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golden week 2015: bali time

Big news, y’all:

I’m flying to Bali today, for 11 days (originally 10, but my return flight got cancelled and pushed back.) It’s Golden Week now in Japan, so I took 6 days paid vacation for an 11-day trip (with weekends to book end and for recovery.)

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I could pee my pants I’m so nervous…it’s my first solo international trip. Japan doesn’t count: this is my third time in Japan, second time living here, I came over with a group every time, I have a Japanese phone, bank account, and health insurance, and I’ve been studying Japan for 10 years.

I know nothing about Bali or Indonesia. I didn’t even know it was in Indonesia until I started researching “places to go in Indonesia” and Bali came up.

Did you know the world’s 3rd largest island is in Indonesia? Well now you Borneo. I mean…it is Borneo. #cheesyjoke

I actually wanted to go to Borneo and Java, but I’m not quite ready spiritually or mentally for that. I need to start small: with one of the best tourist destinations in the world. I need to know that I can throw a rock and hit another foreigner. Not that I would do that. It is the 21st century and the jerk who throws the first stone…

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I’ll come back with two weeks of excitement or two weeks of tears, but either way, I’ll come back with stories and many, many photos. (I bought a selfie stick so you can see my face in another country.) I won’t have my computer because it’s relax time, so try to entertain yourselves while I’m away.

I’ll be posting on Facebook in the meantime, though!

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See ya,

Nick P.

Categories: Travel

lemon sugar cookies

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High on sugar cookies from my last baking endeavor, and surrounded by spring, spring everywhere, I wanted to make more sugar cookies, but I wanted to do something exciting…and fresh.

Something…lemon-y.

I love lemons almost as much as I love cheese or orange juice. Lemonade brings back childhood memories of cul-de-sac parties and dangerous neighborhood fireworks displays on July 4th. It also brings back memories of a failed lemon meringue pie that tasted like feet.

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Lemons are an all-year-round fruit but lemon things are best in the summer. I made these cookies for the first time a few years ago, my last year in college, during my last semester. I only made them once but they were unbelievable the first time. The original recipe called for lemon frosting, an orgasmic addition to an already orgasmic cookie, but I wanted to make them my own this time…and I just didn’t have the energy to make any frosting. I played with the recipe a few times (approximately five times), and once I had settled on something…a few more times (approximately a hundred more times.) I don’t remember them being this addictive three years ago.

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Unlike the previous recipe (basic sugar cookies), these are simple and forgiving. The dough doesn’t have a lot of flour and it’s very light. You don’t have to fight to make it cooperate, and because you roll and bake (rather than rolling, cutting, and baking), you can use up all the dough immediately (or save some for a midnight snack.) But be careful you don’t go crazy with the lemon. They are pretty intense cookies, and I love all the lemon, but one batch collapsed before I added the flour because I was little…overzealous…with the lemon juice.

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And if you intend to share them with friends, make two batches: one for you, one for everyone else to deal with. Or hide the first batch from yourself, because they’re seriously addictive like the cheese and olives at my grandma’s house. Make sure, though, that you can find them again when it’s time to share.

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There’s something special about lemon, I discovered while making these cookies. It tingles all over your mouth but especially along the sides and the back, making you salivate. It’s addictive. I tried making these without the sugar coating and, while they’re still amazing and addictive, the extra sugar on top makes the difference. It’s a clean, refreshing contrast to the texture of the cookie, and adds a sweet balance to the tart lemon. It’s like salt on the rim of a margarita glass, a precursor to something sensational.

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lemon sugar cookies

adapted from Lulu the Baker lemon sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting

makes 30 ~ 36 cookies

 

226 g unsalted butter, softened

240 g granulated sugar, plus a few tablespoons for coating

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

2 T lemon zest (zest of 1 lemon)

480 g all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

milk and lemon juice, if needed

 

If using a conventional oven, preheat to 350 F/175 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 1-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until consistent and fully mixed in, 2-3 minutes.

Add the lemon zest a little at a time (~4 additions) and beat.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine salt, flour and baking powder.

Beat the flour mixture into the batter slowly, at least 8 additions and combining fully each time. The dough should be light and fluffy, almost like frosting, but not stick to your hands too much. If it’s too stiff or dry, add a little bit of milk or lemon juice until it’s a good consistency.

Fill a small, shallow bowl with the extra granulated sugar, and another with some flour (a few tablespoons.) Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, scoop the dough and roll between your hands so it forms a ball. Flour your hands if you need to. Then, roll the dough balls in the sugar. Place on the baking sheet a few centimeters apart, and bake for 10 minutes, until they’re dry on top. Don’t let them brown too much except on the bottom, or they’ll burn. They’re best taken out a little early, and they’ll firm up as they cool.

If using a toaster oven, toast at 740 W for the same length of time.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and finish cooling, and prepare yourself for Heaven.

 

Lemon LoveĀ Y’all

Nick P.

Categories: cookies

basic sugar cookies

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I wanted to make Snickerdoodles. I wanted to make them so bad. My nickname is “snickerdoodle,” so of course I need to make them, my namesake cookies.

But I also wanted to learn, once and for all, just what exactly a Snickerdoodle is. It seems they’re not just sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon. There was some healthy debate over this on the Internets. The consensus, and one that I don’t want to disrespect, is that Snickerdoodles have some acid added in (cream of tartar, the dried acid from grape skins), and baking soda (if using baking soda, must use acid, as well.) I have been deceived my entire life. I’d been led to believe that it doesn’t matter what’s inside Snickerdoodle as long as Snickerdoodle is happy with his life choices.

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I don’t know where to find cream of tartar in this country or what it’s called in Japanese, and I saw baking soda for the first time in Japan today. So let’s try something different. But I really wanted sugar cookies…so I made sugar cookies.

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I made a lot of sugar cookies. A really really lot of sugar cookies. And then I ate the other half of the dough raw.

basic sugar cookies

makes 12 – 16 large cookies

note:

I’ve included imperial and metric measurements because Japanese cups and measuring spoons are not the same size as American. With baking, it’s always better to go by metric measurements, though. If you’re in the U.S. and using American tools, you might have to use more of each ingredient than the recipe calls for. For the teaspoons and tablespoons, the difference is negligible, but with any recipe and any measurements, amounts will differ per brand, oven type, location, tools, etc.

You can either roll the dough into balls and coat with sugar or roll it out flat and cut out shapes. If you do the former, flatten the balls a little with your palm before baking and beware that they don’t spread as much as you’d expect. Rolling out and cutting the dough works better for this recipe, and that’s easier if you’ve chilled the dough for >2 hours first.

 

113 g (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened

120 g (1/2 c) granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

240 g (1 1/4) all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

sugar for coating

If you’re baking immediately, preheat a conventional oven to ()…(If using a toaster oven, set it to 740 W.) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then add the sugar in 3-4 additions and beat well. When the volume increases and the mixture becomes fluffier, beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat for about a minute or more, until the batter becomes fluffy again.

In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the flour mixture into the batter in 5 – 7 additions, beating fully after each one. When the dough starts to stiffen, turn up the speed on the mixer to soften it a little.

The dough is ready when it doesn’t stick to your fingers any more. If you add too much extra flour, the cookies will be dry.

If making balls of dough, use a tablespoon to scoop the dough, roll lightly in between your hands, then coat in granulated sugar. Arrange on a baking sheet a few inches apart and press down lightly to flatten. Bake for 6 – 10 minutes.

If rolling the dough out, form the dough into a ball and lay it on top of a long sheet of cling wrap (with ~1/4 of the wrap to one side and ~3/4 to the other side.) Press the dough out until it almost reaches the sides of the wrap (and is ~1 inch thick), then fold the cling wrap in half, sandwiching the dough. Seal the wrap and transfer the dough to the refrigerator. When you’re ready to bake, roll out the dough until it’s 1 cm or 1/2 inch thick, then cut the shapes out and arrange on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Form the excess dough into a ball, roll out, and chill again for >2 hours.

Baking: In a conventional oven preheated to (), bake for 7 – 10 minutes and take out before they start turning brown. They should still be soft, as they’ll firm up when they cool down. If using a toaster oven, toast for 7 – 10 minutes at 740 W. Let cool in the oven for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 

Try not to eat them all in one go. Try your best.

Nick P.

Categories: cookies