Monday, September 24, 2012

The Great Peruvian Cookie Caper

Ever hear that careful what you wish for...because you might just get it?  It's true.  Also, no matter how well you plan, things always will not go as expected!

Earlier this month, I was attending a church activity where a light dinner was provided.  I was thinking that I wished I had a way to make dinner for the young adult members of my congregation.  Oddly enough, about 30 minutes later, some of the people asked me if I knew how to bake cookies. Somehow, it evolved into a planned activity to have an American cookie night.  The night was set for the 22nd of September at the church.

You can't find everything you might find in a typical American grocery store, but I looked for recipes that would work here.  I stressed out all week about ingredients, supplies, back up plans and an agenda so things were planned. I tried to think of every possibility that would hamper the event. 

As I found easy recipes, my next step was to convert the recipes to the metric system.  As the week progressed, I started cursing the French. Do I really need a reason? :D

Just because you're ticked off at the royals, doesn't mean you have to invent a new system of measurement that everyone but the United States uses. 

I scoped out the church kitchen. It certainly isn't like what you would expect in the US. There's a small oven,  a sink and some empty cupboards. The room is also the primary room and the cultural "hall."   It would work though. We'd need baking supplies and hopefully people would bring them.

Procrastination kicked in again, and it was Friday afternoon that I started double-checking my measurements from All Recipes. The site had most of the conversions already figured out for me, but I needed a specific measurement for the chocolate chip cookies. I checked another site for a measurement and about had a heart attack.  The measurements were totally different. I was about ready to give up.  A quick call to my best friend and superb baker,  Kristina did the trick. She asked me to check the website again.  The website had a typo! They listed 1/3 cup twice, instead of 2/3 cup. Phew! 

I woke up early and went to Listo's to buy Reese's Peanut Butter cups for brownies.  I also made copies of the recipes for anyone who wanted them. 

Then I went to a small get together at a colleague's house and I tested out some chocolate cake cookies with M&Ms.  My colleague is a bachelor and lives with his three nephews, so he didn't even know how to turn on the oven or have a proper cookie sheet.  Then I looked at the oven and the temperatures had worn off on the oven.  I used a cake pan to make the cookies. They actually turned out a little more like brownies in texture, but they worked. Good, I felt a little more at ease. I was seriously stressed. 

I was told I could come at 5 pm on Saturday and my plan was to start baking some of the box mixes so some treats were already ready.   But before that, I ran to Open Plaza and got some basic supplies: a cookie sheet, a baking dish, a spatula, a bowl, and a measuring cup. I couldn't find any measuring spoons though. What did people use?  I just had a sneaky feeling that I needed to bring as much of my own things as possible. 

I got to the church at 5 pm.  There was a baptism scheduled so I thought I'd start baking during the baptism. However, the room was set for the baptism, so no pre-baking.  Okay, we'll work with it. 

Problem #1
I checked out the oven and realized it only went to 230. I started thinking about what I could do... I just figured I'd add more time. 

As a side note, the baptism was my first one in Spanish. It was really nice and the spirit was there! 

Finally, at about 7:30ish, we kicked the activity into gear.  I had a trusty translator - Jorge.  I split everyone into groups and had them prepare different recipes. I'm so glad I brought supplies or we'd be stuck with one bowl and nothing else!

Problem #1.5
How did I turn on the oven to start pre-heating? I plugged it in but it wasn't doing anything. Luckily, one of the women knew how to get the gas turned on.  Phew! If there was no oven...

Problem #1.7
Because we were short on butter, I nixed the brownies from scratch. I had one group prepare the box mix with the peanut butter cups. Then I realized it would take 45 minutes to bake! With the oven that didn't go hot enough... it would take about an hour to bake.  Oye!

Problem #2
The chocolate chip cookies went well but when we were ready to put them in the oven (after I showed them how to roll cookie dough), came a major problem!  The cookie sheet was too big for the oven! It wasn't a full-sized oven! I didn't know what to do! Thankfully, one of the girls, Andrea suggested we use the roasting pan after we cleaned it. So they cleaned the pan really well and we used that to bake for the night.  How do you even plan for that? 

Problem #3 
Time. With only one cookie sheet, things were slowed down and we couldn't do all the recipes I planned. 

There were other minor problems, but everything turned out well. Everyone vacuumed up all the cookies and brownies. There weren't even crumbs. The chocolate chip cookies were my favorite, but the peanut butter cookies were a hit. Some of the people had never tasted peanut butter before!  The brownies were thick but delicious.  The oatmeal raisin cookies were... interesting... with chocolate chunks.. that someone decided to toss into the mix. People didn't even mind the burned cookies! Everyone said they had a good time. There was lots of socializing while we waited for cookies and brownies. 

Lessons Learned:
No matter how well you plan, there will always be something that you didn't expect.  The key to success is not to panic, adapt, and relax. Each of the above listed problems were easily solved and we figured out solutions. The event turned out well and even when some of the cookies were a bit "cajun-style,"  we still just enjoyed the experience.  Another lesson learned... Sunday morning I woke up and realized the oven wasn't bad. It just was in Celsius. 

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