Friday, December 5, 2008

Light & Fluffy??

Those who know me, know that I am not a fabulous cook. It will be edible, presentation does not count, and that's about it.
So I was invited tonight to a Girls Night Out/Holiday Cookie Exchange tonight, and figured I would try something new. Anyone can go and buy the pre-cut chocolate chip cookies from the store and make them look home made. I'm up for a challenge ,so I decide on Ginger cookies- which I thought were the same as gingerbread cookies, but I am not sure. Plus money is tight and it was one of few recipes that I had most of the ingredients already in the cabinet. Except baking soda, and molasses.
We take daughter to gymnastics last night and I stop on the way home to buy said molasses and baking soda. Much to my worry that I would NEVER find the molasses (since I had to look up what it even was to begin with- hey, I said I don't cook.), it was right there on a display at the very front of Publix. Score! I head to the aisle to find baking soda, at which I am faced with at least 3 different choices. I see the traditional baking soda that usually comes to mind- Arm and Hammer. At this point I become concerned, because even though it does clearly say baking soda on the box, nowhere do I see one of it's uses listed as actual baking. I am *quite* turned off by using it in something that will be eaten when it's first claim to fame on the box is scratchless cleaning of pots and pans, so I settle with baking powder instead, and hope that they are the same thing or similar.
I planned on doing my actual baking today, while son is napping. He is the lightest sleeper in the world, and sounds carry like none other in this house, go figure. So he is finally asleep, I catch my shower and head soooo quietly downstairs to get started.
I gather all of my ingredients and set them on the counter, and naively put some lunch in the microwave. The recipe does say 10 minute prep time, and so I assume that I can whip these puppies up and head back upstairs in no time.
For starters, the recipe basically has you make it in 3 separate parts, and then at some point combine them all into one. At no particular point does it tell you where to combine parts 2 & 3, nor does it say it in literally the 1300+ comments from people who are raving at how wonderful said cookies are.
So I make the first part, which consists of just putting together lots of flour and spices and sifting them. No, chef Chantelle does not own a sifter, and so hand mix with a wisk it is.
Part two calls to beat an egg (did it), and at some point add the molasses and water (or someone suggested using Orange Juice for more kick, and so I do), which creates a nasty and smelly mess.
Let me start by saying that nowhere on the bottle of molasses do they warn you that this stuff smells like dog food and beef jerkey, neither of which do I eat. And so I find myself glad that I am not pregnant, because otherwise that is a smell that surely would have sent me running and the whole cookie operation would have been aborted.
So all systems are go, and I'm feeling rather proud despite the mess in my kitchen, which I do not have time to clean, and company is coming tomorrow along with a Christmas parade, anatomy exam, and Math final. Yeah, it's that kind of weekend and I'm baking cookies.

Then we get to the final step. With parts 1 & 2 set aside, I am supposed to cream the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. ..........Excuse me?
I can only assume that this is done by mixing those two things (again I tell you, I do not cook, and if I do it comes with very simple instructions), and beating them with a mixer, and so I do. Only my butter was melted and not softened, and nothing light nor fluffy about it.

Time to regroup. I head back upstairs and find out how to soften butter (duh on that one!) and cream the mixture. Armed with my new wealth of information, I head back to the kitchen.

I put the new softened butter in it's bowl, and add the sugar. I put the mixer in and go to town. According to my research, this may take anywhere from 2-10 minutes, at which point it will no longer be a mess, and will be almost like Cool Whip (and then I contemplate using Cool Whip instead, because it would honestly have been a lot easier!). At about the 3 minute mark, I am nowhere near light and fluffy, I have entered a sugar pellets stage. Pieces are flying and the mixture is looking smaller and smaller. At the 5 minute mark, it appears that I have made mashed potatoes, so I'm good enough with that and cut off the mixer.
The last step is of course rolling the dough into balls, rolling it into the sugar, and putting it on the cookie sheet. This is where it all really falls apart. Instead of the dough being sticky AND runny like the reviews have stated, it is of paste- like consistency. I repeatedly have to wash my hands, leaving me to wonder why I felt the need to shower before doing this. This recipe supposedly yields 24 cookies, and all of the sudden the once small mixture seems to have quadrupled and is never-ending. At 24 cookies, I am over this all and I dump the rest of the batter in the sink.
Finally long after the supposed 10 minute prep time has passed, my cookies are in the oven. And 12 minutes later they are out. My kitchen is trashed, but they look decent and they no longer smell like dog food. The only problem left is that they resemble an extremely old sidewalk- in other words, cracked all to pieces along the top. It kind of gives character, but leaves me wishing that my coolest gadget ever- the ultimate chopper- were still in service so that I could turn my regular sugar into confectioner's sugar, and make the vanilla glaze to creatively cover said cracks.
But now the challenge is over and I have completed my first (and only!) batch of ginger cookies, which look like a jigsaw puzzle, but do not taste like Pedigree. I still don't think I will put my name to them, and when someone asks which ones I brought, I will give a very grand wave towards the cookies and say "Oh, you know, those right there", and then disappear to somewhere else when they turn to see. This is my plan. Let's hope it works!


MrsSoersdal said...

That's better than me. It took me 2 years to figure out how to make pancakes without the fire alarm going off and I wish I was kidding I really do.