Last year at work, Rand participated in the Christmas Cookie Exchange. I baked his cookies for him, and scanned my mother’s well-worn and well-loved sugar cookie recipe. In their exchange, they gift 2 cookies per person of all the cookies contributed, plus a copy of the recipe. This year when he said “I need cookies for the Cookie Exchange Monday” I said I had a great idea! Make your grandmother’s Fancy Party Cookies …because I really do not have time to do that. I am on overload this fall, and it has been a challenge to survive, let alone clean house, do laundry, and for sure, bake Christmas cookies.
So, Sunday afternoon, off he went to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients for Fancy Party Cookies, returning with flour (we had some in the refrigerator), cookie sheet (we have one, but it would have required ‘sand-blasting’ according to him), real [his words] almond extract, and Bluebonnet Margarine–because that is what Grandmother’s recipe required. Off I go to my room to grade papers.
Knock knock knock. “I need some help. Can you come in here?”
There on the counter is a bowlful of flour, butter, sugar, egg, salt, almond extract… “It won’t stick together.” Did you put all the ingredients in? Let’s check. Check. You are not supposed to use the hand mixer. Maybe that is the issue. “I tried a spoon…it broke.”
Since this was basically a sugar cookie recipe, I suggested we check Mom’s recipe for comparison. Nope, no comparison: Mom’s called for more eggs, more sugar, more flour, vanilla extract, and more Crisco–not butter or margarine, along with salt. I might add that Mom’s sugar cookies are famous world-wide solely because I have baked them in other countries, and in Texas from the Panhandle to the coast, in Mississippi, and last year, her recipe was awarded “best authentic recipe” but I think that was because I scanned the dog-eared, food-spilled-on, torn-edged recipe just as I use it.
He decided to add an egg, and I suggested he not use the mixer (which even his grandmother’s recipe instructions said) and said he needed a big fork. Okay, he said he could take it from there and I went back to grading and he went back to making cookies.
Knock knock knock. “Can you come here?” Of course, honey. “What do you think?” Well, it seems a bit doughy, probably because it is overworked with the mixer. Is that unusual flavor the almond extract? “I think so. Now what?” The recipe says to roll out marble size balls, flatten them with a glass dipped in sugar. “How big is a marble?” Oh, I am thinking about this size [pointing to the jar of marbles from his childhood that are on the shelf next to Grandmother’s recipe]. He rolls a golf-ball sized ball. Okay, honey, that should work, too.
Yeah, you know what is coming next, don’t you? Knock knock knock. “What temperature do I put the oven? 350?” The recipe does not say? “Would I be down here asking if it did?” Yes, 350 will work; that is a moderate oven. Your grandmother probably made these on a wood-fired oven. Well probably she did not, since she had an electric hand mixer, but still…
Knock knock knock. “How long should they cook?” I’m guessing the recipe doesn’t say that either? Mom’s said 8 minutes, but you should probably check to see when they are just lightly browned as you do not want the bottoms to burn. Down the hall I go to check them and they are about perfectly browned, so I suggested he let them cool and check them and decide if the next sheet needs more or less time. Yep, that is how I learned to cook.
“What if they are terrible and no one likes them?” You know what I think? That they will appreciate that you baked these cookies, and that you made your grandmother’s recipe, and that even if they do not like them, they will not tell you because it is the Christmas Cookie Exchange and you put forth the effort.
Knock knock knock. He presents a cookie at the door. Yes, this is good! What did you do? “Sugar. Now, what do I put them in?”
He bagged the cookies 2 to a bag (that is how the exchange works) and nestled them in a pretty box I had in the pantry (because I love pretty boxes) and toted them off this morning. He brought home the box with the 2 cookies of each recipe others brought. I think I know what is for dinner tonight.