Monday, April 27, 2009

Under the weather, but baking up a storm

Good things for a bad cold

I don't know what it is with my family lately, but we're having a tough time keeping ourselves out of the hospital. So far one sister and I have escaped anything serious, but after two (scheduled) cancer surgeries, one case of food poisoning, one almost-tonsillectomy, and one emergency appendectomy in the family, Sister #1 and I are wondering which of the two of us is next. Meanwhile, I'm making up for my avoidance of the emergency room with a series of mild-to-moderate illnesses. They're not awful, but they're keeping me home from work--and keeping Ricola and Vicks in business, not to mention the flower vendors at the farmer's market.


Now, for me, the thing that I most love to do when I'm home ill, aside from reading old favorites and watching the BBC/A&E production of Pride and Prejudice*, is bake. Something about being too ill to go to work but not so ill that I'm completely bed- or couch-ridden gives me a stronger-than-usual urge to bake things. That, and the fact that baked goods make for wonderful comfort food. It's probably not the best of ideas for me to be making food when I'm feeling under the weather, but there's lots of hand-washing in hot, soapy water, and in any case, I'm usually the only one who eats the things I bake at home.

This morning I made yogurt, which doesn't really count as baking, but is a new and interesting bit of kitchen science. I've just placed it in the fridge after its four hours of resting in the oven with the light on, and it seems to have set as advertised. I plan to taste it tomorrow morning, mixed with a bit of the apricot jam I received in my CSA boxes during the winter.

I also made some of Homesick Texan's scrumptious hot cross buns. I love breads studded with dried fruit, whether sweet or savory breads, and these sweet rolls made for some wonderful comfort food. The crosses didn't turn out very distinct, but they sure taste good. I second Homesick Texan's recommendation to put some lemon zest and vanilla in the icing.

Hot cross buns

And finally, a batch of chocolate crinkle cookies with a dry, crackly outside and a moist, chewy interior. They have an intense chocolate flavor and happen to be gluten-free. Jump below the fold for the recipe.

Chocolate crinkle cookies

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups superfine sugar, divided, plus more for rolling
  • 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or about 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • large pinch of salt
  • nonstick vegetable oil spray


  1. Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400F/205C. Spray a large baking sheet (or two if you have them) with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peak stage. Gradually beat in 2/3 cup sugar, and continue beating until meringue is thick and shiny, and falls in a nice ribbon.
  3. Melt chocolate in a heat-safe bowl, and cool to lukewarm while you prepare the dry ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the other 2/3 cup sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  5. Beat the dry ingredients into the meringue, then stir in the melted chocolate.
  6. Place the extra sugar in a shallow bowl. Portion out a heaping tablespoon of dough and, dusting your hands with sugar if necessary to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a small ball. Roll the ball in the sugar to coat it well, then place the ball on the greased baking sheet. Continue in the same way with the remaining dough, spacing balls about two inches apart.
  7. Bake cookies until they are puffed, the tops are cracked, and the edges begin to set, about 10 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 10 further minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.


  • If you don't have superfine (baker's) sugar, use confectioner's sugar.
  • Rolling the dough in sugar isn't necessary from a chemical point of view, but I think it highlights the baked cookies' cracks nicely. Using confectioner's sugar rather than superfine granulated sugar would probably highlight the cracks even better; that's an aesthetic choice you can make for yourself.

* and by "watching" I mean "shamelessly reciting virtually all the lines along with it."


Bee said...

I'm SO with you here . . . on the baking, on the P & P, and on the bunch of ranunculus. (I also adore your photograph of mug and books! I've really been into comfort reading/drinking/eating this past week. . . as you know from my butterscotch rice pudding recipe!)

How did you like the hot cross buns? Yours look great, btw. (I wanted to try that recipe.)

As for the illnesses (cancer? appendectomy?), that is HORRIBLE. I'm so sorry that your family is having such a bad run of health. I hope that you are all better soon.

Thanks for the chocolate crinkle recipe . . . I will get to that one as soon as I appease my craving for oatmeal cookies. (I have an Ina Garten recipe that I'm desperate to try.)

Supersaps said...

Sorry to hear about your family and the cancer. :( My best wishes to you all.

Anne said...

Thank you both for your concern! The two cancers were not unexpected, actually: Grandma's was presumably caused by the radiation that she received for another bout of cancer about eight years ago; Dad's was a small skin cancer in exactly the same place that his dad had one. Both surgeries were successful, and both patients are recovering well. Mom's appendectomy went well, too, and it turns out that the women in her family have a history of getting appendicitis in their mid-40s and 50s. Something to look forward to in my middle age!

The toughest part about all of this--which is great, as far as "tough things about surgeries" go--has been keeping the various patients from over-exerting themselves! Everyone wants to be up and about doing normal activities when they're supposed to be resting.

I love the hot cross buns. I might add a bit more cinnamon and nutmeg to the dough, and perhaps a dash more salt, but I don't really trust my taste buds right now. I'll wait to make modifications to the recipe until after I bake a batch when I'm healthy.

Oatmeal cookies sound great for gloomy weather (and spirits), and if it's an Ina Garten recipe, I bet it will be good!

Bee said...

Thanks for elaborating on this for your loyal readers! I hope that you will be able to avoid the appendicitis curse.

btw, the oatmeal cookies were very good . . . but I haven't given up my quest for the perfect recipe yet.