Category Archives: baking

A not-so-sweet saga

Let me preface this by saying, there are a few things in the world I am very good at, and I *know* I am very good at them.

I think we all have these things. Like, your thing might be painting, or you always seem to pick the best books out of the library even though you know nothing about them like you have the best radar at it, or you just know which line in the grocery store will move most quickly even if it’s not the one with the fewest people in it.

We’re brought up to hide our lights under bushels. Bragging is seen as wrong and rude. Well, I say fie on that. If you have weird talents, CELEBRATE THEM. Sing your praises to the high heavens about your weird talents! It’s not like anyone else is going to do it!

I am passing average at a lot of things, I am downright terrible at MOST things, but I am very good at a few things. Those things are:

  • somehow winning people (and animals) over with my quirky charm and making them laugh even when I’m not trying to (ok, the laughing only applies to the humans, here, and I guess it might apply to hyenas but I don’t know any hyenas);
  • crocheting (I know, this is totally my apocalypse skill, I can make you all very warm blankets);
  • shopping for the best, most appropriate gifts for my loved ones for special occasions, and
  • baking cookies.

My mother taught me the crocheting and the baking when I was young and I randomly carried these skills over with me into adulthood. I think the winning-people-over thing came from Dad. We’re very good at being sociable, even though we don’t like it much. No idea where the shopping thing came from. Guess that’s all me.

I taught myself cookie-making tricks. There was a lot of trial-and-error. I learned things like good ingredients really do make all the difference, and that parchment paper saves the bottom of cookies and makes them look like restaurant cookies and you need to check on the cookies quite often to make sure you take them out of the oven at JUST THE RIGHT TIME! and refrigerating the dough beforehand stops them from spreading too much so you don’t have these weird flat crunchy too-thin cookies. There were a lot of fails. But sometimes, fails lead to wins.


I promise I never look like this. I'm usually covered in flour and/or chocolate and who has time to curl their hair? Good grief.

I promise I never look like this. I’m usually covered in flour and/or chocolate and who has time to curl their hair? Good grief.

I have a number of tried-and-true cookie recipes that I fall back on time and time again. Every now and then, I’ll find five more or so, and try them all, and if they work out, I’ll add one or two more to the repertoire, but mostly I make the following:

  • Chocolate Rads (these are the most labor-intensive cookies you can imagine, and involve melting chocolate and a double-boiler and letting the dough rest in the refrigerator until it’s a rock-hard chocolate block and making them into little balls by hand until you’re so covered with chocolate you look like maybe you’ve murdered someone that works at Hershey but it’s SO WORTH IT because they taste like brownies mixed with cookies and also have espresso in them so they make you VERY SPEEDY)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (but before you’re all “duh, who can’t make these, mine are like the ones you get in restaurants, only better, and involve many steps, very expensive chocolate, and Paula-Deen-esque levels of butter)
  • Rum Balls (I only make these for BFF, because he loves them to distraction, and even getting too close to them gives you a contact high, whoo!)
  • Maple Shortbread (imagine the butteriest shortbread ever, but it tastes like maple syrup. But not so much that it gives you a sugar high. Just enough that it’s like a hint of pancakes. AMAZINGNESS)
  • Anisette Toast (forget the Anisette Toast you can get in the store that’s all stale and crunchy; this is moist and licoricey and slightly sweet and very dense)
  • Peanut Butter Kisses (yeah, I know, boring, but they’re Dad’s favorite, and whenever I’m bringing cookies home, he says, “I wonder if there will be any of those cookies with the kisses in the middle because they’re really the only good ones,” so it’s not like I CAN’T make them)
  • Nutella Cupcakes (these things frost themselves with Nutella. They’re like magic. MAGIC, I TELL YOU!)
  • Gooey Butter Cookies (these are embarrassingly good and involve a ton of cream cheese and butter and a box of cake mix. Don’t ask. They are chemically delicious heart attacks.)

I know I can go back to these time and time again and they’ll work out well. I’ve made them over and over; I know the quirks of the recipes and I know they’re crowd-pleasers. (I like to be the one that brings the best thing to a potluck. I like people to say, “YOU MUST GIVE ME THIS RECIPE.” I like to hear from across a room “who made these cookies?” when their mouth is FULL of the cookies and it’s like they’re having a mouthgasm. These things are really pleasing to me. I like the plate to be empty when the night is over, even if it means I don’t get to bring home leftovers.)

This is all leading up to an EPIC FAIL. Stick with me.

So. In news of things that are out of the ordinary…I was invited to a party. A REAL PARTY THAT IS OUTSIDE OF MY HOUSE.

You know my theory about parties, right? That theory is no, hell no, OH hell no, and I think I have to wash my hair all night long sorry nope uh-uh nope nope NOOOOOPE.

To add to this, it is a SUPERBOWL PARTY. This is a party REVOLVING AROUND SPORTSBALL.

However, sometimes things happen that are out of your control, like, the party is being thrown by one of your most favorite humans, who has been so kind to you the entire time you’ve been new in town, and makes you laugh so hard you sometimes almost cry, and one time you yelled at this person because you were having a REALLY BAD MOMENT and it was forgiven, like, immediately? And some of your favorite work people will be at the party, so really, how bad can it be? And the fact that you were invited at all was SO, SO NICE? And there will be food there! Delicious snacky sportsballing food! And you’ll just have gotten out of work and you’ll be starving and all that delicious food will be there and your work friends will be there happy to see you!

So I grudgingly said, “So, I was thinking of going to your party” and got a “YES YOU SHOULD COME!” response so how could I not go, you know?

So we were all asked to bring something. Of course, cookies, I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bring a meatloaf. (Yes, I make a kickass meatloaf, but that’s not the point, because that’s not really the thing you bring to a party. It seems like an odd thing to bring along. “HEY HI THANKS FOR THE INVITE I BROUGHT THE LOAF OF MEAT,” you know?)

No, not YOU, Meatloaf. Put that madface away.

No, not YOU, Meatloaf. Put that madface away.

So! I got up early. I was out of baking soda, of all things. I ran to the store. OUT OF BAKING SODA. Another store. OUT OF BAKING SODA. (SIDE NOTE: is this a thing used to make the drugs? Why are so many stores out of baking soda, of all things? There’s a lot of meth being made here. Are people using baking soda to make meth? I suppose I could look that up, but then Time Warner might think I was a drug addict on top of a terrorist.)



So I finally got the baking soda and I came home and did a million things and then it was cookie-making time and I made the dough and and and…

…somehow, it did not work.

It wasn’t dough. It was sand. There was not enough liquid. I followed the recipe to the letter. I thought, oh, well, I will cook them. Maybe that will help. NO! They turned out like little rock-hard hockey pucks. Little chocolate-studded hockey pucks. I thought, “maybe they will be ok?” but after they cooled I’m pretty sure they could have been used as weapons if hurled at an intruder. You cannot bring these sorts of things to a party. Well, you could, but you’d get a lot of fake faces and “oh! Aren’t THESE good!” and I can’t even deal with such things.

I would take a photo but you can’t tell from looking at them that they are filling-destroying cookies. They just look like cookies. It’s misleading.

So. 9pm. ANOTHER BATCH OF COOKIES. The solution seemed to be COMPLETELY MELTING THE BUTTER. This has never been an issue before, I have no idea why this time the recipe decided to be so touchy.

You will be pleased to know the second batch is lovely and not at all too hard. Just right. Something I’ll be proud to arrive at the party with. (Whew.)

The moral of the story is: even if you are very, very good at something, sometimes you can fail.

Doesn’t mean you can’t shout from the rooftops how good you are at it. Just means that sometimes you have to scramble to do it over again when it fails.

(And you have an extra batch of VERY HARD, yet very chocolately and still edible, if you work at it, cookies, all for you. So, not a total loss, then.)

Wish me luck, jellybeans. Go go sportsball teams. Win kick run. Fully inflate your balls. Rah rah sis boom bah.

ME AT THE PARTY. Note that I'm not paying attention to the sportsballing. But I WILL be eating all the foods. YUM.

ME AT THE PARTY. Note that I’m not paying attention to the sportsballing. But I WILL be eating all the foods. YUM.

How to kill the people you love. With kindness. And butter.

So we’re having “snack day” at work on Thursday. This means everyone signs up to bring something in and we just eat all day. Well, we work too, I think. But also eat all day.

Also, SIDE NOTE, I think it bears mention it’s 12/12/12 today. WHAT IS THIS DARK SORCERY? Ahem. Moving on.

The only thing I can make with any confidence is cookies. (Which is ironic, as I have health issues and can’t EAT the cookies.)

Listen. LISTEN. I rock cookie-baking. I am amazing at it. This Christmas I don’t know if I’ll have time/money for it (my cookies might end up being in January, along with the rest of my presents) but you know how you KNOW you’re good at something? Like, you KNOW. There are certain things that I know every single one of you reading this know you’re good at. Like, you might be a good scrapbooker, or you might really win at playing poker, or playing the glockenspiel, or something, I don’t know your life. And it’s not even like you can be humble about it. Like, you know you’re good at it. You KNOW you are. It’s something you excel at.

I’m a decent writer and I crochet well and I’m a good friend and I stage manage admirably and I am a (humble, humble) VERY good aunt.

But I totally rule cookie-baking.

I have things I am KNOWN for. Things that people ASK for. “Oh, Amy’s coming, ask if she’ll bring those chocolate things,” they say. Or “AMY YOU WILL BRING THE BROWNIES, RIGHT?” (There’s nothing in the brownies that makes them illegal, don’t be silly. They’re just delicious, is all. And also they have chips in them. Like butterscotch. Or peanut butter. Or TOFFEE. I win brownie-making.)

Anyway, I signed up for cookies. Because I’m sure I could have attempted to make something else but I can’t guarantee it would be a success. And I don’t have the ability to transport casseroles. And on snack day, who wants a casserole? You want things like cookies. And, I don’t know, chips or something. I’m not eating anything, what do I care? Snack day is not in my diet plan.

So I ran through my repertoire of cookies. My FAVORITE cookies take too long to make. Those were out; I don’t have time for things like that right now. Probably not date balls. There’s a metric shit-ton* (*actual measurement) of rum in those; probably getting my new coworkers drunk is not the best idea. At least not YET. Chocolate chip – well, I make the world’s best chocolate-chip cookies; someday some of you will have the opportunity, I’m sure, to try them, and you will most heartily agree. I have tricks. NO, you can’t know what my tricks are. Then EVERYONE would know how to make the world’s best chocolate-chip cookies and what fun would THAT be? But people would look at them and think, “huh. Chocolate-chip cookies? She didn’t try very hard, that new girl.” (Unless they tasted them. Then they’d be like, “HOLY HELL MOUTHGASM!” Well, probably not. No one would really say that. But they’d be HAVING one. Oh yes they would.)

Nope. Not even under torture will I tell you my secret. NO NO NO.

Nope. Not even under torture will I tell you my secret. NO NO NO.

Then I thought, oh, wait, I know. I KNOW. The cookies that are made of THE MOST TERRIBLE INGREDIENTS EVER but TASTE THE BEST.

Gooey Butter Cookies.

Don’t they even SOUND terrible for you? They are. OH THEY ARE.

They taste like a cupcake. BUT THEY ARE A COOKIE.

Then I thought, you know what the interwebs loves seeing? Photos of people baking. Usually those people are PRETTY and wear APRONS and use GOOD LIGHTING but listen, you work with what you have.


First, here is a link to the recipe, if you want it. Don’t look at it yet, though. I’ll tell you in a minute exactly what to put in them. There are like 6 ingredients. They’re not a difficult cookie to make.

First, you need a bowl. And you need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Unless your oven is broken, like mine is, and runs 50 degrees hotter than the dial indicates. HOW WILL I KNOW THIS, AMY? Well, you have to have your dad come over with a meter that tells you, is how. It’s quite simple. Unless your oven is so weird it melts your dad’s very expensive meter and then he gets really stompy about that as if it’s your fault he put a plastic meter in your metal oven. I mean, it’s not like you MADE him put it in there. You didn’t hold him at GUNPOINT or anything. Sheesh.

Then you need 8 ounces of cream cheese.

Get the full-fat kind. The low-fat or fat-free kind taste like plastic. Also, as you can see, I SPARED NO EXPENSE. I bought the grocery-store brand. It cost me a whole $1.87.

Now, I made you this to show you how I feel about cream cheese.

As you can see, all the rain today was very unkind to my hair.

Hair-issues aside, I hope it is very clear to you that I hate cream cheese. I don’t put it on things; I don’t eat it in things. I think it’s a violation of all things cheese-related. And listen. I LOVE CHEESE. ALL the kinds and types of cheeses. SO MUCH. So I know cheese. And this is not cheese. It coats the back of your throat and makes you all gaggy. GROSS NO UGH.

Next you need a whole stick of butter.

Again, we’re going with the store brand. IT IS CHEAPER AND JUST AS GOOD.

I know a lot of people don’t like to use salted butter when they’re baking. I like salt, yo. I’m like an old pirate that way. A SALTY SEA DOG. ARRRR.

The night before you bake these, you’re going to want to leave the butter and the cream cheese out so they’re soft for mixing. Or you could melt them in the microwave, but if you’re not careful when you do that, they get soupy, and then the consistency of your cookies is all off. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

Yep. A whole stick. Don’t even scrimp. A WHOLE STICK, I SAID.

Then flop ’em both in a bowl. Just flop ’em in. Look at ’em in there, being all on top of each other like that. It’s a little unseemly, isn’t it? Baking isn’t for the weak, my little apricots.

Then you need ONE EGG. No more, no less. Don’t go putting in two eggs, bub. Or an ostrich egg. One chicken egg. I always use large eggs. They work just fine.

Then you need a fourth of a teaspoon of vanilla extract. As you can see, I apparently splattered it on like an abstract painter. I know this looks gross right now. Don’t fret.

SMUSH THEM ALL TOGETHER! As you can see, they kind of look like scrambled eggs. And a little vomitorious. Just keep on a’squishin’ with your spoon. As you can see, I have a wooden spoon because I’m like a pioneer. Maybe yours is made of gold, I don’t know. Do your thing.

You probably thought what we started with was gross. Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We’re about to go old-school, kiddos.

Yep. This bastard’s got a WHOLE BOX OF CAKE MIX IN IT.

You have to use yellow cake. I recommend this exact one. The “golden butter recipe” one. Because you want it to taste as buttery as possible. Also, doesn’t that cake on the front look delicious? Yes. Yes, it does. Now I want some cake.


This is your batter once you’ve finished making it as smooth as you can, and before you add the cake mix. I didn’t show you the secret step which you’re totally not supposed to do, but I got frustrated. I microwaved it for 30 seconds. Not long enough to cook the egg, but long enough to warm up the cream cheese a little to make it spreadier and mixier.

Pour in your cake mix; stir it ALL UP. Then it looks like this. Like cookie dough, right? It’s like magic! THE MAGIC OF BAKING! (And cake mix.)

Then you will probably be starving, so make yourself dinner. In this case, I recommend teriyaki chicken you had marinating all day waiting for you to get home from your excellent new job that you grilled and it tasted AMAZING and was so so so tender. YUM.

While you are eating your chicken and emailing your friends, put the dough in the fridge to set. Usually I’d tell you to chill it overnight but NO TIME FOR LOVE, DR. JONES! Half an hour or so will have to do.

Then pour a whole mess of powdered sugar on a plate. I hope you weren’t under the impression these things were healthy. You weren’t, right?

Get a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper. I can’t impress this upon you enough. I know people think this step is extraneous; it isn’t. I guarantee you. Do you want cookies that look like they’re from a bake shop? Parchment paper. Promise. (Also, you don’t need to grease the pan if you use parchment paper.)

This is the kind I use. It's like $3. And it saves the day. Worth the cost.

This is the kind I use. It’s like $3. And it saves the day. Worth the cost.

Roll the cookies in balls. Heh. Balls. I don’t care what size, but small-ish. They don’t spread out much, but these things are rich. The people eating them don’t want huge cookies that have this much richness in them. A small bite is best. I promise. Once you have the ball (heh again heh), roll it in the powdered sugar and put it on the cookie sheet. Lather, rinse, repeat until your sheet is full.

(I didn’t take photos of these steps because my hands were powdered-sugary.)

This will most likely happen to your top.

Or maybe it’s just me. I’m messy as hell.

(Also, is this not the cutest top ever? THANK YOU FOR MY BIRTHDAY PRESENT MOM!)

Here are the cookies all ready for baking. Twenty little cookies, all sugary and round and lovely. On their parchment paper. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

The recipe says to bake them for 10-13 minutes. These things burn EASILY. You’re going to want to check them. I baked mine for 10 minutes, then checked them, then baked them for 3 more. They were then perfect. So in my broken-ass oven, 13 minutes was perfect; but check yours. You want to bake them just until they’re set. The bottoms start to burn and you’re done. I’ve been down that road before and it’s catastrophic.

Here they are, finished. They cool best on a rack like this; it allows for more even airflow. However, before I splurged on a rack (heh, rack) I used to cool cookies on paper towels. Didn’t work as well, and sometimes they stuck to the paper towels, but it wasn’t the worst thing ever.

I ended up with about 45 cookies from this recipe. That’s enough. I’m not going to eat any so they’ll all make it to work.

THEY TASTE LIKE CUPCAKES. I’m not even kidding. Like with the slight crunch of cookies, but with a cake taste. Seriously. They’re fantastic. They’ll kill you; they’re utterly stuffed with butterfat and cream cheese and all those cake mix preservatives. But they WIN as cookies.

There. So you can use this to impress people, or I guess to kill your enemies.

Also, I know. You’re pretty damn impressed with me right now.

It’s ok. You should be. I TOTALLY WIN COOKIE-MAKING.

Also I win spilling-sugar-on-my-top. So it’s been a really banner evening around here.


%d bloggers like this: