Butter Bumbles and Cookie Crumbles

Homemade cookies on the kitchen counter:  Mint chocolate chip, snowballs, rum balls. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

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:

Dear Alex,

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 egg

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.












43 thoughts on “Butter Bumbles and Cookie Crumbles

  1. Of course I’ve had recipes listened like a good minion for rewards of ruin. I’ve made bread at denver’s A mile high which requires typically one more whack (precisely determined) of flour to adjust … then couldnt manage a dough ball in Florida! Boil most dry beans covered for about 2 hours and viola!! Soup or beans at sea level try that with garbanzo beans and serve tasty pebbles. Stab myself piercing the bread trying to spread the Pb for Pb and j… wanhhhhh!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe your Ohio egg is smaller than your Washington egg or the chickens are fed something different. There is no egg in your snowballs. 🙂 I love experimenting with recipes. I have a chocolate cookie recipe that I tried to different coco powders, traditional Hershey and Ghiradelli. My guests ate all the Ghiradelli and didn’t touch the Hershey. Sorry Hershey, but I’ll never buy Hershey again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m curious- many of us know tastes like signature differences between Cadbury of varying European manufacturers to a nestle to a Hershey and yes ghiradelli but have you ever snob checked your eaters to see if they like what they think is better or that they’re true afficianados?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the recipes! The chocolate chip cookie one seems wonderful! 🙂
    I had lots if problems with my recipes when l lived in Germany, but not with conversion. I’m from Canada and I love using metric. The problem was the ingredients. Finding the right flour was exasperating – so many different kinds, but none of them seemed to work well for my recipes. The butter also had a different flavour and finding salted butter was a task. I eventually figured it all out, but it took a while and lots of misfires.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Recipes are interesting especially since Canada’s neighbor, the USA, shares recipes but not the metric system. I am hopelessly in both systems despite decades since Canada changed over. However my love for food coupled with the many inspirational cooks online means i straddle both systems happily but not uneventfully.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We follow the keto diet so the ingredients and the amount is very important to follow. There is little creativity as with cupcakes and other, a pinch of this, and a pinch of that. The good thing is we are losing weight!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve always wanted to be a great baker. But I’m lazy and don’t like to cook and stories like yours validate my decision to just enjoy other people’s baking because if a recipe calls for 2 sticks, I’m a rule follower and won’t adapt well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All the time! American measurements to metric! I have had some similar soup cookies, brick cookies, and stuff we won’t even determine what it was supposed to be… temperatures are also an issue… F to C or C to F. Many tears have been cried over these baking mishaps.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. In the UK we generally measure by weight (except liquids). Butter is in a block – 250g (about 1/2 lb) so no idea how big a ‘stick’ of butter should be!
    I must admit I use recipes as a guide rather than a rule. I always struggle with banana loaf cake – the recipe never has enough banana in, although I have to admit my result is usually rather moist (although always tasty). Do you think I should put walnuts in next time? I’m always tempted, but have resisted so far!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your banana bread recipe sounds delicious! I’ve always left nuts out of my cookie and cake recipes, but when people do put them in, I like the addition as well. If you like the smooth texture of the bread, but want to add a slightly different taste, you could maybe use a walnut extract? Feel free to share your recipe. Cheers!


      1. I think it’s the soft crunch of the walnuts as much as the taste that I fancy. Here is the recipe as if stands:
        2 Oz melted butter, 10 Oz self raising wholemeal flour (I’ve used a great variety of flours including a mix of gluten free and bread flour and all are fine!), 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 Oz muscovado sugar, 4 Oz raisins, 3 mashed bananas, 1 beaten egg, 5 flOz natural yogurt. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, mix all wet ingredients in another, add together and beat well – batter should be very soft. Pour into greased, (lined), 2 lb loaf tin and bake 180 deg C for one hour till risen golden brown and shrinking. (I usually find it takes a lot longer as I have a range cooker, and leave it longer than you think or it will be sticky inside, see comment above). It is supposed to improve with keeping a few days, but mine generalky doesn’t get much chance! This is based on a recipe in Pamela Westland’s Yoghurt cookbook, but I add more bananas, and I’m not sure whether she includes the raisins!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. glad you linked this post in the candy cane one – because it reminded me that not all butter is created equal.
    Lately we like the grass fed Irish butter for most things – and even bought “Nutiva organic shortening” and it helped make this crust that was amazing! Such a good product

    Liked by 1 person

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