Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The cookie spreadsheet, explained

Last week's frozen cookie dough post forced me to get going on something I've been procrastinating on for a loooong time. I've had lots of requests for the cookie spreadsheet I used while I was planning the wedding cookie buffet for my sister's wedding, and I'm terrible at getting back to everyone individually (and not always on a computer with the file). Sorry to everyone who thinks I'm ignoring them. This is for you! I'm honestly not sure how often anyone finds themselves in a position where they need to make this many cookies (Christmas, maybe? If you're really intense?), but it will help if you're trying to tackle a huge baking project.

And while I was figuring out how to explain the spreadsheet to you and clicking back and forth between the pages, I found the little last month of planning schedule that I'd drawn up for us so that everything would run perfectly smoothly. I looked at it and laughed hysterically for a minute and then decided to share some of my (less pretty) DIY wedding reflections with you, a few years later. That part is coming tomorrow.

For the uninitiated (people who have not been reading for long enough that you are horribly sick of hearing about this wedding already) there are a series of posts about my sister's family made wedding here (overview, invitations, dessert buffet, cake making).

Back to the spreadsheet - I've uploaded it to my Google docs, so you should all be able to view it here. I've tried to set it up so that you can't edit it, but you can download it in Excel format and play with it on your own computer. If you have trouble, let me know in the comments and I'll try to troubleshoot.

Keep in mind that it's going to take a lot of adaptation unless you want to make exactly the same cookies in exactly the same quantities that I did. I made this for myself, so it isn't foolproof at all, and it will work best if you're already very comfortable with Excel. Here's a brief rundown on how I used it ...

The first page is the master list of recipes. It includes all the recipes I decided to use and how many batches I needed. There is a little check off section so that I could check off batches of dough as I went along, to keep myself organized. There are notes about whether the cookies were to be frozen as dough or as baked cookies. You'll have to enter your own information here.

The second page is the master list of ingredients. I tried to include most of the common ingredients so I would know what to buy in bulk. I looked up rough cup to weight conversions for the dried goods, and they probably aren't exact but I didn't end up way over or under. In order to calculate the totals, you have to tell Excel where to find the values. We'll get to that.

The third and fourth pages are the broken down recipes. For each recipe, you'll need to enter the ingredients and the amounts in the correct columns. The spreadsheet will automatically calculate your scaled up amounts if you enter the number of batches you want to make. To figure out how many cookies you're getting, change the formula in the box that says "total" by substituting your number of cookies per batch for whatever number I have in there. Excel will automatically multiply it by the number of batches you've entered.

In general, I made four batches of each cookie by making two double batches. This saved the most work. Make them one after the other and you won't even have to wash the mixing bowl between batches, most of the time. I automatically had Excel calculate the amounts needed for the double batch, because I found this helpful.

Now the fun part - pulling it all together to get your shopping list. I won't lie, this part can be tedious and it's easy to make mistakes. You'll have to do it yourself because all the cells are going to be moved around once you sub your own recipes in for mine. Let's say you're trying to figure out how much flour you need. You go to the second tab (master list ingredients) and select the cell between "flour" and "cups". Delete whatever is there, because it's my information. Type an " = " sign so that Excel knows you're going to enter an equation. Then click over to the tab with your recipes and select the cell from the first recipe with the total amount of flour for that recipe (you're looking at the "extended" column). Once you've selected the cell, enter a " + " sign and then click on the flour cell for the next recipe. When you've selected all the flour cells, hit enter. You should automatically be taken back to the master list ingredients tab and the total amount of flour needed will show up.

Excel is picky and it can be annoying when you aren't used to it. I don't recommend this spreadsheet to beginners, but if you have some experience I think you'll find it's significantly faster than trying to manually figure out all these totals.

I left my random bits and pieces of information in here as well. If you're curious to see how the last month-ish  of wedding planning went, you can click over to the last tab and see my calendar. I work full time, so I packed in all the major activities on Saturdays. I had goals for each week (you can see them in one long cell that underlines the week in question), and this was stuff that I had to do during the evenings. I started baking on the first of October, to give myself a full month. I aimed to spend about three evenings a week baking or mixing dough, getting two - three recipes done each week. It actually wasn't that bad. Once you have it all laid out, there aren't any decisions to make. You just plug along until you finish the checklist. When you're making double batches of dough, it all goes relatively quickly. The cookie part of this went exactly as planned, but the last week of wedding prep was a killer, for everything except the cookies. More on that tomorrow.

8 comments:

  1. your how-to posts, particularly the ones about your sister's wedding, blend thoughtfulness and domesticity with nuclear-grade organizational skills in a way that always knocks me over. i'm holding a little lighter up for you over here, rachel.

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  2. :) uhhh, yeah. you are the planning goddess

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  3. so so intense and beyond impressive. just looking at your calendar made me nearly break out in hives.

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  4. This is amazing. I love efficiency in any form and this spreadsheet is fantastic. You're a genius. That is all.

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  5. Well I think the the wedding was a little while ago so I am slow to catch up. I hope the bride and groom are very happy. I love your ideas and ways of expressing them. I truly hope you are equally happy and blessed, thanks bunches, Terry in Seattle (a Mom)

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  6. What a great idea! I am planning my wedding and I plan on using your spreadsheet. I was wondering if you could tell me where to go to find the exact recipe that you used for each type of cookie, so the ingredients will match up. I saw the specific ingredients list for two under the "frozen dough" tab, but not the entire recipe. Thanks so much!

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  7. Hi, Jodi - Sorry, but I don't have all of the recipes I used posted! I can find a couple, but I have no idea where the other ones are. I used a ton of cookbooks and collected recipes online when I was figuring out what to make.
    The chocolate blizzard cookies, the almond crescents and the caramel creams are all mentioned on the blog.

    The apricot heart sandwiches were just a simple sugar cookie that I made with the cookie press and then put apricot jam between.

    I think the chocolate dainties recipe is from here.

    The chocolate vanilla pinwheels recipe is here.

    I can't find the lemon bar recipe I used, sadly. The brownies were just made from the Ghiradelli mix. The cupcakes were all made from cake mix (I know - but so fast!) and then I made homemade buttercream for them.

    Hope that helps!

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