Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I never quit when ahead

Still basking in the afterglow of my Oatmeal Scotchie success, on Christmas Eve I decided to attempt to bake another type of cookie. Theoretically, it shouldn’t have been difficult. I chose a recipe that I had grown up helping my mother bake and made several times by myself to great approbation. Spritz (this is the newer recipe, I use a slightly different older one) – a simple butter cookie – is an easy recipe. The biggest challenges are egg separation and using a cookie press, both of which I have pretty much mastered (ok, maybe not mastered, but I know what I’m doing).

With my husband in tow as assistant I started. Right off I dropped an egg. No big deal. I got all the ingredients into the mixer (ah, laziness) and let her rip. So far, so good. When it was done, I noticed the dough had an odd consistency, and the flavor was not quite right. My husband looked at our bottle of almond extract and thought maybe the French on the bottle said it needed to be diluted. No matter, so they’d be heavy with the almond flavoring. Not so bad, right? I affixed the camel stencil to the cookie press and shoved a big chunk of dough inside.

As I prepared to press the first camel onto the cookie sheet, my husband had a look of sheer delight and curiosity in his eyes. He had never come across such a device as a cookie press before and wanted to see how it worked. Imagine my surprise when I squeezed out the first camel and it resembled something more akin to a microbe than a desert dwelling pack animal. In all his expectancy, my husband certainly wasn’t prepared for that, and he let out a peal of laughter that I am certain found its way into orbit around the earth. Camel after camel kept appearing equally deformed, and his laughter didn’t stop.

I was not amused.

Since the dough seemed too buttery, my husband suggested adding more flour, and so he graciously kneaded flour into the batter, a half cup at a time, working towards a more normal consistency. By the time it seemed right, we had already almost doubled the amount of flour the recipe called for. Not a good sign. Now, I realize that most logical human beings at this point in time might have realized the dough is completely wrong and perhaps the whole mess should be trashed. But I had already invested some time in the process and by god I wanted my camel and Christmas tree cookies. So I refilled the cookie press and tried again, with the hoped for results of perfect camels.

While I worked on the camels I gave my husband a chunk of dough to work with. His sole job was to use the blue and yellow food coloring to make the dough green, for the Christmas trees. By the time he was finished, the dough looked like a giant blob of toxic waste and his entire body was covered with food coloring. Since there was no way he was going to get the dough any lighter, we decided to go along with toxic sludge colored Christmas trees. Why not? At least it was green.

At this point the first batch of camels came out of the oven. They looked ok, pretty normal in fact. But as I began to remove them from the cookie sheet I realized they were quite brittle. I was decapitating camels left and right, limbs were coming off, it was an ugly scene. When all the camels had finished, we had a couple dozen healthy looking camels and a giant graveyard of camel parts. It was from these that we taste tested our work. They weren’t awful, but they sure didn’t taste like Spritz. They actually tasted more like a shortbread. Ah well. They would still be presentable.

By the time we were done, the kitchen appeared as if it had been the site of a horrible industrial accident. There were dishes and utensils everywhere, and little spots of toxic green dough spattered all about. We filled the tin with the cookies we would take to my in-laws and left the remains behind.

I was still bothered by what had gone wrong. It was a recipe I knew, a recipe I usually excelled at. Yet they had turned into a disaster. Why? I kept going over the recipe in my head, trying to think if I had left anything off. Finally I had a horrible sinking feeling. The butter. I had done the cups to grams conversion wrong, and used twice as much butter as the recipe called for! That certainly explained the weird dough consistency and the fact that it needed nearly twice as much flour to be normal.

Stupid metric system. When we first learned about it in the third grade I had a funny feeling it would come bite me in the ass someday. And I was right.


newscoma said...

Well, they were made with a lot of love and laughter and that's something.
Darn it all if those things aren't green though.

pb said...


teacher dude said...

I have a very old Greek cook book which I love that avoids any kind of measuring system, metric or otherwise. It's all, "a cup of this, a pinch of that."

Nicole said...


I am always having to go to the computer to convert measurements. . .

Vol Abroad said...

I've been making the butter mistake for years, wondering why my pies are so damn runny. Why can't they put tablespoon measurements on the sides of the packet like they do in America, for goodness sake?

And while I know it wouldn't help for sugar cookies, I melted my butter for pecan pie first before measuring it into the mix - and voila - the exact number of tablespoons I needed!

Flubberwinkle said...

Go Melusina! You are on a bake roll.

Wishing you and the Doc a great New Year. Best wishes for health, peace, love and creativity in 2007!

christina said...

LOL! This is so funny. I LOVE the toxic green trees. And your cookie press makes camels? Wow!

Out of necessity I've finally gotten the hang of the metric system but I sure don't like it much.

Lynnster said...

I remember all too well - and I think it was third grade for me too - them trying to teach us the metric system because, at the time, they were just SURE it was going to be standard in the U.S. before long. I was kinda glad that never happened because I never really got the hang of it, but I guess it would have been handy if I'd ever gone to live overseas! I feel your pain, totally. I'd be in the same predicaments if I were living over there and trying to cook, I fear...