November 30, 2009

Yes, Junior, they have eggs in them: NaCoBakMo, Day 3.

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:12 pm by the Green-Eyed Siren

When my son (Unfocused Junior) was ten months old, he stuck his fleshy little hand into a sandwich my then-three-year-old daughter (Unfocused Girl) was eating. She was in the play-with-your-food stage, and she had deconstructed her peanut butter and jelly sandwich with characteristically gleeful abandon. Junior was in the seek-and-destroy stage, so this was a natural (and easy) target for him, as he was seated next to her at the counter in his clip-on (deathtrap) high chair. Junior’s hand touched the jelly side of the sandwich. I cleaned off his hand and went about my normal kitchen mealtime busybodiness. The crying started not long thereafter; Junior’s face had turned bright red, and he was distressed beyond imagination. He was an itchy kind of kid, so we were accustomed to liberally dispensing Benadryl, as per the doctor’s orders. Mr. Unfocused took the screaming Junior upstairs to give him a dose, but it was difficult to administer, given that he (Junior, I mean, not Mr. Unfocused) was completely insane with upset; soon Junior’s eyes were nearly swollen shut, and hives covered most of his body.

This is how we discovered that Junior is allergic to peanuts. I mean, he is REALLY allergic to peanuts: remember that key detail—it was the jelly side of the sandwich that ultimately all but sent us to the hospital. We called the doctor, who advised us to watch him and take him to the emergency room if he started having difficulty breathing. We now know, of course, that we should have called 911 immediately, but we were totally, blissfully ignorant of the world of food allergies up until that moment, and so we watched and waited. Junior never did develop difficulty breathing that day; eventually the Benadryl kicked in and the reaction subsided, and some time later we managed to get in to see an allergist (although not before I did a rapid-response appointment with his regular doctor and demanded Epi-Pens, diagnosis or not—the wait to see an allergist was one of the longest months of my life). The allergist found that Junior was hugely allergic to peanuts, on the not-a-chance-in-hell-he’ll-ever-grow-out-of-it scale, and, oh, by the way, he’s allergic to eggs too.

OK. So, as any parent of an allergic child knows, a true food allergy is a major, major pain in the ass. It scares the shit out of you for a while, as you learn the ropes about what your kid can and cannot eat and your body starts to incorporate just how laughably easy it would be for him to die; it scares the shit out of babysitters and playdate parents who look at you, wide-eyed, as you explain how you grab the Epi-Pen and jab it as hard as you can into his thigh right through the pants if he suddenly turns red and can’t breathe; it scares the shit out of the young child who learns to be afraid of food instead of enjoy it—we’ve been dealing with the fallout from that one for years. And, let me tell you, peanuts are in a LOT of things, but eggs are in goddamn EVERYTHING.

Fortunately, unlike the peanut issue, Junior’s egg allergy was not an Epi-Pen type situation. The eggs just significantly aggravated his very bad eczema, which was a major contributor to his being unable to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch until he was eighteen months old. We were told to scrupulously avoid even the tiniest traces of eggs in the hope that perhaps he would outgrow that allergy.

Well, this summer, when he was 5 1/2, Junior finally received the all-clear to eat eggs. As you can imagine, there was crazy rejoicing in our house. We still need to avoid peanuts (all nuts, for that matter, because the cross-contamination problems are huge), but eggs are A-OK. To Junior, this was an event of profound importance; he announced it to just about everyone we ran into anywhere we went, whether we knew them or not, for a couple of months. These days he asks, “Does that have eggs in it?” before accepting something from me. If I answer, “Yes, it does,” he will respond with a smile, “But that’s OK, because I’m not allergic to eggs anymore, right?” That’s right, Junior. That’s right.

All this backstory is relevant to NaCoBakMo because as recently as a year ago I could not have even begun to think about doing a Twenty-Eight Days of Cookies project. There just aren’t all that many egg- AND nut-free cookie recipes out there. Baking Christmas cookies was something I mourned: I needed to embrace major adjustments to my traditions when we learned about the allergies, because almost all of my very, very favorite cookies from childhood were off-limits. Very occasionally I would make a cookie with eggs in it, but only as the fifth of four recipes I was baking because I just hate cooking things that I can’t offer to everyone in the family. I am positively giddy that I’ll be able to pull out some of the old recipes this year. If you think about it, it was probably inevitable that I’d go on a crazy baking spree this particular December.

But the recipe I have for you today is not one of the eggy old favorites. This is one that worked its way into our hearts because it was so yummy even without eggs. I found the basis for it in a cookbook written for people who are allergic to almost everything, but I made a bunch of adjustments. I did enough to it that I feel like I can present it as my own. This year, I made an additional key adjustment: I added eggs—so there! I’ll offer the egg substitution, though, for those who prefer/require it; it works either way. I am grateful to this recipe for reminding me that sometimes change invites you to experience new and wonderful things, even when you think it wouldn’t be possible. And I can assure you that this is one of the yummiest recipes I’ll have for you in this whole project.

Chocolate Peppermint Drops

Chocolate Peppermint Drops

1 c butter, softened
1 1/3 c granulated white sugar
2 eggs (or 3 T vegetable oil, 3 T water, and 2 t baking powder mixed together)
2 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda (omit if using egg substitution above)
6-8 candy canes, smashed (see note)

Preheat oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Thoroughly combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda (if using) in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs (or, if using, oil/water/baking powder mixture). Beat in vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Carefully stir in crushed candy canes to combine.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for ten minutes. Allow to cool on sheets for two minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. Makes between 50 and 60 cookies.


Candy cane smashing technique

Candy cane smashing technique is CRITICAL. I can tell you that it is best done by children under the age of ten, preferably wearing their pajamas. However, I believe that with enough concentration the average adult, tween or even, perhaps, Twilight-obsessed teenager can manage it. De-wrapper the candy canes and place them in a Ziploc freezer bag. Seal up the bag. Lay a clean kitchen towel on the floor and place the bag halfway down. Fold the towel over the top, so you have a Ziploc bag/towel sandwich. Now go find your nice yellow plastic mallet that you bought to install Elfa shelving from the Container Store. Ever-so-gently slam that mallet on the towel in the general direction of the bag. Check it every once in a while, shake it up, try to get a good mix of chunky pieces about 1/4″ long and peppermint dust.

Expert Candy Cane Smashers

Incorporating the candy canes

Now, this dough is very, very thick, and it’s quite difficult to stir the candy cane bits into it, especially in a double recipe. My KitchenAid mixer couldn’t even handle it at this point (double recipe). I confess that the pepperminty bits in this batch are inconsistently distributed, and some cookies will have more candy cane goodness than others. I apologize in advance, and beg you to remember that I AM NOT SARA LEE, people.

Take it slowly, please

Another important baking tip: you will get more picturesquely round cookies if you allow the cookie sheets to cool decently before slapping another batch down. They don’t like when you are overly efficient, moving swiftly, like a well-oiled machine, even, from cookies on the sheet to cookies on the cooling rack to more dough ready to go into the oven. If that dough sits there on warm sheets waiting its turn to go into the oven, it might look like it’s being patient, but I assure you it is not. The butter is slowly melting, and the cookies are slowly drooping like a five-year-old who has spent too much time at the circus.

Tomorrow: a classic Church Lady cookie.



  1. harri3tspy said,

    How many cookies is that? I need to make six dozen cookies for a party and I’m thinking this looks perfect. Should I double the recipe?

  2. Harriet, I would estimate that each recipe will yield between 50 and 60 cookies, depending on how generous you are with your teaspoons. (I amended the recipe to show that; thanks for reminding me!) I made a double batch and now have just shy of 100 in my freezer. The other 20 or so are…umm…missing.

  3. Curtis said,

    Thanks Mrs. Unfocussed/G.E.S. I’ve shared your recipe and project with the resident obssessive baker in the family who also happened to marry into a family with sisters and nephews, and nieces with nut allergies.

    She sends out a request for for her 6 day baking spree, with a follow-up questionnaire. One requester of cookies alone asked for 22 dozen just for herself and her husband.

    So I think she’ll enjoy the project, and any shared recipes (including this one) immensely.

  4. […] which is great fun, but which requires me to make 6 dozen cookies. I’m thinking of making this recipe from Siren’s Nacobakmo project. AJ’s marching in our town’s annual Christmas […]

  5. […] just as well.  I’ll try to recap later in the week.  Meanwhile, go check out what the Siren’s cooking up for NaCoBakMo […]

  6. Jeanne said,

    I love the candy cane smashing technique. I think I have some teenagers who would enjoy it!

  7. […] of the season. I decided to start with one of Siren’s recipes from here NaCoBakMo project. This one, to be exact. It was a perfect day to try it out because AJ had a friend over, a boy who was on his […]

  8. […] took hours and hours. Still, a good winter project. If not, I’ll be making another batch of these cookies, the first batch having evaporated into a pile of crumbs at the bottom of the […]

  9. […] took hours and hours. Still, a good winter project. If not, I’ll be making another batch of these cookies, the first batch having evaporated into a pile of crumbs at the bottom of the […]

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