Night Baking: Never a Good Idea

Waker-Upper Animal Crackers

I usually don’t begin thinking abut Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving, but after stumbling upon the yuletidiest cookie I’ve ever tasted, I’m ready to start the season before we even hit Halloween. Billy the Kid has a knack for randomly remembering items we used once, over a year back, and last night while we had some “us time,” waiting up late for Mr. P after the ladies retired, BK declared he had a great idea. Indeed, it was the perfect time to dig out the five small animal-cracker cookie-cutters/stampers from Williams-Sonoma we bought two summers ago, our singular attempt thwarted by an inappropriate dough that melted over details and puffed out when baked, yielding cartoonishly cloud-shaped cookies. But Mrs. Peña runs a tight ship, and they were exactly where they should have been, as I had already learned when BK was one that throwing away anything he deemed “his” was a very bad idea.

In my end-of-day haze, I quickly scanned several holiday baking magazines until I saw a picture of a cinnamon cookie that looked like it could stand up to our stampers with a few slight modifications. I only noticed the call for espresso grounds once I had started assembling the mis-en-place, but it was already late, so how bad could one small coffee-infused cookie be for a toddler at 9:00 PM? Gleeful cries of “my feet  can’t stop running!” finally tapered off around 10:30 when BK fell asleep while talking, and a steady stream of the little “crackers” kept me fully alert until Mr. P’s arrival around midnight.

If you’ve ever been the lucky recipient or partaker of a Pepperidge Farms Entertaining Cookie Collection, you’ll recall the thin, unassuming, simple Bordeaux wafers, and the uncomfortably urgent desire to put all of them in your mouth at the same time. The following recipe produces the same flavor and crisp consistency, but with more heft than flake, and if you bake for just a minute less than indicated, a hint of chew. The combination of small and thin with the descriptor “cracker” will encourage gluttony, so keep a mental count as you visit the plate throughout the day in case you need to shame yourself into restraint.

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 C shortening
1 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant espresso grounds
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 C flour

Assemble the dough in the standard manner. Shape it into two discs and refrigerate them for an hour. Roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness before cutting out shapes, and bake single sheets at 375 degrees for 6 minutes (check every minute after 4 during the first batch to determine exact baking time). Cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a sealable plastic container or bag before hiding them under your bathing suit in the corner of your top drawer.

I try not to judge other parents, but…

… then there’s this.

There are two things that flip my instant-rage switch: weakness and bullying. I don’t mean weakness in terms of physical strength, or lack thereof, but rather weakness of character, of conviction and integrity. The manager that throws his subordinates under the bus, the butcher that uses meat glue, the president that manipulates the constitution. Oh yes, it’s going to be that kind of post.

The current executive and legislative branches could be featured on the reality show Super Nanny, with the perennially disappointed and passive-aggressively “pained” Obama-Dad padding around the house in sweatpants, grumbling that “I guess we just don’t get to have nice things,” while five hundred thirty-five congressional toddlers swing from the curtains and eat whatever they can reach under the couch cushions. Other parents at the playground avert their eyes as Obama-Dad panics at tantrum wind-ups and allows departure time to become a negotiation. When Mom comes home from work to find half-empty bags of marshmallows and strewn Mountain Dew cans, Obama-Dad defensively pipes up before she can even raise an eyebrow, “we got to the market! The important thing is I got some calories in them!”

President Obama is feeling the burn of failure: failure to Ferberize. Just as I accept blame for the 4-year-old who crawls into my bed every morning at 4:00 AM to slap at me while demanding snuggles, Obama needs to own his fault in promoting an overly conversational, pass-the-talking-stick reading-circle method of “leading.” I’ll admit, I experienced only the most fleeting sense of “is this okay?” after Obama pulled the old surprise-you’re-dead on Bin Laden, but the recent assassination of American citizen (and general juice-box) Anwar al-Awlaki shows that Obama-Dad is now losing a battle with toddlers that have grown into overly indulged teenagers.

I’m reminded of the girl in my high-school who received a new convertible BMW for her birthday, and then a new Jeep for Christmas, since she needed something safer for the winter. This recent short-cut in dealing with terrorism and general skirting of the judicial system is not going to turn out to be an exception, but rather is indicative of the new leadership style we can expect to see from Obama-Dad as he tries to win back respect and love with flashy gifts, until his ungrateful kids finally stick him in a state-run nursing home, deciding their new step-dad, though Mormon, is much cooler.

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