For the love of cookies

I love cookies. I kind of love cookies a lot.

Baking was one of the first things I ever found I was good at – and once I learned to bake, my mother stopped. I remember my mother making this phenomenal brownie pie when I was younger. Once I could reach the knobs on the oven and read a cookbook? Those days were gone.

There are cooks and there are bakers, and often a person is one or the other but rarely both.

I am a baker.

And just as much as I love to bake cookies, I sure do love to eat them.

Baking is a therapeutic activity for me – sometimes, I bake just for the end result: I crave cookies, want cookies, need cookies. There’s a bake sale. There’s a birthday. There’s a {insert activity that requires a baked good here}. Those are the times when I like to get my kids involved in the process.

Sometimes, I don’t necessarily want or need something sweet – rather, I need the process of baking: I need to measure, mix, scoop. I need the scent of vanilla and the crack of fresh eggs into a mixture of creamed butter and sugar. I need the task of scooping dough onto parchment and the scent of those ingredients becoming cookies in a 350 degree oven. I need a cooling rack filled with treats and that first bite of a cookie fresh from the oven, chocolate still oozing.

My sister is a cook. She doesn’t enjoy baking. The precision is not her thing – she hates to measure. Baking is dependent on precision to a degree.

I think the fact that I love it so much is one of the key ingredients in everything I bake.

But for those of you who are not inclined to bake, here are some of my favorite tips on making good cookies:

  • Use real butter. There’s a time and a place for the fakey stuff. I understand, you’re watching your cholesterol which is generally a good idea – but fake butter has no place in cookies. The consistency will be off – and your cookies will probably end up looking more like tortillas.
  • Speaking of the real thing: Imitation vanilla is for chumps. I know it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t taste as good as the real stuff. It doesn’t even SMELL as good.
  • Know the difference between baking powder and baking soda. There’s a difference. They are not interchangeable.
  • Parchment paper rules the world. See that picture up there? My cookie dough balls are on parchment paper. This makes cookies easier to get off the pan when they’re done. Also, I break and burn fewer cookies using parchment paper.
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise somewhat. One of the best cookies I’ve had recently was a chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt – and I am KICKING myself I didn’t think of it first. Yum. Recently I made a cookie with peanuts, pretzels, M&Ms and chocolate chips. It was the Queen Bee of PMS cookies. Think of flavors you like and try them together – the worst thing that could happen is you throw away a batch of cookies.
  • Share. Everyone asks how I can fit through my door way – I’m always baking cookies, so I should be like ten feet wide, right? Wrong. I eat one or two and give the rest away. It’s just enough to kick a craving, but not too much. Also, it makes people happy when I share. And that’s awesome.

As time goes by, I’ll share some cookie recipes with you. Maybe. If you’re nice.

Do you have a favorite kind of cookie? Mine’s peanut butter. Or is that chocolate chip? Or oatmeal? Or gingerbread cookies? Or….

Sugar and Sugar and… Loud Laughy Men In My Dining Room

At just past 11 on a Saturday evening I am still awake and I am still blogging, though thinking of curling up in bed with a book and just vegging. Sleep, while that would be really nice, seems like somewhat of a long shot as I hear the guys in my dining room bursting into random fits of laughter. At some point after dinner tonight, phone calls were made and it was determined that tonight would be poker night. And that poker night would be in my dining room. Lovely.

Guess it’s hard for me to complain (too much) because I have had a lovely day. My best friend (or as she so sweetly called me on her blog, “sister of heart” – which I tell you what, I’m such a sucker, that was the sweetest thing EVER!) and her sister-in-law came over to take over my kitchen and include me in their holiday baking extravaganza. Minor note: Nothing went into the oven. No baking took place. A whole lot of melting of stuff in makeshift double boilers but the oven stayed off. Apparently they do this every year – making a whole freakin’ ton of good things and kind of using them throughout the holiday season when special occcasions/events come up. Smart, right? I think so. Now, I have to make sure I have enough special occasions to use all this stuff otherwise I’ll just eat it (I’ll totally mail someone stuff if they ask nicely. Because I’m nice.)

Today, I got to be a part of it. We made Nanaimo bars (which I had never heard of, to be honest – but the crust is chocolate, butter, powdered sugar, coconut and walnuts. YUM), chocolate peanut butter balls (sometimes called “buckeyes” but NOT on the day that Michigan loses to OSU, thankyouverymuch) and chocolate covered pretzels.

We tripled and in some cases quadrupled the original recipes. In case of peanut butter balls, that required fifteen cups of powdered sugar and six cups of peanut butter and a god awful amount of butter. In case you wondered what that looked like, see below:
Healthy, right?

After several hours of making yummy things, we all packed up our stuff, dishes were washed, and the other ladies went home. I finished cleaning my kitchen (including scrubbing my floor which somehow managed to see a lot of melted chocolate – what a mess!). It was such a fun time, and I am really resisting the urge to eat all the chocolate pretzels now. Especially the ones with white chocolate because those are really yummy.

So, it’s probably not just the loud goofy guys in the dining room keeping me awake, but kinda sorta the fact that I maybe had a teensy tiny bit of a lot of sugar today. Whoops.