Friday, June 3, 2016

Of Book Groups and Pinterest Fails

Hey, Friends.

So, last week at work I got to run my book discussion group.  Since it was May -- the month of Free Comic Book Day and the first ever Hudson Valley Comic Con -- I decided that we would do a graphic novel this month.  I chose Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman.  If I was going to do this then I was going to pick one that I love.

It was a hard sell.  Two ladies flat-out told me the month before that they wouldn't be coming because it wasn't their thing. Fair enough.  There were a few other people I mentally took out of attendance because I already was pretty sure that it wasn't something they would like.

For those souls brave enough to attend I wanted to make it awesome! awesome as a program room in the library can be.  I always try to decorate to match the feel of the book.  I also try to serve refreshments that go with it -- be it food that was mentioned in the book, or something that kind of goes with it.  If you have been hanging around here long enough, you may recall when I made little sinking Titanics out of Twinkies when we read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord.  There have also been some rather interesting choices around Christmas time.

So, this is what I came up with for our discussion of Sandman:

Our table, complete with coloring options.  Shout-out to Chris for his help in finding said coloring options.

Cupcake display!  Conveniently received the holder as a birthday gift.

Chocolate cupcakes with cherry pie filling, chocolate icing, and complete with little skull sprinkles on top. (Death is a character in the books, for those who haven't read them.)

Display of other related works for further reading

I even wore a Carpe Noctem shirt.  Thought it was appropriate.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, hanging on the door.

Candy to represent the more squiggly dream-essence, and unicorn poop cookies.

About that last bit, Friends...

Yeah.  Unicorn Poop Cookies had zero relevance to the book.  And there is a story about how they got to be included.

A couple of weeks prior to book group I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do to try and bring the Awesome to it.  I was working at the circulation desk when this cookbook came through: Nerdy Nummies by Rosanna Pansino.  I flipped through it to take a look, and that's when I saw it -- Unicorn Poop Cookies.  OMG I have to find a reason to make these at some point!  I thought nothing more about it. Didn't read the recipe, didn't make a copy of it.  Simply checked it in and put it on the shelf for the patron that had requested it.

Jump ahead to about a week before book group.  Other than the cupcakes I still didn't know what I was going to make.  The idea of the Unicorn Poop Cookies was still lingering in my brain.  I mean, they totally had nothing to do with the book.  On the other hand, if there was ever a group of people who might appreciate being served such a thing this was probably my best bet.  The swirly colors of the cookies kind of reminded me of Delirium from The Endless, which is a stretch since she isn't even mentioned in the book, but it would make sense if people had read the rest of the series....and I could print out a rendition of The Endless to try to explain.  Yeah.  This could work!  I can totally rationalize why there are Unicorn Poop Cookies being served.

That's when the drama of our little tale really begins, Friends.  I didn't have the cookbook or the recipe, hadn't even really read it.  I decide to just Google "Unicorn Poop Cookies Recipe" and that should get me a result.

It got me a shit-ton of results (technical term, I know).  Most of them were links through Pinterest, which always gives me a little trepidation.  You hear about Pinterest Fails all the time, but they hadn't steered me wrong with the Twinkie Titanics.  So I browsed through a few options, found one that seemed pretty clear-cut, and printed it out.  And before you ask: No, I cannot pinpoint exactly which recipe I used.  I found it, printed it out, didn't save it, and moved on with my life.  I didn't save the print-out either, and you'll soon see why.

Let's start with a picture of what the magical Unicorn Poop Cookies are supposed to look like:

Cute, right?  You won't be seeing this later.

We're going to skip the boring part about making the dough.  You don't need to read that.  We're jumping straight to the action where I try and make it look like the above picture.

The recipe has helpful tips/steps included on how to get the best results.  Fantastic! I'm probably going to need those.  To paraphrase, these include things like the following:

--Remember to use more food coloring than you think you will need!  As the dough bakes, the colors will fade.

Use an obscene amount of food coloring.  Got it.

--Divide the dough into sections, and place on separate sheets of plastic wrap.

Okay, that makes sense since we are going to be making different colors.  I'm with you so far.

--Take a section of dough on the plastic wrap and shape it into a circle.  Make a well in the middle. Drop the food coloring in to the well.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and knead in the color.  This will keep the food coloring from getting all over your hands!

And that would be the step that made me leery, and I kind of started talking to myself.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just wear gloves?"

Yes, brain of mine, it probably would.  Where the hell were you earlier?  The color was going to have to be put into the dough at some point.  Why did I not consider this before?

It's 9 pm.  Not going out to try and find gloves at this point.  Let's do this thing, Pinterest!

I decide to start with green, to kick it off with one of the darker colors.  Go big or go home.

It took all of about 10 seconds for it to start going wrong.  Two squeezes in the plastic wrap to start working in the color, and that shit was leaking out all over my hands.

I look like I'm morphing into the Hulk.  And that's after trying to wash it off.

I fucking hate you so much right now, Pinterest recipe.  Liar, liar pants on fire! Things were only going to get worse, as I had three other colors to make as well.

--Chill the colored dough sections for a couple of hours.  This will make it easier to handle later.

Sure thing.  I'll use that time that to scrub the rainbow off of my hands after your last little step failed spectacularly.  Maybe I will find a quasi-normal skin color once again.

--Twist each section into a thin strand.  Take each strand and twist it together, and then form them into cookies.

That sounds a lot simpler than it really was.  

Fun fact: chilling the dough doesn't keep the food coloring from once again getting all over your hands as soon as it meets up with the warm temperature of your body. Also, the dough gets stickier the warmer it gets and the more it is handled.

Could I have put it back in the fridge to chill again?  Yes. Should I have done so? Probably.  Did I? No, no I did not.  It was already almost 11:30 pm and I just wanted this ordeal over and done. It wasn't pretty, Friends.

Looks appetizing, right?

So I rolled, and twisted, and made cookie-type shapes.  I baked them.

Those suckers did not fade into pretty pastel shades.  No.  I had some seriously dark colors going on. We're talking primary colors, like they could decorate a kindergarten classroom's walls to help teach the kids their colors.  "Colors will fade"?  Bullshit.

--After letting your cookies cool, add fun sprinkles, or icing, or edible glitter to make them prettier!

Are you kidding me?!  Sprinkles and glitter won't stick to cookies after they are baked without some sort of icing or frosting.  That shit needed to be added BEFORE you told me to bake them, when the whole cookie universe was a sticky mess! I wish I had realized earlier that you were kind of talking out your ass, Pinterest recipe.

This, Friends, was the point where the recipe and I parted ways and I decided to just make the rest up on my own.  How was I going to get the decorations to stick to these things?  The original picture didn't seem to show any frosting or icing involved.

I decided to make a glaze, of sorts.  A little confectioners sugar and vanilla ought to do the trick.  It should be relatively clear and shiny when it dried.  If I basted it on the cookies, then threw the decorations on really fast before it hardened, they should stick.  It was literally the middle of the night by this point.  My brain was not coming up with a lot of other options.

I did it, and it worked.  It didn't really help to make the cookies look more like the cute original picture, but the damn things were finally finished.

Here they are, in all their glory!

Feel free to scroll back up the page to look at the model version...and then look at my handiwork.  Not a total fail, but not a raging success either.

They still tasted pretty darn good, and people were amused.  Mission accomplished!

But I will probably think long and hard for before blindly placing my trust in a recipe found on Pinterest again.

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