Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.



  1. Lord, how do you do it? I haven’t even put ornaments on the damn tree yet! I’m exhausted reading! Today. Ornaments today. I did the cards, though. Bonus points for me!

    Is there anything that can be done about the management not providing you with hot water? That’s insane. I’d demand a rent rebate based on how many days you’ve had to go without.

    • We file the paperwork. They get slapped on the wrist and shrug it off. There are no serious consequences for landlords breaking the law — even in NY, which has some of the strongest tenant protections in the country.

  2. I hate working with cookie dough. I’m a pastry gal really, and I expect all dough to be like pastry dough and, of course, it’s not. And I hate cookie dough so much I’m considering only ever buying “shop bought home made” in future, or prepacked, mass-produced biscuits.

  3. ALL HAIL TO THE QUEEN OF BAKING!! WOOO! Man, I’m baking FIVE different types of cookies. That’s it. You put me to shame! I am in awe. 🙂

    Sorry you had to futz so much with the recipes, though. There’s nothing better than having them turn out the way they SAY they’re going to. And when they don’t…grrrrrr….

  4. You’ve got a veritable bakery going on here. Just hang out a sign and you might make some cookie sales! I’m not much of a baker, but my daughter and I are baking a chocolate cake for Christmas, and it does call for sour cream too. It seems like it’ll work well in the flavor.

  5. Wow, I haven’t baked much of anything this year. Though I am thinking of making Chris his favorites-Polverones. And I’m dying to try out a german walnut cookie recipe, but I’m the only one around here that likes them.
    Sorry to hear the hot water issue still continues to plague you. Best wishes everything goes well with your cookie platters!

  6. Ohhh, first of all kiss the kitty cats for me. They look so cute. Second, I really wish you had hot water, that makes me mad. Third, I must say I have never had eggnog cookies. Fourthly, may I come stay with you a month, until I get everything tasted?

    PS I feel a stirring of the Christmas spirit…will get back to you.

  7. love love love molasses spice cookies since you mentioned making them some time ago–you have me hooked!

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