29 December 2010

Experimenting via Micro-Recipes

While eating a piece of shortbread, I thought to myself, "Mikey like! Mikey make?" except not necessarily in terms so simplistic. So, straight to the internet where I discovered many interesting facts about shortbread - its long and storied history, its place in cultures across the world, and its humble origins. Namely, 1 part sugar 2 parts butter 3 parts flour. If you check wikipedia, you'll note the flour bit says "oatmeal flour" but since when have I read things properly?
My plan, and I will continue with it, is to take advantage of the few ingredients and simple ratios of shortbread to experiment by making a very small  batch (a cookie or two) and tweaking things one at a time. I started off today with a baseline where I took a single tablespoon to be a part. Two biscuits where formed - a baseline sweet to be topped with powdered sugar, and a baseline savory to be topped with sea salt. Other than those toppings, applied after baking, there were no differences in the biscuits.
I made a guess on preparation and baking - refrigerate the dough to set it after shaping and an oven heated to 350 degrees, cooking time of 10 minutes. Now, that wrong type of flour mentioned above truly bit me on this night of baselining. See, oatmeal flour is a thicker, heartier type of flour than the unbleached all-purpose flour I employed. The beautiful 1-2-3 ratio did not produce much beyond slightly heated dough. Post-baking, the biscuits had notably melted and failed to solidify the least bit. Once cooled, they were semi-firm and questionably delicious - they reminded me of sugar cookie dough. I dutifully ate them, however, in the name of science.
 The next step, then, is to re-baseline the recipe using a 1-2-4 ratio. While not as mnemonic as 1-2-3, it pleases me that it forms a list of powers of two. From there, assuming I get good results, I will experiment with toppings, fillings, and dough ingredients - and I will reduce down to a half tablespoon as the "part", which will make a single biscuit. Hopefully I get good results out of this experiment, though eating a spoonful of flour butter sugar isn't the worst thing a man can do.

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