When baking my Christmas goodies, sometimes I find myself in a pickle. Either I ran out of some ingredient or I don’t have the right tools. But I never go down without a fight. I hunt for a substitute and make do with what I have. Sometimes, to my surprise, it works out okay. And, sometimes, well, I call it the “error” of the “trial and error”. I then make note in my lovely recipe journal that the experiment did NOT work, and do NOT do that again!
I really do love baking because it is an artistic outlet for me. Baking or cooking is an art form if you let it. I can be creative and unique once I get the basics down. In some cases, my result would qualify for an “ain’t nobody got time for that” meme.
Believe it or not, cookies are a very delicate treat. I had no background whatsoever in the baked good department because my mother, bless her heart, did not love to bake. I remember the first time I discovered the glory of the oven timer. What a useful invention!
I usually have no problem keeping flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda, and salt in the house. However, I really believe tiny elves sneak into our fridge at night and eat all our butter or take it to the Kleebler factory. I don’t know how many times I’ve mixed cookie batter and then realized there was no butter anywhere in our solar system. Since I am too shy to knock on a neighbor’s door, I rummage through the cupboards until I find an acceptable alternative.
Obviously, using different substances will render different outcomes. I don’t know if it is legit or not, but I general follow this made-up rule of thumb. How the ingredient holds up at room temperature will give me a clue to how my cookies will turn out.
In a butter crisis, I am faced with using a few of the following options instead: Vegetable oil spread, margarine, shortening, olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, coconut oil…hmmm…that’s all I can think of for now.
Let me give you an example. So at room temperature, vegetable oil is liquid-y. If I would use vegetable oil instead of butter, my cookies would be too runny when I baked them and would just flatten out on the cookie sheet.
Option B, at room temperature, margarine is still pretty soft and melt-y as well so I probably wouldn’t use that either. According to my made-up rule, my next best option for cookie baking is shortening. It holds up well at room temperature and in the oven. I have never tried making cookies with coconut oil. But maybe that is because I’ve never bought it. And I won’t use canola oil either. Everybody knows that, if you use canola oil, you will make a cannoli.
Sometimes, you can relate your life to making cookies. What is that definition of insanity? I believe Albert Einstein said it. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
I can’t expect to just “keep practicing” the same way over and over again and then I would become the next America’s Got Iron Chef or whatever. I have to experiment using different ingredients and different methods. And.......not be afraid to fail. The “error” in the “trial and error” doesn’t always turn out that bad, just ask my husband.
If something in my life just isn’t working out, maybe it is time to take a step back and look at the ingredients. What is it that I am doing to get this outcome? Is there something different that I could try? Do I need to get advice from a master? What can I learn not to do next time?
Good luck with your Christmas baking and cooking! I hope you are lucky enough to get to try one of my creations. Or is that, lucky enough to NOT have to try it? Don’t answer that question.