I start my first entry with making a confession (as the name of this blog suggests!). It is only when I purchase a cookbook that I read the preface of any book. Give me a fiction book and I flip straight to Chapter One, and occasionally to the last chapter, if I lack the patience to even immerse myself even from the beginning.
But it is different when I purchase a cookbook. You don’t find a preface in Women’s Weekly collections, but in those of celebrity chefs’. Those are the personalities that you recognise beaming out at you from the screen over a steaming pot, describing a soup as ‘sexy’, or throwing in about a block of butter and describing it as a mere ‘knob’. Their love of food is such a tangible feeling, which is inevitably conveyed through a collection of their recent favourites.
When I purchased my copy of Nigella Lawson’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’, my eyes were immediately drawn to one particular paragraph in the preface:
‘The trouble with much modern cooking is not that the food it produces isn’t good, but that the mood it induces in the cook is one of skin-of-the-teeth efficiency, all briskness and little pleasure. Sometimes that’s the best we can manage, but at other times we don’t want to feel like a postmodern, postfeminist, overstretched woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake.’ (page vii)
I agree with this paragraph wholeheartedly. As my friends and family are well aware, my cooking expertise lies in baking. After a long week dressing myself up in a suit at work and slogging myself through university readings, conducting the simple tasks of turning on the oven to 180 degrees Celcius and sifting flour into a bowl has a particularly soothing quality about it.
This is not to say however, that I feel like baking every weekend, or even cooking a mere meal every day. There are some evenings where simply the idea of boiling pasta has me gnashing my teeth, and it is at those times that I can fully empathise with people who abhor any time spent in the kitchen (this is where a mug of cup-o’-soup and a couple of slices of toast are utilised).
Baking is one of those particularly win-lose activities that many people simply can’t be bothered to gamble their time, money and efforts on. Why do so when you can go to Coles and purchase a box of freshly baked cookies for a mere two dollars? With baking, once the tray goes into the oven, all you can do is cross your fingers and throw up a prayer to the Great Domestic Goddess in heaven that whatever it is you’re making will resemble something remotely edible. You cannot add an extra egg forgotten, additional milk to a dry mixture, more food dye to cakes turned blonde by oven heat – forget it!
One mistake I commonly trip up on is how much space to leave in between biscuits. You never really know how much space should be left until it’s too late, and the guidelines on the recipes always seem ridiculous (two inches?? Really?? My baking trays are so small, that for that to happen, all I can fit on is two by three). This is what happened when I made my white chocolate and cranberry cookies today:
Who has ever heard of square cookies?? At least the next batch turned out more regular-looking, more so due to the fact that it was the remainder of the cookie dough and so I could afford to space them out more. If I HAD spaced them out as per the recommendations, I probably would have required about eight baking trays.
I feel that I cannot indulge myself in gobbling up all these delicious cookies without sharing something with you all, however. So find below the recipe, which I obtained from the Women’s Weekly Afternoon Tea Collection. Happy baking, all!
White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies
250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4C caster sugar
3/4C firmly packed light brown sugar
2 and 1/4C plain flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g dried cranberries (chopped)
188g white eating chocolate, chopped coarsley
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius, line baking trays with paper.
2. Beat butter, extract, sugars and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the sifted flour and soda in two batches. Stir in the chocolate and cranberries.
3. Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls; place about 5cm (2 inches!!) apart on trays.
4. Bake cookies about 15 minutes until golden brown; cool on trays.
Prep+cook time 30 minutes. Makes 36.