05 June 2017

Unexpected Challenges Bring Great Rewards (plus recipe: Huffle Puffs)

The best part about my cookie challenge … Okay, never mind. There are so many good parts that I can’t really choose a best part about it for me.

I love getting to know the Mormon missionaries who write to me. There’s something about writing and receiving letters that makes connections between people feel so much more real. Handwritten letters often show a side of you that doesn’t easily shine through in 140 characters, or even in super-long blog posts you share with the entire world. There’s something intimate and personal about the act of writing your thoughts in your own handwriting that simply leads to closer relationships.

I love the dose of perspective I get when I read about the challenges that someone else is facing, and the lessons and hope they’ve taken away from those challenges. I love learning about the things that have touched their lives, and gaining perspective as they share the things they’re grateful for. (Honestly, this is the biggest reason I started promising cookies to anyone who would write to me. I get so worn down with the negativity in the world that I will literally bribe people to send me their happy thoughts!)

And I love getting a challenge that feels nearly impossible, knowing that everyone is rooting for me to pull it off. A challenge that I never would have thought to take on myself, but that my friends and family, and the person issuing the challenge, honestly believe I’ll be able to handle. Because sometimes, the missionaries who write me letters spend just as much time (or more!) dreaming up cookie flavors for me to invent as they spend actually writing the letters. A few times, I’ve even had missionaries tell me that they have the letter all written, but they’ve spent more than a week trying to come up with a cookie idea that might stump me.

And some of them REALLY try to stump me, throwing flavor combinations at me that even they aren’t sure would work, just to see if I can make something delicious out of the unexpected.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned: Even when they’re giving me the most difficult cookie challenges they can think of, each and every one of these missionaries expects me to succeed. Obviously, if I failed, they wouldn’t get their cookies, and that would be a hollow victory indeed. But the more word spreads about my cookie challenge, the more the missionaries compete for the title of “most difficult cookie challenge ever,” so the requests get crazier and the challenges get more impossible with each letter I receive.

And yet, every single cookie request so far has been a success.

It’s amazing how much you discover that you’re capable of when everyone (including you) is operating under the assumption that you can succeed. Because when you don’t know a task is truly impossible, it’s much easier to find a way to make it happen before the realization of that fact sets in. When “I can’t” isn’t a part of the vocabulary, “I’ll find a way” becomes the roadmap to follow.
Sometimes, it takes several batches of trial-and-error cookie making to find the recipe that works. But I’m always surprised by the way so many of the more daunting cookie challenges work out perfectly on the first try. (Sometimes, it’s the simple requests that don’t work out on the first go-round.)

One of the craziest challenges I’ve faced so far was when Sister Savanna Sanborn asked me to re-create the four houses of Hogwarts in cookie form. This was an extra-large challenge not just because it required four different cookie recipes (I’ve since added a caveat to my rules – no cheating the system to ask for multiple recipes at once! Each separate cookie challenge request has to be accompanied by a separate encouraging letter.)

 … But I’ve never actually read Harry Potter. 

I know. Scandalous, right? I know enough about the story to fake my way through a conversation with people who have read the series or watched the movies once. I know practically all the spoilers, and I can even remember most of the character names. And I have enough friends who are obsessed with the books that I catch more references than you’d think. I just have so many books on my “to be read” pile, and I’m more of a contemporary kind of gal, so I’ll probably never actually get around to reading them. (I did watch one of the movies.)

So you can see my dilemma. I can’t call a cookie challenge truly successful unless the person requesting the cookies is satisfied with the results. And I was afraid I might mix up the characteristics of the houses, making a Huffledoor and a Ravenpuff or a Slither claw and a Griffin poof. And with four cookies to invent, I didn’t have time to read a whole series of books.

Luckily, my daughter has read them all more than once, and my friend and critique partner extraordinaire, Ashley Turcotte (who is also one of the best copy editors you’ll ever meet, by the way), may be the biggest Harry Potter fan anywhere. (I can’t say for sure, since I don’t spend a ton of time in that fandom, but she even finds hidden HP references in my manuscripts from time to time, which is quite a feat in itself.) My daughter and Ashley walked me through the various characteristics of the houses and acted as my go-to taste-testers to make sure the cookies fit. And before long, I had four fabulous cookie recipes. One for each Hogwarts house.

My favorite, of course, are the Huffle Puffs. I’m told by everyone I know that this is the Harry Potter house I belong in, so that could be why they’re my favorite. But really, I think it’s because they’re just so fun to eat. Kind of like a deconstructed chocolate chip cookie, they’re familiar and unexpected all at once. A little cookie puff with a surprising center.

Huffle Puffs

You will need:
2 c. butter
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
5 c. flour
mini marshmallows
1 pkg. chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugars.

Add eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and salt.

Beat in flour, until fully incorporated.

Chill dough for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Portion dough with ½-inch cookie scoop, and press each cookie ball into a flat disc. Place a mini marshmallow in the center of each, and wrap the dough around the marshmallow, pinching the edges together to seal.

Place balls on parchment-lined cookie sheet, and chill for 15 to 30 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 9 minutes.

Let sit for a minute or two, then remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small, glass bowl, melt chocolate chips in the microwave for one minute. Stir, then microwave for 15-30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chocolate is fully melted. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cookie puffs.

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