Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day Four! Seven Days of Alton Brown: Being Vanilla Isn’t Always a Bad Thing.

The title isn’t a commentary on the racial majority of the United States, but it could be if that somehow enhances your perception of this blog. If it isn’t, well that’s your problem.

The real subject is that of the wonderful vanilla wafer, a big standby of my childhood and brings back the memory of those boxed cookies in the yellow box. These homemade versions are far far better. Crispy, a bit crumbly, buttery, and with just the right amount of sweet and vanilla. Absolutely amazing when still warm. Are you sold yet?

With this in mind we shall pursue the vanilla wafer application, brought to you by the one and only Alton Brown.

Fancy Amazon link, yes, I still foolishly hope to somehow make money off this blog.

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For this application the following ingredients are necessary kosher salt, sugar, vanilla extract, flour (7 oz.) milk (whole preferred, but 2% worked fine for me) butter (4 oz, or a stick, room temperature) one egg, and baking powder.

As for the hardware, you’ll need two baking sheets, some parchment or wax paper, a mixer with a paddle attachment, and something to sift the flour.

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First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

For sifting I use the hitting a sieve method. Handy for those of us without real sifters. I’ve also just put the flour into a bowl and whisked the heck out of it, hoping for the best, and it has worked well.

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The baking powder and kosher salt should be sifted in too. For me that just means whisking them in after the fact.

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We shall also need 3.5 ounces of granulated sugar.

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We will cream the stick of butter into the sugar, using the paddle attachment.

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Medium speed, one minute, scrape down the sides, continue for another minute.

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Add egg, medium speed, 30 seconds.

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Looks a bit disastrous… do not worry, it gets better.

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Add the tablespoon of milk.

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And the four teaspoons of vanilla.

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Mix briefly (15 seconds.)

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And then the flour. Here’s a tip. Take out the paddle first so that you don’t have to brush the flour off of it.

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This is what happens if you don’t. You need to brush this off before mixing it up a bit more like I had to.

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Here’s another place you can deviate from me. When Alton says a teaspoon measure per cookie, he means it. I thought a heaping teaspoon or even close to two teaspoons was good.

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This yields considerably less than the 70 cookies the application should yield. A pretty efficient way to go about the teaspoon method is to use a teaspoon measure and the handle of one of those tiny ice cream spoons, the perfect size to scrape out the tiny cookie dough ball.

Arrange two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of oven, placing a tray on each. Alton suggests 15-20 minutes rotating tray positions halfway through. I found that switching the trays at 8 minutes and continuing to bake for 9 minutes more was optimal on my second runthrough of this application.

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And here we are, vanilla wafers. Prepare to be transported briefly to a somewhat improved version of your childhood, with perhaps a slight addition of guilt that wasn’t there. But ignore it for now.

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It’s worth it. Thanks again to AB, I have to say that this turned out to really be Good Eats.

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By the way, you haven’t seen the last of these cookies.
Here’s a hint.

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