Sunday, February 26, 2012

I charge thee...

I have but a simple message for you all on this fine, fine evening: if you have not yet experienced the wonder of sliced, frozen banana, it's high time.

The specifics are these:
  • You must slice, then freeze. No one wants to make unattractive noises and flail upon realizing that biting off a big chunk makes your teeth very very cold.
  • You must eat with your fingers. It's just banana slices. There's no reason to bring silverware into this.
  • The experience really is heightened if you think of yourself as a three-year-old while eating. I mean, if you're picking up banana slices and smiling to yourself about how delicious they are, don't you just get that popsicle-on-a-playground feeling? And aren't all playgrounds built for three-year-olds?
Now hop to it. No time to waste. Those bananas are calling your name.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Everything's coming up roses.

Not too terribly long ago, I had to meet with the dean of the conservatory at Wheaton to switch from being an arts and sciences kid to being a conservatory kid. And in this meeting (I'm skipping a lot of steps of this story here), I was essentially double-dog-dared to find a pit conductor in the Chicago area to follow around, admire, badger with questions, and just generally stalk. All of this by spring break (which is fast approaching, I've realized). So beauty of beauties, I did, with much help from various faculty in getting email addresses, setting things up, all that. All this to say, last night, I spent a solid six-and-a-half hours at Drury Lane Theatre in a nearby little suburb for their current production of Gypsy. And it was supah fun.

There were two shows last night, one at 5, and one at 8:30. For the first, I sat with the other pit-dwellers on my own little bench with the heavily marked-up score, borrowed from the assistant conductor. And I wore cute little headphones that fed a little bit of everyone in the band, a little bit of all the people on stage, and a lot of the double bass (since his balance control box was the one I was hooked up to). And this was when I learned that the people playing in this pit (a) cannot see a thing going on onstage, and (b) cannot see the conductor except via a tiny screen clipped to the stand. Exciting times.

But not as exciting as the second show, when (brace your collective internet self) I sat on the podium next to the conductor. Who was also playing keyboard. And cuing everybody everywhere. And turning a million tiny knobs and pushing a jillion tiny buttons and flipping a kazillion equally heavily marked-up pages. This wasn't exciting only because I could see the spit flying from the actors' mouths, or because some actors stood five feet away from me to address "Mister Conductor," but because of a little something that happened during intermission. I was just minding my own business, getting comfy in my very prominent chair for Act 2, when a teenage girl walked up to the pit, held out her Playbill, and said, "Could one of the two of you please sign my program and date it?" at which point I snerked and turned to the conductor, saying, "Pretty sure she means you." But 'twould have been mighty funny if I had signed and dated her program. As if anything would have gone differently at all had I not been there.

In any case. It was a lovely evening. And he even invited me back to come see the show from the house tonight. And I get to bring a friend. Tickets? Totally unnecessary. We're just meeting him in the lobby, and he'll walk us in. Oh, don't mind me, just being chummy with important people in the real world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Insanity, baked.

I'll cut right to the chase: Wheaton has bizarre things called raids whereby your hall stays up very late and puts on a themed event for the other halls on your floor. There are loud raids and silent raids. Loud raids involve waking up the people on the other halls and forcing them to watch you sing and dance and play silly games. Silent raids involve being very quiet, decorating the other halls and leaving cute little (often edible) presents for them to wake up to at reasonable hours.

And this is all relevant BECAUSE my hall did a little silent raid last night. And as you would expect, I was in charge of the cute little edible presents. And as you would expect, I went a little overboard. Because when you have to make 200 cookies, why wouldn't you do something as elaborate as possible? I mean, it's Valentine's. It's all about being elaborate.

Yes, I know, the quality's awful. But when you just made 200
cookies, you don't exactly feel like finding a real camera.

If you couldn't tell, these were a lot of work. But they were also fun. I got to be super-sneaky -- aside from separating eggs, softening butter, and actually baking these guys, all of this happened in our floor lounge, which is definitely not a kitchen. And I got to do all sorts of fun fractions to figure out how many parts to cut each log into during the slicing phase. And making royal icing means getting rid of excess royal icing, which translates roughly to roaming our hall asking if anyone wanted "frosting à la carte" (which they did).

And even better, I was able to make cookies to my heart's content and know that they would all be eaten, no pushing or shoving required. It was delightful, except for the waking-up-this-morning-after-only-five-hours-of-sleep thing. Small potatoes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BCC, round 1.

So many developments! Mother of all mothers responded to my plea for sample buffalo chip cookies, which I happily received, photographed, measured, analyzed, and ate. Here is what I noted:
  • These are big cookies. On average, they're about 2 1/2" in diameter and 1 1/4" tall at their thickest point. Think dome-shaped. (Actually, now that I think about it, they could theoretically be half-spheres, but the likelihood of that actually happening is on the slim side. For sure.)
  • These are dense cookies. There's so much stuff in them that's not actual dough - chocolate chips, corn flakes, coconut, toffee chips, pecans, and oats - that these cookies end up being very, very heavy.
  • These are weird cookies. They're not quite crunchy, not quite soft. They crackle when you chew them (thanks, cornflakes), but they don't crumble when you bite into them. 
  • These are sneaky cookies. You don't taste every ingredient at once (particularly looking at these little toffee chips). And the oats? You have to hunt for them. There aren't very many. Chocolate chips, on the other hand, are everywhere.
With this in mind, I tweaked some random internet buffalo chip cookie recipe, and this is what I got, ingredient-wise:

2 sticks butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
2 cups cornflakes
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup Heath bar pieces/toffee chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

OK, now looking at that list, you might not see any red flags. Clearly, you don't live in Tinytown, Illinois, where grocery stores decide not to carry unsweetened coconut. All of this led to a little experiment in my bathroom involving me, a bag of sweetened coconut, two bowls, and lots of rinsing, squeezing dry, re-rinsing, and re-squeezing. Yes, you read that right: I unsweetened a bag of sweetened coconut. Dedication right there. (Also, I'm never buying sweetened coconut again because there is some serious funk coating those flakes.)

But I finally got around to making the first batch, and after tasting the dough, it seemed like it might need a little more salt, a little less sugar, some more chocolate chips, and maybe a few fewer cornflakes. Science detour time: sugar makes cookies spread, so I had a hunch that if there really was too much sugar, then the cookies would spread more than they should. And guess what. They did. Science is a winner.

Also, the yield on this recipe is insane. I halved the one I found online to get this recipe, and it still made close to 60 normal-sized cookies. Sixty! Ridiculous! (I mean, my music theory class was happy, but still.)

Flavor-wise, pretty good. I think the proportions of mix-ins are good. Texture-wise, they were a little gooey. (I'm blaming the sugar.) And they browned on top before they were done inside, so I'll have to toy with the temperature a little. But overall, not a bad start.

So for next time: less sugar. More salt. Maybe more chocolate chips. Keeping the cornflakes where they are. Fixing temperature problems.

And I have pictures! Original first, my first attempt second.
deliciousness, half-eaten.

newbies, in abundance.