A Lesson in Christmas Baking

Dec 26 2010

Today I learned a valuable lesson in Christmas baking.  Namely, it’s never too late!

I realize it’s the day after Christmas.  I’m a little behind.

I’m perpetually a little behind.

Somehow, my kids didn’t care that it’s too late.  Kids are really good that way.  Too late for Christmas baking?  Not on their watch.

I have two main, often competing, goals when I bake.  They are:

  1. Easy
  2. Impressive

Those aren’t necessarily listed in order of importance.  When I look at recipes, I’m always judging the time vs. wow factors.

Can I get this recipe done while monitoring the activities of 5 kids?  Can kids help?  Is it even within the realm of possibility to have a clean kitchen when the project is over?

If I can answer two of those questions affirmatively, I’ll probably go for it.

Now, every once in a while, that most illusive of all recipes comes along.  The Super Uber Cheater Pants Recipe.  The recipe that’s so easy, you can actually make it while monitoring the activities of 5 kids, and also so impressive that you can… gasp… feed it to guests, sell it at bake sales, or take it to the office Christmas goody exchange.

Since Super Uber Cheater Pants is kind of a mouthful, I’m referring to these kinds of recipes as GENIUS from here on out. Because that’s what they are.  Genius.

Today’s project was…

…drum roll please…

Cake Mix Cookies

My mother-in-law let me in on this secret a few years ago.  OK, OK.  I know I might be the last person on the planet to hear about cake mix cookies, but I’m telling you, they changed my large-family life.  Here’s the recipe:

  • Mix together one box of cake mix, two eggs, 1/2 cup oil, and — here’s the key — other stuff
  • Roll into 1 inch balls, and bake cookies in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes

The key to making this recipe impressive, referred to above as “other stuff,” is in your own cake mix creativity.  For example, you can make:

  • Eggnog Cookies (spice cake mix drizzled with melted white chocolate chips and sprinkled with nutmeg)
  • Red Velvet Cookies (red velvet cake mix with marscapone cream cheese icing and a silver dragee on top)
  • Snickerdoodles (add cinnamon to yellow or white cake mix and roll balls in cinnamon sugar)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies (chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips)

We made today’s cookies with chocolate cake mix and white chocolate chips.

I made these cookies with 6 kids in the house: one child in our room with Strep Throat (diagnosed Christmas night after 3 hours in the emergency room… which makes our Christmas sound pitiful, when in fact it was delightful right until the trip to the hospital), one child playing Wii while listening to We Will Rock You 3500 times on his new MP3 player with blessed (blessed!) headphones, and the remaining four children helping with the cookies.

It took:

  • 3 children to pour cake mix into the bowl
  • 4 children to crack eggs
  • 1 child to pour oil in the bowl
  • 1 child to drip oil all over the floor
  • 3 children to individually push chocolate chips into the cookies (my most brilliant “involve the children” move of the day)

I only got distracted once.  I don’t remember why, but I do know it was right in the middle of setting my oven timer for 10 minutes.  FYI, I timed myself later, and it only takes 4 seconds to set my oven timer.  So somewhere in that 4 seconds, I got distracted and set the timer for less than 10 minutes.

When you don’t cook cookies long enough, they don’t set up right on the cooling rack.   (That comment brought to you by “um, duh.”)  And, if you don’t cook cookies long enough, chocolate chips might fall through the rack and leave holes in your cookies.

That’s not a brown chocolate chip.  That’s my table.  You can see it through the hole in the cookie.

That white pointy thing under the cookie rack is the escapee chip.  No worries – I took care of that bad boy.

I also learned today that you can rebake Cake Mix Cookies if you somehow manage to mess up your oven timer.  Three more minutes in the oven did the trick.  No one even noticed.

Especially not Emerson, our house guest for the afternoon.

(See?  I really can feed these to guests!)

Emerson’s a good egg.  Cai and Aden got right in on the action.

In fact, everyone loved them.  Except my oldest son Ian.  The one who’s enamored with meat.

And if my son prefers tacos?

So be it.

Maybe I’ll work on a cake mix cookie recipe that incorporates bacon. (UPDATED: I did. Here’s the link to Bacon and Toffee Cake Mix Cookies.)

Actually, that sounds pretty darn good.  Dare I say GENIUS?

…..

Please do feel free to share your own GENIUS recipes with me!  I can always use more.