Saturday, April 12, 2014

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” (Paulo Coelho)

I've heard a lot going around lately about the phrase "Basic Bitch." From my understanding, it's a phrase meant purely for men and women to use to shame women on not being adventurous enough, or not being counterculture enough--basically, not being "as cool" as those who are doing the shaming.

I have a big problem with this on two fronts: 1) do we really need more negativity (sidenote: do we really need it tied up in a pithy, overused phrase), and 2) more often than not, it's hypocritical. 

Take, for instance, one article I just read, written by a Brooklyn hipster who likes EDM and organic everything, who does light drugs and wants to date independent unsigned rockstars, and dresses like she just came out of an Anthropologie catalog. She wrote a diatribe against blonde girls with big boobs (or push-up bras) and jackets from The North Face--girls who order anything ending in "-tini," who call wine "vino" (in what they think is an ironic way, but really isn't), and who have seen all incarnations of Housewives shows. Couldn't be more different, right? Wrong.

From my perspective, these two girls couldn't be more alike (and, for the record, this goes for the male gender too: bros and nerds and gays and stoners?). They're two sides of the same coin. Neither is more "basic" or more "unbasic" than the other. They're both conform to their own stereotype, making them both basic in a sense, depending on the lens through which you're looking.

What I'm saying is: there doesn't have to be just one stereotype. 

Stereotypes exist for a reason. It's because, for the most part, there is a kernel (or a whole ear) of truth in each stereotype. 

But furthermore, you don't have to be just one stereotype.

Do I conform to the stereotype of crunchy granola Northern Californian, the land of my roots? Absolutely. Do I also conform to the stereotype of asshold New Yorker who doesn't acknowledge a lot of what's going on around me because I can't be bothered? Sure.

Do I exhibit some symptoms of "basic bitch"? Absolutely. But I also have some great stories of living in Thailand that would make you think otherwise.

The sociology of self-presentation is a fascinating subject to me, because there is so much assumption and blindness that occur at the same time. Everybody like to feel like they "belong" and they don't want to be judged unfairly, so, ironically, they judge others unfairly based on the boxes of "right" and "wrong" and "conformist" and "counterculture" and the myriad other categories of personality.

Myself, I try to do two things about it: 1) Passively observe and figure out why people are really doing what they're doing and what they are really saying about themselves when they say things about others (probably why I chose my particular profession), and 2) not care.

I mean, really, not care. If you start to care about being pigeon-holed in a stereotype, you freeze yourself by fear and end up not experiencing other things, and finding another stereotype that may suit you, or may suit a part of you.

All this by way of saying stop judging people. It's unnecessary and harsh and really just makes you look like an ass (another stereotype). And just try new things, because you never know if there's another stereotype out there that might appeal to a certain facet of your own personality.

In my own effort to take small steps in trying new things: I've never made a cheesecake before (how's that for a segue?).

Something about throwing pounds and pounds of cream cheese into a batter with a handful of eggs just makes me feel a little queasy, and like I'm unfairly shortening the lives of whoever takes a bite. But, it's the favorite of someone at work, and I like to make people's favorites for their birthdays. 

So I did some research on how I could possibly make a cheesecake less unhealthy (I don't dare say "healthy" because, let's get real, this is still cheesecake). Enter America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated--my obsession with which I'll write about later. Their recipe for "lighter" New York Cheesecake replaces 2/3 of the cream cheese with a mixture of cottage cheese and "yogurt cheese," which I just assumed to be like Greek yogurt--who the hell has "yogurt cheese" hanging around?

When shopping for the ingredients, I was looking at the labels to make sure I was getting all the right things, and I was reminded that cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are both protein powerhouses. I got a little tongue-in-cheek and decided to call this "Athlete's Cheesecake." 

Of course, cheesecake will never be a food that will enhance you to the peak of athletic performance. But because this recipe doesn't use three pounds of cream cheese, and instead supplements it with protein-rich cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, I made a funny out of it. There's like, 10 grams of protein per slice here, so you could do worse.


GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST
makes one 9-inch crust
from America's Test Kitchen

9 GRAHAM CRACKER RECTANGLES (5 ounces)
1 tablespoon SUGAR
4 tablespoons BUTTER, melted

1. Crush the GRAHAM CRACKERS into crumbs in one of two ways: 1) pulse them in a food processor (if you like to clean food processors); or 2) get some of your aggression out and put the crackers in a large bag, then smash them into crumbs using whatever apparatus you prefer; then pour the crumbs into a bowl and sift through with your fingers to crush any large pieces (ideally, we're looking for crumbs the size of sand--very fine)
2. Stir the SUGAR into the cracker crumbs
3. Stir the BUTTER into mixture until completely wet (it should now look like wet sand)
4. Pour the crust mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, and spread it out evenly with your fingers
5. Press the crust into the pan with either your fingers, or better, a ramekin, measuring cup, or other flat-bottomed receptacle, smoothing out the edges with a spoon--make sure there are no holes in the crust
6. Bake at 325F for 15 minutes until the crust is a medium-to-dark brown color

"ATHLETE'S" NEW YORK CHEESECAKE
makes one 9-inch cheesecake
lightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen

16 ounces COTTAGE CHEESE (I used 1%, you use whatever you have)
16 ounces CREAM CHEESE (I used full-fat, you use whatever you have)
1 cup (8 ounces) GREEK YOGURT (I used fat-free, you use whatever you have)
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER SALT
1 LEMON ZEST
1 tablespoon VANILLA EXTRACT
3 EGGS

1. Spoon the COTTAGE CHEESE into a bowl lined with three layers of paper towels and allow the cheese to drain liquid for 30 minutes
2. Preheat the oven to 500F (yes! FIVE HUNDRED)
3. Process the cottage cheese in either a food processor, blender, or with an immersion/hand/stick blender until nice and smooth (at the point, you can switch to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or stick with the food processor if you have a big enough processor)
4. Add the CREAM CHEESE and GREEK YOGURT and beat or process until smooth
5. Add the SUGAR, SALT, LEMON ZEST, and VANILLA and beat or process smooth
6. Add the EGGS on eat a time and beat or process smooth
7. Grease the sides of the springform pan (being careful not to ruin the crust) with butter or oil spray
8. Pour the cheesecake filling into the springform pan, place on a rimmed baking sheet (in case of spillage), and gently place in the extremely hot 500F oven
9. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200F -- do not open the oven door
10. Bake at 200F for another 90 minutes
11. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool and run a paring knife around the edge of the cake to make sure it doesn't stick; continue to do this every hour or so until the cake reaches room temperature
12. Refrigerate the cake at least 3 hours 

SLICING A CHEESECAKE

Sorry, I don't have any tips here from personal experience. I've read all the tips, but haven't tried them. What seems like it would work best would be a large chef's knife dipped in really hot water, then wiped of excess water. When I served this particular one, it was at work where I didn't have full access to a kitchen, so I manhandled the cake with a cold butter knife--I don't recommend it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” (Oprah Winfrey)

I was going to write a post with a good recipe that failed in my execution of it, and get all existential about how failure is a good thing (cue Kellz Clarkson mix), but then I looked around me and said , "Screw that. Its the first Spring weekend of really nice, warm, 80 degree weather in normally foggy San Francisco and I'm going to write about something celebratory!"

So, let's talk about Funfetti. Yes, that Funfetti. Pillsbury's Funfetti.

And before I give you the recipe or the picture of my creation, let me make a confession that you probably won't hear from many bakers. Definitely not from those hoity-toity foodie types. And let me opine on this belief.

Sometimes, the boxed mix makes the best dessert.

What now? That crappy, partially hydrogenated, phosphate-filled, "just add eggs, oil, and water," can't-mess-it-up-if-you-tried powder batter??

Yes, that one.

I have rarely run across any homemade brownie, any homemade yellow cake, or any homemade white cake that has bested what comes out of the laboratories at Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Pillsbury (for the record, Betty rules at yellow cakes, Duncan is primo with brownies, and nothing beats Pillsbury's white cake). Call me a heretic and ask me for my baker's badge back, but it's the truth.

Boxed brownie batter (which is how I tended to eat it growing up--salmonella who?) is another story for another post, but Funfetti cake was always where it was at when it came go celebrating. Birthday? Funfetti. Passed a big test? Funfetti. Piano recital? Big game? Funfetti. Tuesday afternoon? FUNFETTI.

There was always something so joyous, so uplifting about a stark white cake (in a totally not racist way) dotted with bright pops of color (and it would have to be the original, bright Funfetti--get your culturally relevant themed holiday color schemes out of my kitchen. Pastel was tolerable, but sub-par at best). And it always came out right. Dump the bag, some eggs, oil, and water into a bowl, stir it around, and throw it in a pan in the oven. 30 minutes later, chaos ensues.

And I do mean chaos. At least when I was growing up. Slices of cake? Individual servings? Plates? Foolishness! That would just mean more dishes. The forks would emerge and we would go hog wild. Nothing would be left in that 9x13 Pyrex but a few crumbs. We would run around for about 10 minutes as our blood sugar hit its apex, and collapse and zone out to Nickelodeon until dinner. 

The recipe below is a homemade Funfetti, which is really just Rose Beranbaum's white cake with rainbow sprinkles. The most interesting part of what I did was use a cooked flour frosting, which sounds absolutely disgusting when you first think about it. But, to be honest, it's delicious. 

And the history of the frosting is pretty interesting. It became popular in World War II, when the country underwent a period of food rationing. Standard frostings require an absurd amount of butter and sugar, especially absurd when you only have a limited amount of butter and sugar for the month. If you can double your output and the amount of your small food storage, you try some crazy things (tomato soup cake?). In this case, it works out quite well.


"FUNNER-THAN-FETTI" CUPCAKES
makes 2 dozen cupcakes (you can also make 2 layers of a 9-inch round cake with this)

4 1/2 (4 liquid ounces, 4.75 ounces, 135 grams) EGG WHITES
1 cup MILK, separated into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup amounts
2 1/4 teaspoons (9 grams) VANILLA EXTRACT
3 cups (300 grams) BLEACHED CAKE FLOUR, sifted before weighing (yes, bleached--every once in a while won't hurt you)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) GRANULATED SUGAR
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (19.5 grams) BAKING POWDER
1/4 teaspoon (5 grams) SALT
12 tablespoons (170 grams) UNSALTED BUTTER, softened
1 cup RAINBOW SPRINKLES (or more, to your heart's desire--try to find ones that don't have brown sprinkles, unlike my photo above)

1. Whisk together EGG WHITES, 1/4 cup MILK, and VANILLA until whites are broken up and just slightly frothy
2. In a mixer bowl, combine the CAKE FLOUR, SUGAR, BAKING POWDER, and SALT and mix 
3. Add the BUTTER and remaining 3/4 cup MILK and mix on light speed until the flour mixture looks moistened
4. Increase the speed to medium and beat until cake starts to get some air (about 2 minutes)
5. Scrape down the sides and add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in SPRINKLES
7. Spoon out the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners, filling each cupcake about 3/4 full
8. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes, until cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center. Do not let them brown! If they start to brown, throw some aluminum foil over the pans to shield them from the heat
9. Let cupcakes cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then pull out muffins and let them cool completely.

VANILLA COOKED FLOUR FROSTING
makes 3 cups

3 tablespoons ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1/2 cup MILK
1/2 cup HEAVY CREAM
1 cup GRANULATED SUGAR
1 cup BUTTER
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1/4 teaspoon SALT
1/2 cup RAINBOW SPRINKLES (or more, to your heart's desire)

1. Mix the MILK and CREAM together
2. Pour 1/4 cup of the milk/cream mixture into a saucepan and whisk in FLOUR
3. Turn burner to low and continue whisking until the mixture starts to thicken and becomes like a paste
4. Add the remaining milk/cream mixture and add the SUGAR, whisking to remove any lumps
5. Continue whisking until the mixture boils, then cook another minute, whisking all the time (this is called a "slurry")
6. Take the mixture off the heat and let it sit until cool, covered in plastic wrap, with the plastic touching the surface of the mixture to keep a skin from forming
7. When the mixture is cooled, whip the BUTTER in a mixer until fluffy and light
8. Add the slurry, SALT, and VANILLA to the butter and mix well.
9. Turn mixer to low and add in SPRINKLES, mixing until well-dispersed throughout the frosting

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win." (Jonathan Kozol)

For Christmas in 2011, I made a pie. Not just any pie, but Amy's Mom's Whole Lemon Pie, which might just be the best dessert I have ever eaten and will ever eat in my entire life (that's another post entirely). And I'm a chocolate fan, so when I say a non-chocolate dessert may be the best dessert ever... that's a big deal. 

I made the pie for my family for Christmas because I hadn't been able to shut up about the pie since I at it at Amy's Bread the summer before, and my step-mom had just gotten some Meyer lemons from an old neighbor of hers. So, I made the pie, and it was good. I knew the crust wasn't the best, as I had somewhat spontaneously added lemon zest and basil into the crust for some extra oomph, and I didn't exactly have a proper rolling pin with which to roll it out (I used a wine bottle). 


I was so excited to show off my pie, how inventive I was with the alterations I made, how much it mimicked what I had had at the best bakery in the world. I was pumped to share it with my step-mom who had procured me the lemons, with my mom who saves her calories for dessert when I come around, and especially with my grandmother--the home economics major. 


When my Grandmother tasted it, she was over the moon about it. The filling was so great! The balance of flavors was so harmonious! It was tart! And sweet! And deliciously smooth and buttery! If I had let it stand there, I would have been convinced my pie was nothing short of perfect. Alas, I knew she wasn't being honest, so I played bashful and said, "Yeah, the filling is great, but I think the crust could use some work."


Her body relaxed like a weight was lifted off her shoulders as she said, "I'm glad you said something, because the crust is a little too thick and crumbly, not flaky. Its flavor isn't the best and the texture is too tough, and it's a little burnt in places."


Even crickets dared not chirp as my eyes went wide like a full moon.


"Um... thanks for being honest Grandma."


And, as if nothing odd had happened, "But David, the filling really is delicious."


I swore of pie crusts for a year. I swore of pies for a year--well, baking pies. I ate plenty of pies, of course. I didn't want someone to eat one of my pie crusts, for fear that it was a Bad Crust. Because I didn't really know how to make a Good Crust. Instead, I read voraciously about pie crusts. I read about shortening crusts, lard crusts, butter crusts, oil crusts, vodka crusts, graham cracker crusts, oreo cookie crusts, gingersnap crusts. I watched videos about crusts by food processor, crusts by pastry blender, crusts by knife, crusts by fingertips. I read the pros and cons. I looked at pictures. And I (of course) taste tested pies, and pies, and pies made by bakeries and restaurants whenever I could.


When I started a new, high-stress job, I began to bake for my coworkers for their birthdays, which was really just an excuse for me to bake my stress away, and eat my feelings. I asked everyone what their favorite treat was, so I could make something special, and expand my horizons beyond Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. Imagine how my heart dropped when one of my team members said strawberry-rhubarb pie was her favorite. At that point, I was committed. And I was scared shitless. 

But I had to tell myself: "David, you have prepared for this. You have read everything about pies. You have eaten hundreds of slices. You are a better baker than you were two years ago. You can do this." So, one courageous evening, I turned on my AC (a good crust must be made in a cold environment), I got all my ingredients ready, I took a deep breath (though what I really wanted to take was Xanax), and I made a crust.

And I have to say, it was a Good Crust.



ALL-BUTTER, REALLY FLAKY PIE CRUST
makes one double-, or two single-crust pies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 1/2 cups (315 grams) ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
1 tablespoon (15 grams) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 teaspoons KOSHER SALT
1 cup UNSALTED BUTTER, diced into cubes and frozen
1/2-3/4 cups ICE WATER

1. Whisk together the FLOUR, SUGAR, and SALT
2. Using a pastry cutter (or a food processor if you like--and by that I mean, if you like to clean food processors), combine the cold BUTTER with the flour mixture by cutting the butter in, until you have small cornmeal-like granules, with larger pea-to-marble-sized pieces of butter
3. Continue using the pastry cutter or the tip of a silicone spatula to stir in WATER one tablespoon at a time, until it sticks in a clump when you squeeze a handful in your fist
4. Form the dough into 2 balls, flatten them into a discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least a couple of hours, then let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before rolling out to make your pie

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB PIE
makes on 9-inch pie
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

3 cups STRAWBERRIES, hulled and sliced
3 cups RHUBARB, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup GRANULATED SUGAR
1 tablespoon LEMON ZEST
2 teaspoons LEMON JUICE
1/4 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
4 tablespoons QUICK-COOKING TAPIOCA
2 tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER, cut into small pieces

1. Toss together STRAWBERRIES, RHUBARB, SUGAR, LEMON ZEST, LEMON JUICE, VANILLA, and TAPIOCA
2. Let fruit mixture stand for 15 minutes (this is something like maceration, in case you hear that term being thrown around the Food Network)
3. Lightly flour a work surface, and roll one pie disc into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick, moving the crust around every 2-3 rolls to make sure it doesn't stick to your surface
4. Transfer the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch pie pan, leaving any overhang intact
5. Pour the entire fruit mixture, including juices, into the pie shell, scatter BUTTER pieces over the fruit filling, and refrigerate
6. Preheat oven to 400F
7. Lightly flour a work surface, roll second pie disc into a 10-inch circle, and assemble top of pie to your liking (see below for suggestions)
8. Place pie on baking sheet, and bake until top is golden, about 20-25 minutes
9. Reduce oven temperature to 350F, and continue to bake the pie until juices bubble and crust has turned golden-brown, 30-40 minutes longer
10. Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool to room temperature 1-2 hours, until juices have thickened

FINISHING THE TOP OF A PIE (PART 1)

The Easy Way (Topper): Roll out the dough to a 10-inch circle, then just throw it on top of the pie. Cut four slits into the pie (you can get creative with where, most people just do a compass shape near the middle of the pie) to allow air to escape, then finish in one of the ways below.

The Less Easy Way (Lattice): The best step-by-step instructions on how to do a lattice crust I've found comes from The Kitchn, complete with pictures. The basics is that you roll out the top to a 10-inch circle, then use a knife or pizza cutter to slice the dough into long strips 3/4" thick. Lay strips over the top of the pie, leaving about 1/4" between each slice. Fold back every other strip, then lay a new strip perpendicular. Unfold those folded strips, fold back the other strips (those you didn't fold back the first time), and lay another strip perpendicular. Continue in this fashion until you've covered the pie, finish in one of the ways below.

FINISHING THE TOP OF A PIE (PART 2)

The Easy Way (Crimp): Just take a fork and press the tines all around the crust to create little lines, much like the lines around the edge of a quarter.

The Less Easy Way (Flute): Easier than the lattice was! The History Kitchen has a great step-by-step post about basically everything I wrote above (I really need more multimedia on this blog), but it's really this picture that shows you how to flute the pie. Basically just pinch some of the crust horizontally between your thumb and index fingers, then push your other index or middle finger in the dough between those fingers to create a "V" shape.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

“Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.” (Robert Redford)

Let me tell you something about myself. It'll set the stage of this blog. It'll give you an idea of where I'm coming from when one day I'll make from scratch something like a highfalutin Thomas Keller's French Laundry lemon sabayon tart with toasted almond crust, and the next day I'll be chowing down on grease-drenched dollar pizza and supersized McDonald's fries.

I'm a fatty. Yes, you read that right. I didn't say "foodie," I said "fatty," and no, I didn't make a typo. From my perspective, food is delicious, unless it's not (dried fruit, I'm looking at you), and it really doesn't matter who might make it or where it might come from. Sure, high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, and partially hydrogenated oils creep the crap out of me, but sometimes, you've just gotta have some Thin Mints.

Sometimes, you've just gotta have some Oreos.

Which puts a baker like myself in a bit of a quandary. Sure, I can go out and buy them (which I did), but there's always a curious part of my brain that, when I'm eating a delicious treat (which Oreos are), is wondering, "How did they do it?" And there's always a competitive part of my brain that is wondering "Can I do it better?"

And those two questions constantly lead me back to the kitchen, butter in hand, to experiment.

Some things, I genuinely believe, are nearly impossible to make better than store-bought or box-mixed. Case in point? Brownies. Can you think of a time when you honestly had a brownie that was better than one from Betty Crocker? The sole example that comes to my mind is one from Duncan Hines (side note: stay tuned for my Cook's Illustrated attempt at besting it). Another example? Funfetti cake and frosting (though I made a valiant attempt there as well).

I always thought Oreos fell into this camp of mystical treats that would always come from the store shelves, not my oven.

How wrong I was.

The below cookie sandwiches, dare I say it, are better than Nabisco. Better. Than. Nabisco. I know, that's blasphemy. But burn me at the cookie-consumer pyre, for I say it in earnest. It might be the darkly black Dutch-processed chocolate that draws my eyes in. It might be the slightly thicker cookie with its tender crispness that makes my mouth happy. It might be the fact that I can fill my own "Fauxreo" with twice the cream filling found in even the Mega Stuff Oreo. Not that there's anything wrong with that....




HOMEMADE OREO COOKIES ("FAUXREOS")
adapted from Flour

1 1/2 cups (210 grams) ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

3/4 cups (90 grams) DUTCH-PROCESSED COCOA POWDER (it has to be Dutch-processed, or you won't get the requisite black chocolate color--Hershey's Special Dark is a readily available brand)
1 teaspoon KOSHER SALT (if using table salt, use half the amount)
1/2 teaspoon BAKING SODA (don't use baking powder or the cookies will rise and dome--not very Oreo-like)
1 cup UNSALTED BUTTER, melted and cooled
3/4 cups (150 grams) GRANULATED SUGAR
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1 cup SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS, melted and cooled
1 EGG

1. Whisk together the FLOUR, COCOA POWDER, SALT, and BAKING SODA in one bowl

2. In another bowl, whisk together the BUTTER and GRANULATED SUGAR until combined
3. Whisk VANILLA and melted CHOCOLATE CHIPS to the butter-sugar mixture
4. Add the EGG to the butter-sugar-chocolate mixture
5. Add the flour-chocolate mixture to the butter-sugar-chocolate mixture and mix with a wooden spoon
6. Once the batter is the consistency of old Play-Doh (this is normal!), let the dough sit at room temperature in the bowl for 1 hour
7. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment or waxed paper at least 15" in length
8. Shape the dough into a log about 10" long and 2 1/2" in diameter*, and roll the log into a smooth circle shape, encased in the parchment or waxed paper
9. Refrigerate the log for at least 2 hours, or until firm--every 30 minutes, take the log out and re-roll it to ensure it keeps a circular shape (the dough may settle into a "flat tire" shape thanks to gravity if you don't)
10. Preheat the oven to 325F, prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper
11. Cut the dough into 1/4"-thick slices with a sharp knife**, and place the slices about 1" apart on the cookie sheet
12. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the tough, checking after 15 minutes and every 3 minutes thereafter--it's hard to know when they're done because they cookies themselves are black and won't show the normal "browning edges" of baked cookies
13. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet, and allow to cool completely before filling them
14. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling (recipe below) onto the bottom of one cookies, top with a second cookie, bottom-side down, and press the cookies together gently to spread the filling toward the edges.

* You can actually divide it into multiple logs on multiple pieces of parchment to make it easier for yourself. Just make sure the diameter of the log is about the same diameter of Oreos. We're trying to make Oreos here, in case you've forgotten.

** This is when you can cut the cookies into interesting shapes! Either shave things down in the log form (sculpture-style), or after you've sliced the cookies (cookie cutter-style). I recommend heart-shaped cookies with pink cream filling (via two drops of red food coloring) for Valentine's Day, to induce true too cutesy nausea


HOMEMADE OREO COOKIE FILLING
adapted from Cookies & Cups

1/2 cup UNSALTED BUTTER, softened

1 teaspoon GRANULATED SUGAR
3 1/2 cups POWDERED SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1/4 teaspoon KOSHER SALT (if using table salt, use half the amount)
1-3 tablespoons MILK (I use 2% because that's what I drink, but anything will work. Except skim milk. Skim milk is the devil's plaything)

1. Cream BUTTER and GRANULATED SUGAR together in a mixer with the paddle attachment on high for 30 seconds
2. Add the POWDERED SUGAR and VANILLA and mix on low until incorporated and will now longer "poof" up in your face, mix on medium until completely smooth
4. Add in SALT and gradually add in MILK one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved