Christmas · In the Cookie Jar · Learning from Mistakes

Cookie Baking 101: Pay Attention to Your Dough

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And I don’t mean make eye contact when they’re telling you their innermost thoughts.

No, I mean this:

If you are rolling out and pressing springerle, DO ONLY take THAT dough out of the fridge to warm up a bit.

DON'T ALSO take out the short dough you are going to use to cut out snowflakes to decorate later after the kids go to bed.

Why do I tell you this?  Why do I use lots of ALL CAPS and some italics as I type?

Because short dough and springerle dough are pretty much the same color.

And after rolling out and cutting and pressing lots and lots of springerle shapes, you MIGHT just grab that bag of short dough and roll and press it into springerle service as well.  You MIGHT even think, fleetingly, to yourself “wow, this dough got really warm and soft!  It’s so easy to work with right now!” and then your traffic-jammed thoughts will honk loudly and move you along to some other side street and you won’t even think any more about it until maybe, as you are gathering up the last of all the scraps to roll out and cut one last time, and it MIGHT occur to you “that’s weird – some of this dough is so tough and some is so soft!  Maybe that (tough) dough got dried out…or got too much flour worked into it…hm…interesting…” and then BEEP BEEP! and you’ve moved onto the on-ramp and are back up on the highway, speeding off to another recipe.

I say it MIGHT happen to you.

Of course, it MIGHT NOT, because perhaps the streets and avenues and highways in YOUR brain are more orderly and your thoughts move in smooth lines instead of shoving their way in and out of the paths of other thoughts.

Or maybe I am losing my mind.

That’s quite possible, actually.

Anyway, I didn’t actually realize what I’d done until ALL the yellow dough had been used up.  And I suddenly thought “hey, where’s that….uh oh.”

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But hey, it was too late to do anything about it.  I wasn’t about to reclaim all the short dough, pick off the anise seeds and cut out snowflakes.  Just didn’t have it in me.  And besides, it would be interesting to see how THOSE versions turned out.

And while I’m settling that in one part of my mind, another part was saying – soothingly, because I needed it – “at least all the cookies for THAT side of the family were done with the right dough.”

I capitalize “that” because I’m referring to my husband’s side of the family.  It’s important to me to make sure they get springerle that are not only A) made with the correct dough (though that’s a new one this year) but also B) that their springerle are made with the molds that belonged to my late mother-in-law, from whom I have inherited this tradition.

Of course, I don’t think SHE ever screwed up the doughs like this.  She was way more organized then I’ll ever be.

(And in case you were wondering, yes, I'd written "SP" on the bags of springerle dough and "SHORT" on the bag of short dough.  Didn't matter.  And the short dough bag was scribble-side DOWN anyway.  It was meant to be, I tell you, just so I could write this post.)

Anyway, this morning I baked off all the springerle and faux springerle cookies.  Here’s the last pan, which contains a mix of doughs (or “doh!s”):

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The lighting isn’t great in this picture, (or in the other one), but you can still see here that the true springerle cookies are lighter in color (they’re supposed to be close to white, and in reality, they are), while the short dough is golden.

Also, due to the leavening in the springerle dough, those have – as they are intended to – baked UP off of the pan, while the short dough cookies stayed, well, short.

Another difference that I had anticipated was that the springerle dough retained the details in the cookie molds far better than the short dough did.  Springerle are baked at 300F, while I’d bake the short dough at 350.  So the short dough sort of softened and melted (lots of butter in short dough, none in springerle) a bit during the baking process.

HOWEVER.

My kids, who are in holiday overload mode right now, begged for a cookie each for breakfast, and being the strict and health-conscious mom that I am, I gave in almost instantly.

And I gave them each one of the short dough versions.

Alex thought the cookie tasted great, while Julia probably would have given it a B (judging by the way her thumbs-up sort of wiggled to the side a bit).

I tried one, and it’s not bad.  There’s the faint flavor of the anise seed stuck to the bottom, but mostly I’m tasting “butter cookie.”  It’s not as crispy and dry as it would have been if I’d refrigerated the dough and baked it at a higher temperature, but it’s not inedible and would be perfectly fine with a cup of tea or coffee or hot cocoa.

Oh, and speaking of hot cocoa and the clogging of my mental highways and byways yesterday, here’s another cute holiday story for you.

I had about a quarter of a mug’s worth of coffee left yesterday after bringing the kids to school, and I decided to make myself a sort of mocha drink by adding more water to the mug, heating it up in the microwave and then adding some hot cocoa mix to the liquid.  I’ve done it before.  I am CAPABLE of doing this simple thing.

So, thoughts adrift, or stuck in gridlock, take your pick, I added water and then I ADDED THE HOT COCOA MIX.  TO COLD WATER.  Surprise – it doesn’t blend in so well when the water is cold.  And so, like a dummy, I stirred it up as best I could, and then, with little undissolved globs of hot cocoa mix floating on the top like…like…like undissolved globs of hot cocoa mix, I PUT THE MUG IN THE MICROWAVE.

I will stop here and say that oh, the hand of God or whichever angel is in charge of idiots in the kitchen reached in and, through me, placed a plate on top of the mug, JUST IN CASE THERE WAS ANY SPLATTER. 

I set the timer for a minute and meandered into the dining room to the the really large springerle mold out of the hope chest.  This involved removing all the things ON TOP of the hope chest first, and then the tablecloth I cover it with, then opening the lid and removing the other things that I’d apparently placed in there after Christmas last year as well.  Some ornaments.  Candle holders.  Interestingly curved tapers from last year.  And finally, the large springerle mold.

This one:  (It’s dusted with confectioners’ sugar in the picture, that’s not powdery mildew or anything.)

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I closed the lid and tastefully arranged the stuff back on top of it and all the while the microwave hummed in the background.

I’ll share this with you – it took me longer than a minute to do all this in the dining room.

And still, the microwave hummed.

That little tidbit of information finally wiggled its way through to the front of my brain and waved frantically at me, pointing into the kitchen.

Ohhhh.

I must have hit the zero three times.  Not twice.  You know, 10:00 instead of 1:00. 

Yeah.

Here’s how it looked:

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All I can say is, thank you, God or your Angel of Kitchen Idiots for taking my hand and placing that plate on top of the mug.  Can you imagine how the inside of the microwave would have looked otherwise? 

And that’s just SOME of how my day went yesterday.

Today’s plans?

Well, for one thing, all my doughs will be different colors.

And I’m drinking tea.

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