Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm in December.

As I walked home last evening from work, I noticed that the snow was gathering like white sugar in the cracks of the pavement. I was finally in the mood for my favorite season: baking. Since I just moved back to Michigan from California, leaving all cookware but a spaghetti pot, a baking sheet, and some fist-fulls of mismatched dinnerware behind me in foggy San Francisco, cooking in my new kitchen is always an adventure. In an effort to save money, I have vowed to only buy what I need when I need it. However, the need usually arrives halfway through a recipe, so I've been forced on many occasions to improvise.

Today, I decided to bake sugar cookies. The grocery store where I work got in a new holiday item this year that I could not pass up. It's a sugar cookie making kit complete with colored sugar sprinkles, icing, baking mix, and three cookie cutters, a snowman, an evergreen tree, and a star. Normally I prefer to bake my cookies from scratch, but I know I can't buy all the ingredients for even sugar cookies plus three cookie cutters for only $3.99! And remember: I'm trying to save money. So I bought it (well, actually, my mother inadvertently bought it for me) and today was the day to give it a try.

First things first, preheat the oven and spray the cookie sheet. Check! Next, cream together one egg and 2/3 cup softened butter. Uh-oh. My butter is kept in the fridge and is as hard as limestone. And have I mentioned that I don't own a microwave? Well, no problem, the oven's heating up, so I'll just put the stick of butter in there! It mostly worked. I removed the very drippy stick just as it was about to start falling apart like Senator Kelly in the X-Men movie. I tried cutting off my 2/3 cup with a butter knife (which I had to wash beforehand because I was fresh out of clean ones - I think I own four), but it only went squish. So I took out my one lone Oneida sharp knife that my mother gave me after I moved and used that. (The butter still went a little squish.)

So I got the butter and the egg in my pint-size mixing bowl (mixing bowl is at the top of my To Buy list) and began creaming. Only the butter wouldn't cream. The inside was still solid. I let it sit a moment while I continued on with my directions. I was supposed to flour a surface area on which to roll out the dough. Another hiccup. I didn't have any flour.

Sighing, I looked at the clock and saw that it was only half past noon. I had to work at five, and I had wanted to have the cookies done before then so that I could try to mail them out tomorrow or the next day to my friends for the holidays. I was pretty darn sure that I could not fake flour (though if anyone knows how, let me know!), and I had a list of other things that I had wanted to pick up for some new vegetarian recipes I want to try out this week, so I threw on my jacket, grabbed my re-usable grocery bags and toddled across the parking lot to the grocery store. (I live less than a five minute walk from my job. Very convenient!)

About halfway there, I realized that I forgot my carefully written shopping list. Curses! I didn't want to go back through the cold just for that, even if it was two minutes. Well, I reasoned, I remembered the main things, and whatever I might forget, I'd be back again at five and could try to bring it home with me then. So I continued on my way for my meager ingredients and was back home before one. (And as it turns out, I remembered all but one thing on my shopping list. Point for me!)

On my triumphant march home, I remembered something else I didn't have, something that the grocery store didn't carry: a rolling pin. Luckily, my mother showed me a trick years ago to remedy this. Just use a smooth, round glass instead. And praise the spirits of Winter, I have one! (But only one. I should probably add "rolling pin" to my To Buy list.)

So the cookies were made, cut out, and the first batch was put in the oven. I set the timer for eight minutes, and the cookies came out beautifully. I put in the second batch which I had ready on another cookie sheet sitting on top of the stove. I closed the oven and went to set the timer. Problem: the oven door wouldn't close all the way.

I live in a 500 square feet apartment. The kitchen is a good enough size for one person (I've had worse), but there isn't enough room for the dishwasher the landlord had promised me (I opted not to get the roll-away, because I couldn't figure where to keep it), and apparently it also isn't large enough for a full size oven. I knew my oven was small - the stovetop only has one large-size burner that just barely fits my Meijer clearance tea kettle - but it isn't even large enough to fit your basic, average, everyday cookie sheet? The first cookie sheet I used was from Ikea and more square (I used it previously as a pizza pan, which I think technically it is), and seems to be the exact size of the interior of my oven. But it had still warm cookies on it, and I was on a time crunch! So the second batch of cookies was baked with the oven door partially open and the timer set for a few minutes longer.

When the timer went off, I cautiously opened the oven door (all the way) and peeked inside. They weren't done. In case they weren't being cooked evenly all over, I flipped the cookie sheet around then put it back in. I didn't know how much longer to cook them, so I turned the oven off and decided to let them sit and see how they were after a few more minutes. There is a lesson I've recently learned after boiling down a pot of spaghetti and losing half the noodles that I should ALWAYS set a timer. I wouldn't say my mind wanders, but...

By the time I remembered the second batch of cookies, they were a little overdone. Yeah, so they were a little crispy, so what? I tried one, and still tasted fine, so I went ahead and decorated both batches of cookies and set them in the fridge to be packed up tomorrow and sent off to their new homes.

But before I locate my nearest post office, there is tomorrow morning's project: gingerbread cookies! I've never made gingerbread cookies. I have maybe half a dozen boxes of gingerbread baking mix in the cupboard from work (don't ask) and I've only ever made it into cake form. So wish me luck and pray I remember to set the timer!


  1. Good luck with the gingerbread! I only made it once, but it took some work for kneading.

  2. My goodness, that is an adventure! You must post pics of your finished work!