Being famous for Christmas cookies does not automatically translate to good results with other types of decorative cookies. I learned the hard way.
Frosted and decorated Christmas cookies are an annual tradition that dates back to the earliest memories of my childhood. My mother made it with my sister and me.
From my early years, I would make large batches of dough and icing and invite all the kids in the neighborhood to make them. Then it was with my friends’ children, and finally, my own daughter and her friends.
Last January, a few weeks after another fun day of Christmas cookie decorating with a house full of friends and relatives, one of the ladies called me: Could I make plush cookies for Jacob’s baptism in may ? Love Christmas cookies, but teal teddy bears to match the holiday scheme?
Of course, I said, feeling honored. I would be delighted to.
Saturday party week, I had planned to start on Monday after work.
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As soon as all the ingredients were on the kitchen counter, I got into the habit of checking my emails – and discovered that the sheriff’s office had sent information about a major narcotics operation.
I put everything away and sat with my cat at the desk of Bulletin’s Dyer’s Store (my chair). It took some time to format the text and process the nearly 40 mugshots. No cooking that night.
On Tuesday, a triple batch of dough was made. I cut little teddy bears out of the gingerbread man cookie cutters.
While this first batch was baking, I searched online for “teddy bear cookies” for decorating ideas. That’s when I was reminded that teddy bears have little round ears that gingerbread men don’t.
I tried several ways to get small ears, without success.
What finally worked was cutting about 2 inches off the end of a thick straw to use as an ear cookie cutter. The end of a meat thermometer had to be poked into the straw to push the little circles of dough out and over the head. Then I had to use the edge of a metal knife to press the ear against the head.
Needless to say, it was very rare that the teddy bear actually had two ears, each in its place.
No cookies on Wednesday because my daughter had a school event.
Thursday I made the frosting. It ended up an odd shade of blue, not the requested teal.
That’s when I really started to worry, and the stress solidified when I searched the Internet for “teddy bear cookies” again. There were two types of cookie images: lovely, pristine teddy bears and silly, ugly cookies in the kind of images that people post to poke fun at, as examples of how things don’t go the way they do. intended.
It was then that my heart sank with the deep fear that this was where I was heading.
As the ugly blue icing spread in irregular clumps and swirls over the cookies (although it did a good job of masking a lot of ear trouble), the anxiety grew even worse.
On Friday night, I started passing the brown frosting to represent the eyes, muzzle, legs, etc. To my horror, all of these came out in patchy smudges.
It wasn’t as easy as sprinkling nonpareils on Christmas cookies.
With fear, I thought about the party the next day. Maybe I could call in sick or say I had to work.
By the time I arrived at the party, my face was hot and I was afraid to cry.
Head bowed in shame, I slowly entered the party venue. The ladies greeted me happily.
I apologized and said the cookies didn’t go well and they shouldn’t be on the table. The ladies took the container encouragingly.
I hadn’t done any yard work, cleaned the house or anything all week to make those pesky cookies, but it looked like I’d made it through in an afternoon.
They laugh. They all made desserts for the table, they said, and it all came out a little funny.
Jacob’s mother put her arm around my shoulders and pointed to the large wooden painted teddy bears that decorated the table, one at each end. “Look,” she said, “my mother and I painted this. The eyes are crooked and the bow tie seems to strangle the bear like a noose!
She picked up a cookie and took a bite. “Yum, delicious!” she said, as children noticed what we were doing and came running towards us with outstretched hands.