Thursday, January 15, 2009

Batch Maker, Batch Maker, Bake Me a Batch

I’ve relished food for nearly all my life. (I mean, seriously, the rotund baby pictures alone should prove that!) However, I attribute my interest in all things culinary to several individuals:

  • My maternal grandparents, with the intrinsic desire prevalent in older Italians to see that everyone around them is well-fed
  • My mother, for allowing her talkative youngest-born to linger underfoot in the kitchen, and inadvertently teaching through example while preparing meals, whether a normal dinner or Christmas feast
  • And my fiancé, who takes pleasure in experiencing new restaurants and experimenting with his own dishes – and who happened to find a girl who likes experiencing new restaurants and establishing her kitchen repertoire

So yeah, food and I go back.

I recently found myself wondering how we – food and I, that is – got our start. After the strained peas and dry Cheerios (the latter of which, ahem, are still in my regular dietary rotation), how did I introduce myself to food – or food to me? – and begin cultivating this relationship?

First, I established some rules. Cereal doesn’t count (sorry Buzz!), nor does a PB & J. It had to involve more than simply opening a can; bonus points if a cooking time was involved. And serving as Mommy’s Little Helper is cheating; sure, I learned a great deal as her sous chef, but when did I initially enter the kitchen solo? What was my first great masterpiece?


A variety of tiny cakes and cookies, crafted by combining precisely the right amount of water with pre-packaged mix, taught me some important lessons in the kitchen – not the least of which is to be very wary of recipes that call for food to be baked in a light bulb-powered oven. (For the record, I was a daring baker from day one, placing my trust – and treats – in the real oven, instead.)

The techniques I learned years ago – accurate measurements, adherence to recipes – continue to influence much of my cooking, baking or otherwise. (Though I'm trying, with increasing success, to be more experimental and adventurous in the kitchen.)

And although I’ve developed beyond the Easy-Bake products, I’m still drawn to recipes for a variety of baked goods. This was was easy to whip up during the crazy Christmas season – and mighty tasty, too, despite the absense of many "traditional" cookie ingredients.

Flourless Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup super chunky peanut butter
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (about 6 ounces)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. Using moistened hands (or, as I did, a cookie scoop), form generous 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie into ball. Arrange on 2 ungreased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until puffed, golden on bottom and still soft to touch in center, about 12 minutes.

Cool on sheets 5 minutes. (A very important step, so the cookies keep their shape -- believe me, they will come off the sheets easily!) Transfer to racks; cool completely.

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