“You’d never baked chocolate chip cookies before?” My phone-call friend, a frequent baker, was incredulous. “Oh, sweetie, we need to expand you a bit.”
Yes, all true. My life experience had not, until two weeks before, included baking chocolate chip cookies.
With guidance from a baking friend who agreed to be my buddy for the effort, we’d chosen a recipe. I bought the two kinds of flour and other ingredients we’d need, and we picked a start time – 11:00 am, a week later.
He arrived at 9:30 on the chosen morning and, as we nibbled at breakfast and talked through the recipe, he said, “We need to take three sticks of butter and the eggs out of the refrigerator so they warm up to room temperature.” Aye, sir, done.
When we started at 11:00, we measured the dry ingredients and sifted the flours, baking soda, and baking powder into a bowl and set that aside.
Then, the recipe said, “Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes.”
Well, it turned out, my kitchen does not now include a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. That meant that I would be the mixer with a paddle, creaming the butter by hand.
“OK, here’s the butter,” said my guide, handing me the three sticks… which felt a little cold.
“These are supposed to be room temperature. What do you think?”, I asked as I whacked one stick on the kitchen counter for emphasis and demonstration.
“Oh, they’ll be fine,” he replied.
“Can we put the butter in the microwave to soften it up?”
“Hard to control,” he responded. “You don’t want the butter to melt. Just go ahead, they’ll be fine.”
Except… they weren’t….
I cut one stick of butter into cubes. I mushed it with a fork. Very slow going. I tried heating the fork. Messy. I tried scraping thin sheets of butter off another stick. Both messy and slow.
But, pressing on doggedly, bit by bit, using a fork and a large spoon, I worked the butter and sugars.
Five minutes passed (remember, that’s what the recipe said). Then, ten minutes. I was exhausted. Fifteen minutes. Ready to give up, never again to bake cookies. Seriously. My hands hurt.
But, after a bit more work, we added the eggs, vanilla, and the dry ingredients (which we also mixed in by hand). Long story short, per the recipe, we wrapped the dough and put it in the refrigerator to chill for 24 hours and I baked the cookies the next day. They were wonderful. Mission accomplished,
So, I was describing this saga to the aforementioned friend, a frequent cookie baker, and she said, “You guys…..” in that what-were-you-thinking voice tone that sort of trails off.
“What do you mean?,” I replied in my gentlest “are you talking to me?” voice. “We followed the recipe.”
“No, that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the butter. You said, yourself, it wasn’t room temperature. Why was that?”
“It hadn’t been out of the ‘fridge for long enough.”
“Right,” she said. “So…?”
“We could have taken it out earlier.”
“Right, but you didn’t, so that wasn’t an option.” She paused, then continued: “Couldn’t you have just waited another 30 minutes to let the butter warm up? It wasn’t ready. What was the rush? All that struggle for no reason. Wait until it’s warm, THEN start.”
Nick Miller trains bankers to attract and expand relationships with small businesses. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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