Two resolutions

This plate of cookies fulfilled two of my food resolutions in one fell swoop: Using my mixer and giving baking a fair shot. Matthew and I were going to dinner last Thursday at our friends Scott and Sara’s house and normally, I stick to savory dishes and Sara makes desserts. She’s good at it. But, in the name of resolutions, I took on the making of two desserts: The above cookies, citrus doodles, and an easier one, a bowl of rice pudding. I made the rice pudding in case the cookies didn’t turn out. The rice pudding was great — we will get to it — and the cookies turned out fine, though not what they were supposed to be.

Sara told me later she thought I was brave to take on cookies for my first baking project. I don’t know enough to know that cookies are harder to bake than cakes or other items — I think baking anything seems impossible. So mark one for me in the category of “starting with the harder stuff.” I chose two recipes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food blog, because the recipes are usually easier, in my experience, and made for beginners. The cookie recipe seemed so dead-easy that I thought ok, even I won’t mess this up. (Ha.) I put my butter out on the counter before I left for work to make sure it was at room temperature by the time I got home.

Then, after watching the video that accompanied the citrus doodle recipe a few times, I loaded ingredients into my mixer bowl and turned the thing on for the first time.

I have to say, using a KitchenAid mixer is an entirely satisfying culinary experience.

Once I got the butter and sugar creamed together, I added the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix things (a mistake made many times.)

At this point I thought things looked pretty good. The dough seemed right, and so I scooped it into my parchment-lined pans with a new scoop that I made a special stop to buy — I thought it was the same one the food editor was using in the cookie video. But once my first batch of cookies came out looking substantially thinner than the ones in the video, I wondered if I’d made my first mistake.

But I couldn’t quite figure out what it was — had I overmixed? Undermixed? Not creamed the butter and sugar long enough? Was my scoop too small? I don’t really know for sure — I suspect it was the scoop, though, as the recipe made way more than the number of predicted cookies. While I baked the many, many trays, I made the simple glaze for the cookies.

By the time they were all done, I had an absolute ton of cookies — I put most of them in the freezer the next morning. And though they weren’t what I expected or what they were supposed to be, they weren’t half bad. The cookies tasted citrusy and buttery and they were sweet but not too sweet — what I wanted to make for my friend Sara, who doesn’t have a sweet tooth like I do.

The rice pudding was much easier, and after tasting the mildly sweet, vanilla-spiked finished product — I forgot to take a photo — I’ll definitely make this one again.

I can’t say that after making one thing my fear of baking is gone. Not by a long shot. But using the mixer was a lot of fun — fun enough that I want to try making something else soon. So I ask the more experienced bakers out there who might be reading this — what do you think I did wrong? One person on Facebook suggested I should have refrigerated the dough for a while, which I did not. Any other ideas?

Thanks for sticking with the blog as I take on this year of baking. I promise it will be messy. I might start a fire. I will definitely mess some more stuff up and I’ll probably overmix something at least once. But hey, a girl’s gotta start somewhere.

Meantime, the recipes.

Glazed Citrus Doodles
Makes 36 (or 100, depending on the baker behind the mixer.)

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated orange zest, plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 2 oranges)
4 teaspoons lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons juice (from 2 lemons)
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon orange zest, and 2 teaspoons lemon zest on medium-high until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour mixture; beat to combine.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks and let cool completely.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon orange zest, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, citrus juices, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. With a small spoon, spread glaze over each cookie. Let set 1 hour.

Easiest Rice Pudding
serves 8

Ingredients

1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
Ground cinnamon, for serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring rice, sugar, salt, and 4 1/2 cups milk to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is tender and pudding is creamy, 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup milk. Transfer to a serving dish and press plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days). To serve, stir in heavy cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Both recipes courtesy Martha Stewart Living Everyday Food Blog

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