Or rather, Pinterest does. OK, OK, I guess ‘lies’ might be a bit strong. In a perfect world, of course you can follow the directions listed on Pinterest or some recipe site and get your cookies to look exactly like theirs. Happens all the time, right?
Sure. At least I’m sure it does, for someone. My own endeavors have come out tasty, but far from the America’s Test Kitchen quality that the picture would have me think is the desired outcome. Case in point, I found a recipe for a twist on a sugar cookie that I hadn’t seen before. It involved dark cocoa and Oreos in some kind of weird hybrid. So, of course I was all in. After all, I had planned on making dinner for my girlfriend tomorrow and wanted to also bring along a dessert. Now, my girlfriend is pretty much a world-class baker (and kitchen sorceress), so the bar was set rather high (in my mind) anyway. But enough about that. Let’s check out the recipe. If you are interested, you can find it over HERE. You can see from the site, that the cookies are supposed to look like this:
So…I mean, those look pretty tasty. And the recipe looked simple enough. That should have been your first clue, Todd. Well, sure. I see that now. Did I mention that I’m slow sometimes? And by slow, I mean, slow to realize what is usually obvious to nearly everyone else around me. But I digress. Anyway…I learned a few things along the way that I think may be applicable outside of the realm of making delicious mutant sugar cookies.
Now, let’s break that down. Oh…if you’re trying out that recipe, I can wait. Just give me a heads up when you’re ready. Good? Cool. If you know me, you know I love a good list, even a little three-banger bullet jobbie, which is what I have for you. A little list on what I learned from baking cookies from an internet recipe.
- The Internet Lies (and so does Pinterest)
- The Right Size Mixing Bowl Matters
- You Always Have to Make Adjustments to the Recipe
The Interwebs Lie And So Does Pinterest
Let’s face it, for the most part, we (as humans) only put the stuff online that makes us look awesome. You only post those happy pix. The ones of you curled up in bed with the shades drawn while the first Nine Inch Nails album plays on repeat seldom make it online. If they do, there’s usually some before/after post to go along with it. Or you post it as a faux-ThrowbackThursdayToWhenIWasSoooooooEMO kind of post. And kudos to you if you do manage to get that shit posted. When I’m rabbit-holing to some of Reznor’s all-to-identifiable early angst-rock, I can barely manage to make sure the playlist is on Repeat, let alone have the wherewithal to take a selfie. Besides, anytime I’ve taken any kind of emotional selfie like that, the response has usually been something along the lines of WTF? or Are you Crying? There’s No Crying in Social Media. Or something equally humiliating. Where was I going with this? Oh. Yes. We only (usually) see the good stuff online. Case in point.
The pic from the recipe versus my first batch after following said recipe.
So we can see that while the same basic Mad Scientist Mutant Sugar Cookie biology is there, one of these batch of cookies is going to be Homecoming Queen, and the other will be President of the A/V Club. Now, I will have to say this–the TASTE of the A/V Club batch of cookies left me in no way wanting. They still tasted as delicious as I imagined they would when I first saw the recipe. What’s the takeaway? Screw what you see online, go with what you can make with your own two hands. In almost every case, the fact that you made it yourself will be better than wishing you could taste something from a Pinterest post that you never try making. And another thing, you should maybe only reserve Pretty Hate Machine for those moments when you need to flush the tear ducts and dear god, don’t take selfies while you do. It never ends well.
THE RIGHT SIZE MIXING BOWL MATTERS
One thing Internet Recipes seldom clue you in on is what size mixing bowl will be the best for the recipe. I mean, I guess it’s assumed that whomever is following the recipe will just instinctively know. Sure…the person posting the recipe will spend at least 2 pages telling you how much their family loves the recipe, but will seldom go into anything useful such as how the wrong bowl can mean you’re cleaning up dough for days. So…funny story…if the mixing bowl is too big…the part where the butter and sugar is supposed to be beat until creamy (literally the first thing you have to do in this recipe) will take forever and you may find yourself wondering if Trent Reznor had this problem or if he even baked cookies at all between writing and recording Down In It. If, however, you use a bowl that is too small, you won’t know it until it’s too late. And by too late, I mean the part where you mix in a cup and a half of flour. It isn’t pretty.
What’s the real world take-away? Sometimes you have to take your best guess, man. I mean…sure…that big bowl seems like a great idea, but you flub it up. Then you overcompensate by going too far the other way. Now…I only made two batches of cookies tonight. I can’t have everyone’s sugar coma on my conscience, but I can tell you this. If I had made a third batch of cookies, my mixing bowl game would have been on point, because I would have Goldilocks’d the shit out of that. There is always a sweet spot. The key is sticking with something long enough to find it. But, also, maybe you don’t have to. The cookies from each batch still taste delicious. In the end, the bowl was a me problem. Anyone eating the cookies will be blissfully unaware of my struggles in making them.
That’s also a lesson, isn’t it? Focus on what you made…don’t get too wrapped up in the obstacles you faced making them. In the end, the cookies are going to either be delicious or they are going to suck. But probably they will be delicious, no matter which bowl you mixed in.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS TO THE RECIPE
This was the kicker of the whole shebang. First off…the bake time was WAY OFF. “Bake for 9-10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.” OK, that’s malarky. Look at their FoodNetwork pic again–WHAT GOLDEN EDGES?!?!? Nope…the minimum baking time for me was somewhere between 15 and 17 minutes. And golden edges didn’t mean bupkis. I went with the toothpick test. Also, I adjusted the bowls I used. And the ratio of the three types of dough when making the final cookie ball to go on the parchment paper. OH–and flattening the balls a bit with a spoon before putting them in the oven so I could get that flatter, bigger cookie, like the kind in the original pic. I guess this could also fall under the whole Interwebs lies bit, but to be honest, that section was getting a little long. Besides, there is a bit of a separate lesson to be learned here. Mainly this–if I had strictly followed the recipe, I would have been really sad at how my cookies looked, and not to mention eating hot balls of not-fully-cooked-cookie dough would have kind of sucked. I guess if that’s your thing, cool. I happen to enjoy my cookies when they are actually cookies.
And that’s the heart of the lesson, isn’t it? Start with the recipe someone gives you (or posts, if you can find it buried in their life history), but don’t be afraid to make the adjustments you need to make to have the recipe work for you. Bake it longer if you need to. Flatten it with a spoon after it’s on the parchment paper if you want to. Just don’t get so caught up in following the recipe that you miss taking the steps needed to come up with delicious cookies at the end of it all.
If that’s not a metaphor for life, I really don’t know what is.
Have a wonderful holiday, my friends. Talk to you soon!