Saturday, July 04, 2015

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are addictive. More than addictive. My latest batch yielded 33 cookies, and they were gone within four days.  I may have eaten an unhealthy number of them.

They're a combination of salty and sweet: deep, rich chocolate, tempered with hits of salt, and a texture that's reminiscent of the best parts of a chewy Chips Ahoy cookie.

These are my cookie crack.

They're not the same type of cookies you've always made from the back of the yellow bag.  For starters, the Toll House recipe uses the Creaming Method, and these use the Muffin Method of construction. (Can you tell I love Good Eats?)  They also play off the heightened chemistry that salt works on sweet things, as it intensifies their flavors. Always put salt in your sweet desserts. Salt in pie crust. Salt in cookies. Salt in chocolate pudding. It will make it that much better.

The recipe is lightly adapted from Tara O'Brady's cookbook, SEVEN SPOONS, which is based off of her blog of the same name.  I must have been living under a rock these past few years, since I hadn't heard of it until the cookbook came out.  I want to make more from it--much more.

The metric measurements for the ingredients are the more precise ones in this recipe. Do you use a scale when baking? Yes, now you do. Whip it out--weigh your stuff--and you will be surprised by HOW MUCH BETTER everything turns out.

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lightly adapted from Tara O'Brady

1 cup (225 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups (415 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (200 g) packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (220 g) sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons (or one good glug) vanilla extract
12 ounces (340 g) semisweet chocolate chips
Kosher salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees F.  Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat equivalent.  My cookie sheets are 16" x 14", and I found that I needed to use three of them, plus one small extra one to make this recipe. You may need more, if you eat less cookie dough than I do.

2. Melt your butter.  My microwave handily accomplishes this task for me, but if you need to use the stove, do it in a small pan over low, low heat.

3. Stir together the dry ingredients: that's the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the measured amount of kosher salt. Set them aside in a small bowl.

4. Now, it's wet ingredient time: pour the melted butter into a large bowl, and stir in both sugars.  Once combined, add each egg, mixing thoroughly after each one. You're forming an emulsion with each one, which will hold the batter together. Don't dump them both in at once--slow and steady is the name of the game here.  Add the vanilla, and then stir once more.

5. Now, take the dry ingredients, and add 1/2 of them to the bowl with the wet ingredients. Stir just until the flour disappears.  Add the last 1/2 of the dry ingredients and mix, making sure to stop when the dough still has a dusting of flour visible.

6.  Fold the chocolate chips into the batter, but don't overwork it. When the flour disappears, you're done.

7. Using a standard ice cream scoop, take a portion of the dough and form it into a ball between your hands. Place on a prepared cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 3" of space around it. I fit 9 cookies per 16" x 14" cookie sheet.

8. Next, take the kosher salt, and sprinkle on the top of each cookie dough ball. Do not let yourself get seduced by the beauty of the salt crystals on the cookie dough--that way, madness lies.  Sprinkle only enough to dust the top of the ball, and then move on to the next one.  You do not want to over-salt the tops of the cookies.

9. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are cracked and lightly golden.  Rotate the cookie sheets midway through baking, to ensure evenness.  Cool on the pan for at least five minutes, as the cookies will be very, very soft still.  Transfer gently, with a spatula, to a wire cooling rack, and do not touch until they have hardened.



Friday, July 03, 2015

Cookies coming soon...

As soon as I can shake the stupid summer cold that never ends, these are coming.... They are seriously, hands-down, some of the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat. Hopefully, the full recipe to follow tomorrow, once my brain feels better.  In the meantime, salivate away. =)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What I'm reading...THE DUKE'S GUIDE TO CORRECT BEHAVIOR by Megan Frampton

Three-quarters of my family are now down for the count with a summer cold, but we persevere on!  Lest you think that I do nothing but read all day, I feel that I should remind my humble readership that I'm essentially an exclusively pumping mom. Milo will nurse once or twice a day... and the rest is all breast milk. So I spend a good 90-120 minutes a day hooked up to my milking machine, reading or baby-entertaining or doing whatever computer stuff I can get done on my iPad.

Anyway, I've finished A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, which ended up being just as fantastic as I thought it might be.  I'm officially fangirling over V. E. Schwab, and anxious to read more of her books. I've gotten THE ARCHIVED out of library, which may end up being the next on this little blog feature.

But, we must first speak about THE DUKE'S GUIDE TO CORRECT BEHAVIOR.

I'm a picky romance reader; so picky, in fact, that I think I may be pickier than some of the romance authors that I love to read. I've often picked up a book that Eloisa James or Julia Quinn have recommended, and simply walked away disappointed. I want my romance novels to have plot and good writing and sizzling chemistry. Is that too much to ask of every single romance novel I read?

And therein lies the problem with this book... it's not a bad novel. It's well-written.  None of the sentences make me cringe, which I've had happen with other commercially published romances.

I like Lily, the main character. I like the duke, the hero, somewhat. The little etiquette guide excerpts are charming.  The title is one of the best things the book has going for it.

Which is pretty much the equivalent of Paula Abdul in her American Idol days, telling a singer that they "looked pretty".

It's just sort of a serviceable novel.

Now, granted, I'm only on page 174. I give it permission to sweep me up and wow me. In fact, I'd love it, if it did. But so far, I'm not seeing that happening.  Which disappoints me--I really do want to find more romance authors to love.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Quarterreads


Hello, all you Monday blog readers! Have a lovely picture of Cora with her Little People Zoo.

Mondays are awesome around here--Cora has camp for FIVE STRAIGHT HOURS! That's five hours of just me and Milo, which means that at some point, he will nap, and I will have time to do things! =)

To celebrate the awesomeness of Summer Mondays, I thought I'd point out that I've made my backlist available on this neat little site, Quarterreads.  There's a few short pieces of fiction, a few poems, and one new piece that I've put up there. Each piece costs 25 cents to read in its entirety, but they're free to browse.

The following links will take you to my work:


New Work
--------------
The True-Cat Violins

Poetry Reprints
-------------
Lucifer Defiant
The Warriors of the Dark

Flash Reprints
--------------
Fever
The Sock Thief

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Maiden Names On The Rise

Just a quick link to an article in the Times about maiden names. I kept mine when I got married--my mother kept hers when she married. I like to think that I'm perpetuating a family feminist tradition.

But really, it's more than that. My name is me, and I am my name. And as much as I love my husband, I'd never change it for him.

What I'm reading... A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V. E. Schwab

New feature time! =)

I've decided, as this was originally a publishing blog, that there should be some good content about books.  Now, many of you (ahem, all of you!), have not responded to the Blog Content Survey, so I'm forced to forge ahead on my own! =)

So, here we go, into the reading brain of Ms. Jenny Rae Rappaport... the darkest reaches, where Joy and Sadness and Anger and Fear and Disgust battle it out (Can you tell that I recently saw Inside Out?)...

Ok, so, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC is fantastic. I'm about halfway through the novel, and I'm loving it. It reminds me a little bit of SWORDSPOINT by Ellen Kushner, but it's less mannerpunk than it is urban fantasy set in the Regency period. Not that it could be anything but urban fantasy of the historical kind, since its central conceit revolves around a series of stacking Londons.

There's Grey London, which is essentially our London--complete with a mad King George III and very little magic. Then, there's Red London, a city rich with magic, and a river-analogue of the Thames, the Isle, that literally pulses with it. After that, there's White London, which is a fading city worn out by constant war. And finally, there's Black London, the cause of all the evils of White London, and a city that was literally subsumed by the machinations of magic.

Three centuries ago, Black London developed a magical plague, and the doors between the stacking Londons were closed--permanently.  All traces of Black London were wiped from the other cities because what had happened there was THAT BAD.  The only people who can still go between the Londons are the blood magicians, the Antari, and they're essentially a dying breed.

Kell--a Red Londoner who is one of the two remaining Antari--is content. As content as he can be, anyway, in his daily life as a messenger between the royalty of the stacking cities.  But he has a yearning for more, and so he breaks the rules, deliberately bringing back artifacts from Grey London and White London into his own world.  When one of those artifacts turns out to be something more than he bargained for, he's thrust into an uneasy partnership, forced to reevaluate his place in the multiverse, and worst of all...he may be forced to go to Black London. If there's even a way to do that...

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I am, right now. =)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Love, Dream, Love

I fell asleep on the couch this morning while nursing Milo. He gets going and the oxytocin hits me, and boom--I'm out like a light.  There's something about the cuddly warmth of a sucking baby that makes you want to sink deeper into sleep; to give into the sleep-deprived urge and just snore away.  But that's totally against all SIDS practices, so the best thing you can do is to doze and wake and doze and wake in an endless cycle that you seem to do unconsciously.

But during one of the wake periods, I had apparently turned the TV onto CNN. I can't remember why, but it was boring, and I fell asleep.

And then I woke, out of a dream, and there were rainbows and people crying.  The TV was blaring, and the Supreme Court had, for once, managed to do the right thing and legalize same-sex marriage.  The TV screamed love at me, and my baby sucked love out of me--and I fell back to sleep.

Somehow, in my sleep, I managed to magically change the channel. I'm talented, like that.

And so, when I woke again, the TV was on CBS, and President Obama was speaking of love.  Love and history, and love and greatness.  I don't remember much of the speech--just the content feeling that flowed through me. I was happy; the rest of the world was happy; and people would get to marry one another.

I'm not gay myself.  Cisgendered, heterosexual is my default jam. But some of my family is gay. Some of my friends are gay.  And my children might be one day, for all I know.

And here's the thing: regardless of the sexual orientation my kids end up being, they won't know any different. They won't understand that humans denied other humans the right to love, and to be joined together in that love under the eyes of the law.  Oh sure, they'll learn. They'll understand at an intellectual level, from schoolbooks and history, but not at the gut level. Never at the gut level, if I can help it.

When I was a child, one of my favorite cousins married an African-American man. That man, is now one of my favorite cousins also. It never occurred to me that people thought there was anything wrong with this: with a white Jewish woman marrying a black Christian man.  They were family; they still are my family.  I was so blind to the idea that anyone could have a problem with this; so isolated as a child from the idea that there had been a struggle for race equality and a fight for a marriage like that to even be possible.

(And sure, we're not at race equality nowadays.  As an adult, I can understand the situation with far more nuance than I could as a child. My heart can bleed for the racial history of this country, and ache to do more, anything more, to overcome the prejudice and disadvantage that this history grants.)

But what race relations was to me in the 1980s/1990s, LGBT rights will be to my children.  They will be evolving. There will still be horrible battles to fight. Things will not be hunky-dory, at least not all of the time. But the idea that love cannot prevail will never be there for them.

Cora asked me today, why my husband and I were celebrating the Supreme Court's decision. And I tried to explain it to her, as simply as you can do for an almost-four year old.

"Well, it means that girls can marry girls, and boys can marry boys, and boys can marry girls," I said.

And she turned to me, smiled, and said, "Oh, ok, we play Little People now?"

Because the idea that you couldn't marry the friends you love, regardless of their gender, had never occurred to her. And that's how it always should be.

(For the record, she currently wants to marry two of her best male friends. I'm raising a future bigamist.=)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blog content survey

If you're still out there and reading, drop me a comment to know what sort of content you're interested in reading about. =) 

Just as a note, I'm not an active literary agent anymore. I'm a stay-at-home mom who writes and kid-wrangles.  That said, my brain hasn't turned to mush either.  So let me know what you're interested in reading about!

Sisyphus and Me

You know the myth of Sisyphus, right?

Classic tale of a guy pushing a boulder up a hill, only to have it endlessly roll down on him. So he starts over again, doomed by his hubris, and begins to push it up again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Camus wrote a book about itthat I was forced to read for one of my high school classes. It's that much of a cultural touchstone.

Anyways..

This is life with an almost-four year old and a four month infant. Cora, my almost-four year old, is amazing and smart and incredibly messy. Strong-willed to the point of obstinance. Milo, the four month old, is a baby. He spits up--a lot; he poops--a lot; he's prone to needing to be held--a lot. This sets our scene, you see.

Next, enter the long-suffering grandmother, who dearly loves all of our aforementioned players, including your humble author.

Then, add in one incredibly messy living room, strewn with the detritus of life, ranging from toys to clothes to random papers brought home from preschool. And cue the music because the long-suffering grandmother and myself are attempting to clean it... wait for it... think about it... do we succeed at all?

Nope.

For every toy we put away, Cora takes four more out. The concept of one toy at a time is totally lost. There is too much to do; too much to play and never, ever enough time. And if we're not playing, then we must be bugging and loving and inspecting whether our baby brother has pooped, which is an incredibly interesting topic at her age.

It is an endless stream of Sofia the First toys, a well-loved (and spit up on) baby playmat, bottles and nursing, tiny Octonauts launchers and dress-up Disney Princess stickers that get everywhere. There's a prevalent need to want to curse out the designer of the Disney Princess sticker book, who decided that each and every princess needed her own removable pair of shoes and miniscule sticker jewelry.

We work for five hours. We clean one quarter of the living room and half of the dining room table.  We trip over crayons and cuddles, making our way through it with laughter and not a few tears (Milo is in a teething mood today).

We are so not done with cleaning.

But at least my boulders are the soft and squishy kind; they may block my path, but damn, they give good hugs.