One of my favorite things about the holidays is baking. It gives me an excuse to feast on cookie dough.
Yeah, I know you’re not supposed to because of the whole “raw-eggs-can-kill-you” thing, but God bless Betty Crocker, if that’s what sends me to the great beyond, so be it. I’m one of those people who thinks that sometimes the dough is better than the finished product. I have a theory, well more of an ongoing research project, that the prettier the cookie the worse it tastes.
Take the elaborately decorated sugar cookie — not so yummy. The first clue the cookie is going to be all for show is that you can actually tell what it is. Of course, you know it’s a cookie, but I mean you can tell it’s Rudolph or Santa’s sleigh because the frosting doesn’t overwhelm the shape. This is a warning. It means the frosting is not buttercream. It’s the demon spawn of buttercream — royal icing.
Royal icing in the cookie world is like a beauty contestant: all style, no substance. And by substance I mean no rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Do you know what’s in royal icing? Things like water and meringue powder. Does that say delicious to you? Of course it doesn’t, but people use it because it does nifty things like “harden,” maintains a “high gloss” and works like “cement.” Based on those descriptions you might as well spray your cookies with Extra Hold Aqua Net. I’m sure the taste would be about the same.
This is why I’m pro the less attractive sugar cookie or the cookie that would win Miss Congeniality (robust personality, but not that cute) in the baked goods beauty pageant. Because a cookie that has you wondering if it’s supposed to be shaped like a Christmas stocking or a vacuum cleaner usually means it’s got a delicious overlay and overload of buttercream frosting. That said, do not make the mistake, like I did, of taking Miss Congeniality cookies to a cookie exchange. Your feelings could get hurt.
What’s up with these cookie exchanges? I swear it’s like sorority rush or the NFL draft (having been in a sorority and having watched the NFL draft, I’m here to tell you both of these institutions have way more in common than you would think). You go into the party with your platters of cookies and then people select, maybe bid, on the ones they want to take home. Well, my Miss Congeniality cookie was the lonely girl sitting solo in the middle school cafeteria. There wasn’t one taker.
The real taste-bud Taser was that a woman who brought multi-colored “cookie presents” was acting like she had just won Top Chef, and guests were oohing and ahhing over her treats. How many Mistletoe Mojitos had these women consumed? Couldn’t they tell these squares were made out of Fruity Pebbles cereal and melted marshmallows?
It was just an fancy Rice Krispy Treat. Sure, Mrs. Top Chef had decorated each square to look like a present with a fondant bow, but that still didn't excuse her hubris. She kept talking about the “flavor profile” of her cookies. Really? Fruity Pebbles cereal has a flavor profile? What is it, red dye and palm oil?
This is when I kind of panicked. I felt sorry for my cookies and I wanted them to find a good home. So, I thought WWPDD (What Would the Pillsbury Doughboy Do)? I tell you what he would do. He would be not let a mighty fine sugar cookie made with the finest of ingredients get bested by Fruity Pebbles. So, I went for the soft spot of any cookie exchange — caloric content.
The cookie exchange is quite the dichotomy. You have a bunch of women wearing Spanx who work out twice a day and have either just finished a juice cleanse or are about to start one surrounded by their mortal enemies: carbohydrates and sucrose. So, I shared that my cookies were more energy bars than desserts. (People will eat an energy bar that has as many calories as a Snicker as long as they think it’s full of “good carbs.”) Then I backed up that claim with more fabrications. I might have casually mentioned that protein powder was mixed in with the flour and that a flax and sesame seed oil reduction replaced most of the butter.
Before you could say Merry Christmas women were putting down those Fruity Pebbles squares and going for my Miss Congenialities. Was it wrong of me to lie? Of course, but it is the holidays and my gift to everyone was guilt-free eating. Sorry, but I can’t feel bad about that.
Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. You can follow her on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at snarkyinthesuburbs.com. She’s also written a book, “Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.”