Baking Fracas

As fantastic as I am as a cook, I totally suck at baking. Today I decided to bake cookies. I hate cookies. Never touch the bastards. But moms bake cookies. I’m a mom. So I have to bake cookies.

I didn’t attempt anything crazy. I got those store cookies that are premade, precut, and all you have to do is plonk them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. I did exactly what the instructions said. Bake at 325°, 12 minutes, don’t overcook. So that’s what I did and. . . the nasty things are completely raw. Fuck this. Happens every time I try to bake.

I’m a person who makes beef bourguignon, bouillabaisse, chupe de mariscos, coq au vin, paella, etc as a matter of course. I love 6-hour-long recipes where everything is made from scratch. I’m telling you, folks, I rule. My husband is a lucky man because he’s the type of guy who ends at the emergency room after eating a slice of pizza. But my baking is worse than my ballet dancing, which is non-existent.

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25 thoughts on “Baking Fracas”

  1. From one who has been there, get an oven thermometer. I also cook very successful savory dishes and main meals in our oven but baking was a different matter. After three years of collapsed-in-the-middle birthday cakes (fortunately, small kids don’t mind this type of thing 😉 ) I bought a cheap one and found out that our oven runs 50 F cooler than it says on the dial. That kind of thing doesn’t matter much for long stews, but is pretty critical for cakes and cookies.
    The funny part is that I tried pretty much everything else before I realized it was the oven. I thought it was something to do with using a UK recipe in the US, so I went to great lengths to try using UK flour, butter, etc (which are different from their US counterparts). I really kicked myself when I found out what it was. But all my cakes have risen perfectly ever since 🙂

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  2. Don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but I’ve made this mistake so – did you remember to preheat the oven?

    I’m Indian and we are not a baking culture at all. Ovens still befuddle me. 🙂

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    1. I have no intelligence when it comes to baking, so no offense taken. 🙂

      Yes, I preheated. In the end, I kept them in until they goldened up a bit, like the box said, and now they are hard as stone. Yeeee.

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    2. Yes, preheating the oven is essential and making sure it actually heats through is essential.
      My mother uses her oven as additional storage space for her pots and pressure cooker. :p
      It’s very funny reading all these recipes and realizing they are all oven or grill centered.

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      1. I use the oven at least three times a week for vegetables and fish and it’s so annoying to encounter tons of pots and bowls in there every time. Because somebody keeps stuffing them there!

        I think you just provoked a family showdown over here. :-)))

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        1. “I use the oven at least three times a week for vegetables and fish.”

          Then you’re BAKING them, so don’t claim you have no baking expertise!

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        2. I use the oven at least three times a week for vegetables and fish and it’s so annoying to encounter tons of pots and bowls in there every time. Because somebody keeps stuffing them there!

          Klara can reach the oven door handle? :-p

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  3. Being an fairly successful baker for a bachelor, I’ll give you some hints about resolving minor baking problems:

    First, consider the recommended baking times and temperature settings on product packages to be nothing more than a suggestion to experiment with. Most baking products require a somewhat longer cooking time than the package recommends, and many require a slightly higher baking temperature. Try adding 5-minute increments to the baking time until you get it right. If the additional time doesn’t get the product crisp or firm enough, also try increasing the temperature in 25-degree increments. If the extra cooking time bakes the food all the way through but the outside is too crisp, try reducing the temperature, again in 25-degree increments.

    A cooking thermometer can be useful but isn’t critical. I almost never use one, and my baking efforts turn out fine without one, after a little initial experimentation.

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    1. OMG – 5 minutes is forever for cookies though. Try 2-3min increments if it’s long enough. (So like 10-20% of whatever the actual cook time is if you find things underdone.)

      And don’t forget that cookies cook a bit sitting on the pan after you take them out and before they’re cool enough to transfer. So it’s better to have them be just on the edge of being done when you pull them from the oven, otherwise the residual heat in the pan will overcook them when you take them out.

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      1. “cookies cook a bit sitting on the pan after you take them out”

        Yes, baked things need to ‘rest’ after being taken from the oven (like roasts) and they continue cooking a bit while resting so just on the bare edge of being done is when to take them out.

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    2. Dreidel: I agree, now that I know that my oven runs 50 F cool, I barely need to use the thermometer any more (occasionally just for reassurance if baking a special birthday cake). But it was essential in discovering the source of my own baking woes, given all the other factors I was trying to test and given the fact that cakes (my main problem) don’t rise again once they’ve collapsed. For cookies, I agree – experimentation is the key!

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  4. I know that this time you used pre-made dough, but the other times that you have tried to bake how old was the baking powder you used? Baking powder goes flat very quickly. You test it by stirring a spoon of it in a bowl of water. There should be a lot of bubbles. Get fresh baking powder.

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  5. If all else fails, you can BAKE COOKIES ON A GEORGE FOREMAN GRILL (which you should definitely own by now, since you’re such a chef for the ages):

    Cover the bottom plate of the grill with aluminum foil. Do NOT preheat the grill.

    For each cookie, scoop a teaspoon of room temperature cookie dough onto the aluminum foil.

    Place a coffee cup (or a glass, whatever) under the forward edge of the the grill lid, so the lid doesn’t close over the dough.

    Assuming that you’re using an original version of the G.F. grill (meaning no built-in timer or unnecessary temperature controls), plug in the grill, let it heat up and bake the cookies for a relatively long period (15 min or more), until the cookies are golden brown.

    Turn the grill off by unplugging it and eat the cookies.

    Enjoy!

    Bonus hint: Put everything that you cook in the George Foreman grill in an aluminum foil pouch — that way, you’ll never have to clean the grill surface!

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  6. Fracas is a word in English? I love that language! Bake cookies out of real ingredients. You will love them, and they will turn out just fine.

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      1. It’s a word but I can’t pronounce it.

        “FREY” — rhymes with “HEY” + “cuss” — pronounced like “cuss.” Accent on the first syllable. It’s a common English word, and very easy to roll off your tongue.

        Some elitists put on airs and pronounce it “FRAH-KAH,” accenting both syllables — forget about them!

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        1. On the pronunciation of fracas….
          “FREY” — rhymes with “HEY” + “cuss”
          That seems wrong to me (even if the dictionary backs it up).
          The thing with English pronunciation is that literate native speakers learn a lot of vocabulary through reading and either normally don’t say or hear the word so they imagine possible pronunciations – one of the reasons so many words have alternate pronunciations is that different people imagine different possible pronunciations.
          Fracas is not a word people often say, but I’ve always mentally pronounced it so that it rhymes with “mock us” or “track us” and noone is likely to change that…

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          1. On the pronunciation of fracas….
            “FREY” — rhymes with “HEY” + “cuss”
            That seems wrong to me (even if the dictionary backs it up).
            The thing with English pronunciation is that literate native speakers learn a lot of vocabulary through reading and either normally don’t say or hear the word…

            Some of us “literate native English speakers” who grew up in combative environments learned to pronounce “FREY-cuss” through repeated verbal usage: As in, “The thugs from Riverside High have taken over the entire gym floor, which is supposed to be neutral territory, and those of us from Central High aren’t going to get our share of the dance floor without a “FREY-cuss!” After a few confrontations, both sides quickly learned to pronounce the word correctly in the local vernacular.

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            1. “aren’t going to get our share of the dance floor without a “FREY-cuss!”

              In my local environment that would have been a fight, a rumble or some other locution “without getting their asses whipped”…

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  7. Moms can bake bar cookies, which are pretty idiot-proof, easier, and less susceptible to the vagaries of oven temperatures than freestanding cookies. Of course, they’re not the classic “ice and decorate” cookies of the holiday season, if that’s what you’re after — but in that case you can make bar cookies to eat, and have fun with frosting and sprinkles by building “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers and confectioners sugar icing.

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      1. Bar cookies (or “tray bakes” as they’re called on the Great British Baking show) are cookies that you make in a 9 x 13 pan and then cut into squares or rectangles. WAY less fiddly than rolling out, slicing, or shaping individual cookies. For example:
        https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/contest-winning-strawberry-jam-bars/
        https://www.eaglebrand.com/recipe-detail/sevenlayermagiccookiebars-3966
        https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/261156/oatmeal-fudge-bars/

        Fake gingerbread house (Klara may yet be too young for this specific craft, but graham crackers + frosting and decoration can be a way to get the fun of decorating cookies without actually baking anything). https://www.instructables.com/id/Graham-Cracker-Gingerbread-House/

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