It was the day before the Holiday Bake Off. Grandma Deal's Special Cookie Recipe lay on the counter, spotted with the doughs of Christmas past. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees and turn on the Christmas carols.
At 10 am Corrine arrives at my house. By 11 we had had our tea and chatted about art and everything else. Finally, I said “I guess we better bake.”
Corrine had bought butterfly cookie cutters. We planned to ice the butterflies blue, and they would have black-piped bodies and tiny candy silver balls for eyes. We had a vision of a tray of beautiful blue butterflies winning first place at the bake off.
The dough was chilled, all night chilled, it takes a lot of muscle to roll all night chilled dough. Nancy is looking forward to Corrine doing it. Corrine gives it a try and says “I'll cut the cookies, you roll.” Nancy stares at the dough. “What are these brown spots?” Gotta be nutmeg that didn't get mixed in enough. Well... it doesn't look too bad.
We do the bottom rumba, it is not a 2two-butt space. We bump into each other and reach over each other, as one rolls or adds dough and one reaches for flour to keep things from sticking, and we both want the spatula, and the other lifts off the cookies, and puts them on trays. “Would you like to live in a Harem?” I ask, and Corrine says no they mostly plotted and wanted to kill each other. Hmmmm.
Corrine was unloading her shopping bag. She had bought the blue and black icing colors we needed and a neat little packet with a brand new icing bag with instructions, when she froze, holding one of the little containers, and said, “Green?”
Luckily I had a blue in the cupboard.
Then came the discussion of water in the icing. “It has to be thin,” says Corrine. Hmm. Mine always has butter and milk. It's fat. She whipped out her phone, and looked it up. The instructions didn't say use water, and didn't say use butter. Glycerin? We used water. Corrine assured me she'd always used water. And it would make it smooth. We'd pour it on.
Corrine asks, “Is it okay if they are this close on the baking tray?”
“Sure,” I confidently say as I nudge one a little farther away.
When we were ready to bake our first tray, I can't find the recipe. Where did I put Grandma Deal's special recipe that I have used for 30 years and never made a copy of and no one else has?
Oh well, I'll find it later, I'll guess how long the cookies should bake.
“Wow, they are all puffed up,” Corrine says. But they sink in a minute. I don't say anything as I cut the blobs apart to put on the rack to cool.
I find my recipe in the living room. That's when I notice that the temperature was supposed to be 400 degrees.
I turn the oven up.
By the time we get to that last sheet of cookies to bake, they look pretty good.
Corrine is ready to test the icing. “I need a rack, so the icing can be poured over them.” I only have one rack. It's got hot cookies on it. For 30 years I've thought of getting a second rack. Maybe I will tomorrow.
She pours, and then looks at it. It's not exactly beautiful. “I think I need to test another one.”
After a tray full of testing, some with knives, some with fingers (Corrine, you've got to wash your hands now) and a very large pool of blue, watery icing on the counter, she says, “This isn't working.”
And gets on with opening the piping bag. Maybe we can pipe them. But there is only one bag. How do you put it together? After futzing with it, I ask, “Have you read the directions?”
(I honestly didn't think I would need to, I mean how hard can it be)
So she reads them out loud. And neither of us understand them. But I take over, sure I can figure it out. I will read the whole directions. Half way through, I realize I can't understand them either, and start at the top again. Still don't understand, stop reading, give up on using the twisty part that keeps it neatly on the bag, and start cutting off the top of the bag, and drop in the pointy nozzle. And Corrine starts scooping in black icing.
After carefully making some swirls on a blue iced cookie for a body and long curly feelers, Corrine says, “This is ugly, they look like Fallopian tubes” And we give up.
“Corrine,” I say, “you need to take pictures! I want a picture of your face the way it looked when you tried a bite of cookie.”
As I start to wash up the huge mess we have made, Corrine kicks into artist gear, and uses the piping bag to decorate the not iced cookies with smiley faces ,and frowny faces, and heartfelt words, and finally says to me “'look at this one.”
It says “Fuck” in beautifully piped black icing. Nope. I don't think we can bring that one to the bake off.
Instead, in the morning, Corrine will make trifles, which she makes every Christmas. She makes them very well. By herself. Nancy BOUGHT the supplies.