I made five batches of cookies over Christmas this year. That may not seem like much baking to you foodies out there, but for me (and the family) it was quite the feat. I'll bet I haven't made homemade cookies in, like, ten years. So this divergence into nostalgia was met with much glee, especially from DH.
Of the five batches, three were good, one was edible (barely - see below) and one I dumped in the garbage it was such a failure. I can hear you gasping out there - believe me when I say that this cookie was un-salvageable. It was supposed to be one of those little, round, confectioner's sugar-covered job-ies. The kind that melt in your mouth. Well, these melted all over my cookie sheet. What a mess!
Unlike riding a bicycle, baking is not one of those activities that you never forget once you've learned how. It was like I was 12 years old again and didn't know how to turn on the oven! I did learn several things though and I'm going to list them here so I NEVER MAKE THESE MISTAKES AGAIN!!!
1. Not all butter is created equal. I know some of you have written about how wonderful European butter is compared to ours (something about the fat ratio, or was it cream ratio.. whatever) and you should only use the best in your baking. But, hey - I'm Scots-Irish. I go for the cheap stuff. And what I learned is that one of the cheap brands (Fareway's or Hy-Vee's - not sure which) tastes greasy. It's just yuck! That was the first cookie I made and it was scarfed down almost immediately despite it's greasy taste. I think for cooking it probably doesn't matter, but it definitely does in baking. So, the lesson here - get Land O' Lakes butter for baking!
2. I know our mothers always used Crisco for baking. My girlfriend uses the butter flavored Crisco in all her cookies. But I've learned that I should never use Crisco for cookies. Use butter - the good stuff.
3. Don't bother soaking your raisins in brandy for making oatmeal cookies. The flavor gets lost and you just waste the liquor. Save that little trick for your bread pudding!
4. Even though the recipe might not specify it, when it calls for oatmeal they mean the quick cooking kind. The other just gets chewy. And hard.
So that's it. That's my list of how NOT to bake cookies. I know, I know. I've been told all of this stuff in the past. I just forgot - so sue me!