Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Culinary Orientation and Magical Peanut Butter Cookies

Today was the culinary program orientation, which in my mind was going to be a magical experience, full of wonder and amazement. I left work early, thinking I would have spare time to wander around and find my way to the correct room.

Instead, I got there 10 minutes before the start. No big deal - still plenty of time! I pulled up to the staff parking gate, entered the code...nothing. "Hmm, maybe the star sign at the beginning will work!" Nope, nada. "Well maybe they said sometimes it's the pound sign." Access...denied. So I sat digging through my purse, desperately trying to figure out where my work badge disappeared to, because I own not one, but two of them! Then, the unthinkable... someone pulled up behind me!

I tried one last time to enter the code, the one I thought they said was the same no matter which campus you were on. Still nothing. Embarrassed, I opened my door, which of course wouldn't open very far because I had pulled up so close, and motioned to the woman. I slowly backed out and let her go in front of me, stopping her to explain I was from another campus. Before I could even finish my explanation, she told me the code to the gate.

Okay, crisis averted: take a deep breath, park, and make your way over. I still had a few minutes, this was totally possible. Until I walked up to the sidewalk leading down to the building I needed and noticed a big construction sign: "To access J Building, use F or G Building lower level." Deep breaths. "No big deal. Those buildings are right here, I can see where they connect to J." And then I get lost. Thankfully a staff member noticed how lost I seemed and let me follow her as she guided me to the right building and floor. Now, instead of being early, I was 5 minutes late. I completely missed the sign-in sheet and handouts in my mad rush to just find a seat.

We covered the courses we'll be taking, when to take them, what our uniform will consist of, and cost. Apparently, I will be selling any unnecessary body parts in the next few weeks if anyone is interested. Our pastry kit alone is almost $200, then I have to add in multiple aprons, a couple chef's coats, new shoes, a neckerchief, a couple chef hats, and the most horrendous black and white checkered pants. Yeah, I will be one broke, stylin' lady!

I left the orientation feeling a bit defeated. Partly due to cost, and partly due to the descriptions of skills and techniques that in time I know I can learn, but at the moment make me anxious. Accompanying that feeling was a tour of the building: a dizzying spiral of student-run restaurants, pastry displays, kitchens and storage pantries. And then I saw it: a giant mixer at least as tall as my 5'2" self, and bigger around. My world kind of stopped. It didn't even have just the normal levers to turn it on, it had a red handle, similar to my water shut-off! Imagine all of the wonderful breads and dough that could be made in that machine! I so badly wanted a picture of that mixer; better yet, one of me AND the mixer! But then I realized what a dork I would look like  trying to sneak a picture.

My answer to relieving stress lately seems to be baking. So I'm sure the husband was not shocked when I uttered my famous "I want to bake something!" These peanut butter cookies were the answer to that urge and our roommate's suggestion for which type of cookie to bake. As soon as I saw the recipe, I decided the simplicity of it was the best contrast to my day. No flour, no butter: just 4 ingredients. The ratios were even easy enough that I didn't read the entire recipe thoroughly, which only occurred to me after I began forming the dough. They also only require one bowl - less mess, even better!

I decided to make mine on the bigger side and used my 4-tablespoon scoop. If you also make them a bit larger, remember to adjust the baking time. I gave them an extra 3 minutes of baking time which seemed to be perfect. They came out looking crackled on top, done around the edges, and puffy! While they aren't as chewy and moist as I had hoped for, they have an intense peanut butter flavor and pair perfectly with a glass of milk!

Magical Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe Source: Paula Deen
Makes 18 cookies (My batch made 9 using a 4-tablespoon scoop)

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.
3. Roll dough into walnut-sized pieces and place on cookie sheet. Use a fork dipped in sugar to press a crisscross design into each cookie.
4. Bake for 12 minutes and allow to cool on the sheet. (If making larger cookies like I did, increase the baking time by a 2-3 minutes.)

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