Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Missing Ingredient

Today was the last day of school (or as I said to the child who is graduating, the last day of free education.) I am not one of those parents who dreads summer vacation. I love having my kids at home; and for some strange reason, they like to be at home. Brooke does not start school in Chicago until the middle of September and the Texas public schools have changed their calendar so Erin will not start until the end of August, maybe even after labor day. I have not looked carefully at next year's calendar yet. So, we have nearly four months at home together. This is time that I will treasure since it could be Brooke's last long stretch of time at home - unless she is unemployable after she graduates from college.

Though graduation exercises are not until tomorrow, the girls are done with school. They decided, separate from one another, that cooking was a great way to celebrate. This is not surprising where Brooke is concerned, but Erin is culinary challenged. As her sister says, "When you can burn Bagel Bites in the microwave, you definitely should give up kitchen activities!" Nonetheless, Erin, who is not one to give up easily, decided to make brownies - from scratch, not from a box. She tried this the other night with the recipe I use all the time, from the Mousewood Cooking at Home cookbook, but she was less than successful. Something was quite strange with those brownies. The sad part was that I could not figure out where she went wrong. We went over the ingredient list - Are you sure you put in 2 eggs, etc. I asked about the mixing process - Did you put the eggs in while the chocolate mixture was still boiling? Assuming that she really remembered everything that she did, or did not do, nothing should have caused her baking disaster.

So tonight, while Brooke and I were at the theatre, Erin tried again, with a different recipe and her daddy as a coach. (I am glad I was not at home!) When I arrived home, I was met by the aroma of hot brownies. They smelled wonderful and they looked better than the last batch. After a few more minutes of cooling, I was offered one. Excellent! I congratulated her on a successful batch of scratch brownies, and then I heard the true story of how the brownies were made. Many questions were asked; What is shortening? Do I have to keep all of the measuring spoons attached? It seems stupid to wash them all when I only used one. Can I add the flour after I have already put the batter in the greased pan?

Leaving out the flour was her biggest mistake but she noticed it before the point of no return. We all enjoyed our brownies (except Brooke, the vegan). I am glad that Erin has overcome her title of Loser in the Kitchen.

On the way home from the show, Brooke announced that she was going to make peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies when we got home. I said that that sounded like a good idea to me since she owed me cookies to replace the ones that the dog ate on Mother's Day. Once it had been established that Erin did not use all of the sugar, Brooke began mixing her batter. All was good until the last ingredient - the chocolate chips. It is not that we did not have any chocolate chips, it was that we did not have any vegan chocolate chips. Leaving the chips out causes a real problem with peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. We checked the pantry for any other kind of chip (vegan) that might be lurking. No luck. You would be surprised how many different types of chips contain milk products. I found a bag of peanut butter chips but they contained milk or some remnant of milk in a former life. Ghiradelli chips are the best vegan chips we have found.

So, here she stood with the six quart mixer bowl full of cookie dough. The options are:
  • Screw the cookies. Enjoy the cookie dough.
  • Wake the daddy figure up at almost midnight and ask him to go to the grocery store for the chips. (not recommended)
  • Put the dough in the refrigerator and send the daddy figure to the store, for the right chips, in the morning.

What a disappointment that Brooke did not get the cookies that she wanted as a celebration. She decided that sending her dad to the grocery store in the morning was the best answer to the whole situation.

All of this late night cooking is the beginning of Brooke establishing her summer routine, a routine that centers around sleeping all day long and taking over the kitchen at night. The only problem with this is, I hate to go to bed at night with the kitchen clean, and wake up in the morning with the proof that the elves have been cooking, cooking, cooking, in my kitchen all night long! If it weren't for the mess left behind, my elves would be almost perfect. Do the Keebler elves leave messes behind for you - anyone)

Life over the summer will probably be a mix of the super dense, underdone brownies with the peculiar texture and the vegan cookies that will not have chocolate chips until tomorrow. The lessons here: If at first you don't succeed, keep on trying - especially if the outcome involves chocolate. And patience is a virtue. Eating the incomplete, uncooked dough is simply fabulous. All in all, I expect great things for this long summer vacation.