The Business of Baking
They were supposed to be cookies, a quick and dirty way for me to use up an overripe banana while the chicken finished roasting in the oven. They were also my key to ten minutes of quiet. Nicholas had been begging me for another cookie, gummy or “ga-rola” bar. He didn’t care which, really, so long as it was sweet and filled his stomach before dinner.
“If you go play with Mikey for ten minutes, I will make you both cookies.” He went and played with Mikey, but for no more than three minutes.
I decided on the Banana-Maple Oatmeal Cookies by Susan of Fat Free Vegan and adapted the recipe to accommodate my bare cupboards. The chia seeds I replaced with one egg, the lemon juice with apple cider vinegar, and the white wheat flour with whole wheat pastry flour. I didn’t have enough maple syrup.
The pastry flour was the death knell. I remember reading somewhere that you should decrease the amount of regular flour by a tablespoon or two when you substitute it for pastry flour. Working in reverse, I decided to increase the amount of pastry flour in the recipe by two tablespoons, which somehow turned into 1/2 cup. The recipe said to avoid overworking the dough, but I beat it with the strength of a thousand men. I never did make up for that missing maple syrup. Oops.
Before we sat down to dinner I dropped the cookies on the silpat and tossed them into the oven. They emerged 10 minutes later looking the same only darker, as if they had just returned from a week-long vacation in Cancun. I touched one gingerly. It was very, very hard.
They were supposed to be cookies, but these weren’t cookies. Doorstops, sandbags, pucks, bricks, discs, patties, heels, blocks, ingots, and maybe even stones. But not cookies.
“Mama! Is it time for cookies now?”
“We ate all our dinner!”
Stones. Stones? Stones!
“Uh, I changed my mind about the cookies.” This I said while I slathered them in butter and drizzled honey over the top.
I returned to the table with two plates of scones.
“Mama, what are scones?”
Ten seconds later, Nicholas pronounced them delicious ga-rola bars. He choked and threw up the second one, but only a little so I took it as a compliment.
You should always substitute your ingredients precisely. If you don’t have enough of a wet ingredient, be sure to add moisture any way you can. Don’t ever overwork your dough and add enough maple syrup. But even if you don’t heed this advice it’s okay. There isn’t a poorly baked item a solid marketing plan can’t repair.