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in search of the perfect cookie


Have you ever made No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal cookies? As a kid I remember going to my friend Karen's house and watching her make them. She would pretend she was Julia Child and do the funny voice. Somehow, I never participated in actually making them; I just watched her and then ate the cookies when they were ready.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when my husband and I were at the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. We happened upon a bakery selling those exact cookies so we promptly purchased one and enjoyed its savory goodness. It was at that time my husband revealed he grew up making those cookies.

"What?!" I exclaimed, incredulously. "We could have been enjoying these cookies for the last nine years!"

So we got the recipe from my mother-in-law and set about making the sugary concoction ourselves. It's not as easy as it looks. The key to these no-bake cookies lies in the correct length of boiling time, which tends to be as elusive as George Clooney is about matrimony.

I suppose this is where basic science comes in. After melting one stick of butter, two cups of sugar and three tablespoons of cocoa powder are added. This mixture is then brought to a boil. This is the tricky part. If you let the mixture boil too long it will crystallize. That sucks and the cookies are ruined.

If you do not boil the mix long enough it won't get hard enough to pick the cookie up. You'll have to eat the cookies with a spoon, which isn't so bad in a pinch.

When my husband and I attempt to make these cookies we are like two scientists trying to turn our nuclear keys at the same exact time. In the past we have boiled the mix for one minute, two minutes, three minutes and three and a half minutes, all with varying degrees of success. We even use the same burner on the same stove which is always set to seven on the dial. We use the same pot.

We have attempted to analyze when, exactly, the mixture is considered to be boiling. Is it when the first bubble appears at the side of the pot? Is it when three bubbles appear in the center of the pot? Or, is it when the boil appears to roll and the entire pot is full of bubbles? This seems to be the only variable we cannot nail down to satisfaction. It's like trying to figure out when conception occurs.

Last night we ended up with spoon cookies.

Why are these cookies so difficult to make? Must I purchase a candy thermometer to find cookie perfection? Do I have to set up a working lab with Petri dishes and Bunsen burners in the kitchen to figure this out? These are supposed to be easy. My friend Karen never had this much trouble.


2007-05-15 at 8:30 a.m.

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