When I was younger I thought of cooking as an art–an art in which I wasn’t particularly skilled.
My mother would ask why I couldn’t replicate her excellent fried chicken, since I’d watched her make it enough.
I guess I wasn’t taking notes since I was probably mentally drooling and trying to stand close enough to get a good smell while avoiding the popping oil.
As a grown-up lady I discovered Alton Brown‘s cooking show, his cookbooks, and the wonder that is Cook’s Illustrated and their sister show America’s Test Kitchen. I was pleased to see cooking is as much a science as an art.
Science I can do.
Science has rules and an approximate expectation of the outcome. A recipe is really a formula and I can follow a formula.
Baking, more than any other aspect of food-making, requires a pretty strict adherence to instructions. Yea, rules!
All this to say, I have been doing a rigorous quality-control test of my clone cranberry bliss bar recipe.
The things I do for science.
Tests require a control group. In this delicious experiment, that’s original cranberry bliss bars straight from Starbucks.
I find their cake to be more moist, probably because of more fat. But, with two sticks of butter already, I’ll take mine as is.
I do like their larger chunks of a less-sweet white chocolate compared to my white chocolate chips. Also, their cranberries seem to be less dried and chewy and more tender, like the candied cherries in fruit cake.
I don’t like most commercial fruitcake or candied fruit, but for Starbucks year-end treat, it works. I may try to soak my cranberries before my next batch.
What I like better about my recipe is the increased ginger. It’s still subtle, but heavenly and very seasonal. I might even up the crystallized ginger content and not chop it so finely.
Also, at $2.25 a bar, I can make a pan of 12, a twenty-seven dollar value, for a fraction of that. I could sprinkle them with gold dust for that.
Tomorrow–shopping for elastic-waist pants and finding a Monday Weight Watchers meeting.
Do you think CBBs will count as a fruit?
P.S., here are some of my favorite science books.
I love Alton Brown! I just found your blog today and I am your newest follower. Thanks for some entertaining reading!
Thanks so much, Mary. I live to amuse.
Hey, Mary, I love your blog!
We used to watch Alton on the Food Network. My kids love him. Then we shut off our cable and I am much too lazy to hunt him down on the internet.
ps… your CCB's definately count as fruit. So do the apple crisp bars I am drooling over right now!
You know, Nota, I'd be happy to be part of your control group. I've got drawstring waist sweat pants. 🙂
Melinda S. says
Of course they are a fruit–so are things like cherry pie or pumpkin pie (pumpkin even has eggs, dairy, and beta carotene–with the grain in the crust, that's all the food groups, right???)
Kat, it's on the internet? I know what I'm doing tomorrow after church!
Andrea, always looking for companions in science.
Melinda, that sounds so reasonable, it must be true!
Alton is my favorite! I was surprised to learn that I could make fried chicken at home and, by following his recipe, my fried chicken is waaay better than KFC, if I may say so. It tends to be a messy process, but nothing's perfect.
I am gearing up to try out your Cranberry Bliss recipe. 🙂 Thanks again for the gift card – I hadn't tried the bliss bar yet – now, I'm in love.
I love Cook's Illustrated – I discovered it a few years ago by accident. Someone had donated a big stack to the library, and they ended up in the free pile. I think I got about 15 issues. I also buy the Annual "Best Of" cookbooks – a year after they come out, "Like New" on Amazon, for about 1/2 price!
Ajoy, this makes me happy!
Let me know how you like the recipe.
Tell the kids it has vitamins.
Hey Paula! I'm glad to see my favorite book-recommender.
That is an amazing score. CI is pricey, but definitely something you hang onto as a reference.
I'm trying to slowly purchase their best picks.
Susan in the Boonies says
I think you should soak your cranberries in something delectable. How about brandy? Cognac? Some type of liqueur that you like? Kirsch?
I don't have anything like that, Susan.
I just have a big bottle of vodka with vanilla beans in it.
How could I use up brandy or Cognac cooking?
Is Kirsch cherry flavored? I saw that in a chocolate trifle recipe once.
Do you need extra testers? I'll "work" for free!
Your cranberry bars can count as fruit if my chocolate (hey, it's from a bean!) counts as a vegetable.
Alton Brown is fantastic!
Angela, we should start a test kitchen by mail.
Luke, he's always funny and educational.