I teach a class whose topic is the changing culture of food and eating in our society. One of the assigned readings is a NYT article by Michael Pollan–“Out of the Kitchen and onto the Couch”–that was the seeds of his most recent book, Cooked. It’s a fascinating article about why we are more interested, as a society, in watching people cook on tv than we are in ourselves cooking. Pollan writes about the ever-changing definition of “cooking” and how ours is fairly limited these days (pluck a chicken? what?!?). There are, of course, ramifications to this overall lack of cooking, and many of them are health-related. One of Pollan’s curmudgeonly sources, Harry Balzer, has a prescription for our society: if you want to eat something, make it yourself.
It’s a great idea. How likely are you to eat french fries if you have to peel, cut, and double fry them yourself? Not likely. This is a long-winded way of telling you how I started making the croquants years and years ago. (As an aside, I was very surprised to see them on the yet-to-be-tackled list!)
After brushing up on my reading for that class, I decided that if I wanted something caloric or “not healthy” I’d make it my own darned self. So, there I was wanting something sweet after dinner. I remember thinking cookies would hit the spot, but I needed a quick recipe. I combed through and discarded all the ones that needed to be chilled or that just didn’t appeal until I found the croquants. Ever since, they’ve been my go-to cookie recipe. I’ve made them with salted cashews, as in the photo up top, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, a mix . . . . What can I say? They’re great.
But, something slightly ridiculous did happen to me this time around. I wasn’t even going to make them this week, what with the baking with BCM and we’re trying to eat “clean” for a time after the holidays. But, then I wanted something sweet at night and figured a half recipe with these would nicely fulfill 2 purposes for me. Well. I’ve always made the cookies on my silpat, which also always results in me cursing the silpat as I try to remove them. I didn’t care enough to change my habits, but I’d finally bought precut parchment paper so I decided to make the croquants on my half sheet pan with parchment paper. Here is the lovely photo I took of the first incarnation for this week’s post. I didn’t know at the time it would be “the first.”
I put on the timer for 8 minutes, knowing I usually bake them longer, and after about 4 minutes I started to smell something burning. I took the cookies out after 6 minutes and they were totally burned on the bottom! That had never happened to me. My husband thought they were fine and happily ate them, while I thought they were gross.
A few days later, I decided to try again: I must’ve messed up the recipe, or turned the oven on too high. So, I did the same thing with the parchment paper (what’s that definition of madness again?) and after about 3 minutes, I noticed the same dang burning smell. I took them out and quickly pulled the parchment on top of a silpat and put it all back in the oven again. Alas, 3/4 of the croquants already had burned on the bottom, while the tops were totally raw.
Sigh. Then, last night, I finally decided I’d cook them the whole way with both silpat and parchment as it really is easier to remove them from the parchment. Finally, I ended up with the croquants that I know from the last few years, but with prettier bottoms since I’d used the parchment. And that, my friends, is how I ended up making these things 3 times in the last week when I wasn’t even going to bake them at all. I guess the lesson here is to either use an insulated pan or use both a silpat and parchment…?
If you’d like to read how the other Doristas made them right the first time, check it out here.