My holiday season was bookended by cookies. In retrospect I aptly titled my first cookie post “The Fellowship of the Cookie” (a clever takeoff on “Lord of the Rings”) since my cookie-baking activity then burgeoned into its own trilogy.
After my all-day Cookie-Palooza with my friend John (“The Fellowship of the Cookie”), I had another baking day after my son and unidentified friends decimated the molasses cookies. Due to popular demand, I spent another afternoon baking replacement molasses cookies, but this time I worked alone and the cookies didn’t come out nearly as tasty the second time. I could’ve entitled that post (had I written it) “The Two Cookies” to follow my Lord of the Rings theme, and to explore why two batches of the same recipe can come out so maddeningly different. But, quite frankly, I didn’t find that topic all that stimulating and nothing very funny or thought provoking happened while I was baking by myself.
However, the exciting third and concluding installment of my cookie trilogy came on New Years Day, when my son and his friends gathered for an impromptu cookie-baking party in my kitchen. I might not have written about this as I’m careful not to embarrass my son or his friends or violate their privacy on social media, but to my great surprise, they actually asked if I would write a post (which of course flattered me no end). Hence, I invent the cookie trilogy as a means to prolong my cookie baking stories and hereby dub this third installment “The Return of the Cookie”.
The New Years Day cookie gathering was rather fluid. The day before, my son mentioned in passing that two of his friends, Maryam and Nicole, wanted to come over and bake cookies on New Years Day. My husband developed a nasty cold on New Year’s Eve, so on New Year’s Day he was locked in the bedroom coughing and sneezing. When my son got up at about noon, I asked him about his plans for the cookie baking get-together at 1:00 and he said he didn’t have any. I asked if Nicole and Maryam were bringing the ingredients or if we would be supplying them and he didn’t know but guessed they would use ours. He then suggested that I oversee the baking.
I was pretty darn steamed to have all this sprung on me, right? Au contraire! I was [secretly] thrilled!!! Because this meant I was free to openly spend the entire afternoon with my son and three of his friends (that I adore) doing an activity that I love (baking, of all things). I could not have scripted a better day myself, but since they conceived it, they would find the whole baking experience entertaining. Bravo!
So how did it go? It was beyond fun. Maryam and Nicole came over first and we chatted and laughed for a while. The kids compared notes on their New Years Eve activities. Maryam and I discovered a mutual love of the Sound of Music soundtrack and performed an impressive impromptu duet of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Then we started on the cookies. I laid out my recipes and they chose two – shortbread and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
Their friend Jacob joined, as they were finishing up the shortbread dough. While the shortbread was in the oven, they started on the oatmeal cookies. Throughout the baking process, they worked together as a team, talking and laughing and catching up. The four of them had been in the same high school theatre class. Jacob was a freshman when the other three were seniors. Now Jacob’s a high school senior and the other three juniors at different colleges. I loved being a fly on the wall and listening to their easy banter. I let them do the actual baking, but I provided supplies and washed dishes and cleaned up and was available for questions and emergency consultations as needed.
The shortbread cookies were magnificent. They were cooked just right and the buttery flavor superb. In fact, the kids clearly did a better job than I since I badly overcooked my shortbread two weeks ago. There were high-fives all around and a shared sense of accomplishment. I don’t think any of them had done much baking before and it was fun to see the excited look of discovery on their faces.
Then the timer went off for the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. My son had been placed in charge of the beaters, and after creaming the egg, sugar and shortening he’d voiced some concern with the consistency (i.e., lack of creamy-ness). When the cookies emerged from the oven, they looked odd (fixed in the same hard ball-shape as when dropped onto the cookie sheet). We each simultaneously tasted a small sample and were collectively relieved and pleased with the taste…warm and sweet and oatmeal-y….. and then KA-BOOM! We were all slapped with a powerful surge of SALT. We suddenly and concurrently needed water, and fast. We almost did synchronized gagging and spitting.
During our post-mortem on the oatmeal cookies, we realized that a miscalculation of sugar content had occurred. Rather than the 1-¼ cups of packed brown sugar the recipe called for, only ¼ cup was added. (I personally blame this on my mother-in-law’s handwriting on the recipe card.)
In any event, given the level of brainpower and applied education assembled in my kitchen, it’s not surprising that a clever fix was quickly identified. I believe it was Maryam who proposed that, rather than a taste problem, we simply had a branding issue on our hands. After some discussion, and great deal of laughter, it was agreed that we had not made bad-tasting oatmeal cookies; rather, we had produced awesome oatmeal pretzel balls. Pretzel balls that taste really good with beer. With that, the entire endeavor was declared a huge success and the kids each took home a sample of the shortbread cookies. Unfortunately, re-branding notwithstanding, the oatmeal pretzel balls were left behind.
Since my son was leaving the next day to head back to college, the good-byes were heartfelt and poignant as the kids spoke wistfully of not seeing each other again until next summer. But before they took leave, they decided to make cookie baking at our house a New Years tradition. Looks like I’ve added two new traditions to my holidays and they both involve cookies and good friends. And I couldn’t be happier. Here’s hoping that next year we indeed have “The Return of the Cookie!”