Monday, December 28, 2009

Baker's dozen

It was about this time a couple of years ago, a few weeks before Christmas. My kid asks me if we can make biscuits.

"Sure, kid."

So we make the biscuits, which end up like hockey pucks. I tap mine against the plate, puzzling. It was a pretty standard recipe. Then I think: looks like a leavening failure. I take a look at the baking powder container. It expired seven years ago.


A few days later, I'm in the baking supply aisle of the grocery, plucking a tin of baking powder from the shelf when I turn to see one of the dreaded Preschool Moms standing next to me.

My kid attended a co-op preschool, which meant that parents were assigned as "helpers" every day; and I surely did my time alongside the other moms. The Preschool Moms wore sweatshirts with snowmen on them, drove stalwart minivans and pushed monstrous strollers equipped with Juicy Juice boxes, Tupperware containers of Goldfish crackers and Cheerios, loads of BandAids and Bactine, extra socks, etc. They were sexless and vapid, discussing their Disney World vacations for weeks before departure and months after conclusion, complete with plenty of pictures.

I wore a tattered Levi jacket, drove an old Honda coupe (no air bags) and was equipped with a can of Diet Pepsi.

"Want a sip, kid?"

The Preschool Moms and I didn't much cotton* to one another, but that was years ago and I thought I was done with them for good.

Yet here I am, standing next to one of them in the grocery store. We say our reluctant hellos, and shuffle in the aftermath, both of us knowing a short conversation is mandatory. Then she sees my tin of baking powder and asks, "Doing some holiday baking?"

Thinking it funny, I tell the biscuit story and explain this a replacement for the 7-year-old petrified tin in my pantry. As this sinks in, the dreaded Preschool Mom, with her Santa sweatshirt, looks at me as if I am a turd floating in a punch bowl.

She blinks purposefully for a few seconds, lips pursed, before clearing her throat and saying, "I purchase all new baking supplies every single year in October--right before the baking season starts in earnest: vanilla extract, decorative sprinkles, cream of tartar, food coloring, baking soda, and certainly," she pauses to sniff, "baking powder." Yet another pause. "You can't be too careful."

I compliment her on her savvy, halfheartedly adding that I should be so thorough. We thankfully say good by and avoid each other for the rest of the shopping trip.

To be sure, the Preschool Moms always produced perfect baked goods, uniform star-shaped cookies with fluffy frosting and mile-high cupcakes festooned with icing smiles. My shaped cookies either stuck to the pan, got smooshed on one side, or were an uneven brown on one side and an underdone white on the other. I gave up trying with those years ago. As indicated by the accompanying photo, my cakes are always ugly.

So I've learned to keep it simple: peanut butter cookies with the fork cross design and Duncan Hines yellow cake mix; but this year, I tried a new cookie recipe that totally kicks ass. Everyone who bit into one of these babies swooned.

Behold brown sugar cookies.

The recipe calls for baking powder. The can that I purchased that day as the dreaded Preschool Mom sniffed at me was still unopened in my cabinet. I peeked at the bottom: expiration date: Dec. 2009.

I just hope I don't run into that silly little broad again when I go to replace this one.

*apologies to James Carville.



bZirk said...

At least you had a tin. You're such a good mother.

But Pillsbury is my friend. I just need a butter knife. :D

Oh, and I love ugly cakes. They're usually not dry.

Just me.... said...

Erin your cake looks awesome!! Green and orange (at least on my screen)! Come on, that's worth celebrating even. I bet it tasted yummy.

WV Imater - as in: Imater not what it looks like, imater more what it tastes like.

standing on my head said...

any cake that has a pink thing holding a banner that says "love stinks" is alright in my book!

Chrissy said...

I heard the same thing. Throw out the seasonings, etc, after a year... Well, I do it after 20..go figure... btw will have to try that recipe...sounds sinful

e said...

Thanks for the recipe, and your cake is not ugly...Those are great colours! My mother never got on with the stay-at-home pre-school types...too busy working...

Happy New Year to you and your family, Erin.

Joshua said...

Screw her. I hope I can convince my kids to let me bake them green cake when they get older. Hell, doesn't matter what color; maybe one layer purple, one layer green. That would be awesome. Thanks for the idea.


Mr. L said...

Mrs. L baked circles around the preschool moms. And there was always the one who didn't even try, who we dubbed, "Cheetos Mom" you see, it could be worse! :)

Erin O'Brien said...

Here is the post where I originally ran the green cake photo.

And here is another cake post this group might like. There is a particularly good recipe included.

As for those brown sugar cookies, peeps, they are top notch. They smell heavenly and taste even better. Must-have for cookie monsters big and small.


Chris said...

OK, I had to get up and check my baking powder. I'm good til July 2011. Woohoo!

Hilary said...

Glad you liked the cookies! That recipe is definitely in my top 10 favorite recipes EVER list.

Ms Amanda said...

I am cracking up!!!! I was a co-op mom too and, well, let's say your description is apt... in some cases. (Now I teach one and my moms, dads and gramma's are totally great!)
My cookies turn out undercooked and burnt, I only make boxed cakes and I support the use of a hot, strong cuppa every morning for every parent volunteer. I've been known to run to the kitchen to be sure my momma's have a cup.
Hehe, still laughing.

Al the Retired Army Guy said...


You're wrong. That cake kicks ass. Why? Because it was made by someone who cares and with love. Could it be prettier? Sure. But that's besides the point. The idea behind the cake is more important in this instance than the final result. Francois Payard couldn't produce a better cake given the audience, if you ask me.


DogsDontPurr said...

Ha! This post cracks me up. Even though I am soooo not one of those Preschool Moms, (heck, I don't even cook!), I'm always telling Alan that maybe we should buy a new bottle of "this or that" because it might be expired. His retort is almost always "This stuff never goes bad!" or "It looks Ok to me!"

But he is also one of these people who buys in bulk and stocks up for the coming nuclear apocalypse, or earthquake, or tsunami. But he only buys crap that is on sale and about to reach the expiration date that he swears is meaningless. Heaven help us if there ever is a disaster! We are more likely to die of rock hard scones, flavorless soups, or food poisoning before the bomb ever gets to us!

bZirk said...

I agree with Al about the cake! Plus, anyone brave enough to use food coloring trumps fluffy frosting mom any day.

Today's Random said...

That reminds me of the time a family friend came over to cook dinner at my house and scoffed at how all my spices were "dead". I told them they were more than welcome to replace all 50 of them for me at their expense.

Bill said...

i normally don't like stereotyping but the pre school mom thing is right on! i attended my grand daughters pre school christmas presentation and could not believe the sameness i observed in virtually every one of the moms. (i'm sure they noticed the same about the grandfathers. 2 of us)

Bill said...

oh yeah. i must admit that a few of them were very HOT!

Erin O'Brien said...

I admit to not being very nice re: Preschool Moms, but those broads drove me crazy for 2 years. Out of all of them, there was only one with whom I had the slightest connection.

Then that day when I run into the one mom and she's telling me about her annual baking supply bit, I about died.


bZirk said...

ughville is heaven compared to going to a PTA convention. Now that's hell. What was I thinking?! Oh, the things we do for our kids.

glittergirl said...

it's the modern day "stepford wives"... only now they were ugly applique sweaters.

Erin O'Brien said...

Do you think we are going to hell because we played "bash the Preschool Moms at Christmas?"

bZirk said...

As opposed to bashing them at other times? :D

Neva said...

Thank you for posting this! My nemesis was the dreaded Preschool Gymnastics moms...ugh! Who besides an insane person purchases all NEW baking supplies every year?

Dudesworthy said...

At least you actually bake, I just nuke everything (and I do mean everything) in the microwave.

My word verification for the day is "deentr" which I choose to define as: "A Russia term for an abandoned doll that looks surprisingly happy".

Matt Conlon said...

You know, I recall being a kid and seeing these "pre-school" moms and wondering a great many things about why they were the way they were. My mother was not pretentious, and had no problem telling stuffy people where they could stick their cans of what-have-you.

It always seemed to me that they would do whatever they could to do things the way some book said it should be, even if it's less fun. Let's face it, Green cake, orange frosting and red monster beats the pants off of perfect stars any day of the week.

I also remembered thinking that it was the children of these perfect-cookie moms who created the most trouble.

Matt Conlon said...

Ironic to see this post today too, by the way. I just blogged a fool proof SIMPLE peanut butter cookie recipe yesterday. 3 ingredients. So easy I was shoked to find it...

1 cup of smooth peanut butter
1 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
1 egg.

- that's it.

Mix in a bow, drop little rounded tablespoons of the dough unto an ungreased cookie sheet, cook for 8 to 11 minutes on 350.

And yeah, don't forgot the little fork design, they just don't taste the same without it.

bZirk said...

Perfect frosting=maladjusted children? Somehow that makes sense.

Definitely have to try that cookie recipe. Peanut butter's my favorite.

Miz Dinah said...

Mahahaha...a turd floating in a punchbowl. That is priceless. If it makes you feel better my baking powder expired a while ago and I continued using it until it ran out last month. :)