Bert was working fast. Less than two hours to make about 150 of his famous chocolate chip cookies. They were actually chocolate oatmeal cookies with chocolate chunks, walnuts, pecans, and his special ingredient, hazelnuts to go along with his secret ingredient, hazelnut flavored instant coffee.
Tonight, his cookies were not only going to win him the “ooohs” and “aaahs,” the “these are fantastic” comments and the “can I have your recipe” requests that he always conveniently forgot to fulfill. Tonight his cookies were going to bring true love into his life.
There was nothing special about Bert. He wasn’t either tall or dark and very few people would describe him as handsome. In fact he was a slightly overweight, out of shape, somewhat phlegmatic, less than ordinary looking man of a little less than average height, but a little better than average intelligence. His I.Q. was just high enough to allow him into conversations with potential members of Mensa, but not high enough to allow him to join Mensa. Not that he ever wanted to join Mensa, but it would be nice to be able to say that he considered joining, but he had better things to do than work out intellectual problems. For instance his greatest desire was to win a baking or cooking recipe contest.
The cookies were just one of his creations. He had also created a double layer pie, a pizza sauce that was always a hit at World Series and Super Bowl parties. He loved to combine two similar recipes from two different cuisines such as Mexican or East Indian with Italian or French. He also liked to create new desserts by starting with a basic recipe and changing the ingredients or adding to them.
However, although Bert created three or four new dishes and at least one new dessert every week, he hardly ever got to share them with anyone. Tonight, that was going to change. Three different women that Bert thought under the right circumstances might be attracted to him were going to be at the party, as well as a couple women Bert was especially attracted to, whom he doubted would ever be attracted to him. It was the law of survival of the species. Attractive people are attracted to other attractive people. Tall people to tall people, athletes to athletes, and so on.
Tonight, Bert’s Bodacious Beauties as he liked to call his cookies would help bring a lady into his life who would want to sample more of Bert’s bounty on a regular basis. Tonight would be graduation night.
When he left to pick up the ingredients he thought he would return with more than enough time to make the cookies, but finding a bowl that was not too expensive, but large enough to hold the ingredients proved to be more difficult than he’d expected. By the time he found just the right bowl the time he thought he’d need to make the cookies and let them cool sufficiently had dwindled from easily more than enough to barely enough.
The oven was pre-heating to 350 degrees. He stirred together the flours, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, oats, chocolate chunks and nuts in the large bowl. In another smaller bowl he softened the butter with the sugars, added the eggs and milk. Although he didn’t have enough nuts for the triple recipe he thought that wouldn’t be a problem.
He mixed the two bowls together, and then spooned the cookies onto the six cookie sheets to bake. This was going to be the tricky part because the first four cookie sheets would have to be rotated about half way through the baking time. As he spooned the mix onto the first cookie sheet he had the nagging feeling that something was wrong, so mentally checked the list of ingredients, but everything seemed to be okay. Sometimes when he was finished spooning cookie dough onto a cookie sheet there was a lot of dough left, other times instead of two or three dozen cookies he fell a few cookies short. Today, looked like it was going to be one of those times when he made the cookies a little too big and was going to fall a few cookies short of his 144 cookie goal. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference, though. No matter how many cookies he made, they would all be eaten long before the party was over, unless, of course, the party was a flop.
Although he was sure the oven temperature had reached 350 long ago, he checked it just to be safe. Underdone or burned cookies could be fatal and ruin any of the opportunities he was sure the cookies would create for him tonight.
He quickly slid the four cookie sheets into the oven, set two timers so he could both bake the cookies for the required amount of time and rotate them to bake evenly. While they were baking he would clean the kitchen. Bert checked the clock. Everything was going well. He still had plenty of time.
As he started cleaning he sampled the dough. It took a moment to register, but when it did the his panic would have made him scream if there was anyone around to hear him scream. The recipe was WRONG. There was too much butter or not enough of something. He flung the oven door open, but it was too late. He quickly, but carefully pulled out four trays of cookie soup!
What was wrong? What on earth had he done wrong? This time, instead of mentally checking the ingredients he mentally checked exactly what he did when he mixed everything together. He tripled the butter, tripled the sugars, the eggs, the milk, the flours, the baking soda, the salt, the oats… No, no, no, it was the oats. He forgot to triple the oats.
Now what? There wasn’t enough time to start over. The recipe was all messed up. He tried working out the math, but there was no easy way to figure out how to add the correct amount of oats to the mix left in the bowl and to the soup in order to salvage some kind of cookie. There was only one thing to do. He had to create a new cookie, a chocolate nutty hazelnut cookie. Bert’s Bodacious Cookies would not see the light of day or the dark of night today.
He carefully poured each cookie sheet of cookie soup into the bowl, added the missing oats and slowly, carefully stirred the mixture. If this was going to work tonight, he would owe it to his skill, his luck and maybe a prayer. Once the mixture was ready he again spooned the dough onto the cookie sheets, put them into the oven, set the timers and looked at the clock. He was going to be late, but it wouldn’t be the first time. At least he was making a dessert rather than an appetizer.
Because he was now running so late instead of cleaning everything thoroughly, he would put everything away, but rather than wash everything it would simply go into the dishwasher. He would was it either when he got home or in the morning.
The timer went off he rotated the trays, tore off two sheets of wax paper and quickly spooned the remaining dough onto the paper. Just as he finished that it was time to remove the first four trays. The hard part now would be waiting for them to cool enough to take them off the trays and set them aside to finish cooling. He wondered if this was at all how a potter felt after taking his work out of the oven.
The party started at seven, Bert was ready to go at 7:30 (some of the cookies were still a little warm, but they would cool enough during the 20 minute drive to the party). It was true that he had been thinking about what he would say about his cookies ever since he started remaking them. Would the two friends who begged him to make Bert’s Bodacious Cookies be disappointed? Should he tell them what happened or tell them that in the end he couldn’t resist trying something new. They had insisted that he not make something new. Maybe he should tell them while he was making the chocolate chip cookies he got an idea for a slight variation and couldn’t resist trying it. Knowing him as they did they would surely understand?
The last two cookies taken off the cookie sheets were wrapped in a napkin on the front seat. He knew he had to eat them before he took his cookies into the party, but he was afraid. If they were good, but ordinary, he thought they wouldn’t be good enough to impress any of the girls he hoped to impress. On the other hand if they were good he could start working on the story about how he had created them, about thinking an adaptation of Bert’s Bodacious Cookies was long overdue.
Slowly, fearfully he reached over and slowly unwrapped the cookies while he drove. He touched the first one to his tongue, and then bit off a small piece of it tasting it carefully. It tasted okay. He missed the feel of any chocolate chips, but the hazelnut-coffee flavor was there, subtly hidden behind the chocolate and there was the crunch and flavor of the nuts. He couldn’t decide if they good or really good. At least they weren’t bad. They would be eaten. There might be a few left when he went home for the night, but at least they weren’t what he feared they would be – an embarrassment.
He found a place to park, brought himself and his cookies into the party. Someone on the other side of the room shouted, “Bert’s Bodacious Chocolate Chip Cookies!”
As he set down the two trays of cookies, some hands were already reaching for them.
“Oooh,” a female voice said as she chewed on one of the cookies.
“This is really good,” someone else said.
Within a minute at least two dozen cookies were snatched from the trays.
Someone tapped Bert on the shoulder and said, “Bert you promised you’d make the chocolate chip cookies, but these are fantastic. You outdid yourself this time.”
Bert said a half-hearted, thank you, because he was trying to figure out how in the world he was going to replicate Bert’s Even More Bodacious Baked Beauties.