Ever since I got an iPad last summer, I’ve been intrigued with the cooking functionality and possibilities it could bring to my kitchen. I routinely set up my laptop on a counter, pull up a recipe, play something from iTunes and google an arcane cooking fact, all at the same time. Would my iPad function the same way? Would some elusive cooking app take the place of my extensive cookbook library? Would my iPad replace all this? Well, yes and no. I don’t think it will replace the traditional methods but can certainly enhance how I currently cook.
First off, I had to find some good “apps”. I quickly learned that the best cooking apps were those that were specifically designed for the iPad not a hastily reformatted version of an existing website (I’m talking to you epicurious.) Michael Ruhlman’s “Bread Baking Basics”, for example, is quite good and only $1.99. A must have – it’s really fantastic. Another one that fascinated me from the start was “Martha Stewart Cookies“. This one really speaks to me. It’s a lot like Martha actually - good-looking, well put together, a little slick, a few things that annoy. Beautiful photos of a seemingly endless string of cookies entice as your finger scrolls back and forth across the screen. (Side note, I’ve become so accustomed to this scrolling thing that without thinking, I tried it on my TV last week. Didn’t work. Thanks a lot Apple.)
Tap a cookie and the recipe pops up after a brief introduction. The format doesn’t thrill me but it works– if the ingredient list or recipe steps are too long to fit on the page, you can easily scroll down. This makes sense when you’re on the couch but try doing this with a butter-coated finger. Not so pretty.
Within each recipe, little timer buttons are in place for various steps and baking times. My only issue with these helpful little tools is I don’t always make cookies the same size as indicated so the baking time has to be adjusted. That’s do-able but you have to start the timer, stop it then adjust and reset. It’s just easier to use my own timer.
Right after I downloaded this app (which took a ridiculously long time, by the way) I spent a good 15 minutes scrolling through the cookies, back and forth, forth and back. They were all so pretty! But I kept coming back to one in particular, over and over: Smoky Ginger Bacon Cookies. Say what?!
In general, I think bacon desserts are hit or miss. I’ve had bad and I’ve had really good and I’ve managed to make both. But there was something interesting about this one: lots of ground ginger (always a good thing), butter AND bacon fat (hallelujah!) and something I’d never used before … sorghum. This was timely because my Mom had given me a bottle of bourbon vanilla sorghum for Christmas that I wasn’t sure what to do with. Who knew it was destined for a bacon cookie?
The dough was a little crumbly for my tastes but that may have been user error because they baked up just fine. A toss in turbinado sugar for a little crunch then a pinch of bourbon smoked sea salt (another gift) and they smelled heavenly coming out of the oven. Tasty too – they were spicy, smoky, salty and with a hint of something you don’t place right away. Yep, that’s pork fat my friends. And it’s delicious! I brought these to a party and the response was divided. I find that a lot with bacon desserts – you either love them or you don’t. No middle ground whatsoever.
So cooking off an iPad … yay or nay? I’m still trying to figure it all out but I know many people who swear by it. They love the portability, instant accessibility and the sheer cool factor of the whole process. I agree but there’s definitely room for growth – afterall, it’s only been a year. Many of the cooking apps are single subject and perhaps a bit limited but they’re coming along at lightening speed. As long as the price is right and they are fun and easy to use, cooking apps will do well. While I’ll follow along with interest, my iPad will never fully replace my cookbooks. I’m far too attached.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: THREE LITTLE PIGGIES UP. When you want to make something unusual, something different and unexpected – this is your cookie. Adds a little zip and zing to that boring old cookie tray and if you don’t tell people, I bet it’ll take a while to figure it out. Do try to find the sorghum if you can – it’s an interesting additional to my baking repertoire and I look forward to finding other uses for its tasty sweetness. Oh – if you have gluten issues, these folks did a version for you here.
SMOKY BACON GINGER COOKIES – from “Martha Stewart Cookies” iPad app
Makes 4-5 dozen
If you don’t have or can’t find sorghum syrup, use molasses. The flavor will be a little deeper and darker but just as delicious. And if you don’t have smoked sea salt, regular sea salt will work too; just don’t just table salt.
½ pound thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼” dice
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup sorghum syrup or unsulfured molasses
½ cup turbinado sugar (aka “sugar in the raw”)
smoked sea salt
- Cook diced bacon over medium heat until crisp.
- With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl then measure out the bacon fat – you should have just over ¼ cup, ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons, actually. Let cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place two racks in the lower third of the oven.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) cream the butter and both sugars on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- Beat in the cooled bacon fat, on medium-high, until combined. Scrape.
- Add the egg and sorghum (or molasses) and mix until well blended. Scrape.
- On low, add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
- On low, mix in the cooked bacon until combined.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment or silpat mats and shape dough into 1” balls.
- Roll the balls in the turbinado sugar, just to coat.
- Place on prepared sheet pans and press down lightly to flatten a little.
- Top each with a small pinch of smoked sea salt if you have it though regular sea salt will work fine too.
- Bake, rotating sheets top-to-bottom and front-to-bake halfway through baking, for 6-8 minutes total until the tops and edges are firm but the centers are still slightly soft.
- Let cool completely, off the sheet pans if possible. Store, tightly wrapped, up to 3 days.