out where I can get my hands on some liquid soy lecithin…). I used a flax seed “egg”, which means I whisked 1 tbsp of golden flax meal in 3 tbsp of water. The consistency was similar to the thick gooey mess you get when you use  regular ol’ egg whites, so I figured that it would be a good sub. Moreover, you can’t go wrong with flax when you’re going for a more hearty healthy taste. (Not that these cookies taste “healthy” per se. Who wants that?)

I conducted a blind taste test with my trusted taste testers, and here is what they had to say:

On the day the cookies were baked, the vegan cookies had a fuller, more buttery flavor, and slightly more depth. Fresh out of the oven, there vegan cookies were the winner by a nose.

On the day after, however, the regular butter cookies set up beautifully. Somehow, the flavor just…blossomed. The vegan cookies, which felt fuller yesterday, tasted lighter & less hearty in comparison.

That said, there’s no clear winner. Neither cookie is exactly what I want it to be. I’m considering these a nice test, but I have some ideas for making an even better cookie. I also want to focus on making the vegan cookie work as well as the other, because I think it’s important to expand my vegan repertoire. Keep an eye on my blog in the upcoming weeks…as soon as I can get my hands on that soy lecithin, and as soon as I can ripen some more bananas, then we’ll see the Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread Cookie 2.0!

Love & Cookies,

KP

*You can blame Sidney for my biscotti, too.

B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Hello there, cookie-loving blogosphere! I’m so sorry to have fallen off the face of the virtual earth, but since coming back from California, my kitchen time has been close to nil. As much as I’d like to spend my life in the kitchen, and while my heart is happiest when my hands are covered in powdered sugar, my wallet is firmly wedded to my full time retail job. And it’s the holidays.

And holidays in retail mean very little energy for anything but the holidays in retail.

Fortunately for me, I do have a few quick-and-easy recipes that I keep with me for such time-crunched, energy-less days, such as my Eggless Banana Cookies! And while the tropical banana may not seem like a fitting basis for a holiday-time cookie, it more than earns its keep in my year-long all-star cookie rotation.

My banana cookies are eggless, and can be made with real butter or with a butter substitute for the vegans among us–which is fabulous, because this means that I can make them for me and my sister when she visits for Thanksgiving in a few weeks! Anyway, I’m off to work,  where the environment itself is bananas…but I hope that while I’m there you can take a few seconds to enjoy the real fruit:

Love & Cookies,

KP