I ate a Double Down, somehow survived

Posted in Obituaries, Reviews with tags , , on October 21, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

What madness has wrapped its feverish grip around our frozen bastion of cool austerity? Canada is not normally known for being aggressively single minded about stuff, but the announcement of the KFC Double Down seems to have provoked somewhat of a fervour. People attempting to get them have told me some locations sold out on the first day, others just seemed incredibly curious. I ranked in the 3rd category-I haven’t updated my blog in ages, and felt like sickening myself for a post, rather than post about any far more interesting food-related matters I’ve attended to lately. SO AWAY WE GO!

What prompted me? Well, when I saw all the press it was getting in the US, I thought it looked stomach-churningly terribad, something designed to cause intestinal discomfort. When I heard it was coming to Canada, I was aghast-c’mon, we’re totally supposed to be above this level of chicanery, right? Then morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to make a lunch-event out of it today at work, rather than saving it for a time when my evening productivity wasn’t reliant on having a well-balanced midday meal.

Foolishly steadfast in my quest, I proceeded to the KFC/Taco Bell near my work (so strange that the song is about Pizza Hut , and not KFC…). I was almost gleeful in my anticipation of the horrors I was going to wreak upon my stomach-after all, if it was so baddd, could they legally sell them? Walking up to the register, I had a big, smug grin on my face when I ordered it, as if somehow paying way more than is reasonable for a lark is a credible venture on my part (FYI, the sandwich alone is $7). The cashier smiled at me, and walked over to the heatlamp counter, and grabbed a pre assembled box from a large, large stack-They’re clearly moving a number of these suckers out the door (and into the sewer, with a few intervening steps).

 

They had the sick sense of humour to proudly display this above the cash.

 

As I clutched my wretched bounty on my way back to work, I kept an eye on everyone I passed, wondering if they knew what foul thing I was carrying around in that paper sack. Or conversely, if they’d be so jealous of my lunch savvy, that they’d roll me for a Double Down-that’d certainly make the news.

 

When I was finally seated in the lunch area at work, I finally opened the proverbial Pandora’s box…and was kind of repulsed.

Seriously, I realize even in the ads these things are ugly, but damn, I must’ve stared at it for a good 2 minutes before feeling adventurous enough to take a bite. The chicken is lumpily coated and weird. The cheese resembles industrial adhesives, and the bacon just looked sad. Emo bacon.

Appetizing!

 

I took a deep breath, and bit into it. And my initial reaction was overwhelming disappointment-SHIT, This just tastes like what it advertises itself as-2 pieces of boneless, crispy KFC chicken stacked on top of eachother! It was overwhelmingly underwhelming in just how average it was; I WANTED to be able to rail about what I had gone through. FUCK Morgan Spurlock, I had eaten a Double Down, and that was damn near equivalent in caloric content and fat to a month worth of Mickey Ds.

And then by my third bite, I hit the cheese, bacon, and whatever-the-hellapeno sauce. And winced. The sauce was fairly noxiously odorous to begin with, but it was unfairly hindered by a completely artificial flavour, which further didn’t help the slimy bacon, or over-processed cheese. They all kind of flopped damply onto my tastebuds, and then oozed. Oozed flavour? I guess, in the same way that bad music is still music.

I wasn’t able to finish it. I still had a small chunk left, but had hit a chewy bit, and gagged a little. I tossed it, and finished my orange pop (sadly, by far my favourite element of nearly any fast food offering), and my fries. I felt somewhat gross, but otherwise fine. I had survived.

"Meh"

And then within twenty minutes felt nauseous, within ten minutes after that was wondering  if my Double Down was tainted, and I was going to die of the worst case of food poisoning ever had. I didn’t, obviously, but it was pretty chancy there for a little while. I remained full feeling for at least another 6-7 hours, but that might just have been my body trying to defend itself from any further attacks.

So, what did we all learn from this? Don’t eat it. Please. I’d assume most reading this are already possessed of enough intelligence or self-worth to avoid inflicting catastrophic gastronomical damage upon oneself, but just in case, I took that bullet for you guys.

BLOOD! STEEL!

Posted in Rants, Thoughts on May 24, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I generally consider myself to be quite aware of kitchen safety-I always hold knives carefully, and never leave them in the sink, I always take care that pot handles aren’t hot before grabbing them, and so opn in this vein (i dunno, pick another handful of SOPs in the kitchen, and we’ll all just assume I follow those). So, a couple weeks back, I suffered my first ‘serious’ kitchen injury since the few times I burned myself on the oven as a kid/teen (generally, making those fries you heat in the oven, and catching the top of my hand on the roof of the oven as I reached in or somesuch-made me very leery of the oven for quite some time). Needless to say, I was shocked, since it was a simple, easily preventable mistake.

A month or so back (again, timeframes, not my strong point), I purchased a brand-new chef’s knife (wow, can you see where this is going? I’d love to pretend this is an unrelated tangent, but…) from the wonderfully weird Tap Phong. It’s this bizarre restaurant supply/knickknack store in downtown TO, where you can find restaurant grade stand mixers and deep fryers, and five dollar Buddhas and sparkly cats statues. I’ve been down there a few times, as I was eyeing a 10” Shun chef’s knife. They had it for a much better price than anywhere else in the city, and I really wanted one.

Now, Jess does have a Henckels 9.5” chef’s knife (confusingly, they list 9″ and 10″ blades, but I’ve measured both it and the Shun, and the Shun is 10″, and the Henckels is 9.5. Tres bizarre), but it’s kinda clunky, and not as sharp as I’d like.


[ In a nutshell, knives made with a single piece of German steel are really heavy, durable beasts that maintain an edge quite well. Due to the profile of the blade, that edge isn’t incredibly sharp. Japanese knives are much lighter, thinner, and possess a keen, wickedly sharp edge. Some/Most are crafted in jacketing layers of steel, with the blade being the first/inner layer, out to the back.]

It’s also not my knife, and I like being able to get all fussy and protective when someone throws my knife in a sink, or uses it without cleaning it after, and it’s a lot easier to ride that high horse when you own a saddle, so to speak. Plus, I have a weakness for potentially lethal objects that are aesthetically pleaseing

(honestly, as much as I love shiny pointies, there are many better founts of knowledge on the ‘net about knife construction and differing countries of production, so I shan’t go into excessive detail about it. I’m also not well versed with the various levels of carbon steel, and don’t feel like leading anyone astray)]

So basically, my new knife is shiny (which will go away in time, but is an important factor when buying one >_>…), and surgically sharp. It’s got a D-shaped handle, so it contours for righties (though a С]-shaped model is available for all those people I know who have a dyslexic dominant hand. It’s cool, I understand your plight), and is light and deadly. I’ve put it through its paces, and it is incredibly adept at any kitchen chore requiring a chef’s knife (though I’ve yet to stave off a ninja home invasion with it yet, so we’ll see…), though adequate cutting board room is required-the blade is longer, and the shape of the grip puts your hand slightly farther back than a traditional design. This is generally irksome if the prep counter isn’t clear, which in my kitchen, is a frequent concern.

CHOP!CHOP!CHOP!

Now, after a few weeks with my new tool/toy/weapon/whatnot, I had felt our bond was pretty close-I’d respect the tool, and it’d respect not killing me. Well, one night, I was going to make stew again (as it’s now feeling like a staple dish I can pull off pretty easily, with decent results), and had beef cubes defrosting on the counter, in a little baggie. I was taking the cubes out of the bag with my left hand, positioning and steadying it on the cutting board, and then cutting them down to a smaller size.

Knife in hand, I reached in the bag for another cube, only to find the beef sticking together somewhat, having not thawed entirely. Still, just using my left hand, I started pulling on the cube…and as it suddenly gave way, my right hand slipped. As it had been holding the knife, it made for a very unpleasant meeting with the middle finger of my left hand. Almost as soon as I realized what had happened, my finger was already doing its level best to generously donate my entire blood supply (maybe it had seen those “It’s in you to give” ads, rather than more correctly assuming “It’s in you to live”) to the floor of the kitchen. It wasn’t particularly painful; the blade was exceptionally sharp, so it left a remarkably clean cut. Still, hurling every epithet I could think of at myself (actually, I wear out my NSFW language ingenuity after a while, and pretty much just string SHITFUCKINGSHITFUCKINGFUCKFUCKSHIT etc until I’ve fully vented, as it requires less brain power, and I can actually focus on solving whatever catastrophe is currently enveloping me), cursing my carelessness, I went to staunch the blood flow, until Jess came home, and got me bandaids. Even then, my bathroom looked like a set from CSI. It was kind of freaky, to put it mildly, and took quite some time before I could actually get the bandaid on.

After taking a fairly literal blood oath that this wouldn’t happen again, I cut myself again, on the same finger.Damn it. This time,  I only nicked the end of my finger when the cutting board slipped. Still bled a fair amount, but it’s nearly healed after a week.

After a couple weeks of healing. Now, the cut has fully healed, but it looks like puffy scar tissue.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Well, at least monthly, I should probably allow my blade to seep in a bowl of pigs blood, or something, as it clearly has a bloodlust that can’t be easily slaked. Or, on the off chance that my knife wasn’t somehow forged by Muramasa, sent forward through time, and branded as a Shun, I should probably just be more careful.

The whole family! (The pink one is produced by the same company as the Shun)

Ramen. Yep.

Posted in Reviews with tags , on May 13, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I can’t recall if I’ve professed my ridiculous affinity for sushi previously (let’s just assume yes, or at least assume me bringing it up is professing enough). I adore all the various textures and flavours of fresh sashimi (though FYI, stick to salmon in low-end places-they’re probably not moving as much eel or somesuch), all the various topped rolls, and the staple negiri sushi. I’m also aware this merely a facet of Japanese cuisine, and I like extending my culinary horizons bit by bit, so when I was made aware of a decent Ramen joint near Yonge & Dundas Square (Toronto’s Times Square in the making-give it another decade or two), I needed to hit it up (though from what I’ve read/been told, ramen is based on chinese noodle soups of a similar nature, and these also share a lot in common with Korean soups as well).

So, Kenzo Ramen, my first impression was sheer excitement at seeing the exterior sign (my initial visit was during a downpour, so imminent shelter warmed my soul a tad), but this was tamped down slightly when we went inside; the interior is fairly typical of cheap ethnic restaurants of varying flavours, but the chairs were those awful things you expect to see in a library somewhere-low backed and upholstered in what looks to be old carpet samples, with those horribly lacquered legs that look like they have a half inch of varnish on them. It gave the place somewhat of a hasty, thrown together look. That’s fine. When it’s around $15 for a pop and a half-bucket of soup, I’m not going to be letting the decor affect my opinion too readily.

Taking NOW weekly’s advice, I tried the King of Kings Ramen, and it sure as hell delivered.  It has an array of toppings adorning its crown (5, according to the menu!)-a few slices of pork, nicely cooked, and fairly tender, a kamaboko fishcake (with the naruto swirl. It tastes like pressed ham), a soft-boiled egg (the center is gooey, it was awesome), scallions, and some seaweed.

It's 5am, and this image still makes me want more, right now!

The toppings are merely a little treat to snack on during your trek to the bottom of the bowl (comparable to the ones you get at Thai places-seems like a litre of liquid or more), as the true star of the show is the broth. Spicy, sweet, savoury, the broth has a nice array of flavours too it that mingle and linger on your tongue. It’s one of those piquant dishes though, where the heat seems almost negligible with your first slurp, and slowly builds up until you realize you’re sweating. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be kept in mind by Spice Wimps.

You can almost smell it...

Lurking under the toppings in the broth are the noodles, which…are noodles. Sorry, not enough of a pasta fan to really care about elucidating further about them. They were noodley and I ate them. There were also sprouts, which I adore, mushrooms…which I don’t adore, and some sort of strange black rubbery thing that may have been another variety of mushroom, or may have been the hide of some alien creature known only the waters of Japan. Those last two ingredients were avoided (and possibly shared with more willing recipients at the table with me. Well, the black things were just discarded entirely).

Same dish, different visit. Colour difference is do to lighting

Now, given my last post (quite a while back, jeez) was all about the woes of service, what was it like here? Well, the first visit was around 50 minutes before close, and was fairly prompt and pleasant enough, though I was a little miffed when with nearly 20 minutes to go, our bill was handed to us, and we were told to come pay as soon as possible as they closed promptly at 10…so when 2 different couples were sat by the hostess at 9:55…yeah. The waiter was admittedly quite brusque with them, but I still found it slightly at odds with the notion that the door would be locked behind us at 10:00.

My second visit was at lunch a few days later (and where the much better shots of the food come from, thanks, Natural Lighting!), and again, I had the KoK ramen. It was still delicious. The afternoon waiter was a lot more laid back, but still managed to bring our bill when we seemed to have idled for a few minutes, but didn’t really pester us about it, so it was more of a convenience to pay at our leisure.

I need some sort of small baby to sit next to this, to demonstrate the scale of the bowl...

Both times, I actually managed to only make it through around 3/4ths of the soup-whether leaving broth or sprouts and errata veggies behind. This is a thoroughly hearty, filling meal in a small tub, and I don’t begrudge anyone who feels they’ve eaten their fill long before they hit the bottom.

I plan on returning again soon, but I may be daring and try more of the menu, as everything looks tasty.

Until next time.

Do you work hard for the money?

Posted in Rants with tags , on April 23, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

This is going to be contentious with some people I know, but why the hell do tip percentages for the service industry keep rising? I was reading one of Andrew Knowlton’s (BA Foodist, really interesting, and Ramsay seems to get him for tons of KNUSA eps, for those of you that watch that ) blog entries on the subject, and apparently a ,minimum for good service is now 20%. He then goes on to say that if this seems like too much of a gratuity, you probably can’t afford to be eating out. I take exception to that. Now, I’m more than willing to reward friendly, accommodating wait staff with a 20% tip. Hell, for a few of my favourite waiters and waitresses, I’ll even go up to 25% if the service is exceptional, but otherwise, you’re just doing an adequate job, and I’ll adequately tip you. Apparently, this is notable behaviour, and waiters will remember your stinginess. I take exception to that, as well. I’m well aware of the ills of dealing with the public as a full time job (though from what I’ve been told, waiting is a brutal, awful job at best, far removed from most other branches of the service industry), but I also except to be treated with full attention and care. I frankly don’t give a damn if you got in a fight with your significant other, or if the head of the front of house is a tyrant; for all intents and purposes, you’re on commission, and you need to keep your game face on at all times.

The amount of times I’ve been to a restaurant with someone, been one of the only couples or groups in a section, and still can’t get the time of day from a waiter or waitress is shocking. Sorry, making us wait around after we’ve visibly pushed our plates forward and are fiddling to go isn’t when you disappear for 10-20 minutes, and then come back hoping we’ll want dessert. Instead, if you really want to keep that account open, try passing by your section more often, and offer dessert menus as soon as we look like we’re done our main.

Also, if you don’t want to smile, at least look like we’re not wasting your time by daring to be in your section. So, I guess I’m not knocking the rising tip (nor the fact that tipping now seems to extend itself to nearly every possible form of low-paying wagery. If you interface with me at all, apparently you expect recompense. Clearly I’m a pain to interact with?), nor the idea that you should always budget for that when going out. Instead, I’m merely being a jerk, and tut-tutting all the service staff out there who seem content to do a half-assed job, and then expect a full-assed (is that a real expression?) tip, proportionately.

I’ve been admonished by friends’ who worked service and bar jobs for this attitude (which I can’t be alone in sharing), saying I need to walk a mile in their shoes, but it probably won’t happen.

Simple, effective, and easy.

Posted in Cooking with tags , on April 13, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

This afternoon, my stomach told my brain it was thinking about dinner, brain replied by sending impulses to my limbs that made me go to the grocery store. When I arrived, I prowled until I got to the meat aisle (I find it hard to not a dinner around meat, but I’ll try expanding my horizons in the future. For now, drilling the basics is satisfying enough), and found myself picking up a pack of cubed beef. From that point, I knew I was making stew.

I wanted one that was simple, hearty, and somewhat piquant, so I figured I’d stick to a standard loadout of vegetables, and dig through spices and seasonings at home.

I also caved and bought Oreos (and Fudgeeos. And later, Jos Louis’).

After grabbing a few more necessities, I found my grocery bags to be unpleasantly heavy (/digging into my finger pads to the point of mild bruising), but It’s only a few blocks from the grocery store to my apartment, so I neglected the bus (plus, that would mean crossing the street, somehow juggling heavy bags while digging out my transit pass, boarding a bus during rush hour etc). Upon arriving back after my somewhat arduous journey, I sat down in my recliner, cracked open my Bittman, and scanned his stew recipes. After getting a general idea, I promptly fell asleep in my recliner, where my cat Squawk proceeded to try and annoy me awake over the course of a couple hours.

the Squawk in question, but not the recliner. Squawk is not for eating.

When I awoke, I realized through my muzzy haze that I had forgotten to check earlier if the potatoes in the kitchen were still viable candidates for consumption. They weren’t >_<. Sighing, I decided to go to the closer, albeit less useful grocery store, and got a handful of red-skinned potatoes. This is when I purchased the Jos Louis (which, by the way, are my next homemade baking project, so keep your eyes peeled).

Returning home, the cooking began in earnest.

After ensuring I had turned on the right burner (as let’s be honest, it’s a bad thing when you turn on the wrong one, and have something like a popcorn maker sitting on an active burner you’re not aware of…), I browned the beef, and removed it to the side, and dumped the fat from the pot, leaving the browning/flavour on the bottom. I then sweated a diced onion for 10 minutes, and then added in some pre-made beef broth (thus taking care of my sodium needs as well. Seriously, if you ever make use of pre-made mixes and broths, always check the salt content before salting your food, as you probably have no need to add extra salt), and a half can of Boddingtons Ale. I then re-added the meat,a teaspoon of flour and began seasoning it.

Seasoning:

-A head of garlic-crushed, not minced. (the full cloves fit with the large chunks of meat and veg, and I didn’t feel like mincing them)

-chili powder (probably 1 tbs or so), curry powder (1 tsp or so), cayenne (mainly to add to the colour)

-black pepper (hmmm…kept adding more throughout)

-Wholegrain Dijon mustard

(I added varying quantities of these throughout as I tinkered with the flavour. I also needed to add more liquid at one point, which unbalanced everything, and it took a while to rebuild the flavour profile I wanted).

I let it reach a boil, then lowered the temp to a simmer, and covered it, and went and watched the latest ep of Spartacus (the usual mix of lowbrow thrills, It was a fun episode), After a half hour, I came back, added in some carrots and potatoes, brought it back to a boil again (I was hoping this would activate the starch in the potatoes, and thicken the sauce), then turned it back to a simmer, covered it, and left it for 45 minutes or so, only checking on it every 10 min or so.

When I returned, I added in some frozen peas, and let it simmer uncovered for a few more minutes, hoping to thicken the sauce further.

almost done

How’d it taste? Pretty damn good, actually. I was pretty clear with the flavours I wanted, and I achieved them. It was mildly spicy, but still had a thick, beefy taste with some sweet notes.

The meat was well cooked (though I may try cutting my product smaller next time, and see how much it affects the overall cooking time), and the sauce tasted good. The potatoes pretty much collapsed into the stew, thickening it immensely, so I may use a touch more liquid next time. I served it with a French stick to sop up the juice/have stew spooned on it, and it was good.

Overall, damn simple, low maintenance, and good tasting.

This was my late night dessert while writing this

Orange slushee and Ms. Vickies. Hot damn!

go ahead, grab one

Defeat doesn’t taste very good-part 2: Victory is sweeter

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 2, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I am back, and I am slightly more accomplished in my kitchenly duties.  Today, I marched into the kitchen, and did what needed to be done to finish my attempt at homemade Oreos. It took hours, and the final product didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I feel I did my best.

Frozen dough, pre-fix

Dark chocolate, before I reduced it to dust

The dough. If you recall (and really, pt1 was yesterday, so I expect that you do), I had a lapse in thinking, and put in far too much butter. I also mentioned the obvious solution being to increase the other ingredients by the same amount (basically 4x). Did that. It went from being a batter, to something actually resembling a cookie dough. Now, my main concern was the sheer amount of dough sitting in the mixing bowl.

I began balling it, finding it still very stick and clingy, so I added a fair amount more flour to the dough, and coated my hands in it (which only really seems to help for a few of them, at which point all the fatty oil from the nascent cookie exudes itself onto your palms), and began the arduous process of placing them on the tray, and then flattening them. I also found the flatter you squished them, the more attractive the final product, but the more likely the edges would get too thin and crisp up. Actually, with the assumed 1tsp sized balls, 9 minutes is a little too generous-the cookies actually do best closer to around 7:45-8:15.

I had a lot of practice with the cooking times, given my quadrupled batch size-to the point that it was hard to maintain interest in it, and the last couple batches suffered unduly. I’ll also level-the first batch, while fine, caused voluminous smoke to invade the entire goddamn apartment. When Jess came to see why I was attempting to burn the place down, she realized that I had used waxed paper, instead of waxed parchment paper.

Honestly, wtf? They’re sitting next to each other in the drawer of food wrap materials, and the insignificance of the word ‘parchment’ is such that I assumed they were different ways to brand the same product (as they look and feel nearly identical). One eventually browns after being used a half dozen times in a row; the other has its coating melt off, and causes billowing smoke. Hmmm, something to keep in mind (and yet another, “Ummm, common knowledge doesn’t necessarily impart itself through osmosis-it has to pass itself on somehow”).

So, back to the successful batches. After letting them cool enough to be spatula’d off the tray, I began establishing groups of wafers on 3 plates.

Plate 1. The Beauties. These are the cookies which have a uniformity of colour, shape, and size, and are easy to pair-bond with a second cookie. Nearly half of my cookies wound up given this passing grade.

Plate 1, not entirely filled yet.

Plate 2. The Misfits. These obviously held some congenital defects, but still were more or less edible, if slightly less picturesque. There weren’t a lot of these.

Plate 3. The Burnouts. Sadly, there were far too many of these slightly-blackened cookies. Any that suffered even mildly were added to this pile, and then quietly disposed of.  My stringency meant a lot of cookies wound up in this pile.

Making the icing wasn’t especially noteworthy, but it went smoothly (except for a large puff of icing sugar cascading onto much of my pants and shirt).

The assembly process eventually became the assembly-line, with Jess icing a cookie I’d hand her, and then I’d find its duplicate to create the sandwich. These were then stacked on a plate.

During this process, the Burnouts sadly increased (and doubly sadly, they were the most visually uniform, and closest in size to real Oreos).

Now, after previously stressing the criteria on which I’d judge these, you must be hotly anticipating my results, no? While I could save that for a part 3, I’ll deliver the goods.

The Wafer-

In terms of texture, this has the mouth-feel of the average flour based, homemade cookie. It’s crunchy and crisp (Jess claims that it’s “Short” and crisp, not crunchy, and that that’s a by-product of the amount of butter this requires), but not even remotely in the same way as an Oreo. The chocolate flavour is mild, but noticeably sugary-even with a reduced amount of sugar, I still found it too sweet for what it’s attempting to emulate. The colour is also a touch too light. Presented as a solo cookie, I’d honestly draw no similarities between it and an Oreo, unless heavily prompted in advance.

The Filling-

A ton of sugar, shortening, butter, and vanilla, and then some more sugar. It tasted fairly similar, but doesn’t have that dry texture. In this instance, not necessarily a bad thing, though it does mean the filling likes to run out the sides while you bite down on the cookie.

The Experience-

DUN DUN DUNNNN

Sadly, not worth the insane amounts of hype this recipe seems to have received online. Yeah, it’s decent, but for one, it’s still decidedly homemade tasting, and if I’m making homemade cookies, they probably need to have peanut butter in them for me to care. For seconders, even with the high concentration of sugar, the filling doesn’t really stand out between the two wafers. Thirdly, with my inexperience in the kitchen, and some finicky product, the amount of waste was kind of ridiculous; it’d be more cost-efficient (and possibly environmentally friendly) to just purchase the packaged product of which I’m trying to emulate.

The Rub-

I’ll attempt homemade Oreo’s again at some point, but will put some serious consideration into what level of faithfulness I require in the cookie (or if I’m willing to settle for a good cookie sandwich, not a good homemade Oreo), and what elements of the Oreo are actually appealing/required for true authenticity (mainly, I need a more manufactured crunch to it).

They’re not bad cookies by any means, they’re just not Oreo’s.

I hope this POV shot makes you feel like you’re a special part of this experience.

Defeat doesn’t taste very good-part 1

Posted in Baking on April 1, 2010 by grimgastronomicon

I’m sitting at my computer, mulling what to write, a tropical punch Kool-Aid jammers clutched in hand (well, clutched, sucked down in a few  quick pulls, and discarded-it’s not like they contain vast amounts of liquid, or are something you really want lingering on your taste buds). While I may have another entry tomorrow touting my vast success (or at least, my mild accomplishment that I achieved via some assistance from a professional baker >_<), at the moment, I have suffered a grand defeat.

As always, many of my culinary undertakings come from seeds of ideas planted ages back, coming to fruition at utterly random times. In this case, it struck me months back that I really loved Oreos, and would love a homemade, and [mildly] more healthy approach to them; at least, I’d like to control how many various additives and chemicals are involved in the process (thanks Michael Pollan, after reading In Defense of Food, everything looked toxic to me for a while). Anyways, it became a subject of discussion with my aunt and Jess, both of whom thought it was definitely a worthy cause for me to look into (the keyword being me).

I briefly mulled (I do that a lot, you see) on what defined an Oreo. The wafer is kind of chocolately, but not especially sweet, almost salty. Crunchy and dry, to the point that milk is almost a requirement for consuming these. The filling tastes like everything I love about mass-produced icing; artificial, strangely textured and dense.

I pondered how many elements needed to be faithful for it to satisfy the same craving, and promptly forgot about it.

The other day (let’s pick Monday), I remembered my quest, and decided to undertake it. Feeling the pressure, I decided to explore the internet, and let those who have come before aid me with their knowledge. Apparently, there are quite a number of people who’ve already walked this path. That’s fine, just because someone has discovered another continent doesn’t prevent me from travelling there, and experiencing it myself (and their maps are plenty helpful).

After a quick jaunt around, the recipe from Smitten Kitchen seemed like a safe bet (cool blog as well-amazing photography). After reading through it, I decided I’d attempt it with a lower amount of sugar, trying to keep with a more purist approach to the cookies (eg. a less dominant flavour >_<), and relying more on the filling as providing the sweet focal point. I began in earnest the other night, excited at the prospect of how satisfying this would be to accomplish.

Now, I’ll say this-after getting used to a digital scale, recipes with cup amounts seem frustratingly vague, and help put me into a sloppier, complacent state. When I’m scaling with an electronic scale, I measure things to the gram. When it tells me to use a cup and a half, I may be a little less stringent. Now, combine this with my general distracted air in the kitchen, and disaster struck.

After making my dough, I was shocked to find it had the consistency of cake batter, was a pale brown (as opposed to dark chocolate coloured), and tasted far too buttery (hmmm…) Now, at this point, as I seem to bake and write this at late hours, it was around 4 in the morning, and even after significantly upping the flour, my brain was taxed to it’s limit to understand why this was doing such a poor job of coming together. Frustrated and nearing involuntary unconsciousness, I decided to throw in the towel for the night.

Conferencing with Jess the next day, she had read over my recipe, and instantly had spotted where I had made the catastrophic error…I apparently had just read the butter portion of the recipe as 1 ¼ sticks, ignoring the prefacing ½ cup + 2 tablespoons. Ugh. Yeah, so apparently some butter is packaged as 4 individually wrapped sticks. I had just blithely assumed they meant the standard block (AKA STICK) of butter one (me) purchases at the grocery store. So all said and done, I had nearly quadrupled the necessary butter in the recipe, and had sampled enough batter that I felt ill after.

Now, hypothetically, upping the other ingredients by the same ratio should hopefully solve this, but I was thoroughly put off for the moment. Tomorrow, I’ll try fixing it. If it proves untenable, I’ll dump it (which is shame, as I try not to be wasteful in my cooking or baking), and start fresh.

Part 2 to follow. It will contain success.