The butter situation in the state of Washington is out of control and I’m losing my Betty Crocker mind. “You must face your dairy demons alone,” Betty says in a dream-like haze. “This is how you learn.” And this is what I’ve learned: If I use a cup of butter made or packaged here in the West, I’ll have to sing a new tune this holiday season called, “It’s beginning to look a lot like soup.” This jolly jingle echoes in my ears every time I open the oven door and find a runny mess of green and red M & M’s sliding through a stream of milk-fat foam.
Then, I just lose it, screaming, “***!!##**, state of Washington! Get your butter #*#* together!”
It seems that I’ve still not quite adjusted to living here, after having spent my entire life in Ohio. I know. I should be adjusted by now. I’ve been here nearly three years, but there are cultural differences and things that get lost in translation, such as butter. In Ohio, the butter sticks are actual, long sticks and, if I remember correctly, two of them make one cup. Done. Easy. Here in Washington, the butter sticks are shorter and each stick says it measures ½ cup.
“Look here,” I said to Nate one day, after dumping another batch of soupy buttery cookies into the trash. “Look. What does this butter stick say? How much does one stick make?”
Nate inspected the package and responded, “One half cup.”
“Right,” I said. “So, if I needed one cup of butter, like the recipe says, how many of these sticks of butter would I use?”
“Two,” he said.
“No!” “Do you know what happens when you use two sticks of butter here in this state?”
Nate looked utterly confused.
“You get soup! You get some kind of sick holiday crazy soup!”
“Something’s going on,” Nate agreed. “I don’t know if it’s user error, or if the butter is simply measured wrong, or if there’s some extra ingredient in it or what.”
I pondered these possibilities as well and decided that maybe I was just living in another dimension. I’d heard of “high altitude” baking directions, but I didn’t think they applied to my situation. I don’t live in the mountains. There are mountains nearby, but I don’t live in them. I also just flushed the toilets and they don’t appear to be flushing in a counter-clockwise direction, which would be a strong indicator of needing to adjust my baking methods, I guess. So no, I’m not in a completely different hemisphere or anything. The butter is just different. I changed the recipe then, for my cookies and used just one stick of the butter in the package, but the cookies turned out crumbly. Interestingly enough though, the snowball recipe I typically make was not affected by the butter situation, so I’m not quite sure how to adjust. Poor Alex wants these recipes so that someday, when he moves out on his own, he can make them. He also wants my rum ball cookie recipe, which fortunately does not involve journeys into dark and lonely places, like the oven. They happily take shape, like most things in life, with just a few ounces of rum. Also, rum is rum anywhere you go, so Bacardi and Captain Morgan, unlike Land O’ Lakes and Country Crock, share the same measurements up and down both coasts. No conversion charts are necessary. What follows then, are my recipes for Christmas cookies, which I’m converting/translating for Alex, in case he finds himself in either Ohio or Washington some day. Here is also the note I’d attach to those directions, when the time comes:
The world is a scary place, but you’ll be fine. Except, watch out for butter. It’s not the same everywhere you go. So, I’ve tried to protect you the best way a mother knows how, which is to troubleshoot the butter situation in cookie recipes. Here’s my best shot:
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Can substitute holiday chips, toffee chips, or festive M & M’s): (This recipe is adapted from a standard Betty Crocker recipe.)
Preheat the oven to 375
3/4 cup of granulate sugar
3/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1 cup of butter (If you still live in the state of Washington use 1 and ½ sticks. If you live in Ohio, use two sticks.)
1 tsp of vanilla—or go all out and add a few tablespoons or a quarter cup of Kahlua, depending on your mood
2 ¼ cups of flour—all purpose (pre sifted is fine—or not)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 package of chocolate chips or other festive cookie parts
Method: Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the vanilla and beat in the egg. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda gently in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a little bit at a time and mix until smooth. Use a small scoop to drop the batter onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Snowball Recipe—Supposedly this one is from your Eema McGinniss’s favorite Mama Elena cookbook, which she may have bought when she was a study abroad student in Mexico, but I probably got that story wrong. In any case, here’s the recipe:
Preheat the oven to 400 and butter two cookie trays
2 ¼ cups of sifted flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup of powdered sugar
1 cup of butter—use two sticks—whether you’re in Ohio or Washington
1 tsp vanilla
Method: Cream the butter and sugar together; then add the vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Refrigerate for a few hours. Then, roll small amounts of the dough into balls and place them on the cookie sheets. Bake for 13-14 minutes. When they have cooled down enough, roll them in powdered sugar.
Rum Balls—This one is from your Grandma Sue. The recipe that follows is half the recipe, but you can double it.
1 cup of dark raisins, chopped
1 cup of chopped pecans
½ box of vanilla wafers—crushed
½ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of good quality cocoa (If you live in Washington, you can get lavender infused cocoa.)
¼ cup of light corn syrup
3 ounces of dark rum
Method: Combine all of the ingredients and shape the mixture into balls. Roll them in ½ cup of powdered sugar, mixed with 1 tsp of powdered coffee.
Alex, when you’re finished making all of these cookies, please send me a care package. If I play my cards right, by then I’ll be spending the holidays in a magical, tropical place where the rum is “coconut sized” and butter is shaped like Birds of Paradise and measured in whispers and moonbeams. There is no conversion chart for that. Thank goodness.
Your Turn: Have you ever had any trouble converting or following a recipe? Discuss.