Monday, November 24, 2008

I Don't Bake

I went to the Burgh Moms cookie exchange on Saturday, and let me tell you, I spent at least 5 days beforehand bitching and moaning about baking cookies. I told anyone who would listen that I was going because I love the Burgh Moms (and there was even a Burgh Dad), and I just wanted to socialize. I didn’t care about cookies, because I! Hate! Baking!

I am a good cook. A really good cook. But I am a non-recipe cook. I like to throw things together and experiment with new dishes. The upside is that I have come up with some really great meals. One downside is that when people ask me for the recipe, I have none. Now, if you are also a non-recipe cook, I can probably give you an idea of how to make it and you can either duplicate it or improve on it. But if you need a recipe, I am not the girl for you. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have had this conversation with someone who liked a dish I made:

Friend: How much *insert ingredient* do I need?

Me: I don't know. Some.

Friend: Well, what about the *insert ingredient*?

Me: Whatever it takes.

Friend: How many pounds of *meat/fish/pasta* do you use?

Me: As much as you want.

Friend (getting frustrated): What temperature?

Me: Oh, 350. Or 375. Or 400, whatever.

Friend (totally disgusted): How long do you cook it?

Me: Until it’s done.

It’s not too hard to see that the other downfall of this sort of cooking philosophy is that Gina + Baking = smoke, nasty-ass cookies, throwing of spatulas, second degree burns, tears and oreos. But I sucked it up and made cookies for the cookie swap, hoping that they would only be mildly bad and that I would get home and out of everyone’s scorn distance before anyone discovered just how bad a baker I am. So imagine my surprise when some folks actually liked them and wanted the recipe. I still think they are either 1) having some sort of sugar-induced hysteria or 2) smoking crack, but whatever.

So here is where I fess up that these are the least fancy cookies ever. Seriously. All they are is a basic sugar cookie, plus Gina’s own special brand of I Can’t Control My Compulsion To Dick Around With This Perfectly Good Recipe And See How Badly I Can Screw It Up. Basically, you use your favorite sugar cookie recipe. I don’t have a favorite, so I just grabbed a random one online (I made sure to choose one without milk or cream, since I was afraid of adding lemon to dairy).

First, whip up the sugar cookie dough. Then add (any one or combination of) a few drops of lemon juice, some powdered lemon (true lemon) and some lemon zest. Then mix in some dried sweetened cranberries. Roll into little balls and bake at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes. Normally, with sugar cookies, you would want them a little pale, with just a teeny bit of golden brown on the edge, but taste tests (me, shoving them in my maw) showed that with the lemon flavor they tasted better when I let them brown a little more to get crispier.

OK, now be very careful to pay attention to these precise instructions:

How much lemon juice/zest/powdered lemon? Some. Whatever. To taste (if you’re afraid of raw cookie dough, then I can’t help you. I suck in many ways.) Also – don’t use artificial lemon extract. It’s wrong.

How many cranberries? Lots.

What size balls to roll? Ummm…a little bigger than a superball. Were you not listening when I said I don’t measure????

And that, my friends, is it. Lemon cranberry cookies. I personally like them, but then I am not a big chocolate, nutty, coconutty kind of girl. I tend to like fruity stuff, so these are perfect for me. I also love pie. And pie gives you a little more leeway, so I can actually practice my crazy kitchen witchcraft on pies.

Now, if I could just get the recipe for the concord grape ricotta tart I had at Casbah last week, I’d be a happy woman. Well, I’d be pleased. I’d be happy after I suckered one of you into baking it for me.

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meno said...

This sounds like wht happened when i tried to tell someone how to make tabouleh.

How much cracked wheat? Some.

How much lemon juice? Until it tastes right.


I am a Tornado ~ proven fact! said...

Those were some SERIOUS YUM cookies. Man oh man, I ate almost all of them and mr.t loved them too. They are SO on my list.

I NEED A RECIPE ... ugh.

I am not a creative person - or a creative cook. I'll try it your way but I am not hopeful.


Karen said...

I love the way you cook - it's just my style. But I go the cheap route as well and never have proper ingredients on hand so substitutions are mandatory.

Allison Says said...


And I'm totally like you. I never use recipes when I cook, and that does really frustrate people. I was trying to explain to someone how I make a spicy peanut sauce, and just gave them a list of ingredients. They were like, "How much of each?" I had no idea what to tell them. Just put it all together until it's the right consistency and tastes good!

I love baking, though. But I mess with recipes, too.

I'm totally going to try adding lemon to sugar cookies...definitely a yummy idea!

Sarah said...

Those were YOUR cookies I fell in love with! I've been trolling through everyone's blogs matching cookies to people now. I love the cranberry/lemon combo.

I learned to bake cookies from my mother's recipe box. She got her recipes from her grandmother, so they have helpful things like "mix ingredients, cook til done." You never know when it says "1c flour" if it means one measuring cup or one of great-grandma's tea cups (which is why no one has ever been able to duplicate her ginger snaps).

Amy said...

I'm making these tonight. Hub's stoked to try lemon cranberry. Thx!

Burgh Baby said...

I'm so glad you sacrificed your very soul and sanity and made us cookies.

And The Girl? Is a really freakin' well-behaved kid. You are going to have to just admit it one of these days, then take the credit for it.