August 29, 2015

Dino disaster: baking edition

Jul 23

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Pinterest-fail- the finished dinosaur piņata cookies. Photo by Emily Petsko

About the author

Emily Petsko is a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter and occasional baker. You can email her at

I am not a baker. But then again, I'm not much of a cook, either. When it comes to following instructions, I usually read the first three steps and guess what comes next. It's a fun game, and if I win, I get to eat something edible.

Despite my propensity to avoid all things domestic, I accepted a challenge to bake the most elaborate dessert recipe I could find. I was bound to fail, but at least my expectations would be appropriately low.

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The original piņata cookies from Pinterest.

It all started when I showed my boyfriend, Dave, a hilarious online listicle of the “20 people who tried things on Pinterest and totally NAILED IT.”

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These were supposed to be six blobs, but there were only four color dyes, so four blobs it is. Photo by Emily Petsko.

By nailed it, they actually mean “royally screwed up.” Character cakes should be cute, but these horrifying photos revealed a lumpy Minion, a mangled mermaid and a seriously deranged hedgehog that is the stuff of my nightmares.

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What have I done?! Photo by Emily Petsko

But in case you're one of those people with a life, I should explain the phenomenon that is Pinterest. It's a website you visit to get inspired and then feel bad about yourself afterward, because (if you're like me) the finished product never matches the photo. Pinterest is a bottomless pit of cute craft ideas and cooking recipes that all claim to be “super easy and delicious!” (It's a trap! Kale chips will never taste good!)

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Almost as pretty as those sand-art sculptures made by children at carnivals. Photo by Emily Petsko

Pinterest is a library of fails waiting to happen, but when Dave jokingly asked me to surprise him with a ridiculous Pinterest creation, I knew I would be in control of my fail-destiny.

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And then I discovered a recipe for Cinco de Mayo piņata cookies that had colorful stripes and mini M&Ms inside. And forget donkeys – dinosaurs would be way cooler. Never mind that it wasn't May and sugar cookies are the bane of all desserts. It was perfect, so I got started.

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Preparing these cookies took me about two hours from start to finish, and that's not including the 15 minutes I spent in the baking aisle trying to find cream of tartar. What even is that? I still don't know.

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Here are some thoughts I had while completing the first step of the recipe (mixing ingredients):

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-Oops, I forgot to buy almond extract. Do I need that? I'll just use more vanilla extract.

-Should I be using a whisk? The dough is getting all clumpy. I'll switch to a wooden spoon.

-It's still hard to stir. Should I be using a mixer? I should go to the gym more. Is this what it was like for pioneer women churning butter?

-Why do people do this to themselves?

-Is there a way to measure flour without spilling it all over the kitchen?

After that, it was time to divide and dye - not to be confused with the military tactic. I only had four colors instead of six, so I ended up with four enormous blobs of dough instead of six normal-sized blobs. I used liquid dye instead of gel dye, so the blobs also were splotchy and gross.

I also made a bigger mess than a kindergartner trying to finger paint.

Next, I layered and froze the dough, then spent the next four hours playing video games, because I'm an adult.

Next, the recipe says to “remove the dough from the container and unwrap from the plastic.” But no where in the recipe does it explain how. I pried and hacked and pried some more, but that block of dough wasn't budging. Dave's brother, Dan, called their mother for advice. I was helpless and everyone knew it.

But after battling the dough, I eventually emerged victorious. The stripes were pretty lopsided, but I was ready to bake.

After baking the dough for 12 minutes, the next step is crucial: cut and assemble the cookies, but “try to work quickly, because as the cookies cool, they are more likely to crumble or break.” The recipe should say: “Set the timer for a minute and 30 seconds. If your cookies aren't assembled by then, just give up now, because you will have a crumbly catastrophe.”

You can guess what happened next. Trying to cut the dough with my dinosaur cookie cutters – and simultaneously trying to cut a hidden pocket out of one of the dinosaur cookies so I could stuff it with M&Ms – was disastrous. Add icing, or “cookie glue,” to the mix, and it was also messy.

But somehow, I managed to assemble one piņata stegosaurus with moderate success. One was all I needed to see that adorable, bewildered look on my boyfriend's face.

At this point, I gave up on the pinata idea and doused the remaining cookies in icing. For some unknown reason, Dave ate all of them that evening and got a stomach ache.

In the style of “Eat, Pray, Love,” I feel I should elucidate what I learned and how I “found myself” through the craft of baking. What I learned is that I cannot bake, and that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Side note: I sincerely apologize to all dinosaurs who befell a tragic ending once again – not as bad as that meteor, but still pretty embarrassing.

Try making your own piņata cookies on Pinterest!

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