Cookies roasting on an open fire

The holidays are a time for spending time with your family (if you like them), or trying to get out of spending time with your family (if you don’t), a time for resting, and most of all, a time for eating. If you’re a grown-up like me, the holidays are also a time of obligation. (Have I gotten older and jaded? Probably.) If you read my blog a few weeks ago about my chocolate bar binge, you’ll remember that I received lots and lots of goodies in my office. When I started getting all the cards and gifts and the chocolate, it occurred to me that I had almost been at my job a year. One of the girls who had only been there a few months had passed out chocolate mints. Drat. I was an adult. I’d have to bow to obligation.

I’ve already lamented the fact that handing out healthy snacks is a good way to get one of my coworkers to slap me. I still really want everyone to like me, so decided to swallow my guilt with a cookie chaser instead of crying about calories. At first, I wanted to look for some sort of cranberry oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but I found a list of the 10 best holiday cookie recipes on the Food Network’s website and became enamored with Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe for Lemon Ricotta cookies.

I started to panic a little that my coworkers would think I was stupid—lemon doesn’t exactly bring to mind images of snow and mistletoe. What kind of girl makes Christmas cookies without chocolate? But I decided that they had best be grateful they were getting anything at all with my budget, and I had most of the ingredients in my pantry already. I crossed my fingers that their taste buds would prove that lemon cookies are as Christmasy as Jesus and headed to the grocery store for some lemons and whole-milk ricotta cheese.

As with all recipes, I read the reviews first and made my decisions based on what the most intelligent-sounding reviewers said. Many recommended that I use the zest of three lemons instead of two. I thought that it was risky to over-lemon, but what’s cooking without a little risk? I bought three lemons.

The first part of the recipe called for me to whip together the softened butter and sugar, which was alarming because the mixture felt more like concrete and not something I should be going at with an electrical device. But it turned out nice and fluffy after all, and I ended phase one with a toned right bicep. Then I set to zesting the lemons. I’ve never done this before, and I think I might start doing it for fun in my spare time. It’s really tactile and pleasing, like playing with Legos or something, and I was forgetting that it was winter with the scent of lemons filling the kitchen. I thought this boded well for the cookies themselves, and that maybe people would enjoy a little bright lemon in the winter.

The recipe told me to put the cookies on parchment paper, which I’d never used before. We had a roll of it in a drawer, but I pulled it out to discover that there was only enough for one cookie sheet. It was way too cold to go back outside, so I crossed my fingers and decided to use the one sheet for all the batches of cookies. The recipe called for 15 minutes of cookie time. That rang my internal fire bells. 15 minutes? I checked the cookies after 10, 11, and 13 minutes, but they took the whole 15 minutes to cook. I took the first batch off the parchment paper (which stayed mercifully ungreasy), and put in the second batch.

The kitchen was feeling rather cozy as I cleaned while the second batch baked and my roommate put on a pot of tea. I took the second batch out and started transferring them off the cookie sheet. I was rearranging the plate to make room when I smelled smoke. For a second, I did nothing. I have a bit of a kitchen phobia of setting things on fire, and I often think things are burning when they are not (for reference, read every post of mine ever). Then I heard a crackle. I turned back toward the stove, and the other burner had caught the parchment paper on fire.

I did the only logical thing. I yelled “Fire!” and took a big breath in, and blew on the flames. Like it was my birthday and my only wish was not to burn the house down. My breath blew ashes of parchment paper everywhere, but the fire was stoked and the flames got even bigger. My roommate ran to the sink and it took the sound of running water for me to remember what I was supposed to do. I ran the cookie sheet to the sink and dumped the flaming cookies and paper in.

Little bits of burned parchment paper floated to the ground while I decided whether or not to cry. Only two of the cookies were ruined, but I was out of parchment paper. I left the charred remains in the sink while I stuffed my arms into my jacket and angrily tied my shoes. In my schedule for the evening, I hadn’t budgeted time for catching the cookies on fire, so I ran to the grocery store. I actually ran, and used the self-scanner all red and sweaty, coming back into my house breathless while my roommate sipped her tea. If you’re wondering why there aren’t pictures of the disaster, it’s because my instinct is, apparently, to blow on a fire and then take a jog to the grocery store instead of photographing the disaster.

Back into the oven went the next batch, on brand-new parchment paper. I got the glaze ready, and brushed it on the cooled cookies. Then I wrapped them all up with cellophane and red ribbons. With the destroyed cookies, there was only one left for me to eat. And that turned out to be the real tragedy. They were light and lemony without being too sweet, with a bit of creaminess from the ricotta.

The next day, one of my coworkers came over to my desk and said they were the best cookies she had ever had. God bless us, every one.

One Response to “Cookies roasting on an open fire”
  1. cd says:

    A new lemon Christmas tradition is begun. Man nor woman can live on chocolate alone. I think my Christmas chocolate is calling. Chocolate and lemons were not birthday gifts from the wisemen to the Christ child but it is awesome to consider all He has created for our pleasure.

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