20051216

giving martha's candy stripe cookie sticks a chance.

candy cane cookies

a few days ago, aun had a post extolling the wonders of martha stewart's baking handbook; as i commented there, i'm fascinated by her, i admire the accomplished staff that she has assembled, i've spent a lot of money on her products, but for me, her recipes suck. however, i seemed to be in the minority in that tiny forum; it was enough to make me think i should give another martha-approved recipe a try.

so, i picked up a copy of "martha stewart holiday cookies" magazine, and the one cookie that really caught my eye was the candy stripe cookie sticks. mostly because they are a good-looking cookie, but also because it's such an unwieldy name, although i personally can't come up with a nicer one.

it is basically a tuile recipe made into rectangles and then rolled into a cigar-shape. red batter is piped on before baking, which give the candy cane stripe. simple, really, just a little patience should do it. the batter is quite easy, and the directions clear enough. i cut out a template from a piece of cardboard, dug out the silpat sheet, and even found my offset spatula. preheated the oven. made the batter in just a few minutes. even managed to spread out the batter perfectly, and i only made two at time, as suggested.

fine. except not. i put the finely crafted first batch (omg, you should've seen the stripes on those! as close to perfect as i was going to get) into the 400˚f oven, and waited 8 minutes, like you do. and when i returned? smoking oven, with cookies the sort of tan the surgeon general told your gran to abandon in the seventies. not good. checked the oven. secondary thermometer said it was calibrated correctly, so i knocked down the temperature/time in various five degree/one minute increments. the result? a third of the batter wasted on unrollable cookies. i eventually settled on 380˚f for 5 minutes, although the cookie doesn't come out as dry as i think it should (however, it is infinitely easier to roll). also, the recipe says a tablespoonful of batter. that produced planks--it's more like 1/2-3/4ths of a tablespoon for a more manageable cookie. also, i used a standard small offset spatula, but it was slightly unwieldy for the prescribed size (3" x 6" rectangle) as it doesn't quite 'fit' as well as it could--perhaps another 1/8th-1/4th of an inch added to the width would make it easier for us mere mortals to make a smoother cookie with less fuss. and those stripes? let's not get into the ocd/meth hell that produced such perfection in the martha version. okay, back in the oven. five minutes later i learn there is a special tool that the recipe neglects to mention that is absolutely necessary: FINGERS LIKE ASBESTOS. THESE COOKIES ARE #$%^ING HOT!!! the recipe is correct in saying you really need to roll these immediately or fuggedaboudit. i found, however, that working directly on top of the oven on the ceramic cooktop helped keep the cookie pliable for a valuable five seconds more (if you have a separate or built in oven, roll them on the sheet you baked them on). rolling too tightly=bad. loosely=bad. rolling in a way that requires you to hold onto the burning cookie longer than you should=good.

actually, i sort of became determined to make it work. perhaps the spirit of cybill shepherd-as-martha was at work. and i think eventually, i got some nice cookies. but not nice enough. the worse thing? they were sort of boring tasting. anise or orange or >gasp!< maybe even peppermint so they'd be even more candy cane-like would have made them far more interesting.

clickety click tried them as well, and has a fantastic open letter to martha because of her trauma. so, sorry, martha. the recipes are still a no-go. i'm sticking to your hand towels for now.

45 comments:

These cookies look heavenly, I have no patience for the delicate stuff and so I make tough biscotti, you can't go wrong no matter what you do.

Wow, too much effort for me! I find I don't have the patience for the detail anymore. My cookie partner and I have failed at Martha's cookie decorating recipes. I did try the gingerbread from your previous post and all I can say is "yum" and "thanks"!

De-lurking to say: Finally! Someone else who knows that Martha Stewart LIES. I have her dessert cook book which has gorgeous things in it so I am tempted to make everything but then nothing turns out! Cakes are ugly, frosting doesn't frost, cookies are burned...

Thank you, Santos. I was almost tricked into getting her baking book too. Now I will resist.

The cookies are beautiful though.

Her recipes do suck! But her chef makes them looks so good.

She did these on her morning talk show at the beginning of the month and the recipe gave her trouble too. They sure looked pretty all done and packed up by the kitchen crew though. I think Aun (chubby hubby)'s wife is a professional chef and writes her own cookbooks. I hope that's not Martha's target audience!

This post was hilarious! I, too, have never been a Martha fan but totally fell for the variety of cookies in that same issue and snapped it up. I spent the better part of a day making three different kinds of cookies. Although they came out ok, none tasted like anything special at ALL. I might as well have bought some nilla wafers, put them in a bowl and brought those to work. Wait, I think I just insulted Nilla wafers.

W-O-W!

Honestly, I don't know how you did this. Didn't you burn your fingers with the rolling? Lose your patience with the baking two at a time? I'm truly impressed!

Please share your secret in further detail, I'm pretty interested. Or, better yet, perhaps you'd send some to my friends and family on my behalf? ;)

I was going to try these over the weekend, Santos. Perhaps I should rethink them? They look beautiful, though.

I was thinking if you could get a tip from the barquillos makers of Bulacan and Iloilo. They use a metal cylinder for rolling too.

but such a beautiful cookie! maybe you could put the photo on a bunch of cards and send them out as xmas cards instead?

hi gia-gina--yeah. i think biscotti may be the route i'll be taking.

hey acornbud--i'm surprised i stuck to it for so long, although i had a LOT of batter, and it seemed like a waste to just dump it. i hate making royal icing (can't get the consistency right in this humidity), so i've avoided almost all her decorating ideas.
glad you liked the gingerbread!

hi meredith--thanks for delurking! i read some of your blog--now i've got some great reading recommendations, so thank you for that as well. ah, martha. does she cry when she lies? i doubt it.

hi sweet landa--yes, her chef certainly does, darn her (him).

hi fran! in retrospect, i think i should have tried an easier recipe, but most of them seemed like things i have in other cookbooks that i can actually trust. and anyway, don't people go to martha to get the "showstopper"? did she really expect me to pick a shortbread cookie recipe?

tokyoastrogirl, you are right on the MONEY, you are--they taste like nilla wafers! i knew they tasted familiar. i wonder if anybody (not working for martha) has done all the cookie recipes in that issue; i wonder how many of them taste like variations of a nilla.

hi anna! i did burn my fingertips at first, but eventually got used to it. it took longer to find a good rolling tension though; maybe a wooden dowel would have helped. and striping the batter just became comical after awhile....

hi nic! you've got more cookie baking experience than i do, so you'd probably do better than i did. i do suggest lowering the temperature of the oven, or reducing the cooking time--400 degrees at 6-8 minutes just didn't work. also, since you are only supposed to make 2-3 cookies at a time, and it took about 8-10 minutes to make each batch (prep and cook), that means you only get about a dozen, dozen and a half cookies an hour. not really conducive towards holiday batch baking, imo.

hi sky! oh, what i would do for one of those water irons the barquilleros use to make barquillos! (for those of you reading the comments who don't know what barquillos are, they are a filipino cookie that is made from rolling paper-thin wafers into a cylindrical shape. they are crispy and light in both texture and flavour.) i think my big mistake is that i was expecting these to be more like barquillos, but they really are just a rolled cookie. not very crispy at all.

hi bowb! they photograph well, don't they? i should really look into put these on a card, thanks for the idea!

Santos, you are a trooper. I think there's a commentary on the crisis of aspiration, don't think I'm going to make it though.

Anway perhaps another spell in pokey might make her have a think about foisting stuff

i just noticed that the photo makes the cookies look like sticks of dynamite with a very long fuse. ha! no commentary necessary, i s'pose, although i should probably change the title to something like "i spent $40 on supplies because martha stewart had a cool recipe for cookies, and all i really got were these crapsticks."

oh wait, i forgot to comment on your comment, anthony. "crisis of aspiration"? i have asthma?

actually, i did feel a little out of breath doing these. towards the middle, though, i really knew: i do not want to be martha stewart. or her minion. maybe her onion. i'd make her cry.

snicker. snicker. you gave her a chance, i have to pat you on the back for that.

did you read clicketyclick's post BEFORE you tried it? .... just asking ;)

hiya, no, how dumb was that? but i did find someone online who said they were simple to make (although she doesn't provide any proof that she's actually made them). so, you never really know unless you try them for yourself.

First of all, WOW - great job! Second of all, what kind of jedi mind control does this woman exert on people to get them to try her superhuman recipes again and again? I keep myself sane by pretending she doesn't exist, and I'm proud to say I've never even thought about attempting a Martha recipe! Btw, I recently met a former recipe developer/stylist in the Martha empire. She didn't speak too fondly of her time there.

Heh, I'd like to see Martha make these without her kitchen staff!

hi melissa! i guess it's that way she has of making everything seem so easy. you totally forget all the work that went into it by all the stylists, food consultants, chefs, minions, umbrella carrier, golf caddy, etcetera. i can imagine time with martha would be measured in dog years or something.

hi kathy! apparently there *is* a video of her doing them without the support staff (somewhere on her site). i haven't been able to watch it yet, but i hear she had some trouble with it herself!

Santos, we are not worthy! Can't believe you even tried th recipe, I would have run in the other direction...

Santos - too funny - and I'm so impressed! They *look* good. :) When I saw that recipe I shuddered - and felt a twinge in my phantom fingertips. What the hell is she thinking foisting tuiles - and tightly rolled tuiles - on an unsuspecting American baking public?? I did make her Chocolate Crackles - which were relatively easy - and a pretty good bang for the effort buck. One of the things I *hate* in these Holiday Cookies recipes is calling for coarse salt. Why?? No reason - except maybe pretension. As if she needed any more. I do love/hate her too.

This is hilarious. Although I'm sorry you had to burn your fingers for the story. I've never made any baked goods by Martha, but I have her appetizer book. It's really pretty but the recipes suck. Now I use it for ideas and then go out on the web to find actual recipes.

OMG your story cracked me up... I tried Chinese fortune cookies once too... and my poor little fingertips took a couple of days to heal! OUCH!

hi viv! i'm sure that you would've done fine. wait, no. you'd know better that her recipes don't work. you'd find a recipe that does work the first time around!

hi louisa--omg, i know! it's a power trip thing. of course, i fell for it.

hi chloe--i was tempted to make fortune cookies out of the batter after awhile, actually. i hope your fingers are better!

hi megan! sorry i missed you there. yeah, i think i may have to do what you do and just use her for ideas, then find other recipes to mimic hers!

Yikes! After reading this, I'm going to randomly pick two or three more recipes from the Naking Handbook and see how they come out. The thing that kept going through me head while reading this was "you poor thing!"

harrrr. me and dozens, nay, hundreds! of duped martha consumers everywhere. but that doesn't mean that you or anyone who does do well by martha's recipes should doubt her (unlike spielberg. i will turn you against spielberg.). i think one of the big problems is that martha presents everything as 'doable' to even the most amateur of cooks, when in fact, you really need an intermediate-or-beyond level of skill for any of her endeavours. i'm just not quite at that level.

Hi Santos,

I have to give you credit for your patience and dedication. There is no way that I'd actually try any of Martha's cookie recipes because frankly, I don't know how she does it.

She must either be amazing in the kitchen (which is possible, but highly unlikely), or she must have a brilliant stylist (which the more likely of the two). In any case, these look like they are loaded with sugar and I don't think that I'd like these to taste too sugary-sweet, especially since they look like candy canes.

hi reid! martha has a great staff on hand to do these things for her, then teach her enough basics to get her through a demonstration if she has to. she definitely has a great stylist, but i didn't have to style these much to make them look better in the photo than they actually look in real life. they photograph well, but you'd be surprised how dull they look in actuality.

there is quite a bit of sugar in these, but it's not an extraordinarily sweet cookie--it's much like those pepperidge farm cookies they use in milanos--a little butter, but not so much so, a little sugary, but not so much so, a little tasty, but not so much so. and they don't taste anything like candy canes.

i'm curious, what is your criteria for cookies looking too sweet? i automatically assume all cookies have too much sugar in them, but i don't necessarily think they all look like they do. the reason i picked these cookies was definitely for their looks, but to me they looked like they would be delicate and light in texture, and have a somewhat delicate flavour as well. they turned out neither too particularly delicate nor light--wow, looking back on it, these are mediocre cookies all the way around!

Hi Santos,

These look too sweet only because of the red/pink striping. It actually reminds me of those sweet candy canes rather than those pepperminty ones.

Glad to know that these aren't so sweet and if they are flavored like Milanos, then they should actually be quite good.

Yes, and these definitely looked like they were light. Something like the ones we get for Christmas from Japan (Yoku Moku). Too bad they weren't. *sigh*

hi reid! funny you should mention yoku moku--watch this space ;)

hi santos, looks fabulous! i picked up the holiday cookie mag and the baking handbook recently on two separate occasions; both times, i peered furtively over my shoulder to check that no one was sniggering...this is going to sound odd no matter how i say it, but i think of martha as a guilty pleasure

hello j--martha is definitely a guilty pleasure for some! it seems like she constantly reviled for one reason or another, but her products and magazines continue to sell, despite it all. i mean, i've already admitted that i hate her recipes, yet here i am trying another! we must look like a foolish bunch to the unmartha'd amongst us.

That picture is so heavenly,period!

I know about the pain of the tuile. You're excited about a pretty shaped cookie, but they aren't pretty to make. I work as a pastry chef's assistant, and am still trying to ignore the nerve endings in my fingers. But I did find that if you roll them between the palms of your hands, that works better. I don't know why exactly, but it seems to work for me. Tuiles are traditionally a pretty edible garnish for desserts. If you want to make them interesting, try piping in mint chocolate mousse. I just bought my MS cookie book yesterday and am looking forward to a lot of baking.

hi sailu--they photograph well, don't they?

hello anon--thank you for the tip about not using (finger)tips :) i'll try using my palm next time. yes, there is a next time. and thank you for the piping idea!

Merry Christmas Ate! Let me check with the barquilleros in San Vicente. I know they just use hardwood sticks for rolling.

My sister bought the cookie book, bought a fortune in ingredients to make cashew caramel, chocolate and lime cookies (don't have all of the real names), anyway, none of the recipes were good. My boyfriend spitted out the chocolate cookies and he will eat anything.

hi karen! yes, i need a stick :)

happy new year to you!

hi anon! that is too funny. yet sucks all the same. grrr. what a waste of good ingredients, huh?

Congratulations...your tuile cookies look beautiful. I can absolutely relate to what you are saying about Martha's recipes. I have tried many of her dessert and cookie recipes and several have failed and I am a Pastry Chef! I change some of steps, in fact, because what they describe is not the correct technique. Anyway, a suggestion, next time you make tuile cookies, you might try quickly wrapping them around a narrow dowel or narrow handled wooden spoon. I have done this and it worked.

thanks for the tips, constant baker! they are very welcome (and so much more sensible than the martha way). now, how do i make these taste better? :)

Have you ever tried chocolate tuile cookies? You could try adding 2-3 tablespoons of a good cocoa powder to your batter.

mmm. i'm not much of a chocolate lover, and i don't think most chocolate cookies taste like chocolate, and cocoa isn't my favourite flavour. but these in particular would suffer because the cocoa would discolour them. i know the main point of these cookies is that they look like candy canes, but i would like them to taste good as well. lemon seems wrong, as does mint (mint + butter = meh to me). any ideas? almond maybe? herb?

I just want to chime in and say that though these cookie sticks look great, it's true - they don't taste special.

However, I must disagree - I have tried a few of the recipes in Martha Stewart's Cookies - like the Chocolate Chunk Cookies and the Pecan Tassies - and I was delighted by both. In fact, the former received many compliments after being sent out in our holiday cookie rounds this season.

Thanks for the entry, though! At least you got a beautiful photo out of your baking venture. ;)

Hi penny! Like I said, I'm in the minority that has Martha recipe fail syndrome. Glad they work for you! Happy holidays to you!