About a week ago, my better (or worse, I haven’t decided yet) half had to scramble to sign up for a CPR class last minute. Something about how he’s a little scatterbrained and the college we go to is a little bit unable to effectively communicate with its students, ever. He and the lady who helped him out had what I presume was a joking conversation that went something about like this:
“So, you’re a culinary major?”
“Indeed. If you help me sign up for this class, I can bring you some baked goods!”
(My dialogue skills are the most amazing thing, I just had to show them off.) So Jon told me I should make her something, or maybe he just told me about the conversation and I got really excited about the idea of making her something. Either way, the next time we went grocery shopping, I picked up some sugar cookie essentials and got to work.
The first problem occurred to me about halfway through creaming the butter. I realized I didn’t have cookie cutters, a rolling pin, or a large enough flat surface area in our teeny tiny itty bitty kitchen to actually roll the dough out. No big deal – I could wing it. I’d used a glass cup on the cookies I made a few weeks ago at my parents’ house. Granted, I’d had a rolling pin and my parents’ gigantic kitchen island, but I always put faith in my improvisational abilities when it comes to baking.
The next problem came when I realized that we didn’t have nearly as much butter in the fridge as I’d originally thought we had. I’d picked up shortening and enough butter for the cookies, thinking there was plenty in the fridge for icing if I made it 50/50 butter/shortening. Not the best way to make icing, but not the worst.
The worst way to make icing being the 25/75 butter/shortening ratio I ended up actually using. Shortening, especially in large quantities, gives icing a filmy texture that lingers on your lips and tongue. I like it in a very small amount, probably because I ate a lot of Wal-Mart cakes growing up, but when the essential flavor of butter is cut down so extremely, it ends up feeling like you’re eating sugared up melted plastic.
My third and final problem came right after dumping 6 of the 7 necessary cups of flour into the cookie dough, because those 6 cups were the absolute last of my flour (and it wasn’t even my flour, it was my roommate’s). So the batter ended up way too sticky. Frustrated, I put the dough in the fridge to chill, hoping that would firm it up a bit, and got sucked into Minecraft until 4 in the morning. (That is totally unrelated to the story at hand. Oh well.)
Next day, the dough was still too sticky, but I had a few ideas I thought might work. A) I remembered that my knife kit that came with school actually DOES have cookie cutters in it (HUZZAH!). … There is no B.
The dough seemed about as sticky as a rich bread dough, which I actually really like working with. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I laid down some confectioner’s sugar as flour and cut down on the icing (this is before I realized my icing would be trash). My roommate came up with a different idea – he crushed up several cups of graham crackers as fine as he possibly could and we used that as flour instead. It gave the cookies a not entirely unattractive bumpiness, making them look like snickerdoodles. It did the trick, and when the cookies came out of the oven, the added flavor of the graham crackers made them quite delicious.
We decorated them with thin layers of my more-shortening-than-icing-icing (it’s not so bad in a thin layer, as it just adds a bit of sweetness). The twelve I planned on giving to the lady who helped Jon we decorated with crosses and various symbols I found online related to CPR/first aid. They turned out super cute, and Metcalf (the roommate, if I have not introduced him), came up with the sweet idea of writing ‘Thank you’ on one of the cookies. We put those away and still had about fifty more to just play around with.
I was pleased.
Thursday morning, however, I was pissed. I decided to try one of the cookies with my morning coffee. Gone was the soft, graham crackery delicious confection of yesterday. In its place, my teeth met cruel stone. I had to dunk the damn thing in coffee for about fifteen seconds before I could bite into it, and even then, it’s flavor was gone.
I couldn’t give these cookies to anyone, not even my very worst enemy, let alone a woman who had helped Jon get into a class he needed. I was furious. I had wanted, so many times, to throw the whole thing out and start again – but I couldn’t. We didn’t have the resources and I didn’t have the time. But at each step along the way, I’d thought, no, these won’t be what I wanted them to be, but they’ll be cute, and they’ll be decent, and if they’re presented right, the lady I’m giving them to might not even suspect that they didn’t come out exactly how I wanted them to.
And now there are about three dozen stones in my fridge dressed up as cookies, coated with filmy plastic that even the most devoted sweet-tooth would not want to consume. They’re not terrible when dipped in coffee, but all-in-all, they’re a colossal failure.
We made cinnamon rolls in class yesterday, so I had hoped to deliver this lovely lady I had never met warm, fresh gooey sweet rolls – she would never know about the cookies, but damn it, she would have some baked goods delivered to her. But she was gone by the time I got out of class, and Jon, convinced that it didn’t really matter since the whole conversation was kind of a joke anyway, didn’t seem to get why I was so disappointed.
Even though I will likely never meet this lady, and even though she would not have known that I made them, there is something quintessentially satisfying about giving somebody baked goods you made yourself. They’re a treat. A fresh cinnamon roll or a well-made, adorable sugar cookie will put a smile on most anyone’s face. It will make them feel good, and the thought of that makes me feel good. It’s one of the reasons I love this major. I have always enjoyed bringing treats to family get togethers. I have always enjoyed baking, but until recently, it’s just been one of those delightful things that comes with the holidays. Now, amazingly, I get to do it all the time. I cannot say how many times in class I stop, look at what I’m doing, and get almost giddy about it. It’s like I’m getting away with something, somehow. I’m doing something special, something I have always loved doing, and I’m getting credit for it.
So not being able to deliver that lady her baked goods has me disappointed. Failing at those cookies so terribly (cookies I could have easily made years ago, before the concept of culinary school had ever entered into my consciousness), has me somewhat disappointed. But I wanted to share this story because it illustrates how much I love this major. I feel so blessed to be here, and one of these days, I’ll get to work at a bakeshop (or even own one!) and feel the joy of sharing baked goods every day.