When I was about 10, I helped my mother make hundreds of ginger men as gifts to missionaries. They were a lot of work and we set up quite the assembly line to get these holiday gifts ready to be packaged and mailed out. She had a giant mixer and it was well-used. She ground her own flour in a Magic Mill from organic wheat we got at the cooperative down on Mission Street in Santa Cruz. I can recall her rapidly doing the math of the fractional amounts the recipe called for to know the bulk amount needed of so many items that went into the dough.
When we got home she had me read the base recipe to her. It said it made 24 4-inch cut cookies. We were to make 200 and yet she had set aside items to do many more batches than that. I inquired if we were going to get to keep some for ourselves.
No, these recipes never make what they say they will. I bet we only get about 18 cookies from each batch.
And she was right.
We eked out 18 cookies (not 24) from most batches; they went onto the cookie sheets, baked into fragrant deliciousness for the nose, and came out to be cooled on the many tables set up for such a purpose in the breakfast and dining room. They were carefully decorated with raisin eyes and currant buttons and then piped on collars and ties of various colors from an icing bag. It was quite the production.
I recall one breaking upon being removed from the oven and being so elated to be given it to eat, but that was the only baked cookie I got. However that night I did not feel so well, but was still required to eat dinner.
Between my mother and I, we each ate an entire batch of dough with the ‘tasting’ that happened with each batch made, each roll out of dough, and each cut away to get the many ginger men loaded on the cookie sheets.
Stop tasting, licking, and trying.
My entire life it went that way until four or five months into my journey, when I’d been asked to bake cookies by someone for an event. I put gum in my mouth and went to work, making cookies I have been baking for 40 some odd years and know the recipe so well I don’t even measure the ingredients any longer. I simply throw them in the bowl of the mixer and drive certain people crazy with the ability to do so.
I pulled out the large half pan sheets I typically bake on and I lined it with parchment and got my trusty Pampered Chef scoop and guess what? The pan was full and yet I still had dough to go. I counted…24 cookies just like always. But why so much dough? I was worried I’d done something wrong. They LOOKED fine, but oh great—just when I’m taking them for someone I mess up. I decided to bake half a dozen ‘test’ cookies on another sheet. Had my trusty 18-year old-taste tester near when they came out of the oven.
Ohhhhhh, these are so good. He got a plate and took two more and left the kitchen.
What? I continued to scoop and guess what? I got 37 cookies total out of my recipe.
Fluke, right? A total fluke. Must have used a smaller scoop, I do have three sizes. For the heck of it, decided to make more. One more batch made and now I have 74 cookies on my hands.
HOW ON EARTH AM I MAKING SO MANY COOKIES!?!
And then it struck me. I had to sit down. Clearly, I had been eating between half and a full dozen of cookies each time I baked. And it wasn’t just me. I had three professional dough tasters living with me at one time. Beater cleaners. Bowl scrapers. But I was tasting the whole way along. It was mostly me. I can freely admit it. And that doesn’t mean I never eat dough now…but I count it and I take the time to enjoy it and skip the baked item when it comes out if dough was my choice.
Recipes really DO make the number it says. And if one doesn’t, try baking/cooking with a piece of gum in your mouth and see what happens. I know for me it was practically MAGIC!
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