Dec 29, 2004

Brown Christmas

I attempted to make Anisette Christmas cookies this year from a recipe given to me from one of the residents at my mom's nursing home. I should have known I was going to be in for some major kitchen trouble when the recipe called for 8 cups of flour.

I gathered all the ingredients and set out to make my first batch of homemade cookies. As I measured out each cup of flour, I was surprised that I needed to keep getting a bigger and bigger bowl. As I was on my 7th cup of flour, my heart sank as I realized there wasn' t any more flour in the house.

My husband suggested using Wheat flour for the last cup. I'm not very good at math, but my notion of how percents work left me to believe that 7 cups of white flour would do very well masking one-cup of wheat flour. So I stirred everything together and much to my horror discovered that even one small cup of wheat flour will turn 7 cups of white flour BROWN! (You know Anisette cookies are supposed to be white, right?) And did I forget to mention that the recipe called for the entire bottle of my anisette flavoring? The kitchen reeked of artificial licorice and I was covered up to my wrists in brown cookie dough.

I managed to roll some of the dough into round balls and spaced them nicely on a cookie sheet. On another, I simply scooped the pasty dough from the massive mixing bowl and splatted it onto another cookie sheet. Regardless of my technique, the cookies baked for the intended ten minutes and came out as either split brown balls or brown lumps with exaggerated peaks and valleys.

After twenty minutes, I was left with 60 brown cookies that smelled of licorice and about seventeen pounds of cookie dough that still needed to be formed, baked and sprinkled with festive glaze. I did what all good beginners are supposed to do when faced with a monumentally difficult task ~ I gave up. I dumped out the seventeen pounds of dough in the wastebasket and set about the task of making the remaining 60 cookies look presentable and pretty.

I slopped the glaze made up confectioner’s sugar and milk onto the hot cookies and watched as the sticky sweetness drizzled over the cookies and down into base of the aluminum-foiled cookie tin. The glaze was clear and not as white as I would have expected, but I figured with time it would harden up and change color. I took out my bottle of brightly-colored non-pareils and started shaking these little happy balls all over the cookies. I began to get a little hopeful seeing how nicely they clung to the glaze and began to think I might be able to pass these off as a gift to my mother on Christmas Eve.

I wasn’t so na├»ve as to think she would find them delicious, but I thought she would at least appreciate my efforts in the kitchen. For once her daughter cooked something that didn’t come out of a box or require a can opener!

As you might have suspected, my mother couldn’t say enough about my anisette cookies. She thought I did a great job and professed to love them so much that she was going to give them out as a gift to the nurses. "No! Please don’t do that." I pleaded trying to take the cookie tin away from her. But she insisted and the next day dropped off my tin of homemade cookies at the nurse’s station for all to enjoy.

"Guess what? Almost all of your cookies are gone!" She said on the telephone the next day. I cringed with embarrassment thinking of what the nurses must have been saying behind my mother’s back after she handed out her daughter’s homemade cookies. "They really, really liked them!" Yea, right. (I had previously taste-tested them and trust me on this- they were horrific. Although they did taste like anisette cookies, the cookies aesthetic appearance is what did them in. The cookies turned out to be all moist and soggy and many of them were sunken in on themselves after fermenting in the sugary glaze because I hadn’t let them cool off before applying the topping.)

Apparently one of the nurses went so far as to say I made the cookies even healthier by adding a cup of wheat flour. Somehow, in my mother’s mind this was supposed to make me feel better about my first adventure in the kitchen making Christmas cookies.

So what did I learn this past Christmas making cookies? Well, my mother will always be my biggest cheerleader no matter how much I screw up in the kitchen. Oh! And going forward, I am never to rely on my deficient math skills when deciding to substitute ingredients in a recipe.

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