Sunday, June 19, 2011

Snicks-inspired workplace bribery

The wedding season in the Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg Genetics & Metabolism Program is swiftly approaching.  Hubs and I are leading the pack in the first of four weddings in the department, with Jess & Kyle following a week later.  What does any of this have to do with food?  Well, Hubs and I will be looking after the always-energetic Snickers during her parents' absence.  Aside from the familiar chocolate bar association, when I hear her nickname, "Snicks", I think of Snickerdoodles.

I have some extremely fond memories of these simple-but-delicious cookies.  They were part of Aunt Mary Jane's staple cookie jar lineup.  I never understood why they were called snickerdoodles... after all, they don't have Snickers bars in them (Wikipedia offers a history lesson here).  Regardless, they've always had a special place in my heart, even if they ARE chocolate-free!

As with most cookies I've made, I used these as some form of bribery at work.  Cathy is our incredible prenatal secretary, who books my appointments, transcribes my letters, and generally makes sure that I have everything I need for my appointments (y'know, so it looks like I know what I'm doing when I see patients!)  I asked her to do me a quick favour via email, to which she replied (much like my father), "No problemo.  $20."  I asked if I could pay her in cookies instead... apparently, that's the preferred currency in the office for favours.  So, while thinking of a canine member of the department, I decided to Google my way to a new snickerdoodle recipe. 

Up close and personal with the sweet cinnamon coating that elevates these from a plain sugar cookie to something special.
 What makes this recipe different?  After all, I do have one kicking around on a creased, stained, aged index card.  Anyone who's seen a recipe for these might have noticed: they often call for cream of tartar.  This is basically a powdered form of acid (potassium bitartrate), meant to react with baking soda to provide leavening.  These days, it's already included in baking powder.  Admittedly, adding your acid and base separately allows you to adjust the ratios of each component... but I honestly can't be bothered to buy a tiny $5 tin of the stuff.  So, I selected this recipe based on its use of baking soda (which costs significantly less for significantly more.  I can be frugal!)  Also: instructional video!  Hooray!  These really are fail-proof.  Much thanks to the Joy of Baking website!

I ALMOST forgot to take pictures of the finished product before bringing them to work.
I have to admit, I had one tiny snafu with these... I didn't hear the timer go for the first batch, which made them a little more "caramelized" than the rest of the cookies (NOT burnt.  Just... crunchy).  Luckily, Dr. Mhanni seemed to really enjoy them... so much so that he suggested I routinely ignore the oven timer and make a whole batch of overly browned biscuits.  Of course, he'll eat just about anything, so I think I'll stick to the intended chewy-on-the-inside texture.

Well this isn't snickerdoodle dough... looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Ice cream sandwiches AGAIN?  Maybe not...
My tradition of using cookies as peacekeeping devices at work continued with what proved to be a relatively unapplicable meeting.  I don't see children in clinic, so I had no use for an hour tutorial on how to order pediatric imaging studies.  Regardless, the meeting was marked as "mandatory", so like a good employee (who exceeded expectations on her first performance review, yay!), I attended.  Our old mantra, though, reared its head.  If I had to sit through a presentation, I was going to keep it fun with some cookies.

...but seriously, this looks more like ice cream than cookie dough.  What gives?
I had found some mint chocolate chips in Walmart purely by chance, and bought them to play around with.  Craving my favourite type of ice cream, I decided to take my standard Anna Olsen chocolate chip cookie recipe, and doctor it up with a few drops of green food colouring, a small splash of peppermint extract, and my random find.  The result?  Delicious!  Everyone seemed to enjoy them (so much so that I didn't get a shot of the finished product).  The only slightly negative comment was the dough colour... more than one person wondered if the cookies had gone moldy.  Nope.  I have slightly higher kitchen standards than that!!

Hunting for new recipes to use to her advantage in the workplace (suggestions welcome!)

My Manitoba bucket list, and some Shmoo Torte

...let me guess.  You've never heard of shmoo torte.  Trust me, neither had I before moving here!

I've been reflecting back on my past year in Manitoba, and have sort of played around with making a "Winnipeg Bucket List".  It's not ALL food-related, but it's a list of things I haven't yet done here that I would want to experience before leaving.  It would go something like this:

  1. Skate on the Red River
  2. Try bannock and/or pemmican
  3. Eat at Fusion Grill, a "prairie fusion" fine dining restaurant
  4. Have a meal at the fanciest steakhouse, 525 Wellington
  5. Enjoy a delicious prix fixé menu at Inferno, a French restaurant in St. Boniface
  6. Ride the water taxi... if they ever open the dock behind my building!
  7. Have brunch at The Black Sheep
  8. Giggle at the retro theme while enjoying fries at Ray & Jerry's steakhouse on Portage
  9. Take a drive out to Lockport and go to that little roadside restaurant that Shannon keeps telling me about
  10. Trek out to Gimli and get some delicious fish
I've talked about some prairie-related deliciousness before.  These would be things that I've never heard of, but are super-popular here.  If I had a loonie for every time I heard, "It must be a Manitoba thing..."  I'd long ago checked red velvet cake, honey dill dipping sauce, and puffed wheat squares off of my bucket list.  I ticked off shmoo torte only recently, though.

In Osborne Village (just a few blocks east of my apartment), there is a FANTASTIC restaurant called Baked Expectations.  I've mentioned it before.  It's easily one of my favourite little places to go.  I'd heard some of my Manitoba born-and-bred coworkers talk about shmoo torte in the past, so I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about.

From what I've been able to gather, shmoo torte is made of pecan angel food cake, layered and frosted with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and more pecans.  I'd had it on very good authority that Baked's offering was one of the best in the city.  A little Googling (and an article from The Globe and Mail) tells me that "schmoo" can mean "gooey" in Yiddish... no surprise then that this is apparently a Bar Mitzvah staple among Winnipeg's large and wonderful Jewish community.

(As a side note, my search for the origins of this cake brought me to the blog "Winnipeg o' my Heart", written by a fellow foodie with a similar Manitoba transplant past.  There's one I'll be adding to my Blogger reading list!)

So after all that, you might ask, "What did the shmoo do for you??" (terrible pun, I know.  It's Father's day... I think I'm channeling my dad's sense of humour even more today).  To be perfectly honest: I don't think shmoo and I will become the best of friends.  I mean, if you put a slice in front of me, I'd eat it... but that goes for just about anything.  I'm not the hugest fan of the texture of angel food cake, and pecans certainly aren't my favourite nut.  Add to that the relatively plain whipped cream layers, and I was just kind of 'meh' about the whole thing.  Now, the caramel shmoo sauce WAS delicious... but anything dipped in that would be good.  Overall, I don't think I'll be crawling back for more.  Which, I must admit, is a good thing... I don't need any more difficulty selecting a dessert from Baked's extensive menu!

Looking forward to checking off more Manitoba to-dos,