Sunday, August 9, 2009

too hot to bake? make it quick.

peanut butter cookies
when i was little,
my mom had what we
affectionately called,
"herman's cellar" in our basement.
she would collect small gifts,
olive oils,
bath salts,
board games and
stuffed animals.
if we were called
to a birthday party, dinner or
friend's house unexpectedly,
we were always prepared.
these were emergency gifts only -
never a fund to be dipped into
if we knew our plans
ahead of time.
i was taught
to never
show up at someone's
house without,
but instead,
with a bottle of wine,
a little present,
or most often for me, now,
something that comes
out of the kitchen.

a few weeks ago -
yes, i'm that behind
in posting -
larry's friend brian
was visiting from arizona.
i knew we would see him,
but i really thought we would
be meeting at a restaurant
or a bar. last minute - for me,
anyway - i found out we were going
to another friend's house instead.

larry thought i was more than
a little crazy when i started ranting
about needing to bring something,
not having anything in the house,
not feeling right about showing up
without something in our hands
to say, here, thanks for having us.
he looked at me with a look that
clearly said,
we are going to
sit in someone's backyard and
drink a few beers. nobody is
expecting you to show up
with a warm bundt cake.
calm down.

and so we went.
it was fine.
we were not judged.

the next day,
it was so hot.
unbelievably hot.
we had gotten home
late the night before,
and in turn, slept late,
so the whole day was
off to a faulty start.
the sunday morning
coffee only made us hotter.
and when we finally burst
outside - because it felt like
we were literally flinging
ourselves out the door in
hopes that it would not be
as hot in the fresh air -
we learned the truth:
it was not only a hot day,
but a humid one, too.

we went to the farmer's
market and then out to lunch
before embarking on
what was to be remembered
as, a very bad moment.
i had heard about a
fair at mitsuwa, the place
that larry still has very little
love for. but he was willing to go.

we drove there and, if you have
never seen a parking lot that
is always a madhouse, seemingly
designed only to make you
feel like you're going a little
plan a trip to edgewater on the
weekend. this place needs a traffic cop -
on a regular day.
on this hot, festival of a day,
we needed to get out of
there, fair or no fair.
i was on the phone with blair,
larry was trying to manuever
horribly impatient people,
not only heading the wrong
way, but willing to cut
off their opposition at any
turn. the anxiety, the look
on larry's face, the car in front
of us that almost backed up
into an entire family was
making me even hotter.
blair asked if i wanted to call
her back, and i knew it was in
my best interest to take her
up on the offer.
in spite of his obvious state,
larry was still willing to
go, in fact i think he was
now determined.

we left the lot headed for
the overfill parking spaces
straight across the street
and we were forced
to make a right turn.
it took us
two failed attempts to get inside
the second lot -
i spent the entire time saying
that we didn't have to go.

once we finally parked and
started the walk across
the street, larry checked a message
on his phone that he had smartly
ignored during the parking fiasco.
brian's dad was inviting everyone
over for a barbecue.
i looked at the clock.
it was 3pm.
i thought i had known how
my sunday was going to play out -
we would visit inside the market,
stop at another grocery store
to buy ingredients for the week,
and then i would head home
to make dinner for both
sunday and monday night,
because i knew i had to work
late the next night.
i was hot and sticky and
i wanted to shower.
i needed to rest.
i needed to blog.
i really needed to wash my hair.

larry read this all in my eyes.
he countered back that if i left
him a clear recipe,
he would make whatever it
was that i was planning to make
the next night.
and that, is how, larry ended up
making his first torte.
i knew my new fate.

as we got in the car,
i knew i had to bring something.
maybe it was somewhat ok
to show up at a friend's to
hang out with empty hands,
but certainly, it was not acceptable
to walk into a friend's parents
house without a gift.
especially the parent of larry's
oldest friend, one he had known
forever. in my mind, i imagined
them all talking about the
ill-manored heathen larry
had married.

damn it.
i was baking.

now, this is where i should
probably stop my own
story, not just because it's
the right thing to do,
but also the true thing
to admit: larry's friends and
their families are very nice
people who have never
been anything but warm
and welcoming to me,
but my mind has always
been a bit overactive.
i'm sure that last bit comes
as quite a shock to you.

so, with an hour and 15 minutes
to spare, we got home
and i started
measuring out the ingredients
to the kitchen's easiest cookies -
ones that have bailed me out
of many situations,
made larry look like a genius
at a company christmas party,
were published in the magazine
i used to work for and
originally came from my mother.
it's hard to beat the incredibly
unforgettable ratio of
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg.
in fact, i probably don't
need to even give you a recipe
now that i've provided
that information.
1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg
what i'm not sure about,
is what in the world made
me stop to take pictures
when i was obviously
short on time and it was
so hot that not only was
i still sweating, but so was
the egg.

the only trick to these cookies,
if you even want to call it that,
is that once the ingredients are all
mixed together,
if the dough is warm or loose,
it's best to chill it for a bit
before forming into balls.
best case scenario, i like 30 minutes.
this time, i gave them ten.

which of course meant,
i had "time" to think about the
cookies and whether or not
i really wanted them to be plain.
i was about to pull out a bag
of chocolate chips to stir in -
which i've done plenty of time -
when i remembered the
cooling its heals in the fridge.
should i?
did i?
of course.

it wasn't so bad.
i broke off completely
uneven squares and then
placed each in a flattened
piece of dough, which
i rolled into a ball.
i handed the formed balls to larry,
who rolled them in sugar
and placed them on the
baking sheet.
in 10 minutes,
they were done and i
could hop in the shower.
peanut butter cookie with chocolate ganache filling
15 minutes later,
i knew i had two choices:
do my hair or take
pictures of the cookies.
i took pictures,
stuffed them into a container
and slipped on my flip-flops.
we actually got into the car
3 minutes ahead of schedule
and when we got to
brian's dad's house, i was so
relieved to be in an
air-conditioned home
where someone else
was cooking -
deliciously -
and there was juicy fresh fruit
on the table,
i almost forgot about
the day.
baked peanut butter cookies on baking sheet
emergency peanut butter cookies
you can of course, just mix everything together, but i've found everything much easier to incorporate, when i first whisk together the sugar and the egg and then stir in the peanut butter. when it's time to roll - greasing your hands first will make you much happier.

and, if you don't want to roll them into balls and dip them in sugar, you can also just drop them by the spoonful on the baking sheet.

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky
handful of chocolate chips, if desired
sugar, for rolling

heat oven to 350˚f. in bowl, whisk together egg and sugar. stir in peanut butter, until incorporated (if a wooden spoon isn't doing the trick, use your clean hands to mix everything together). add chocolate chips, if using. chill until 10-3o minutes, or until firmer, if necessary.

place sugar in a small bowl. grease hands with cooking spray. break off pieces of dough (about 1 tablespoonful) and roll into a ball. roll in sugar and place on ungreased baking sheet. bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom. let sit 2 minutes on baking sheet. transfer cookies to cooling rack; let sit until completely cool.

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