Or, Academia: A Love Story.
In grad school, every reading, every discussion, every low-stakes assignment is designed to make you feel like an ignoramus. Not true, but it does make sense that we can’t do our best work if we’re too complacent with our own intelligence. I think the atmosphere is designed to put you on the edge–there is this constant internal questioning about whether your research is solid, or your arguments are dynamic, or your mind even works anymore. You tell yourself everyone feels that way. I’m not a numbskull. It’s the nature of the game.
And then you blog about it.
I told the fiancé the other day that I’m losing my wits. I sit down and read academic articles, and my mind is empty. I know I should be thinking thoughts, but I’m thinking just nothing–just, what’s for dinner? His response? “That’s not losing your wits, honey, that’s senioritis.”
Well, I am in the 18th grade. I’m not a quitter, though, and I’m not ready to give up the academic game just yet. Instead, I’ve decided to change my field of interest. (So simple!) As one of my professors put it, “I’m recovering from an interest in modernism.” I started studying visual culture, for example, which basically means I get to feel more justified in transitioning between study time and blog time. There’s more on that, but who’s even reading anymore!
Perhaps these egotistical questionings are what have led me back to Ratio–the book that lets you feel like a scientist. As I mentioned a few posts ago, the Roomz gave me this book a while back, and the basic concept is that if you memorize a few tried and true ratios, you can cook anything in the kitchen. For example, I most recently attempted Ruhlman’s ratio for the basic short cookie. The 1:2:3, or 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour.
He recommends making a basic version before attempting variations, but do you think I did that? Instead I mixed amaretto liqueur in again. (Noticing a theme here?) These cookies aren’t the kind you shovel down your craw while no one is looking, but, rather, the type you feel justified in dipping into your morning coffee. As Ruhlman says, this recipe doesn’t create a cookie that is art, but it does give you the basic, bare bones cookie. In his words, it’s the “essence-of-a-cookie cookie.” From this place, you can (theoretically) vary percentages of fat (like butter or shortening), flour, or sugar to build your own cookie recipes.
My brother, a sugar cookie fiend, loved these, so I know that even if they’re not art, they’ll do for a last-minute tea party.
So, tell me, how would you vary this cookie recipe? Or, better yet, when have you questioned your own brainpower?
Amaretto Short Cookies
Adapted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
Oven 350 F
Cookie Dough = 1 part sugar : 2 parts fat : 3 parts flour
2 oz. sugar (about 4 ½ Tablespoons)
4 oz. unsalted butter (1 stick) softened butter (better believe I used the Irish stuff)
6 oz. flour (1 to 1 ¼ cups)
1 oz. amaretto liqueur
1. Use a hand or stand mixer to mix the sugar and butter. Beat until lighter in color and fluffy (at least 3 minutes). Add liqueur.
2. Mix in flour gradually.
3. Ruhlman suggests rolling the dough into a log, refrigerating, then slicing in ⅜ inch slices. I rolled them into golf ball-sized balls, rolled them in sugar, then smashed them flat.
4. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. Mine were closer to 20, since they were a bit larger than he suggested. Makes 10-12 cookies.
Variations: Let your heart be your guide! Ruhlman suggests lemon-poppy seed, spiced, etc., etc. I experimented a bit by shoving pecans into the tops of some of them (tasty, of course), and sprinking Hawaiian sea salt onto some (it was too much). I’m imagining a way of cutting sugar and making these into a rosemary-parmesan tea cracker type snack.