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Dec 19, 2003 01:05 PM

Xmas Cookies: Why do people like storebought better than homemade? An answer!

  • j

This is a follow-up to a previous discussion about homemade vs. storebought cake. The consensus of sorts was that baking good cakes is hard and storebought is more consistent.

Is baking good Christmas cookies hard? I wouldn't have thought so. In fact, I pretty much assume that anybody who bothers to do their own baking these days is baking something GOOD. There's so much available in stores that why bother unless you're gonna search out good recipes and buy good ingredients, right?

Well, the cookies that turned up at my office today are terrrible. The very ordinary storebought next to them is much more tempting. I emailed a friend (thinking I was a big snob) and asked about the cookie exchange she organized. She said she is going to throw out most of what she received and has revised her opinion that anyone can bake.

All those subjected to bad baking rant away!

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  1. Well, here's a confession from one who threw away 4 trays of Snickerdoodles two weeks ago....I'm usually a competent baker so I'm not sure WHAT went wrong. I used good ingredients but the cookies came out tasting like fish. As I don't generally cook fish on my baking tins (!), I cannot for the life of me figure out what went wrong, but I can assure you they went straight to the trash. They looked fine and the first bite was good but that fishy aftertaste was a serious bummer. Perhaps those who share cookies at the office need to do some taste testing prior to sharing the bounty?!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dipsy

      Oh, these are odd in conception as well as execution. Could not tell if one variety was supposed to be a spice cookie or chocolate-chocolate chip (found a total of one chip in two cookies).

      I know, I know, I *AM* a terrible food snob. But I figure this is the place where I can come and just be my (evil) self ;)

      1. re: Dipsy

        This fishy taste happens to me sometimes, too. I always assumed that the butter had picked up some flavor from the freezer/refrigerator - or that I was crazy - glad to see that I'm not the only one! Kim

      2. What got me is that one year for a cookie exchange, those who participated brought time-consuming and/or rich (I went for rich) Christmas cookies. One of the people in our exchange group brought.... Rice Krispy squares [I don't dislike them, but they're NOT Christmas cookies]. To add insult to injury, she had made them in the microwave--you could tell as the marshmallow had globbed rather than mixing smoothly.

        I think the cookie exchange died after that.

        My older brother often laments that at Christmas his wife makes the type of shortbread made with cornstarch and icing sugar which he (and I) hate. I have promised to send him a care package this year of real shortbread.

        Yes, there are people out there who really can't bake.

        1. IME, bad ingredients are the most common cause of lousy Christmas cookies. People think that tender loving care will make up for waxy chocolate chips, stale nuts and margarine. As if.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lindsay B.

            I think you hit the nail on the head. Especially, with respect to Xmas cookies, where butter is often an important ingredient, I think it is tempting for the novice to substitute margarine as a matter of course. Bottom line is you can't get real flavor with a stick of artificially flavored Crisco. Same goes for chocolate chips -- if you buy Callebaut in one or two pound chunks for $5 lb, your cookies taste like David's Cookies or Mrs. Fields. If you use Hershey's (at close to the same price) they taste "fake".

            I think it's not a question of lack of caring, but lack of knowledge/experience. People don't know they can easily buy intense chocolate or european butter without breaking the bank. And Food Network nothwithstanding, so few people still cook (I mean, really cook) that the word doesn't get out. This board is actually a great help precisely because it provides a forum for people who care about making it better. And that's not snobbism, it's a work ethic --doing your best -- that's disappearing.

            1. re: sbp

              I know what you mean about the Hershey's chocolate.

              I don't know what they do to it, but to me their chocolate has a very strange "off" taste.

              The first time I had chocolate chip cookies made with their chocolate, I thought the chocolate had gone bad until the baker happened to mention (proudly) they had made them with Hershey's chocolate.

              As you say, people don't know.

            2. re: Lindsay B.

              You remind me of a roommate I had who proudly gave out the recipe for her grandmother's butter cookies starting with 1 lb margarine.

            3. Although the explanations above account for some of the bad Xmas cookies out there, there is another category of Xmas cookies that were bad concepts to begin with, and no amount of good ingredients will save them. I am referring to a variety of cookies that are overly sweet, and have names like divinity and have white chewy stuff, and are nobake cookies much of the time and there are far too many of them in our office, and some people from the south and midwest seem to like them and I don't get it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Fred B

                Divinity is not a cookie; it is a candy. There is cooking involved.It is not my favorite but it is possible to have a very good divinity.

                1. re: Fred B

                  I know what you mean--these are often things with ingredients melted on the stovetop, other ingredients stirred in, and the whole thing is dumped into a pan or in dollops on a pan. To me, they're more candy than cookie.

                  There are also varieties of cookies that are more or less meringues--mostly egg whites and sugar. With the exception of macaroons, I don't care for them either.

                2. c
                  Caitlin Wheeler

                  I think a big part of it is that the holidays are a time when everyone feels compelled to bake, whether you usually bake or not, whether or not you're a good baker. If you're making a cake for a dinner party, or baking cookies just because, you probably like baking and do it reasonably often. Whereas baking Christmas cookies is something that many people feel compelled to do, whether or not they usually bake.

                  This year, I made homemade fruitcake, Pfeffernusse, shortbread, fudge, and bourbon balls, and they were all delicious.