Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pioneer Woman, I Just Can't Quit You

Everybody thinks I should give up (on) Pioneer Woman. Believe me, I don’t much like her. But it has nothing to do with the fact that she might be kind of fake.  This IS television after all. Why should we expect a COOKING SHOW to depict real events, when EVEN “reality” shows (actually, ESPECIALLY reality shows) are not true to life? That part doesn’t bother me at all.

Just the other week, Ree’s mother-in-law or “Grandma” took the “kids” “camping”. Did I care that Granny and the young’uns might have been a tad coached? Nah! What bothered me was that Ree made cornbread without one grain of sugar in it. That’s just wrong (to a Northerner). I don’t care if that’s the way they make it in the South. (Maybe they put SO MUCH sugar in their tea, they figure they have to cut back somewhere.) Too bad. Indian Head guy uses sugar and I think cornbread without it would be tasteless and dry. 

And by the way, I don’t think planting a fake snake at the campfire was terribly bright on Ree’s part. What if one of the kids had grabbed a shotgun and fired through Granny’s hip?

Anyhoo, I was just casually watching PW, not intending to write about it and then she did something fairly astounding. At the same time, it was so simple that I thought,”Now WHY didn’t I think of that?”

Ree made a run-of-the-mill sugar cookie dough. (And, actually, I take huge exception with the fact that she used powdered sugar instead of regular. What is it with her and sugar today???) BUT she added something extra to the dough. She added cocoa powder to make CHOCOLATE sugar cookies. I was enraptured AND fascinated.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve made chocolate DROP cookies dozens of times - those cookies that get those yummy crevices on the top and you sprinkle over powdered sugar. (THERE’S a good use for powdered sugar.) Or I’ve made a basic Toll House type thing, but with cocoa in it, so it becomes a CHOCOLATE chocolate chip cookie. (I guess that also counts as a chocolate drop cookie.)

BUT I had never made standard rolled-out sugar cookies with cocoa or chocolate. I ran to my (several) Joy of Cooking’s to see if there was a recipe. I looked in several other books. I couldn’t find one, but in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, there it was on page 192 - Old Fashioned Chocolate Sugar Cookies – published over THIRTY years ago!

After THAT, of course I found hundreds of Chocolate Sugar Cookie recipes, because, obviously, I am the last person on earth not to have heard of them. BTW, thanks a lot, everybody, for not cluing me in. It’s kind of sad that PW had to tell me.

I’m thinking about the TONS of Christmases, when my kids and I made TONS of sugar cookies in TONS of shapes with egg yolk paint and how great it would have been to have had some chocolate cookies in there too. 


I’m kind of sad to have lost all those baking opportunities, but, fortunately, THANKS TO PIONEER WOMAN, I can start new memories right now.

Lest you think I’ve really lost my mind, I have no intention of using Ree’s actual recipe. As I’ve said, I don’t get the idea of the powdered sugar in the dough and I can’t stand Silpat, which she bakes her cookies on. It’s fine for rolling things out, but I’ve found that the bottom of things don’t get crispy. They stay kind of blah and cakey. 

By the way, this past week, I was looking for even more revelations from Pioneer Woman. The episode DID have to with church, so there was a chance of something uplifting happening, but no such luck. Ree was cooking for a church potluck. (Do you think that they actually built a church “set” or did they bribe the local vicar with green bean casserole?) The Barbecued Meatballs sounded gross. She basically just threw meatballs into barbecue sauce and called it dinner. Woo-hoo. Not.

But the prospect of another intriguing recipe makes me want to keep one eye on what Pioneer Woman cooks. Unlike the great rule of comedy – if you buy the premise, you buy the bit - I don’t have to buy the premise of a glorified life on the range to buy the occasional great idea for a recipe. 

12 comments:

Heather said...

I also do not understand the lack of sugar in cornbread. I ate in a BBQ place in VA once and it was the first time I had ever had sugarless cornbread and I make cornbread all of the time.

I use my Silpat for cookies, but I bake them on a ancient jellyroll pan that weighs about 5 lbs. and normally burns anything I put on it, so they come out nice, brown and a bit crispy but the Silpat keeps them from burning. I have the same bottom-burning problem with my muffin tin, so I use the foil cupcake sleeves to counteract it (sans paper).

Which leads me to a cookie question - would I be better off getting an actual 'cookie sheet' (flat with no sides)? I always read about how they 'improve air circulation' etc, but do they make for a better cookie? I like mine a little crispy, but not snappy. I prefer chewy on the inside.

Sue said...

Hi Heather,

I'm glad we agree that sugar-free cornbread is just not tasty.

I also have ancient, burned-to-the-crisp cookie sheets and I always cover them with foil and then spray them with Pam, so I never have a problem.

No, I don't think you have to have new cookie sheets. I have flat, no-side ones and also jelly roll pans. The only difference is that it's A LOT easier to get the cookies off the flat sheet and, also, you can place them right up to the edge. On second thought, get one real cookie sheet and see how you like it. It IS designed for cookies, which is a good thing. It might crisp them a little more than you like...in which case, you could slightly underbake them. Now, whether you should use Silpat with a brand new cookie sheet is really a personal choice. I might try it (if I liked Silpat in the first place) and then compare those cookies to foil-baked cookies. (I bet mine would win.)

Tom said...

I've seen a lot of recipes that use powdered sugar in place of granulated sugar, cookies, cakes, etc. I don't like it unless they give the weights or tell me precisely how it was measured because, like flour, you can get a different amount every time. At least granulated sugar doesn't really pack down so you can measure it without weighing.

PS -- you don't have to watch Pioneer Woman to get the recipes...

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I won't say that PW doesn't have some good recipes. I've cooked and enjoyed a few in the past. (I even have her cookbook.) It's been a long time since her blog has produced any quality recipes though. I think this recipe that you just happened to enjoy is a dying ember in the fire of your PW enjoyment!

Rock said...

Tegel Outlet Great post Thanks for sharing

Sheila said...

Well, shoot! PW made you have an epiphany!

I don't think I like cookies with ANY crisp. I like them really soft, really undercooked. So, I do use my silpats quite a bit. BUT I also use them for rolling out dough - thanks to you!

Cornbread without sugar is like eating bread without butter. GROSS!

Andi Clare said...

Hi Sue. I used to read your blog every day about 4 years ago, then lost track of it. I'm very happy that I just found it again recently. :)

I have a question totally unrelated to PW, if that's ok. I've been on a lasagna kick lately and I'm trying to perfect our family recipe. How many eggs go in the ricotta mixture? I use 1 egg, but I know Giada uses 3. What are the benefits of the egg(s) and how many do you add to a standard pan of your lasagna? Thanks! :)

Cynthia said...

Hey Sweetie, I feel as if we have not properly connected since last summer. Will inbox you. Hope you are well. Miss & luv yah!

Sue said...

Tom,
You’re so right about measuring powdered sugar. Also I find that the cookies made with it mostly have to be eaten after dunking in a cup of tea…they’re so dry.

PS I swear I never thought of NOT watching PW and just getting the recipes from the website! Sometimes it takes a sane mind to share such common sense, but I wonder if the recipes would strike me the same way…
+ + + + + +
Rach,
I can’t criticize you for having Ree’s cookbook if I’m going to go around and laud (a few of) her recipes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last PW recipe I ever like.
+ + + + + +
You’re right, Sheila, who would have thought that PW would give me an AHA moment? I guess we should be prepared at any time…from any place.

That’s interesting that Silpat gives you the type of cookie you actually prefer, rather than annoying you by ruining the entire batch (which is what happens with me). I have to remember that you like mealy cookies when I bake you some…

I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks that cornbread without sugar is weird!
+ + + + + +
Hi Andi Clare,
Welcome back!

I have a confession. I never add eggs to my lasagna. I know it’s shocking, but, frankly, I’ve never seen the need. Supposedly it makes the ricotta less “oozy”, so as you’re cutting it, it stays together better in nice layers. I’ve never really had an oozing problem, so I skip it. IF I were adding them, though, I’d go with 2 large eggs to every pint of ricotta. (Don’t even ask my stance on adding eggs to meatloaf. I’ll give you a hint – never.)
+ + + + + +
Cynthia,
I don’t know which one of us psychic, but I was just thinking about you when I saw a story about Barbados and wondering what you were up to. We have to catch up!

Andi Clare said...

Thanks Sue! I think I'll try it with no egg next time and see what happens. Meatloaf is my specialty and I 100% agree that eggs don't belong there. Also not a fan of egg(s) in Thanksgiving stuffing/dressing.

Andi Clare said...

Tried the lasagna with no egg in the ricotta and it was just fine. Never missed the egg. Thanks for the tip! I also used a mix of grated regular grocery store mozzarella and sliced fresh mozzarella and it was the best lasagna I ever made.

I will always remember that this is the site I learned how to properly cook my Thanksgiving turkey (roasted upside down), and now I make the family turkey every single year that way. <3

Sue said...

Andi Clare,
I’m happy the lasagna worked for you. I’ve never minded mine being eggless.

PS – I ALWAYS add eggs to my turkey stuffing. Why? Because that’s my mother’s recipe and I never thought NOT to do it, but actually I don’t think it makes any difference there either.

I am SO thrilled that my turkey tip has changed your life. It did for me too. I heard it on some morning television show in London DECADES ago and I never skip that step now.