Last year, I posted a couple of Valentine's Day cookies that have become family favorites, at http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2011/02/cherry-heart-refrigerator-cookies.html and http://frugalfastfun.blogspot.com/2011/02/candy-kiss-cookies.html. The time had come to make these again, so I stirred up the doughs and invited the kids over to help.
After washing their hands thoroughly, two of the grandkids carefully sorted a package of Christmas M &Ms into a bowl of green and a bowl of red pieces, discussing the proportion of green to red and contemplating what kinds of green M & M goodies we might make for St Patrick's Day. Then it was time to unwrap the Hershey's Kisses--"this is taking a lot of self-control" remarked the seven-year old as they finished the tasks without even one snack.
In the end, it was good that we were doing this for family fun and not preparing to impress someone not attuned to our cooking and baking! As you can see below, the visual results were hardly stunning. ...and if you can see any heart shapes on this pan, you are probably a cardiac surgeon or nurse! The flavors, however, were still wonderful, and the cookies disappeared so quickly I had hardly anything left to photograph. No, that cookie up in the left corner doesn't have a bite out of it; the rest of it was the only part we could get chiseled off the baking sheet at this point!
So here are the problems that led to the less than attractive results, and some ideas on what to do differently next time.
The candy kiss cookies:
At the last minute, I realized that I had only "cherry cordial" Hershey's Kisses. We adults contemplated these briefly (contemplating here means tasting a few, just to be sure of what we might be using!) and decided the flavor combination should be wonderful, so why not use them.
The reason why not is that the lovely cordial filling melted almost immediately in the oven, leaking out of the chocolate candy, then out of the cookie coating, leaving puddles and flattened cookies in their wake. Kind of like little molten volcanoes as we took them out of the oven, but so soft and sticky they fell apart when I tried to get them off the pan while hot. As soon as they cooled, they were stuck tight. A little experimentation and we were able to get them mostly on to a plate where the gooey mess congealed into a larger mass. Pretty ugly but so tempting that I couldn't get a photo before they were gone.
Bottom line: Eat the cordials alone and go buy some real Hershey's Kisses if you're going to make these cookies.
The refrigerator cookies:
Just too much in a hurry here. Instead of putting maraschino cherries in the dough, I simply rolled it into a log and then tried to make it heart shaped by pressing a wood spoon handle along the top. That may have worked a little for the "crease" at the top of the heart, but my half-hearted (pun not intended but there it is--sorry) attempt to make a point was too hurried and too forgetful of the fact that these cookies do raise quite a bit in the oven.
Bottom line: While the idea of just topping each cookie with a red M & M instead of doing the cherry thing worked well, I probably should either just make them round and forget the heart shape idea OR omit the small amount of baking soda in the recipe and then take a little more time in developing the heart shape before chilling the dough.
Bottom, bottom line: Not every recipe turns out perfectly, but that doesn't mean the results need to be thrown away. If you don't achieve a picture-perfect product, savor the flavor anyway. And if the flavor is the problem, there may still be some ways to salvage your efforts. I found a 1997 cookbook at my library, Anne Willan's Cook It Right, that is fascinating for the inclusion in every section of ways to recover if things don't turn out just right. It's worth checking out just for some of these hints, and I'll try to include more of my make lemonade out of lemons thoughts in future posts. Believe me, I've had lots of experience in learning to make do with less than perfect!