Monday, May 30, 2011

Fancy Cookies

My friend had a baby shower recently and the definite hit of the party was this plate of delicious salted chocolate chip orange pecan cookies.  They were so good we started pulling them out of the bag they came in before the person who brought them even had a chance to sit down.  At plating time there were roughly 50% fewer cookies than there should've been, and until they were all eaten we clustered around them like vultures, trying to justify our decisions to have a sixth or seventh (and hide them from people who hadn't yet had a first).

Cookies that good leave a definite impression, and since the shower I haven't been able to get them off my mind.  Finally this weekend I messaged the cookie person, Emma, and asked for the recipe, which she thankfully sent right over.  I had a batch made within 3 hours, and by the end of the night had eaten 13 of the 16 cookies I'd baked that afternoon.

If you'd told me 10 years ago that one day my favorite cookie would feature orange zest and chocolate chips, I would've hit you in the face.  I've always hated fruit plus chocolate (in truffle form at least) and nowhere was this more true than in terms of the orange-plus-chocolate combo.  But these cookies are AMAZING!

They're made with a blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, and oats, which gives the dough this great homey, comforting, wholesome texture and taste.  The pecans add crunch and caramel flavor, and the orange citrus is not just a delicious accent, but a visual and olfactory excitement as well.  Throw some semi-sweet chocolate into the mix and voila--you'll find yourself eating 13 cookies in a single day, too.

But the coup de gras has to be the coarse sea salt, sprinkled (in my case liberally) over the balls of dough right before they go into the oven.  As a child (which is not to suggest that I don't still do this, mind you) I loved going to the movies with chocolate in one hand and salty, buttery popcorn in the other, and shoving bits of both into my mouth for a salty-sweet combo.  These cookies are a (far more) sophisticated version of that move.  I feel cheated, in fact, that I've had to wait 30 years before tasting the deliciousness of sea salted chocolate chip cookies.

I'm not sure where the recipe came from so if you recognize it as yours feel free to let me know and I'll happily give credit where it's due.  If you don't recognize it, I suggest you familiarize yourself with a batch of your own post haste (I don't want to be the only fatty in a bikini this year).

From Emma:

Salted Orange Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup canola oil
zest of 1-2 oranges
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (plus more for sprinkling)
1 cup oats
1 cup pecans, broken
2 cups semi-sweet choc chips

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Cream butter, oil, zest, and sugar. Add eggs and then vanilla. Dump flours into bowl, and before mixing, add in the baking soda and salt and mix into the flour with your tsp before incorporating everything together. Add oats, nuts & chocolate chips. Spoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for 9-11 minutes. Cool on a rack. If you can stop yourself from eating them all.

The cookies actually test better if you stick the dough in the fridge overnight. Nuttier. But you can't go wrong whipping them up in 15 minutes either.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How to Flatten Vinyl

I haven't even started on Peanut's new sweater.  What an awful pseudo-girlfriend I am.

I have, however, been working on a different project, which has involved an awful lot of sewing and a little bit of gluing.  I can't get into details, though, because it's for a product I'm designing with the intention to eventually try and market it and I wouldn't want you to swipe my patent-less idea.  :-)

In any case, part of the design for this mystery thing involved using clear vinyl, so I headed to the (lame) craft superstore in our town mall to pick some up.  Lucky for me there were several odds-and-ends folds of vinyl sheeting in the half-off section, so I grabbed a medium-weight flat and picked it up for roughly $7.  I didn't need as many yards as I wound up with, but who knows--maybe I'll want to make myself a see-through dress some day.

Having worked with vinyl before (the Happy Hooker has an adorable crocheted ipod case that's an animal face on one side and a clear vinyl panel on the other)

I knew that stored vinyl can get wrinkled, but I've never tried to unwrinkle it before.

Clearly, ironing is out of the question, so how do you make folded vinyl flat again?  I pondered this as I drove home from the store, thinking that microwaving would probably work, but since I'm smart I made sure to Google my options before actually throwing any plasticky sheeting into the oven.

Google had a couple different suggestions but the one that appealed to me the most was flattening via hair dryer.  As someone who still occasionally uses the hair dryer to get wrinkles out of the shirt I'm already wearing, I am familiar with the process.

I'm happy to report that blow drying vinyl works a helluva lot better than blow drying cotton.  I cut a few squares out of my big fold, stored it away, and then put each square on the carpet (maybe not the best placement but it didn't melt or anything).  It took about 30 seconds to a minute to get a nice flat piece of vinyl from what was previously a bumpy lumpy mess and wound up being one of the easiest things I had to do in the process of making the mystery item.

This morning, thankfully, I finished my project (wouldn't want to leave any loose craft ends before The Rapture) which means now I'm theoretically free to start working on a new pattern for Peanut.

I'm sure he will be thrilled to get a new sweater just in time for summer.