Baking 101: Sometimes The Cookie Doesn’t Crumble

Although I am beginner when it comes to cooking, I am somewhat of a veteran to the baking world.  My sweet tooth led me to baking long ago; we’re a natural fit. Cookies, pies, cakes, brownies – they are all filled with heaping spoonfuls of processed sugar and that makes my tummy happy. Beyond the obvious though, I love baking cookies for people and giving them as gifts. I get, usually, a great deal of satisfaction from being able to bake homemade cookies for the people I love. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something worthwhile and I’m genuinely good at baking most things.  So, when Easter rolled around, I figured now might be a good time to try making a dessert. I felt confident that I could conquer the recipe and provide my family with something yummy to eat on a significant holiday day.

A few weeks back, I’d stopped by my cousin’s restaurant to grab a bite to eat. While we were hanging out talking, one of my cousins offered me a bag filled with rock cookies. She’d brought them back from a trip to see some of our family in Tennessee and they were just as yummy as I’d remembered.

Rock cookies are nothing fancy. They look bland and uninteresting, but the taste is so addictive. I’m pretty sure they aren’t a traditional Arabic cookie, but one that has been embraced and perfected by my aunts and one I was excited to be able to tackle.

I followed the recipe almost exactly – with an exception of adding a bit more cinnamon to the final mixture – and was satisfied with taste of the batter. My main concern was making sure the cookies baked in the shape of bite-sized mounds. I wanted the texture to be a little dry, but crumbly with just the right amount of sugar to spice.

Well, that’s not exactly how the baking of these cookies went down. All three trays came out exactly the same – flat, spongy and dry as hell.  I’m still trying to figure out what went wrong. We considered the role humidity may have played in the baking process, whether using baking soda was necessary, and even tried adding a bit more flour in the last batch to see if that would make a difference. I could really use some insight from anyone who bakes regularly.  What could I have done differently to get the texture I wanted??

Needless to say, I had a really difficult time accepting my baking defeat. I know it’s merely a hiccup, but something about this experience left me emotional and, ok I’ll admit it, a tiny bit irrational.  I guess part of my reaction stemmed from the Easter holiday being such a symbolic holiday, and while I’m not exactly what one would call devout, the idea of rebirth and second chances was really resonating with me this time around.  I guess the cookies were a symbolic offering of sorts to my family (especially because it was my uncle’s 75th birthday, too) and I feel like I failed at making it a memorable one. My dad kept trying to insist that we take the cookies anyway; that they tasted fine. I refused.

It’s odd. When I cook and don’t such a great job, I am usually pretty forgiving of myself.  When I bake and fail, I go into complete hysterics. I know I was acting like a bratty pre-teen and my family was being encouraging despite the bad attitude.  I’ll also say that I was overcome by how encouraging my extended family has been about this project. You all have been so amazing for taking the time to read and share this endeavor with me.  And I’ll end this post with the words of encouragement from my awesome Uncle Vic: ” Just remember, none of us are born knowing anything. We learn by practicing.”

Y’all better get ready to eat some cookies, because I’m gonna make these suckers a hundred times until I get them right.

Butter...and plenty of it!
Flour with all the fixins'
Changing Batter - One Egg at a Time
Batter + Flour
+ Raisins and Walnuts
Batter Complete!
Final Product

Recipe of the Week – Cookies!

Since Easter is this weekend, I thought I’d make a dessert to take with me to our family get-together.  Initially, I thought I’d tackle one of my favorite cookies – Ghraybeh. Ghraybeh, or “S” cookies, are kin to shortbread cookies, only more buttery and soft. If done right, they melt in your mouth and sing in your stomach and they are one of my most favorite things ever.  They aren’t difficult to make, but there was another cookie I wanted to try out – one that seemed more festive.

I don’t know what the Arabic word is for these cookies, but my cousins call them ‘rock cookies’.  They are delicious mounds of cookie goodness and every mama, aunt, cousin I know that makes them has a different twist to them. Here’s my mama’s version:

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup butter

4 cups flour

1/2 cup white corn syrup

1 1/2 cups walnuts

2 cups golden raisins

tsp. baking soda

tsp. cloves

tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

dash of salt

Mix flour and spices together. Mix butter and sugar together.  Add egg one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture and then add syrup.  Slowly add the flour to the mixture until it’s cookie-dough in consistency. Stir in chopped walnuts and raisins.  Bake at 375 until golden brown.

They should come out like misshapen lumps that have a more on the crunchy,crumbly texture vs. soft and chewy.

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