Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Dysfunctional Cookie Baking Family

Cookies and I go way back. And while it's virtually impossible to recall the first cookie I ever ate, some cookies do adhere more fondly to my culinary memory than others.

One of my first cookie baking memories, oddly enough, belongs with my Grandma Helen who seldom baked anything. Grandma was very frugal and often bragged on the fact that she used only half a bag of chocolate chips in her Toll house cookies. You really don't need the whole bag, she used to say. Thrifty Grandma twirled up the remainder of the bag with an old twist tie and set it aside until she needed to bake again, which was usually the following year. Then Grandma would retrieve the old, whitened chips, and take pride in the fact that she had just saved 29 cents. Funny thing is, I rather enjoyed those plain, dry cookies that she used to bake. They were the perfect accompaniment to cherry Kool-Aid on a hot summer day.

My other cookie baking memory lies with my mother (daughter of the aforementioned grandmother) who also did not bake. I was in the fourth grade and by some erroneous lineup of the stars, my mother ... career woman/registered nurse ... became home room mom and was asked to bake two dozen sugar cookies, all in the shape of a black cat's head for the grade school Halloween party.

I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of my mom bringing the cookies and remember it vividly: black buttercream frosting with large green piped eyes and black licorice strings for whiskers. Only these are not my mothers cookies that I am remembering. These are the cookies of our talented next door neighbor, the Martha Stewart of Lincoln School. Martha's cookies were perfect, like something out of a magazine. My mothers cookies, on the other hand, looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie, all distorted and re-sewn together. Mom's cookies had red licorice strips instead of black, that were sticking straight up out of the top of the cat's head, like hair(!). When our neighbor, normally a pious, reserved woman, took one look at my mother's cookies, she burst into laughter so hard that we thought we were going to have to take her to the hospital. To this day, my poor mom is still chided for those crazy cat cookies.

So now you know the history of my dysfunctional cookie baking family and can see that I had nowhere to go -- but up. The good news is, I have broken with tradition and now bake, with the help of my daughter, a pretty decent oatmeal raisin and some pretty good chocolate chip. This latest recipe for Oatmeal Raisin has been lingering in my collection for sometime now and I wish I had tried it sooner, for these are the perfect, easy, not too soft, not too thin, Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie. I am moving this one to the top of my list.

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 Sticks unsalted butter softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

1. In bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir this into butter-egg-sugar mixture with mixer on lowest speed, scraping down sides when needed. With mixture on "stir" or lowest setting, mix in oats and raisins.

3. Form into large walnut sized balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brow, 20 minutes.


Linda said...

I love your story!

Though this is one thing that I've never craved - I'm just not a big cookie eater - never have been. I don't crave sweets at all. One would think I shoud be a skinny little thing, being that I don't like sweets, and I walk miles every day. But I guess, that's not meant to be.

The only time I've baked cookies is on the rare occasion for my daughter, who does occasionally like them. Mine though would normally turn out as you described your Moms. I'm not a baker. I'm a cook. :-)

Cynthia said...

Oh, your poor mom. I was laughing so hard.