Monday, August 17, 2009

The Un-Joy of Cooking

I respect The Joy of Cooking. I really do. I'm sure updated versions published after 1975 are an absolute delight, but alas, the version lying in the kitchen is from the days before digital thermometers. You'd think that TJOC is like Julia Child: much about technique and practically infallible. It's not. Even Julia Child burnt things on The French Chef (see the potato episode from the first season if you don't believe me).
I've made several recipes from our copy of the book and every single one of them had to be tweaked one way or another to account for either modern equipment or modern ingredients--like 1975 is somehow medieval and cooking is really alchemy. Such examples include the muffins. Muffins? I like my muffins a little to the cakey side, not as bread dough cleverly shaped to resemble a slightly pyramidal muffin. Waffles? I like my waffle batter to be a little stiffer than runny yogurt, which is exactly the consistency I got when I followed the recipe to the letter. Shortbread? The jury's still out because the dough is stashed in the fridge to chill, but the recipe did require quite a lot of tweaking to get a consistency more like the results I got last time I made shortbread.
The untweaked recipe calls for a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, two eggs, two and a half cups of flour, sour cream, and a teaspoon of baking powder. I took one look at the glop in the mixing bowl and shook my head. And this is somehow supposed to be rollable-outable? I don't think anything short of a stint in the freezer would have made such a thing possible, and even then it would probably have been like the Blob oozing around on the marble slab.

The tweaked recipe is below:

Almond Coconut Shortbread
1 c unsalted butter
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
shredded coconut (enough to make things interesting but not enough to end up with macaroons)
4 oz slivered almonds (toasted, if you want a more intense almond flavor)
1 tsp vanilla


Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla, salt, and eggs until smooth, and add flour gradually. Add almonds and shredded coconut and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Divid dough in half and roll into a cylinder using waxed paper; chill for a couple of hours or until firm. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4 inch slices; put on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet before moving them too a cutting board or cooling rack.

1 comment:

Rachael said...

Almond coconut shortbread sounds delicious! But yeah, I've never had any experience with The Joy of Cooking. Sounds... un-joyful...

Oh, and have you seen that new movie, "Julie and Julia"? I want to see it. I think it looks cute.