15 December 2008

"Bubbling brown sugar"--Loften Mitchell by way of What's Happening

Sunday night I am baking again. I have the first two trays of cookies in the oven and I start to put the ingredients away.

It is at this point in the baking process--as I am reaching to put it away--that I actually take notice of the brown sugar. *insert string of expletives here*

I look at the oven with the baking sheets inside it. The cookies are starting to brown.

I look at the brown sugar. The box of brown sugar seems to be regarding me smugly. Yeah, you thought I was going in those cookies but guess again, Sucka. It is doing a little end-zone dance.

The recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of brown sugar in the whole thing and this is in addition to the regular sugar in it that I'm sure I put in. Pretty sure. No, I did.

I need those cookies for gifts that I am distributing the next day to co-workers and I don't have enough chocolate to start over.

What to do? It's too late for the darlings in the oven. But what about the rest of the batter? If I can add the brown sugar in at this late stage, how much is the right amount for what's left?

I curse my 4th grade fractions teacher for not yelling at Mitchell Parsons, who distracted me by turning his eyelids inside out. Who can focus on numbers after that? How much to put in... I back off to 1/8 cup, doing my best to try to integrate the brown sugar into the batter that is already dense with oats and chunks of dark chocolate. Urg. It will have to do.

I wish I could say I do this buffoonery for your amusement but, alas, I'm just this pathetic in the kitchen. My gifts lie in other rooms of the house.* No, this sort of slip up is by no means unusual. Cooking and especially baking requires attention to detail, and, as I've said so often, I am not a detail person. And yet, I continue to try to cook and bake. Crazy.

It takes tremendous focus for me to produce something of quality. Even something that should be pretty basic. I find the only way to get it right is to repeat each direction to myself multiple times as I'm doing it, like Rainman, because otherwise it flies out of my brain.

And if I try to do anything WHILE I'm preparing something, god help us all. Whatever you do, don't talk to me while I am in the kitchen. I don't know how many times I've either left something out completely or measured something wrong (wait, that was two teaspoons?? I put in two tablespoons!) because I was trying to carry on a conversation or answer a question while cooking or baking.

Years ago I bought myself a cooking class at L'Academie de Cuisine, thinking I could learn and then I'd be good. *snort* I took a sauces class. How hard could it be to be saucy?

We each had our own little cooking station with a burner and pot and such. The chef/teacher, complete with haughty French accent, did a demo and then encouraged us to try it. I think we were all doing the bordelaise** when he came by. He took one look at my sauce, dumped the pot's contents into the garbage, and turned off my burner. Ouch.

But he was right. I'd totally been chatting with my neighbors and mucked it up.

Back to the cookies... I make smaller cookies from the remaining batter so I'll have enough to go around. I am pleased that I added the 1/8 cup of brown sugar because, where the first two trays are okay, with the brown-sugared version not only is the extra sugar helpful to the flavor but it changes the texture to a much preferable lace cookie experience.

I go on to make chocolate raspberry cookies to augment the gift and these, thankfully, turn out better. 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract... 'Course three minutes to Wapner, yeah. I'm an excellent baker. Excellent...

* Um, the laundry room. I'm hell on wheels with a fabric softener sheet.
** Not a euphemism.


f.B said...

i keep a muzzle near my oven mitts for people who like to talk while i'm cooking

fiona said...

My only pitiful attempt was brown scones. SB came home, looked at them on the plate, in all their brown scone glory and said " Oh Burgers for dinner tonight"
Never again.

Anonymous said...

::taps foot and wonders why her cookies haven't arrived:::

I cook by instinct so I would have melted the brown sugar and coated the cookies in the caramel it made or something.

zandria said...

I haven't made cookies in years and years...too much work, I say, taking them off and on the tray (and watching them to make sure they don't burn). I much prefer cupcakes!!! :)

Mike said...

Directions?! You don't need no stinkin' directions. Make it up as you go along!

Herb of DC said...

Baking has all those complicated rules around measuring, sifting, beating, whipping, etc. and apparently there is no "safe" word.

It is just so much easier to buy the finished product.

Liebchen said...

Um...you were having trouble with lace cookies? You're making me nervous. I attempted them last year (with a disastrous result), and wanted to try them again this year, after consulting my mom (whose recipe it is).

Now I'm contemplating slice and bake.

Kate said...

I'm actually a really good cook/baker now, but when I turned 24? I got three fire extinguishers for my birthday. I'd had four kitchen fires in three months...

rs27 said...

what is this kitchen you speak of? Is it in the bathroom?

Doug said...

I woulda just delivered the cookies and the brown sugar separately. 1 bite cookie 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. It all mixes in the stomach, right??

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I know my 3 1/2 year old niece baked cookies this weekend, but I didn't hear any stories of her having THIS kind of trouble.

Kristin said...

I bake all the time. Most of the time it works, but when it doesn't? It really doesn't.

LBluca77 said...

That is why I just buy cookies and also because I don't think my oven works. At least it didn't 6 months ago. I am going to make some lucky man a great wife.

LiLu said...

I'm okay with cooking, where you can sort of fudge stuff and it still comes out decent or, shockingly enough, sometimes better.

Baking, though? That shiz is like physics. I stay the hell away from it. Or I should, for all y'all's sakes.

LiLu said...

Nay, lady. It is I who am humbled by your presence whenever you pop up in my wee corner of the blogosphere.


lacochran said...

f.B: I should try that! Thanks.

Fiona: :)

SingLikeSassy: *taps foot* Send me your address and I'll send you cookies. Melting the brown sugar? Certainly would have incorporated better but wouldn't it be sweeter than non-melted?

Zandria: I'll bet you make great cupcakes.

Mike: Didn't I see you in the Sierra Madre?

Herb of DC: :) It is, but sometimes my buying experiences don't go as planned. See the post on catalog shopping from a few days ago...

Liebchen: Disastrous? Do tell. Anyway, with Mom's guidance you'll probably do great.

Kate: So that which does not burn me down makes me a better baker?

Rs27: Only at your place.

Doug: I could tell them they were "deconstructed cookies". Very avant-garde.

CharlotteHarris: Zing. Way to boost my ego.

Kristin: I'd take "most of the time."

LBluca77: Are you hell on wheels with a fabric softener sheet?

Lilu: I never did get Physics. Maybe that's my problem. And I hope you had at least a marginally better night last night.

Bilbo said...

I'm a very good cook, but I can't bake to save my life. Icing is what I use to fill in the huge depression left over when cakes fall.