Cookie Party: Volume 2

Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Today may be Halloween, but I haven't had a chance to roast my pumpkin seeds yet. So instead, let's repost a different holiday story - the tale of the second Cookie Party, originally posted December 15, 2008.


You know those people who play one round of putt-putt and suddenly fancy themselves Tiger Woods? Or get complimented on a doodle they drew and decide they're the next Georgia O'Keeffe? Those people suck, and yet I was forced to become one. My cookie experiment had gotten no further than one simple-ass batch of chocolate chip, when suddenly, I got an invite to the cookie event of the season: The Holiday Cookie Party. Yes, an actual cookie party - the blog entry name becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! This is a party thrown by a friend I met through Tiffany. She invites a bunch of people over to her house, and they all bring enough cookies for the other guests to get a few. It generally adds up to about ten dozen cookies, but which turned out to be about double that for me, because I have the foresight of a starfish.

As to the backdrop of making this recipe, I can't give a description of what went on that day, because it took me four. That's right. I can, however give a backdrop of what's going on in general. The historic election of Obama. An economic meltdown. Finally getting Grandma's hutch moved into the apartment to replace that oh-so-attractive piece of furniture, a large cardboard box. There, you're caught up. On to the cookies.

First, I needed to select a cookie impressive enough to warrant my invitation, given that I would be the sole guest to possess a Y chromosome. I settled on a recipe from a cookbook in LabRat's mother's kitchen. I had e-mailed it to myself during my last stay there as a good representative sample from my time-capsule idea; a Farm Journal recipe from 1971. This was no mere mix-five-ingredients-and-drop cookie. This one required work. And so I give you:

After-School Snack All Grown Up

I owed two people apologies for picking this recipe. My friend Tom, who specifically requested in the last entry that no nuts be used, and LabRat, who likes neither almonds nor jelly. LabRat was easily placated when I mentioned that I would be leaving with a bunch of almond/jelly cookies...and coming home with thirty other kinds. As to Tom, what can I say? Oops! I promise the next selection will be nutless.

Since I had never made this cookie before, I decided a test run was in order. If a cookie sucks, I'd like to know before I make ten dozen of them. The ingredients are fairly simple: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour, salt, and chopped almonds. Those are made into cookies, which are then sandwiched together with currant jelly. The math-adept among you will now realize how I stupidly trapped myself into making twenty dozen cookies instead of ten.

You'd think the purchase of the ingredients would be just as simple. It's not like I needed to look for Oaxacan juniper berries or anything. I like to follow recipes to the letter, and the ingredient list specified unblanched almonds. I bought a likely pack at Trader Joe's, brought them home, and only then noticed the ingredient list on the side of the bag. Ingredients: Blanched Almonds. Fuck. That was unacceptable, and I asked LabRat about a hundred-thousand times where he thought I could find unblanched, and if a bag didn't mention it was one way or the other, what was to be assumed? LabRat, convinced that using the damn almonds I had already bought would be just fine, understandably got fed up after the fifty-thousandth time and washed his hands of the whole affair. That left me standing in the aisles at Schnucks, pulling aside random ladies with "Do you do much baking? I've got a question for you." Finally, I got a bag of the correct almonds, and ditched the other bag on the free-to-good-home shelf in the apartment building's laundry room.

Unfortunately, my almond travails were not over. The recipe called for grated almonds, and mentioned that if one did not possess a hand-grater, one could bash the almonds with a rolling pin. All right, then. I settled in front of the television with a tupperware container full of the almonds in one hand, and the rolling pin in the other. The little bastards were harder to bash than I thought they'd be. Oh, they broke easily enough, but then the bits of small almond would remain on top, leaving the large chunks trapped annoyingly at the bottom. I eventually got a rhythm going, but it took me a good two hours to get them to the consistency I wanted.

Once that was behind me, I set to making the dough, which was simple enough. I creamed some sugar and an ungodly amount of butter together, added some vanilla, then flour and salt through the sifter, put in the almonds, formed the whole mess into a ball, and left it in the fridge overnight. Done! The next day was the complicated part. The recipe said to roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper, and when it was thin enough, to cut out 2" circles with a cookie cutter, then transfer them to the cookie sheet. Trouble is, when you roll dough out so thinly, it becomes impossible to lift the circle without destroying it. Throwing decorum out the window, I went for the only shortcut I could think of: Squash the dough with my hand, and when it seemed flat enough, cut one circle.


Use a finger to clear the dough away from the cutter while it was still pressed down, then lift the dough with a spatula, hoping it had enough structural integrity to make it to the cookie sheet. Repeat a million times. It worked out pretty well, and soon I had about 36 cookies, which then got sandwiched to 18. I took them to work to get a sampling of opinions, which seemed to be pretty favorable. I felt ready to take on the Cookie Party proper.

Day #1 was shopping for ingredients. If I got 18 cookies out of one batch, I'd need to make seven batches to hit the ten-dozen mark. Seven batches is fourteen sticks of butter. Yikes. The cashier raised an eyebrow as box after box crossed the laser, not to mention the fact that I completely bought them out of sliced almonds.

Day #2 was chopping. There was no way I was going to hand-bash all these nuts, but I have no idea why using the food processor didn't occur to me the first time. What the hell was I doing spending two hours crushing almonds by hand?!? Vroom, vroom, vroom. Four bags of almonds became neatly grated almond bits in five minutes.

Day #3 was dough-making. I cleared out a shelf in my fridge, and set to creaming that mountain of butter. I suppose I could have made one super-duper-mega-ball of dough, but to make sure everything got spread evenly (plus, my poor mixing bowl can only hold so much), I decided to make each of the seven batches individually. Whip butter. Add sugar and vanilla. Put flour and salt through sifter. Add appropriate amount of almonds. Wrap dough ball in Saran wrap and refrigerate. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. By the seventh time, I was tearing through those fuckers.


Day #4: Bake. LabRat has a nifty kitchen island that he kindly cleared off for me before wisely fleeing to his lab. I put some wax paper down to roll out the dough a bit before hand-squashing it. That, and it makes cleaning up a hell of a lot easier.


I set both his and my oven to preheat, and got started. It was pretty fun at first. It was a bright, sunny Saturday and I was baking up some nice smells. It was very soothing. Somewhere around the third ball of dough, it became less fun. I was tired of running back and forth between the two apartments, trying to remember which cookie sheet was supposed to come out next. My hands were smeared with butter grease, which I left all over both our doors. The jelly jar was full of crumbs. Vivian was going apeshit every time I came near his bowl. No, you're not getting any cookies!


I want to say it took me about five or six hours to get through all of it, not including the dishes that needed to be washed and the fingerprints I needed to scrub off of everything. I was proud of the way they had turned out, though they were larger than I expected. Packing up ten dozen of them took pretty much all the tupperware I had, plus a large pizza tray of LabRat's that I stacked them on, pyramid style.

The next day, Gnat and I went to the Cookie Party. We started off with a bunch of wonderful soups and appetizers (Well, really we started off with mimosas, but whatever), and the hostess had made three cakes from scratch, but my trigger finger was itching to fill up my sole remaining container with everyone else's cookies. I was a bit nonplussed to hear the ladies discussing what they had made. "My cookies? Oh, they're the simplest things in the world! Just throw together three ingredients and you're done!" "Mine, too! I made mine last night in about half an hour!" I indulged myself in a brief fantasy in which all these women were shamed by the sheer awesomeness of my cookies. That was not to be, however. There was a nice moment when I overheard two other guests talking about my cookies in positive terms, though they were far from effusive. God damn it, be more effusive! I loaded up on everyone's cookies, socialized for a while, then snuck back downstairs to filch some more.


There weren't as many guests as in years past, so I was forced to take a number of my own cookies home. By this point, I never wanted to see them again. My cookies, that is. Not the guests. Mom and I went to visit Veruca and Monkey this past weekend, so I took the remainder of the cookies along, where they were met with cautious sniffs and disdain. "Jelly?" Veruca said with a grimace. "No, thanks." I left them there anyway, and have since heard that Veruca's office polished them off. Finally, they're gone, and LabRat and I were feasting on a cornucopia of other people's work.

LabRat: "Why aren't there any chocolate chip?"
Limecrete: "It was a holiday Cookie Party. Chocolate chip isn't a holiday cookie."
LabRat: "If you make it during the holidays, it's a holiday cookie!"

Tasty as the almond/jelly cookies turned out to be, they were a real grind. On the other hand, it was something of a baptism by fire. Now, I can handle any cookie emergency that comes my way. Last night, upon getting back into St. Louis, I headed down to the Sunday Spin, where Chris got on the microphone and announced that next week, everyone's invited to bring in some cookies for a holiday cookie bake-off. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!