Twelve weeks ago I attended a meeting for a craft show I was interested in exhibiting at. It wasn’t the typical fill out the paperwork, send in your money and show up the day of the event kind of show – no, this event was a week-long consignment opportunity that sounded amazing! So who was I to question their very specific requests? Pre-meeting to discuss details three months before the show, online inventory entry, printing labels, volunteering time – that was all easy, understandable tasks that I would have done any way, the one thing that struck me as an odd request was the requirement to bake cookies. Six dozen of them even!
Immediately my hand shot up. “Can I buy cookies from the store?”
“No. They must be handmade.”
“But I don’t bake.”
“You can pay one of our volunteers to do them.”
I thought to myself, how silly, I should be able to do this. How hard could it be? Besides…. My husband does all of the cooking, he can do it. I later asked my husband for his assistance after detailing all of the wonderful opportunities this show was bound to present. He gave me this look like, but I don’t bake, and yet I suggested how hard could it be? So he conceded and time passed by.
Four weeks ago my husband went to Costco for some much needed groceries. One of which was sugar. We use quite a bit of sugar in this house between coffee, tea and Kool aid, so he was looking for a 25 pound bag. He saw the Imperial sugar 50 pound bag but that was too much, then he saw the Imperial 25 pounder right next to it. He heaved that bag of sugar in the cart and kept shopping. The next morning, we discovered that it was brown sugar and let me tell you, that is a shock when you are in desperate need of sweetening your coffee. So after a good amount of time and a few sips of brown sugar coffee I posted my husband’s hilarious mistake on Facebook – what kind of author would I be if I didn’t provide a little comedic relief every once in a while? I then asked my friends for brown sugar recipe ideas and someone suggested cookies.
Ooooh – I thought. I need to bake cookies for the consignment show. I need to bake some insane amount of cookies and we have an insane amount of brown sugar… SCORE! So I found the easiest recipe (the one with just a few ingredients) for brown sugar cookies online and added a few ingredients to my grocery list. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter wasn’t going to work in lieu of real butter. I have never had the need for self-rising flour. And I’m pretty sure Vanilla Vodka wouldn’t be a good alternative for the vanilla extract the recipe asked for. We’re Irish after all.
So with all of the ingredients and recipe printed, I added the item to my online calendar and went about my days. Three weeks later on a Sunday afternoon my husband asks, “So what are we going to do for the rest of the day?”
“Bake cookies!” I declare with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm.
His eyebrow raised slightly. “This calls for a martini.” He spoke as he walked over to the wet bar.
So we both made a couple of drinks and waltzed into the kitchen. “Where’s the recipe?” He asked. I pull it from the drawer. “What do we need?” So I pulled the ingredients. In our house, I’m the sous-chef. I’ve been known to burn boiling water, set the microwave on fire with raspberries and burn my hand trying to retrieve toast from the toaster oven. So I get to tell him what the directions say and sit back and watch the ordeal play out.
After pulling out all of the ingredients he had me read the instructions to him, “first step – mix the softened room-temperature butter with…”
“Hmmm,” he interrupted “this butter is stone cold. Guess we have to wait for it to soften.” He spoke while take a sip of his martini.
“Can’t we nuke it?”
“That much I know you can’t do.” He declared. So we waited. We drank. We watched TV. Three quarters of an hour-long drama in, we checked on the progress of our softening butter, was dismayed by its lack of progress and returned to the wet bar to replenish our drinks. (I feel a Julia Child joke coming on but I’ll stop while I’m ahead.)
What seemed like many hours into the middle of the afternoon, we finally began mixing our ingredients together. The butter and brown sugar was a bear and that’s when it occurred to my husband that when it said “mix” in the recipe, it was referring to the use of an electronic mixer. Well we didn’t have one of those – we don’t bake. So he started looking through the drawers for an alternative. “Ah, the electric mashed potato stick. That ought to work.” Do you know what an electric motor burning up smells like? I do. But our cookie dough was done, so we put the electric stick in the freezer to cool off and I started the search for something to use as a cookie sheet. Nope, no need for a cookie sheet, we don’t bake. One brownie pan and two pizza pans later I began spooning small dollops of dough out. I was feeling very successful so far even with the smell of burning electrical components wafting into the air.
I continued reading the directions, “preheat the oven to 375.”
“This is a convection oven; I’m setting it at 350.”
“But the directions say 375.”
“They’ll cook too fast.”
“Ah, it’ll be fine. They wouldn’t have put it in the instructions if it didn’t work.” So against his better judgement we began baking at 375. 12 minutes later, the timer went off, we pulled out our cookies and attempted to shove a spatula underneath them. That spatula buckled like a wet paper towel. I found one that was a little more ridged, handed it to my husband and he tried again… it chipped the edges of the cookies but otherwise reacted like a crash-test dummy. So we pulled out the rolling pizza cutter. This was a pizza pan after all. While our cookies looked like some geometric science project that Alton Brown may find intriguing, they were definitely NOT anything I wanted to bring to the show. The good news is the dogs love them!
I was heartbroken. Not only had I failed at baking these cookies, I was afraid I wouldn’t have cookies to bring to the show and they were a requirement. I mean, I could have brought them these but it wouldn’t have done them any good. Plus, that was only the first batch – remember, I had to bake 6 dozen! I wasn’t anywhere close! I was near tears as my husband walked away in defeat. All I could think about was calling the local grocery store and asking if they could bake a bunch of cookies at various sizes so it looked like some idiot baked them in her home. But that’s when my husband added to my dismay, “They would be able to tell they were store bought.” Seriously? Have I been missing out on something? (No, my mom never baked either. We were a Chips-Ahoy and Oreo house.)
Monday I did everything I could to take my mind off of the problem and when I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I opened up an email to the show coordinator and began to write to her why I was going to fail at my task. Before I knew it, the above story had been typed out and when I realized it may bring someone humor, I pressed send.
Apparently it made her laugh so hard she shared it with the kitchen crew. Quite a few of the ladies found enjoyment in my saga, enough so that the next morning there was a reply on my email with an offer that I wouldn’t have to bring cookies after all. But it arrived too late, and this was a good thing. You see, while my husband was out Monday he stopped at the grocery store, found a couple of packages of powdered cookie mix that all you needed was oil and eggs and they would come out perfect. In fact, this is the exact recipe as brownies, and I CAN do those!!! Monday evening I baked my cookies and had extra! They came out great and I was thrilled.
Wednesday, I was telling one of the ladies about my cookie debacle and she giggled, she admitted she did no-bake cookies. No bake! Seriously? I didn’t know there was such a thing! This is all because of the brown sugar! Oh well, I’ll try to remember to know better next time… of course, I’m hoping there won’t be a next time. I’m a writer, after all. If you want me to describe a cookie in six dozen ways, no problem. But to bake ‘em? I’m going back to my first instinct and declare – I don’t bake.