Gabriele Vs Martha

I am pissed!
I wish I could write this post in Italian, my native language…Oh it would come out so much more colorful!
By now you should know, I am “some sort” of a quiet guy, I do not like to lash out at people, I never ever dished anybody on these pages (well, not completely true) but still…
Let me start from the beginning.
About a year ago, for Valentine’s Day, Debi bought me a cook book: “Martha Stewart’s Cookies”.
The bottom of the first cover reads: “The very best treats to bake and to share”…. “What a fantastic idea”, I told myself, since I had just got my new Thermador stove, and my baking frenzy was already in full swing.
Without indulging any further, I started flipping through the pages, mesmerized by the pictures, impressed by the simplicity of the publication… Still talking to myself: “This is going to be a lot of fun!”.

So, washed my hands, prepped the kitchen counter and table, open the book at pg 117, “Ice Box Spirals”. I weighted all my ingredients, all of them top notch quality, and got going. The recipe (or myself) did not work. The dough did not form, it remained liquid… “What did I do wrong? You see what happens when you under estimate a recipe, you fuck it up! Focus Gabriele, Focus”.

I remember cleaning up the table, and starting all over again. What? Exactly the same result? Very strange.
I cleaned up the kitchen and forgot about making cookies, hoping to have some ice-cream in the fridge for my midnight munchies. The day after I ran back to the book, it was time for a re-match, something easy but still poetic I told myself.

Logged on pg 55 “Langues-de-Chat”, very romantic, very French, and most important it looked much easier than what I attempted the day before… Now, with extreme caution I followed every step, yeah, the cookies were coming out great. The baking sheet entered a hot 375º oven, and in less than five minutes they were boiling. Yes, boiling and bubbling… Oh well, no probs, just glued a post it to the page to remember to go 350º or maybe even a touch less. And the second time around they came out great. I do not remember which other recipes I have tried in the past year, I think no more than two or three, but what I can remember clearly is that I trashed every cookie I have made!

Cut to, yesterday, summer vacation for my kids.

My youngest one took a leap of faith, tossed her floaties on the side of the pool, and started swimming towards me: ” You deserve a price for this” I told her, “What would you like?”. Without a pause she responded: “I want to make cookies with you”.I would like to stress the fact that she is three and a half, and she did not ask for cookies, she asked to bake cookies, which made me even more proud. We came home and she told me she did not want my Cantuccini, which I have been baking way to much in the past few months, she wanted chocolate cookies…she walked to our little kitchen library and pulled out Martha’s book; in less than 30 seconds she had already found what she wanted. Page 155 “Cocoa Shortbread Diamonds”, she asked her sister to put a post it on the page so I could remember, and this morning, when I was driving her to a play-date, she reminded me that I had to go do groceries, and not to forget the White Chocolate.

Two hours ago, my two daughters and I washed hands together, I pulled two chairs in front of the kitchen counter and we started measuring ingredients religiously, as I want them to understand that in the kitchen, improvising only comes after having learned how to follow directions to the letter. Also it makes for a great reading exercise: strange new words, measurements and fractions…

Flour, check, Sugar, check, Cocoa powder, check…and so on.As my very loyal Kitchenaid cake mixer started working out the ingredients, the girls started clapping their hands, and I felt like the best father in the whole World.

BUT, two minutes into the process, when the ” cold butter cut into small pieces” dissolved into the mixture of flour, sugar and cocoa… well, there was no dough to be seen into the bowl, still all powder. I scratched my head and I bit my tongue not to start cursing; I stoically decided to wait a few minutes and wait. Nothing changed, the recipe that I had just followed to the letter produced about two cups of powder. Than I cursed!

I decided to add a bit of milk, even if the recipe did not call for it, and managed to obtain a very light dough, almost impossible to work on a surface, as the book expected me to do… we ended up rolling some small balls, and pressing them on the cooking sheet! They just came out, we tasted them…you do not need me to tell you, kids eat everything chocolate, so they are currently very impressed by the development of their cooking skills; me, I will trash those crappy concoctions as soon as they fall asleep tonight.

My point here is: Who Wrote The Book?If Martha did, she does not know one thing about cookies, if one of her ghost writers did, it’s a fraud! And what about testers? Do not recipes get tested before being published and sold? I actually kind of like Martha Stewart, and I think that she is a smart gal, considering she is still grinding it despite the ups and downs she’s recently been through…

I am pissed, I am angry…and the funny thing is that my kids do not see the point in me still cursing after two hours, or writing about it for that matter.

I feel I deserve a refund, not just for the incredibly superficial and crappy book that my wife bought me, but also for the ingredients that I have been using, trying to demonstrate myself that I could actually get it together. I started baking when I was six, that makes it 30 years ago, I do not believe, I do not want to believe that I am incapable of producing a decent set of cookies. I just wish I had the time: I am dreaming about a new blog, “Gabriele Vs Martha”, one recipe at the time, one book at the time, and see who wins the test. Or better, maybe “Home Cooks Vs Martha”? In conclusion, in case you are in need of a good cookie recipe,Do Not Buy This Book, make a long distance call to your grandmother and ask her one of her secret recipes, it will cost you much less and it will be for sure more rewarding…

Gabriele