A few weeks ago Maya and her friend Maya decided to make some cookies. I turned the kitchen over to them after making sure we had the necessary ingredients on hand. All seemed to be going well until they pulled the first tray out of the oven, at which point I was loudly summoned. The first cookies out of the oven had flattened to something slightly thicker than a piece of paper, but not much. A quick review of the recipe revealed that 1/2 the flour was to be added at the beginning of the mixing process, and 1/2 at the end. Except the girls neglected to add the second half.
No major disaster – we guesstimated the amount of flour to add to the remaining dough, and the boys (Ben, Jonah and Simon) happily ate the super-thin cookies, declaring that they tasted delicious.
Maybe two weeks later, on the day of our last book club meeting, Maya and her friend Greta decided to make some cinnamon cookies to serve to everyone at the meeting. They found a recipe and went to work. Maya and Greta have baked cookies, cakes and brownies on several occasions and they are always fantastic. I made myself scarce (because otherwise I am too tempted to ‘help’). Maybe 30 minutes later I heard Maya say, “What is going on!?” and was again summoned to the kitchen. Another tray of flat cookies had emerged from the oven. Hmmm. So I looked at the recipe, then at the measuring cups the girls were using.
Me (holding up a flour covered cup): Is this the cup you were using to measure the flour?
The girls: Yes
Me: You know this is 1/3 cup, right?
The girls, after a pause: Ohhhh. We thought it was 1/2 cup!
So instead of 2 1/2 cups of flour, they had used only 1 2/3 cups. And that resulted in cookies the width of a piece of cardboard (though they were not as flexible as cardboard…) Ok, I thought, no problem, and dumped extra flour into the remaining dough, stirring it to what seemed the right consistency.
The girls began preparing the next tray to be cooked. I told them maybe we could keep the flat cookies anyway, and broke off a small piece of one of them to taste. Seconds later I was gagging and spitting the pieces into the sink, desperately rinsing my mouth with water.
Me: Oh my god! Those are waaaay too salty!
Greta: We didn’t put any salt in!
Me: How much baking soda did you use?
The recipe called for 1 1/4 tsp. of baking soda. I held up the teaspoon measure.
Me: Is this the spoon you used? Or (holding up the tablespoon measure) did you use this one?
Greta: Uh, oh.
So instead of 1 1/4 tsp they had used over a tablespoon of baking soda!
Maya: Maybe they’re not that bad.
Me: Go ahead and try a bite and see.
The girls both took bites, then ran gagging and with huge startled eyes to spit out the offending cookie and chug down a bunch of water. It would have made a great video because it looked so exaggerated. The expression on their faces was hilarious. Needless to say, that batch of dough went into the trash and they started again – with the right measurements the second time. And the results were very tasty.
I tell this story (much to the girls’ chagrin) because not only is it funny, it’s a great example of learning, life-learning style. I can guarantee that neither Greta nor Maya will ever again mistake a tablespoon for a teaspoon, or a 1/3 cup for 1/2. They’ve seen (and tasted) first hand the difference such measurements make. They were also able to laugh about it and have no fear of retribution for their mistake. (Although there might have been retribution had we served the first flat cookies to their friends without testing them beforehand…)
Such is life. And learning. We try things, we make mistakes, we learn, we do better. At the risk of repeating myself, it’s the best kind of education there is.