It's that time of year again, the time when I believe impossible, unbelievable things -- like maybe I'm a decent baker.
I've made a whole list of cookies I plan on
baking trying not to completely ruin this Christmas, starting with today's eggnog cookies.
I found this recipe in the Chicago Tribune food section a few weeks ago. The paper has a book of its past holiday cookie recipe winners coming out soon (or, it is out...ish), and, as a promotion, the Trib featured past recipes in the weeks leading up to the release. I saw the eggnog cookie recipe and its short list of ingredients and thought, "Hey, I can do that!" Like a damn moron.
So, I gathered up the stuff and I bought the eggnog (Oberweis, because I'd rather help keep him in the dairy business than in politics). I recruited the help of the children and we got started.
There was nothing really bizarre or remarkable about this recipe. No overly delicate instructions, no warnings that breathing too hard near the dough might cause the cookies to fall. There was creaming. There was a bowl of dry ingredients to fold in. The only thing I thought was weird at the outset was that there was no salt on the ingredients list.
I knew things were not going to turn out well when I reached the ball forming stage. I was supposed to take a heaping spoonful (didn't say what size spoonful) of the dough and roll it between my hands to form a ball. Then I was to place them on baking sheets about an inch apart.
Now, I am a devoted fan of America's Test Kitchen. This is not the first or the twenty-first time I've mentioned it on this blog. ATK is life. Basically everything I make comes from some ATK-adjacent cookbook or TV show. When people are looking for recipes on Facebook and all of their friends are talking about things they found on Pinterest or some shit, I'm the asshole who swoops in and tells them they're all wrong because they only recipes they'll ever need can be found in books with Chris Kimball's picture on them. Throw out the rest. ATK is the best.
So, deep in my heart, I kind of knew things would go awry with the eggnog cookies.
Maybe it was just a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here was the problem with the dough drop: The batter was too sticky. I'd pick it up and roll it between my hands, but 85% of the dough would stay on my hands and the 15% that made it onto the cookie sheet wasn't smooth, but spiky like a sea urchin.
I know what you want to say here: Jules, you should've wet your hands or sprayed them with Pam or dipped them in oil or floured them or something. You're right. And America's Test Kitchen would've told me exactly how to make that ball without making a mess of my hands or the cookies. After rolling the first ball, I knew there had to be a better way to do it, but I was following the recipe. And the recipe just said, "Scoop up dough by heaping spoonfuls; roll into balls." That's it. I felt like Amelia Bedelia, being so literal about the instructions, but I was kind of following them out of spite at this point. I mean, the dude who sent in this recipe probably knows the very best way to roll those balls. I'm sure he's got it down to a science, but he kept that information from us. And whether that was his fault or the Tribune's for wanting to conserve space, it's pretty shitty.
Where's the transparency, Tribune Company?
Anyway, I put the cookies in the oven for 20 minutes, rotating the sheets once (even though the recipe didn't tell me to do that; I've baked enough ATK cookies to do that automatically). I managed to lose a cookie to the bottom of the oven during the rotation, but that one's on me.
The cookies were supposed to bake for 20-23 minutes, which seemed like an obscenely long time, but after even 25 minutes, the cookies were still a tad undercooked and not at all browned on the bottom (which was what the recipe said I was going for). And, yes, my oven was at the correct temperature.
The result of this endeavor was a batch of the homeliest cookies known to man. I cannot and will not share these with friends. Family, maybe.
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