Tag: recipes

The Big Cookie Flop – why my fail proof recipe failed!

 big cookie flop

The Big Cookie Flop – My fail-proof recipe failed!

There was a request from my son’s teacher to make cookies for his Valentine’s party. After agreeing I realized I had to make more cookies as I had almost depleted my heart stash in the freezer. So I did what I always do; gather my equipment, get out my ingredients making sure I had all of them in the house before I started, and pre-heat my oven. Everything I normally do when I bake cookies was happening and going pretty, well, normally.

I even had the luxury of having my 10-year-old niece over to help me with my 2 youngest kids. This should have been prime baking time with perfect results!

The Bake

I weighed and measured everything and started combining the ingredients. Creamed the softened butter and sugar, added my eggs and flavoring, then started adding my dry ingredients. This is where I realized there was a problem. Not sure exactly what caused the problem, but something was wrong and this dough was showing me no love. It was really wet and still very sticky.

Usually by the time I’ve added in all my flour I’ve questioned if it was too much, but not this time. I added more flour, then I added more flour, and then, I added a little more. Still too soft to work with. The counter was already dusted so I decided to try rolling and cutting a few cookies. Well, it kind of worked. I was able to cut 3 hearts, and one fancy diamond shape, but the arrow wasn’t happening. It stuck completely and I couldn’t get the dough out. I pulled it out, cleaned it off and dipped the entire cutter in flour. Try, try, again, right? Wrong. I should have stopped while I was ahead! I got a knife and poked the dough out in some kind of a resemblance of an arrow.

Blobs, Anyone?

nailed it horse
Not my cookies, but could have been my cookies.

By this point I’m realizing this dough isn’t going to bake well, but I decided to try anyway. I don’t know if you’ve seen that Pinterest picture of a horse cookie and when it baked it spread like crazy, then they showed a picture of a photo shopped horse that looked just like that cookie? I thought that was so funny, but I wasn’t laughing as I pulled my blobby cookies out of the oven.

big cookie flop
You can see hearts, right?

Well, this was just great. I still have 4 dozen cookies to make and decorate, and now all my mixing utensils are dirty, and I have a bowl full of dough that I can’t use for rolling and cutting!

In spite of the terrible look of the cookies, I was able to get them on a pan with a cookie scoop (imagine!) and baking them off anyway. They won’t win the beauty contest but they do taste good if you close your eyes before eating them. I won’t be using them for decorating, I’m actually not sure what I’ll do with them, but at least the dough didn’t go in the trash. I imagined myself vengefully and dramatically showing that dough who was boss as I flung it into the trash can… nope. Didn’t happen.

big cookie flop
So many ugly cookies!

 

Time to Troubleshoot…

What went wrong? I’ve made this recipe at least 15 times without fail; what changed?

Butter brand?

big cookie flopbig cookie flop

There are a few logical explanations I can think of that would make this happen. The big thing that jumped out at me was that I used a different brand of butter. I usually use regular store brand unsalted butter. Nothing spectacular about it, just plain old plain old. When I checked my ingredients before I started baking like I always do I realized I was out of said butter and decided to use my Kerry Gold. Because this butter is more expensive than my store brand, it’s specifically used for bullet proof coffee. Have I mentioned I love coffee? I digress, back to the cookies.

My first buttery thought is that the moisture content in that butter is higher and that threw off my ratios. Of course, I have no real idea but it’s just a guess. Second, I thought the measurement might be off. My cookie recipe is always doubled. Even if I don’t need 3-4 dozen cookies, I will freeze the rest for later. That way I always have cookies to decorate when I have some time to practice. My doubled recipe calls for 4 sticks of butter, the Kerry Gold is sold in an 8 oz. package, equal to 2 sticks. I need 4 sticks of butter for my doubled recipe, so I used 2 packages.  I double checked this before I started. It looked like a lot, but that’s what the package said. I got out 2 packages, which I normally don’t have on hand but it was on sale at Aldi.

I’m still not convinced I used too much butter, my butter was prepackaged, I didn’t measure it out myself. There was no baker error in the butter category.

Too soft too fast?

My train of thought then led me to the softening process. I’ve mentioned several times I am a do-it-now person and I want things done quickly as possible, even if that means my butter might be softened a little too quickly in the microwave and is a little runny when it comes out. I put it in the microwave, pressed the quick 30 second button with every intention of standing right by the microwave and stopping it every 10 seconds to turn it until it was nicely softened all the way through. Lets just say when the microwave dinged I thought it was the timer to let the dog back inside. Oh yeah, I have butter I just left in the microwave on high for 30 seconds!

In spite of my microwave-capades, not convinced my butter was too soft because it creamed nicely with the sugar and eggs.

Too little flour?

So my last possible idea is this: I just didn’t put in enough flour. To make things easier on myself, I pre-mixed all my dry ingredients for several batches. That worked great until I ran out of pre-mixed goodies and have to do all the measuring again. If you could see my recipe, you might put it in the hot mess category of your recipe box. I have a print out of the recipe with all my scribbled changes, my measurements in grams, then doubled in grams, and all sorts of other secret code messages to myself. The need is great for me to just type a brand new one for myself so I can actually understand it!

You might have caught my possible mistake… I think I may have measured out flour for a single batch instead of a double batch. I’m not even sure and I can’t remember, but it’s entirely possible and I think it’s the most plausible of all my hypotheses.

Conclusion for my big cookie flop?

Yes, I have a conclusion to the blob cookie blunder. Have a well written recipe that’s easy to read, follow my own baking tips, and double check my measurements! Oh, and don’t walk away from butter in the microwave 🙂

I tried to make this as humorous as possible, but the reality is I have about 3 dozen hideous cookies that are now staring at me, another batch of (hopefully) pretty cookies to mix, roll out, cut, bake, and decorate, and another sink full of dishes.

You can read my post about my recipe here.

Have you ever had a big cookie flop or a cake catastrophe? Lets laugh and cry together in the comments 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Leah

update!

I realized I only added half the flour. While using a different butter might have changed it a little, it wouldn’t have caused that massive disaster! I looked at my messy recipe and realized I used the grams for the regular recipe, not the doubled one. Problem solved!


Weekly Technique- The Stencil

weekly technique stencilWeekly Technique – Stencils

I decided to practice with the new stencils and the results are in…still… need …more …practice. The neat and tidy royal icing pattern stencils can offer is wonderful, but like every other technique, it’s a little more difficult than it looks. Actually kind of bummed about how these turned out, I really thought I had a better grasp of this technique but toss a new stencil in the mix and I’m beginning all over again!

Royal Icing Re-Do

stiff royal icing

I tried the royal icing recipe again and I ended up with the same result too thin. I added sugar and meringue powder until I got the consistency I was hoping for in the first place. The icing was thick and held stiff peaks well. I will definitely be trying some new recipes in the future and will probably start with the tried and true Wilton recipe. I’m also thinking of adding some corn syrup to my icing as well, but that’s for another post!

The Colors

Blue Gray cookies

If you ask my 2 older children or my husband what is my favorite color, they will quickly tell you gray. Not sure if gray actually counts as a “color”, but it is my favorite. All shades of gray or any color with that cool gray tone just speaks to me. I love gray! Over Christmas I was able to  order the Wilton Garden Color Set. The Delphinium Blue is, as you can probably guess, a blue-gray! I mixed up 2 different shades of this; one a very light gray, and the other the full color. I attempted a royal blue but it didn’t turn out as dark as I was hoping even after letting the colors develop for a few hours. Blue and white are another one of my favorite color combos and one of my new stencils was purchased with that in mind.

The Stencils

blue and white stencilfiligree stencil

 

Blue and white cookies
1st attempt at the top, 2nd attempt middle, and 3rd attempt bottom.

Hobby Lobby stencils were in full play during this cookie decorating session. The plan was to use the lettering stencils and the 2 designs for all 9 cookies, but because the others didn’t turn out like I’d hoped, I brought in the old standbys. First up was the blue and white, and I was hopeful after the first cookie turned out decent. There was a little edge problem where I didn’t get the stencil all the way down onto the cookie so I tried to compensate for that on the second one. Next cookie was worse, the icing was too thick.

The last cookie I don’t even want to talk about, but since this is all about learning… if the icing was too thick on the 2nd one, it was extra too thick on the third. I actually had to let it dry, then knock down the tall stuff with a serrated knife! I was so embarrassed as I was sawing off my high places knowing it would have to be included on my blog post but hey, live and learn!

 

The filigree stencil was my most difficult. Due to the pattern and the thinness (cheapness) of the stencil, the pattern lifted off the cookie when the icing was spread, which of course smudged the pattern. I tried it twice with the same horrendous outcome. Warning: Cringe-worthy photo ahead…

filigree

 

One cookie was done with the letter K, and it turned out fine, just a little plain.K stencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the other stencils didn’t turn out as I had hoped, I brought out “Old Faithful”, my damask stencils. It has 2 designs on each stencil and it looked beautiful with the Delphinium blues. Even with those I had a smudge and my self-confidence was gone at this point.

damask
This one turned out the best, no smudges!
damask
You can see towards the bottom it smudged a little.

damask

Time for a Tool Change!

My offset spatula had been my tool of choice but after all those bad cookies I had switched to my small pink rubber spatula and that seemed to work much better. You better believe I’ll be using Pinky for stenciling from now on!PINKY

 

What Did I Learn?

Will I stencil again? Absolutely! Stencils are still high on my list of great tools for cookiers, they give the ability to crank out uniform designs relatively quickly and easily. Well, with practice of course.

Here are a few things I will do differently next time:

  • Try for more even flooding – If I can get a better working surface, I’ll get a better stencil design. I’m still tying to find my own way of flooding and icing consistency, which affects EVERYTHING!
  • Use magnets – While I would love to have a Stencil Genie, I’m going to start with something a little easier on the budget… magnets from the dollar store used on a metal baking sheet I already have.
  • PINKY!!! – To say that I was kicking myself for not using Pinky from the start would be an understatement. So much easier. The rubber is just better at going over the surface and lays the icing smoother. I might have had a completely different post if I’d used Pinky the entire time.
  • Clean my stencils after each use – big problem with my blue and white cookies, the icing just kept getting thicker with each cookie.
  • Keep practicing! – I love this technique and want to improve.
Blue Gray cookies
Before…

 

finished stencils
After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any stencilers out there? What’s your favorite stencil to use and favorite color combinations? I’ll be using the gray again (of course!) and still loving that blue and white.

Thanks for reading!

Leah

 

 

 

Time to Make the Cookies! Here’s the recipe I use.

 

Time to make the cookies
As I began my search for the perfect (for me) sugar cookies, there were a few criteria I wanted this recipe to meet. First, I wanted a dough that tastes     UH-mazing! I wanted a dough that held its shape during baking, and produced a soft cookie. Probably most important to me was a dough that didn’t need to be chilled before it was rolled out. Really, who wants to wait for dough to chill? I can barely wait for the oven to pre-heat much less an hour for dough to chill in the fridge!

Where I found my basic recipe

There were a couple of recipe flops before I discovered The One. My go-to cookie blog and one of my big inspirations, The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Belle, has a basic sugar cookie recipe you can find here.

My Tweaks

Oval cut

After making the recipe a few times I tweaked it a little so I can get the cookie results I’m looking for. Instead of using 2 tsp of baking powder, it’s cut down to 1 1/2 tsp. I found they don’t spread as much. I also use 1 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring. The first time I made the recipe I used 2 1/2 tsp of almond flavor and then wished I hadn’t. Have you ever heard the saying Too much of a good thing is no good? Well, that was probably said about almond flavoring in cookies. Maybe not, but it certainly applies.

Sweet Sugar Belle’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cups of flour. I think I’ve used  2 3/4 cup every time. Converting all my dry ingredients into weight measurements gives me better control over the outcome of my product. A scale isn’t something everyone has in their kitchen, but it’s worth getting if you want consistent results for any baking. You can find the food scale I use here.  Scale

 

My Results

After making the recipe ‘mine’ I’m really happy with my results. I get nicely shaped cookies that are soft and flat. They freeze well and the recipe doubles easily. My favorite part of course, they are delicious!

Round oval square
This is a double batch of round, oval, and square cookies.

My next post I’ll be going over supplies I love and can’t bake without.

I would love to hear your go-to recipe story!

Thanks for reading,

Leah