Tuesday, February 16, 2010

if at first you don't succeed...

I believe I made mention last week that we were decorating cookies at church for Valentine's Day. Our plan was to package and deliver them to a local campground that has served as an oasis for homeless families, a rare place where parents and children could stay together. It turns out that most of those families are now gone, so we began to wonder if we should bother with the cookies. We decided that yes, we would. For one thing it was an opportunity for our women to do something together, and there were certainly others that could be cheered by an unexpected plate of cookies.

As noted several days ago I grew up in a baking household. Make valentine cookies? No problem! What I didn't remember is that in days of old The Mothers (that's what we called them) made the cookies and we, The Fortunate Children, decorated.

There's a reason I gave away most of my cookie cutters a few years ago. Rolling out dough and cutting shapes is a thankless and lengthy process. Of course I rarely do this so I am not practiced and astute about the timing of all things cookie cutter related, but with dough whose consistency fluctuates because of its butter content (cold butter, hard dough; warm butter, too-soft dough), timing is everything. Ordinarily I'm a patient person who lives in the moment of such a process. This was not the case the other day when I had a deadline to meet.

Fast forward to the decorating party at church. I arrived with my heart-shaped cookies (don't they look fab?), our stand mixer and the ingredients to make the much discussed royal icing for decorating. Yes, that should have been prepared at home beforehand, but read above about deadlines. The cookies themselves were barely out of the oven! Anyway, I set up shop in the church kitchen and got busy. Egg whites were in the bowl ready to go. Oops, forgot the vanilla extract! Meh. Move on. I start up the mixer and watch the eggs begin to foam. Great excitement! I realize that the bowl is in the wrong position so I turn off the mixer and shift the bowl. Turn the mixer back on and it won't engage past speed one. Long story short: the motor is burning out. Great. No icing.

I'm the only one who brought heart-shaped cookies so I decide to leave those for further pursuit at a later time and join the decorating party in progress.

Fast forward again. The decorating party was on Friday. Once home from that event my day was full with other tidbits to address. Saturday we had our vestry retreat. Sunday was, well, typical: church, nap, grogginess, Olympics. The cookies are still in the container and, discouraged that I have missed the event, I decide to put them in the freezer and deal with them later. Monday dawns: a new day! let's try to make the icing using the hand mixer and pack up the decorated cookies to send out on Tuesday!

At a certain critical point the recipe for the icing reads: "Beat at high speed until the icing forms stiff, shiny peaks. This should take 5 - 7 minutes." Thirty minutes later I still didn't have stiff, shiny peaks. The hand mixer lacks the power to puff this baby into peaks. Despair! The project is a bust! My life is ruined!

I take a time out and work on the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle.

Later I return to the kitchen and play with the icing still sitting in the bowl. What the heck. Let's decorate with what we've got! And so I did.

Here are the my best results. Several were were total losers and won't be seen in public, but the majority were respectable enough for a total amateur to share.

Now the question is, will they hold up in the mail? At this point, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Just remember that it's the thought that counts. Next year? Brownies.


The Bug said...

I'm sorry to say that I would have been dipping the cookies in the icing & eating them that way when the peaks wouldn't form. Mmm - that sounds really good!

But your cookies look fabulous! You did a great job!

I reminded Dr. M to look at the Pampered Chef stuff again (he's the classic absent-minded professor). I already have a list of small items - he'd better get with it!

Janet M said...

Those cookies look just wonderful, beautiful job on them.

Jayne said...

Oh my.... I am wiping away the tears... bless your sweet heart! Hey, I think that the finished product is absolutely professional quality! Seriously! Look at those beautiful creations!

Jan said...

Pretty cookies. Decorated cookies are a lot of trouble, something I rarely do. Am considering baking cookies tonight as a mass appeal came out for the Diocesan conference this weekend. But it's just an excuse, since I'd like to nibble on the dough and eat some snitches.


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