Kitchens of the Damned

It’s December, the month when bakers lose their minds. Here’s what’s popular this year:



The Miracle Two-Ingredient Internet Fraud

There are more of these recipes each year, preying on the busy, the gullible, and the lazy. “Get the taste of mom’s real apple pie in these dreamy bars you can whip up in twelve seconds!” Being a trusting soul, you think to yourself, “I would love a taste of mom’s real apple pie, but I simply don’t have the time! Count me in, internet.”

So then it turns out you’re supposed to whirl a graham cracker and a cup of drained lentils in your Vitamix, add a dash of cinnamon, then set them out in the driveway for eight hours in full sun. Break into sharp fragments and call it apple pie, what do I care? Look at me, I’m Sandra Day O’Connor, and here is my husband, David Bowie. As long as we’re calling things whatever we want.


The Thumbprint-If-You’re-Lucky Cookie

One of the dirty little secrets of fine restaurateurs is that the fancier a dish is, the more incidental human DNA it contains. Ever been in a five star hotel kitchen? It is, let us say, not the part they usually feature in the brochures. Leaning over sauté pans is a hot and frazzled business, and the waitress may or may not have added her own garnish to your plate, depending on how you responded when she told you that the special was cockaleekie soup. Now double the biologically suspect content of this kitchen, and you have the typical home kitchen.

Care to triple it? Choose one of those novelty treats that requires you to stick a bunch of separate elements together. This one, for instance:  Snow Globe Cupcakes with Gelatin Bubbles. Fabulous, right?  Well, I don’t care if it was baked by the Supreme Hygiene Minister of Switzerland; those suckers are gonna include more fingerprints than a forensics lab, and you could not pay me to put one of them anywhere near my mouth. On the other hand, I do know that I enjoy eating unflavored gelatin that has been handled a lot and then stuck to a balloon, so I can see why it would be worth the trouble.


The How-Can-You-Bring-Yourself-to-Call-This-Homemade Recipe

“Cake mix” is cake mix. It is for making a mix cake. It is not an ingredient. The end.


The Why-Rome-Fell Monstrosity

This is probably an American thing, but we seem to believe that we really can’t celebrate the birth of our savior without putting together a dessert that is the culinary equivalent of a grand mal seizure. We can’t just have cupcakes. We can’t just have frosted cupcakes. We can’t even just have frosted cupcakes studded with bits of candy. It has to be a cupcake that is frosted with cookie-dough-and-Heath-bar-chunk icing, drizzled with white chocolate and topped with miniature jelly donuts, and then you deep fry the entire thing, roll it in peanut butter, dust with powdered sugar, and cram it inside a double-sized eclair. On a stick.


Still feel like baking?

Perhaps you even signed up to make five dozen for the school concert, and you’re stalling because you know your cookies always turn out terrible? Here is a foolproof recipe, with no wacky ingredients and no wild promises, just plain old, regular old cookies that look, taste, and smell like cookies because they are just cookies, and you do not have to chill the dough, for real. Swallow your pride a buy a couple of pouches of that ready-made cookie icing, squirt it on, and call it Christmas.


Makes about 24

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 cups all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

Dough will be stiff. Do not chill dough. Divide dough in half. Roll each half about 1/8 inch thick. Dip cutters into flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet on middle rack of oven for 8-12 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

There is no joke at the end of this post. Just cookies.

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