Eight is enough

I’m a Christmas cookie baker. For many years now, I’ve made dozens of cookies to share with family and friends. This year, I made 8 different kinds over the last few days, now safely stowed in the freezer to be doled out liberally over the next couple weeks.

But I was itching to try just one more. A new recipe called “Hungarian Pinwheel Cookies Featuring Poppy Seed Filling.” It was the poppy seeds that got me. You see, my dad was a wonderful baker. Mostly breads, except for one phenomenal exception: poppy seed roll. Every year, on special holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, we were treated to this amazing concoction. I can still see it, on the cabinet in the kitchen, on a cookie sheet, under a towel. I can still taste it, moist, sweet, unique. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

But none of us ever learned how to make it, and I’ve never found his recipe, except for the dough (I think). But not for that incredible filling. So when I saw this cookie recipe, I just had to try it. It had simple step-by-step instructions, and even pictures along the way, including this one of the finished product.

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Mmmmm. Don’t they look good?

Yup, too good to be true.

I should have known I was doomed when I couldn’t find Baker’s poppy seed filling. I’m pretty sure this is what my dad used, although I think he doctored it up pretty good (maybe adding raisins?). But Wal-Mart had none, and Giant Eagle had every other kind of Baker’s filling imaginable — except this one. Just the telltale label on an empty section of shelf.

I remembered the store had baking items in other places, especially at the holidays. After spending a good 15 minutes searching, I managed to find some near the bakery. Looked kinda funny. In fact, when Mike saw it on the counter at home, he said, “What the heck is that?” despite the clearly labeled (and clear) package.

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I won’t tell you what he said it looked like, but it wasn’t flattering.

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I tasted a bit and thought, “UGH.” It was nothing like I expected. But how bad could it be? Nothing ventured…

So I dug in, following the directions to make a “soft dough,” rolling out the sticky mess between wax paper, and refrigerating it “until firm.” I couldn’t fit it in the freezer, which the recipe advised I may want to do if the dough was too soft. (Yeah, turns out I should have found a way to freeze it like a rock.)

I’m not much of a dough chiller. After 40 minutes, it was past 10:00 o’clock and I was ready to be done with the darn cookies. So I went at it anyway, spreading the disgusting poppy seed mess over the dough and attempting to roll it all up in a neat tube — just like the picture showed. The key, the recipe urged, was to roll tightly. Success, it cautioned, depended on how tightly you rolled up the dough along with its filling.

I failed miserably. The dough stuck to the waxed paper, the poppy seed filling bled through, and I ended up with not the lovely pinwheels in the picture, but these blobby messes.

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Well, I’m not Martha (obviously). So at least if they tasted good, I could live with them.

But no such luck. Trust me, they don’t taste any better than they look.

So, Mike finally has his answer to “When can I eat cookies?” (Now dear, choke down as many of these as you like.), and I still have 8 kinds of lovely, edible cookies to share. Eight is definitely enough. Don’t worry family and friends, you won’t be getting these!

But, alas, my craving remains. I looked a bit longingly at the poppy seed roll at the bakery at Giant Eagle. But I’ve had it before — a poor substitute, even at $7.99.

So if there was ever any doubt, I now know for sure what I’d ask for “If I could have anything I wanted for Christmas…” — Dad’s poppy seed roll, and him here to bake it.

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.
                                                                          ~ Gloria Naylor

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