Thursday, December 18, 2014

Midweek Roundup: December 18, 2014

I've seen a lot in my almost 70 years (remember I was a public defender for most of my adult life), and I thought I was immune to shock.  But I was shocked to the core of my being when I hit a realization from this week's posts.  What I learned is that Some People Don't Like Cookies!  There it is, and it looks even more shocking when it's in black and white.

Raymond's post first alerted me to the SPDLC phenomenon.  He wasn't subtle about it:  "I admit to not being much of a cookie lover."  There you have it.  He explains that his mother only made them for the holidays, and otherwise, his family had store-bought cookies, including Pecan Sandies, which he described as "hard, dry, tasteless hockey pucks."  Raymond describes himself as "not a very patient person," who finds cookies to be "fidgety, fussy things, which don't really satisfy me in the end."  And this is from Raymond, who is not afraid to tackle anything, no matter how complicated or difficult.  I will just point out that there is a children's character named "Cookie Monster," and there is, as far as I know, no "Vacherin Monster."

Some of us don't hate cookies in general, but had some objections to this particular cookie. Patricia just flat-out didn't like the cookie.  She thought "the raw cookie dough was much better than the finished cookie," didn't like the chocolate and apricot combination, and couldn't understand "why these cookies are so loved."  Nicola also pulled no punches:  "Everything about this cookie annoyed me."  "They just tasted bland to me, overwhelmed by chocolate ... and underwhelmed by the lekvar..."  She admitted that she might have changed her mind about the merits of the cookie, but she only got a bite or two after her three boys "hoover[ed] ... [all but] 1/8 of a biscuit left on the dining room table."  I'll admit that I wouldn't be keen on meticulously making this cookies only to have them hoovered by three beautiful and no doubt charming boys.  But still boys.

The boys, however, may one day turn into loving and appreciative husbands, like Monica's.  Monica liked the cookies and had no problems with them, but she said that they were not her favorite cookie ever. But her husband, a serious "cookie aficionado, " ate two to four at a time.  Since they work different hours, much of their communication is by text:  Monica:  "Did you eat the cookies?"  Husband:  "I just tried them.  There might be an issue.  Is there a limit on how many I can eat tonight?"  It's nice to bake for an appreciative audience.

 Nancy was one of several who liked the cookie itself, but didn't like the process.  She said that, although it's "a very good cookie, ... it's not one I'm likely to repeat," given "the long and somewhat difficult rolling out process and the time to fill with 2 fillings."  Jen echoed this complaint:  "These are good cookies, but I am not in love with them.  They would have to be the most amazing thing on earth for me to feel they were worth all the rolling and cutting...."

 I thought at first that Jenn was going to join the Ischler Bashing Club, but when she tasted them, "They were so good that I forgot my annoyance from earlier.  They are totally worth the effort."  But then she goes on to say that the plain cookies, by themselves, are so good that she'll just forego the unnecessary chocolate and lekvar.  Chocolate unnecessary?  Heresy.  Alice was also so rushed that she decided not to use both lekvar and ganache, but she at least didn't dump the chocolate out with the bathwater.  She just sandwiched the ganache between her almond cookie layers--"so cute [with] ... the chocolate peeping out."  "Delicious!" she concluded, "light and flaky with a bit of chocolate."

After making 25 gingerbread houses, rolling out the Ischlers was nothing for Jill.  She used Christmas tree and snowflake cookie cutters in addition to her round cookies, and rolled it quite thin, for "a holiday theme ..., which turned out quite well."  She wanted a bite-size cookie--too bad she couldn't share them with Kim, who only wanted one bite.

For Hanaa, the anti-rolling-out-bias seems based mostly in simple arithmetic:   "I really dislike roll-out cookies, and I dislike sandwich cookies even more because for the amount of work you put in, you're only getting half the number of cookies."  Spoken like a true scientist.

Kim's objection to sandwich cookies comes not from the rolling-out part but from the tasting part. She thinks "they always look beautiful, and I reach for them without hesitating, but I find they are often too much for my palate....  For me, a sandwich cookie needs to be bite sized--two bites max.  Otherwise, it just overloads my senses."  Sure enough, these little, seemingly innocent cookies were too much for Kim, but they made her husband swoon.

On the other hand, some bakers were like Kristina, who finds "rollling, cutting and baking the cookies somewhat ...zen[....]  It may be the same reason I enjoy weeding, and have recently taken up weaving.  Something I can do with my hands where I can choose to shut my brain off...."

Maybe Mendy has the real secret - not to be a perfectionist.  He said, "not all the cookies were evenly rolled, but they were perfectly delicious."  He did say the flavor of the cookie and the fruit filling reminded him of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Apparently that's not a bad thing.

Catherine was prepared for failure, but surprised herself with success.  In the middle of her hot, humid Christmas summer, she expected to have to "wrestle with sticky dough and spreading biscuits.  However, miraculously, (a Christmas miracle!?), [she] was able to roll the dough out quite thinly and get the cut out shapes onto the trays without tears."  And the recipient of the cookies asked her for the recipe.

Fortunately, there were also plenty of cookie lovers in the group to keep me from getting totally discouraged about the human condition.  Glori, for example, exclaimed, "Cookies, oh boy!  I have a weakness for cookies and I won't turn down one or two or even three if offered."  A girl after the above-mentioned Cookie Monster's own heart.  And Faithy said, "I like making cookies and eating cookies."  Although she claimed to have done everything wrong (not realizing that you were supposed to fill cookies with both ganache and lekvar, instead of one or the other), Faithy's cookies look, as usual, perfect.

Katya described these "glamorous" cookies as a "pleasure and a joy,"--both times she made them.  Besides, she likes their name:  "I like a cookie with a title--it has a bit more weight than just 'oatmeal raisin' or 'brandy snap.'  You know right off the bat that this cookie is an institution with the full weight of the treasury behind it."  And the Austrian treasury used to carry a lot of weight.

Michele thought the cookie was "outstanding ..., first nutty and crumbly, then that fruity and chocolate finish."  She also thought it was "sophisticated and upscale ..., not the kind of thing I would include in a lunch pail for a lumberjack...."  Although I have never thought to divide cookies into lumberjack and non-lumberjack categories, I think she's probably right that your typical lumberjack might think the Ishler is a little too hoity-toity.

Our lovely over-achiever, Maggie, thought the cookies were "very easy and delicious indeed."  And she only made three or four fillings for the cookies and a dozen or so different shapes and sizes.  

For some of us, cookies are not just cookies--they're an integral part of the December holidays.  Vicki, for examples, says she "comes from a long line of Christmas Eve-ers who firmly believed the table should groan from plates upon plates of Christmas cookies.... while opening presents and singing carols surrounded by dozens of cousins."  Christmas meant cousins to me, too, Vicki, especially our much-loved cousins who came all the way to our Indiana farmhouse from the exotic metropolis of Cleveland, Ohio!

Lois, who's been living next door to Austria for the last few years and knows whereof she speaks, pronounced the Ischler a "very sophisticated, very European cookie--a nice addition to any holiday cookie tray!"

I think that making the Ischler was a memorable experience for everyone, even for those who didn't really love the final result.  It will be interesting to see how next week's cookie--the much easier Almond Coffee Crisp--will be received.  I've made them twice now, and I think they're delicious, although I do love coffee.  If you don't love it, I recommend that you omit the final step of brushing espresso powder over the tops; if you do that, people may not even identify them as coffee flavored, but may instead think that there's some spice in the cookie that they just can't place.

17 comments:

  1. Brilliant round up Marie. Such a lot of work to read everyone's blog - that alone is a full time job, not sure how you also find the time to bake ;)

    Very much looking forward to baking these cookies this weekend... I ordered the PastryWands and they arrived yesterday. New kit always generates a modicum of excitement!

    Thanks for the round up. Lumberjack vs non lumberjack categorisation for cookies - you heard it here first (well, technically second)!

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  2. Hello, Marie: Such fun reading your roundups! Glad you included that tip about the Almond Coffee Crisps. I am not a coffee lover, so I will make a few without the sprinkling of espresso powder. Happy baking! Michele

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  3. Marie, I guess you can call me the Vacherin Monster because truth be told I much prefer Vacherin to cookies any day.

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    1. Raymond, I thought I remembered that you were very excited about the vacherin--that's exactly what made me think of it. Unfortunately for you, there are lots of cookies in this book and nary a vacherin. Maybe you can make your cookies in small batches so you don't have to spend all day by the oven.

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  4. It was surprising to me too that so many in our group don't LOVE cookies. I thought I knew you guys! x

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    1. Ohh the secret you get to know about people during a bake along - LOL

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  5. I am now imagining a Monty Python-Sesame Street mashup sketch between the Vacherin Monster and the Sophisticated Lumberjack.

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    1. Katya, I can't imagine why someone hasn't thought of that before.

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    2. I would like Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart to star.

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  6. Marie, you are an excellent writer. Did you ever think all the years of being a PD defender would make you such an excellent "baking roundup" writer? I was also surprised that a lot of folks doesn't like the cookie, or the combo with the fillings. Who would have thought cookies would cause such a division of opinion!
    I already made the Coffee Almond Crisps and liked it. It's a no fuss recipe so a lot easier than the Ischler.

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    1. Jenn, Where life leads us next is always a mystery and often a complete surprise. No, when I graduated from law school, I would never have pictured myself moderating a baking blog, much less being mentored by the Diva of Desserts herself.

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  7. ב''ה

    SPDLC syndrome. Too funny. Great roundup.

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  8. Hello Marie , lovely right up and it must have taken you quite a while, you are so good in this and about the cookies I didn't have a problem with them, there were easy to make, but the Fruit apricot preserves took some time to make, but overall they were delicious I didn't have a problem.

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  9. I like your new SPDLC classification - Lol. I really enjoyed making these cookies - just didn't really think they were all that to write home about. Anyway, I've made the dough for the coffee almond crisps - just have to bake them off. I'm pretty sure we're going to like them.

    Patricia @ Butteryum.org

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  10. I'm with everyone, I'm an official SPDLC. But, I got to say this, I did taste them the NEXT day, when the got softer (due to the lekvar) and I sort of like them a bit better - still I will take a cake over a cookie anytime.

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  11. Wonderful write up, Marie, as always! I'm not sure I can understand that people don't like cookies! Don't like making cookies, yes, I can see that...but cookies are so cute and delicious :)

    I do fully admit that rolled cookies can sometimes be a pain but these were worth it. Hanaa's observation was hilarious - only half the results for sandwich cookies. Too true!

    I've just finished the Almond Cookie Crisps and they were so much faster and easier to make. Will definitely be making them again.

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