Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And Then There Were Cookies

After finally having all the necessary ingredients in my kitchen, I set about making pumpkin cookies that Molly so thoughtfully gave me the recipe for. To give you a clear picture of how I proceeded, I should explain how I bake.

Generally in life I'm pretty control freak efficient. In fact, I get irritated when I have to back track or do something twice. I block off a certain amount of time to accomplish a task and I generally get it done when planned. That is NOT how I bake. Since I have very little experience baking, I tend to block off entire afternoons or entire evenings to bake. I have no idea how long it will take, so I over-plan and build it up to a huge and monumental task that then, of course, never gets done because it's too frightening.

To combat this, what I do is TELL the recipient about the baked goods that they will receive at some point in the future. That puts pressure on me to not let them down and actually get down to baking. So that's how I get started. (It still takes a couple of weeks, but eventually I do actually bake.)

Once I'm in the kitchen with the ingredients, my baking process is something like this:

(Emily reads recipe)
"Okay. 2 1/2 cups flour. Got it." (Emily gets flour from cupboard and measuring cup from drawer)
"Wait, did that say 2 1/2 cups?" (checks recipe)
"Yes. Great." (measures out one cup)
"Um, What was I supposed to do with the flour again?" (checks recipe)
"Right. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl." (gets bowl from cupboard and dumps flour in)
"How much flour did I need again?" (check recipe)
"Okay. 2 1/2 cups. Right. I dumped in one cup, right?" (looks in bowl to gauge how much flour is in there.)
"That looks like about one cup. I need another cup and a half. Right?" (check recipe)
"Okay. Good. Wait - I am looking at the right amount of FLOUR, right? This is supposed to be flour?" (checks recipe [that now has flour all over it] again)
"Flour, check. What's next? Shoot! Wasn't I supposed to be pre-heating the oven?"

And the process repeats for each ingredient.

I wish I were kidding. I am obsessively checking and re-checking ingredients and sometimes STILL dumping in a teaspoon of nutmeg where there's only supposed to be a half teaspoon. (So if the cookies taste a bit, um, nutmeggy, that's why.)

Surprisingly, I don't freak out when I dump in the incorrect amounts of things. Unless it's a huge difference (like two cups of sugar instead of flour - THIS DID NOT HAPPEN) I tend to think it will be okay. A little of this, a little of that. Meh. If a little bit of vanilla is good, a little bit more must be GOOD. Based on the reaction to my cookies, I don't think the extra nutmeg really mattered. However, apparently I should have gone for a cup of chocolate chips instead of a half cup. (Note: I had some trouble mixing in the chocolate chips, so Chris may find that some cookies have the perfect amount of chocolate, and other cookies have, well, none.)

I also didn't know what it meant to "cream together" the butter and sugar. I ended up just mixing them into this weird consistency, and then calling to confirm that I wasn't doing something crazy. Turns out I wasn't. (Note to bakers - stop using weird words that mean "mix." You're confusing the laymen. And if "cream" doesn't mean "mix" then I don't really want to know what I did wrong. The cookies were fine. So there.)

Once I get to the mixing, I relax. That's the easy part. I'm always fascinated when the dough appears. Like I didn't entirely believe that it was going to happen. I have a hand mixer (I know. I don't know why I have one, but I do) that I generally don't use. After several experiences where various batters ended up on my ceiling, I prefer to mix by hand. I'm always so proud when the dough turns out. I feel like I should take a picture or something. Like I need a wall of framed dough pictures that I can title, "What I've made."

My first batch of cookies ended up gooey in the middle. I baked them until they turned a shade of brown that I was comfortable with, and then removed them. I noted the time so that the second batch would match, put the second batch in, and then began to obsess about how gooey was "too gooey." I think zlionsfan almost hung up on me. Here's a sample of our conversation:

"How gooey are they?"
"I don't know. But they're gooey."
"Are they still warm?"
"Well, they'll probably be fine when they cool off. You know, you can leave the cookies on the baking sheet and they'll cook a while longer, even when taken out of..."
"I know that. I know. But they're really gooey. Like, soft."
"Oh my God. They're probably fine."
"But they're really gooey. Like, not uncooked, but maybe they weren't done?"
"I don't know, really. Have you ever had gooey cookies? I mean, chocolate chip cookies are good when they're soft. But these are pumpkin cookies. What if they're too gooey?"
"They're fine. Just... They're fine."

What ended up happening was that the second, third and fourth batches of cookies ended up looking exactly like Molly's picture, while the first batch just seemed sad by comparison. When delivering the cookies, I made sure to put the first batch on the bottom so the good cookies had to be eaten first. Maybe they'll be full by the time they get to the sad cookies.

Once the cookies were done, and they looked okay, I was absolutely ecstatic. (I didn't taste one. Again, not so big on sweets, and definitely not so big on pumpkin.) But still, I told everyone that I made cookies (from scratch.) I was over the moon about it. My FedEx guy knows, the UPS guy knows...the boy got to hear it at least a dozen times ("Good for you, sweetie!") I was pretty excited. I mean, there was flour, there was sugar, there were other items, and then "poof!" there were cookies. I'm still amazed. I might try it again. After all, the boy did mention that he likes butterscotch. Any recipe suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Nestle sells butterscotch chips with the recipe on the back of the bag for simple cookies. I've always used the recipe on the back of the regular chip bag and then instead of the full amount of chocolate chips I measure half butterscotch and have chocolate and stir them in. They are quite yummy!

AEinstei1n said...

That comment there is mine. Stupid thing didn't pop open the space to type in my name.

cgogis said...

I'm so digging to the bottom of the container when I get home! I love gooey cookies. Oh, and maybe if I'm lucky, they'll also be the ones that got lots of chips! Yes, I'm weird.

Oh, and by the way, if it's any consolation (probably not), it sounds like we bake much the same way.

Farmerspice said...

You did it!! yay!! I've got another butterscotchy recipe at home I'll find and send your way. :) I'm making rum cake soon!!

zlionsfan said...

The Nestle recipes are good ones: I use the Toll House recipe as a starting point. (Sometimes it's cookies, sometimes I make brownies, sometimes they get M&Ms too ...)

Basically, a lot of things that could go into cookies have recipes on them for cookies. All of them are pretty much safe to make. Also, I have a cookbook that you can look through if you like. There should be a bunch of recipes for cookies: I use it more for dinner recipes.

ems said...

As in, "the cookbook has recipes for meals as well," or as in "I eat cookies for dinner?"

AnnD said...

OMG! That's how I bake. Check and re-checking amounts. I read: "2 tbsp. Vanilla" and go and get a TBSP. spoon and then I have to re-read it and then I go get the Vanilla and then I re-read it a 3rd time just to get the amount in my head again! That's why I hate making food!