Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Always the same, like never before

This past Saturday, I baked eight dozen cookies. The same ones I always bake with a couple extra batches thrown in. I never tire of baking cookies I like, so it's always a predictable contribution from me. A friend of mine has a cookie exchange every year and while you may be thinking that a cookie exchange sounds awfully dull and boring, she also serves food and drink, and things like hot chai with Bailey's (my personal favorite) and wine. Instead of exchanging recipes, we all sit around, eat celery dipped in dill something or other and talk and gossip and joke about all the injustices in the world. Particularly, about how designers can make clothes any size they want to and then slap a number on it and call it an 8. That way, at one store, you're feeling dang good and the next, you want to hang yourself in the fitting room.

This bit of the holiday season is actually one of my favorite parts of all of it. I'm at home, in comfortable clothes, mixing and blending and rolling and measuring. I have the Christmas music annoyingly loud and the entire house smells like a big blanket of sugar and spice that you want to wrap yourself in for the entire Winter, only leaving for more warm-from-the-oven goodness. I feel quite domestic in times like this and not so much because I didn't burn one single batch this year, but because I answered the door and greeted the UPS man while wiping my hands on my apron. What, I ask you, is more domestic that that?

This is also the first year I didn't feel the need to eat every single cookie I'd baked. Usually, I have to eat one of each batch (I know, I know) but this year, after eight dozen cookies plus two experimental recipes (not pictured), I was so sick of cookies I could have thrown them out and not blinked. But I didn't, I sealed them all tightly until the next day when I transferred them into a tissue paper lined basket and presented them at the party. (Presented in a basket. That sounds ridiculous. I can't even spell Longaberger!)

I also was careful to save a few cookies for the constructive criticism of the best cookie baker this side of the Mississippi. Which side of the Mississippi, you ask? All sides. Grandma, of course. I always want her opinion and even more so in the last couple years. You see, I've developed quite the competition of cookie baking with Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe, forester and lumber guy by day, is a baking dynamo. He bakes pies from apples grown in his back yard, for crying out loud. Anyhow, a couple years ago, he shared some cookie recipes with me. Particularly, Snickerdoodles. Everyone has always ooooed and ahhhhed over Uncle Joe's Snickerdoodles, including me. (Chocolate hater = HUGE fan of the non-chocolate cookies.)
It wasn't long, though, before I hated waiting for Uncle Joe's cookies. I wanted to make my own, all the time. So, I started with the exact recipe, an approach which lasted batch after batch for a good year. Then, one day when I was feeling particularly critical of the World's Most Perfect Non-chocolate Cookie, I decided to use half the shortening required in the recipe and make up for it in butter. I did the same with the Peanut Butter cookie recipe.
Best and likely the most important decision I've ever made in the kitchen.
So this evening, at Grandma's, I nervously handed her the tin of cookies. She opened it, removed one, took a bite and thought carefully. I, sitting on the edge of my chair for what seemed like a good ninety to 100 seconds, leaned forward.
"So, are they good."
She just sat, took another bite, leaned toward me and whispered, as if we weren't alone, "Better than Uncle Joe's."

Christmas miracles come in many forms.


Backofpack said...

You know, I although I'm sure your Grandma is a cookie whiz, I really don't know her and therefore, can't really trust her judgement. It's probably best if you just mail me some so I can test them myself, okay?

(Truly, there is nothing better than words of praise from Grandma!)

GirlGoyle said...

Perfect! Just perfect. I was thinking this morning how I would love to wake up to the smell of cinamon wafting through the house and enjoy a cup of coffee and some cookies while watching the birds through my kitchen window. And voila...here they are, the cookies! Please add me to your mailing list. I cannot wait to try them!

Runner Girl FL said...

Snickerdoodles!! YUM!!!

Add me to the list!

I can have lots of carbs till Jan 7th.


Danielle said...

Ah snickerdoodles...they are one of my favorite!! I've made cookies and presented them to people before and always gotten lots of compliements (making all different kinds)...I do have a secret...one that I discovered almost a bit on accident, never, ever use the crap vanilla you can buy in the US...the Mexican vanilla is key!! When mine ran out, I discovered truly how great eBay is!!

Sizzle said...

hee hee- i love a good christmas miracle!

e.b. said...

Those cookies sure do look delicious.....

Celina said...

ooohh... will you share recipes?? I HATE baking, but I'm trying to make myself like it more. (All of my cookies/brownies/cakes come from a box.) I tend to burn nearly everything. (Maybe I should invest in a timer?!)
The cookie exchange sounds FANTASTIC!

justrun said...

BoP- I so would. But maybe AFTER Christmas... I'm a little cookied out. Email, seriously, I will.

GG- Isn't it great?? That smell- love it! I'll send you some, too- see above!

RGF- I so will! And the big day, it's almost here!! How do you feel?

Danielle- I did not know that about the vanilla- I will have to try it!

Sizzle- It truly was! :)

e.b.- I'll add you to the list. See above. :)

Celina- I'd be happy to... I must warn everyone, they are not cookies for the calorie conscious days. They contain shortening AND butter. :) I also must say, though, they are very easy!

Sister Buckle said...

Man, I really loved that post. We both live *gloriously* alone and I relate, very strongly, to your solo domestic bliss. The whole things was delicious!

Especially this part:

"I answered the door and greeted the UPS man while wiping my hands on my apron. What, I ask you, is more domestic that that?"

I bet he thought about that all day! Heh heh.

Dawn said...

I ALWAYS taste each batch...the key is to just take a bite and throw the rest of the cookie out. That way, I don't feel like such a piggy.

justacoolcat said...

Are those last ones peanut butter cookies? YUM!

Great work, I'd agree; better than Uncle Joe's.

justacoolcat said...

Holy Moly! BetaBlogger let me comment!


Joe said...

This post just made me starving and also filled with a bit of yuletide cheer. I could almost smell them cooking through my computer.