Friday, April 28, 2006

Simple Cookie to Kitchen Nightmare in 10 Arrogant Steps, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Eat the Frosting

Hubris (noun)
Hubris (noun): Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

About 2 minutes ago, I set down my saucepan of curdled chocolate icing, walked out of the kitchen, spent 1.5 minutes in the bathroom scrubbing my hands, fingernails, arms, elbows, shirt, face, pants, and hair – and sat down to my computer.

I've just realized that I missed some – now there's chocolate icing on my Delete key.

Like most kitchen nightmares, this one began with a Brilliant Idea. I have been baking cookies for my on-going bake sale. Today, I thought I would make cookies cut out in the letters MIT, since most of the people who live in my building go to MIT. Brilliant.

I had just the recipe, standard and simple:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream the butter, cream the sugar, add the egg, cream some more. Mix the dry stuff, add to wet, refrigerate 2 hours, preheat 350, parchment-lined baking sheets, roll dough into letters, bake 10 minutes – done. Simple.

Crisis 1: turns out in the oven the dough spreads like cholera. Instead of the crisp, neat MIT cookies I had shaped, I had blobs that vaguely resembled the Fantasia dancing hippos.

Ever the clever girl, I grabbed a knife and carved the still-soft cookie into the letters I wanted. Voila. Crisis averted – MIT cookies. Brilliant.

MIT Cookies 1
One stroke of brilliance demands another. These plain-jane cookies need some icing, thought I. Maybe one letter iced in chocolate, one in vanilla, and one left plain. A tri-color MIT cookie. Chocolate first:

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened coca powder
1 Tbsp water

Mix, mix, mix: icing. Painted the chocolate icing onto one letter from each and left to dry. Came back - cookies had simply absorbed icing, leaving disgusting chocolate residue on surface.


Ok, don't panic, said I to myself. You're a clever girl, you can fix this. Time for some thicker icing. Perhaps the black-and-white frosting combo used for New York-Style Black and White Cookies of Seinfeld's "Look to the cookie!" fame. Brilliant.

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
3 Tbsp water
2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Melt the chocolate, boil the corn syrup and water, add the sugar, add vanilla, add half of vanilla mixture to chocolate mixture, mix, mix, mix: two icings.

Minor panic when used chocolate-covered spoon to stir vanilla icing by mistake, but managed to scoop out all the little bits of chocolate, so vanilla icing only turned a slight tan color.

Started painting cookies with vanilla icing. Very thick icing, as it turns out. Really had to smear it on. First cookie broke along the "M". Hmm. Second cookie broke along the "M". Not good. Too thick. Add some oil. Mix, mix, mix – knocked over open oil jar with mixing elbow, oil all over kitchen floor.

After cleaning up oil, both icings had solidified. Added a bit of oil (from jar, not from floor) to each, and - carefully replacing oil jar lid and setting back on shelf - mixed icings again. Ok. Painted third cookie. Broke along the "M." Icing hard again. Ridiculous. Time for something new.

Icing Disaster
After carefully washing hands with antibacterial soap and very hot water, I scooped up some of the icing with my fingers and physically molded it onto the cookies. The icing was so sticky, though, that it wouldn't spread and formed disgusting, gooey clumps all over me. (Icing stuck to me no problem, but not to cookies - paranormal culinary phenomenon that MIT engineers should be alerted to?).

Whatever – they're not going to look great, said I, but I'm going to finish them and sell them and raise much-needed money for autism research, which is whole point of making MIT cookies in first place.

Molded – globbed, really - the vanilla icing onto two cookies, getting more all over me than over the cookies - then unceremoniously ran out. A dozen more cookies, no more vanilla icing. There was no way I was going to dump another 3 cups of confectioner's sugar into these ridiculous cookies, so I moved on to chocolate, which had, again, solidified.

Oil, oil, oil, mix, mix, mix - curdled but functional chocolate icing. By this point, I have MIT-shaped cookies laid out on foil and wax paper on every available surface of my kitchen, and I've just realized that the oil hasn't actually come up off my floor so I've been tracking it around everywhere with my hiking boots. Whatever – am going to finish cookies.

Mold, mold, mold, break, break, break. The M part of MIT is simply not working - it breaks every time.

Come on, clever girl.

Ok, if I cut off the "M" part of the cookies, I'm actually left with a cookie shaped like the Greek symbol pi, which of course the MIT crowd would just go batty for. So I started amputating the soggy, broken limbs of the "M" in the cookies to create pi symbols. Except that the cookies, though soggy through the "M", are still crisp enough everywhere else to simply shatter into a billion bits when cut with a knife.

Bowl of chocolate icing in hand, I look around my kitchen to see that every surface is covered in shattered, soggy, icing-globbed bits of MIT-shaped cookies, and now it's dark out and I have been "baking" these for the last 5 hours, and, looking down, my chocolate icing has solidified again and there's oily boot tracks all over my kitchen floor.

Somewhere between despondent and giddy, I picked up a bit of a vanilla-globbed, amputated "M" and ate it. And it was really, really good.

Enough is enough - these are not cookies destined to raise that $10 for autism research - they're destined to be my dinner. I'll save the children tomorrow - tonight I'm coming down off my hubris-driven rampage of cleverness and eating some damn good cookies.

And I'm cleaning up tomorrow.


Calli said...

I love this story! Reminds me of some of my more 'clever' moments in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

I sent the story on to my sister and friend who will also be able to relate. I have been in this situation many times, but I have never had any humor accompany the process. AND usually in those instances the cookies did NOT taste good.

MissWindUpBird said...

I just have to tell you, this is the funniest and most familiar story I have ever heard. I had to call over my boyfriend and made him read it too...we were both laughing uproariously. I flail like this on a regular basis, but your determination far out shines my own. Kudos to you, you really stuck through, and for your just desserts no less. Thank you ever so much for sharing!