I don’t cuss. Really, I don’t. It’s not that I never have occasion to, I’ve just somehow managed to restrain myself and rarely let a four-letter word slip past my lips. But I have to admit that if you’d been able to see the thought bubbles over my head during the past 24 hours, you probably would’ve blushed. (Ok, most of it was PG-13.)
My baby’s first birthday party is tomorrow, and I just wanted to make some pretty sugar cookies to give as favors. Is that too much to ask? Yes, yes it is. Sadly, this isn’t a tale of my domestic prowess in the kitchen. In fact, if those type of “look how clever I am” mommy blog posts make you feel inferior, this one will probably give you a huge boost of confidence. Or, you’ll be able to relate to my culinary catastrophe and we’ll swap stories over one (or several) glasses of wine someday.
It all started out innocently enough, when I started batch one yesterday (batch two wasn’t in the original plan, but we’ll get to that later). I enlisted my toddler to “help” me while the baby was down for her morning nap. Looking back, I’m glad I made those memories with her, despite the way the story ended. However, I probably wouldn’t be telling this tale if I’d had a quiet kitchen with no distractions to begin with. (Oh who am I kidding? It probably would have gone down this way regardless.)
It was all very sweet. We both had on aprons, and my darling daughter agreed to let me sweep her hair up on top of her head to keep it out of her face. (I love this look on her, but she always insists on leaving her hair down.) We creamed the butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs together, then started on the dry ingredients. We giggled, worked on our numbers as we counted out cups of flour, and discussed the difference between cream of tartar and tartar sauce (I still think it’s strange).
At one point, I thought, “This is almost a little too perfect.” Boy, was I right. Shortly after we started mixing the wet and dry ingredients together, the phone rang. I almost thought about ignoring it, but decided I’d better grab it. “I’ll be right back,” I assured Anna. Upon returning to the kitchen (approx. 3.5 seconds later), I found her covered in flour. She’d been “sprinkling” extra into the bowl, but it seemed like she’d gotten more on herself than in the dough. Wrong.
I forged ahead, forming the dough into a ball on the counter to roll out. (Turns out I was supposed to chill it first, but I’d only made drop cookies from this recipe before.) After we’d made a nice, even layer, I stamped out an array of dog-bone shaped cookies. (The baby’s first word was “dog” and her excitement over any four-legged friend resulted in the puppy-themed treats.)
As I tried to gently lift the cut dough off the counter top, I realized something was very wrong. Although the dough looked supple enough, it crumbled at the slightest movement. “Uh-oh,” Anna lamented, “You broke the bone.” Yes, thank you for pointing that out honey. Not wanting to further exacerbate the problem, I turned to the best place to find the answers to life’s vexing questions: social media.
Frantically, I typed out a desperate message to my friends, followers, acquaintances, and spam accounts I haven’t gotten around to reporting yet.
Bakers, help! My sugar cookie dough won’t hold together after I cut and try to transfer to cookie sheet. Ideas?
Sure enough, within minutes, I’d received several questions and suggestions. I gathered the dough was too dry, but wasn’t sure of the best solution. I tried a few thing to re-hydrate the dough, then stuck it in the fridge to chill until I got home from Bible study that night. (I really needed to spend some time in the Word at this point.)
I returned home around 9:30 p.m., and optimistically pulled back the towel covering the bowl of dough in the fridge. It was even more dry than before! It was as parched as a drought-cracked Kansas field. Ugh! I was exhausted, but knew I’d better get started on batch two if I ever wanted this Martha Stewart fantasy to come true. And I knew this was my last chance, because I only had enough ingredients for one more batch. When you live 30 miles from the nearest Wal Mart (and seven miles from any grocery store) you have to be a little more careful with your resources.
I crawled into bed around 11:30, and got two hours of sleep before the baby woke up in need of a diaper change. After settling her down, I got a few more hours of rest and then started the process of cookie cutting all over again.
With trepidation, I rolled out the dough between two sheets of wax paper (thanks for the tip Katie), and pressed the little bone down into the smooth sugary surface. Success! It lifted out beautifully, and I was beginning to think it was smooth sailing from there on out.
I popped the first cookie sheet in the oven, and continued cutting subsequent batches until the timer went off. I slid the mitt onto my hand, and pulled the oven door open with anticipation. Oh…crap.
The cookies had spread while baking, and to my horror, they looked, well…phallic. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I even said out loud, “Great. I made penis cookies for my daughter’s first birthday.” Fortunately, after they’d cooled a bit and flattened out, they looked more like bones and less like, well, you know.
I decided to proceed with the bone shape, and even ventured to use a dog shaped cutter (these looked like a bloated poodle after spreading) and finally settled on circles. Now, it was time to frost these monstrosities.
After consulting with a friend about the concerning shape of the dog-bone cookies, she recommended piping with a royal icing recipe that would define the shape and was sure to “dry hard like those fancy schmancy cookie shops.” Sweet! It only had three ingredients, so how hard could it be? Well, let me tell you, I won’t call it royal icing anymore. From here on out, it’s called royal “pain in the arse” icing. It was very difficult to maneuver with the mixer, and was so sticky it clung to the inside of the bag I was trying to pipe with and was impossible to shove into the corner of the bag.
I threw my hands up in the air and exclaimed, “I’m soooo frustrated!” My precious toddler stroked my arm and assured me, “It’s ok mommy, just try again.” (I really don’t deserve her.) After I realized the icing was drying up quickly, I ended up just slapping it on the cookies, Anna threw on some sprinkles, and we called it good.
After carefully packaging the cookies into individual cellophane bags, I decided that they didn’t look too bad after all (and the one I broke tasted amazing). At the very least, guests will be able to tell that I put in the effort. And really, why did I go through this much effort? I’ve never been concerned with replicating a “Pinterest-worthy” party before, so why start now?
As it turns out, it wasn’t about the cookies. It’s never just about the cookies. It probably had something to do with the fact that we’re supposedly done having babies, and I’ll never again be able to live out my domestic dreams at my child’s first birthday party. I also feel more pressure now that I’m not working outside the home. Isn’t this in my job description now? Well, I might get low marks on “baking basics” during my quarterly review, but I think I’ve excelled in other areas, so hopefully I won’t get fired.
Next time, I think I’ll leave “pretty sugar cookie baking” to the experts. I’ll just stick to what I’m good at. According to my toddler, it’s “telling stories and playing games.” That sounds pretty sweet to me.