Sunday, October 7, 2012

In the mix

As I was hauling the KitchenAid mixer out of the pantry closet, I stopped to think, and not just about how many toes I could break at one time if I dropped that thing. I reflected back to the years when that mixer occupied a prominent place on the kitchen counter. The number of times I whipped up batches of cookies, justified the loss of counter space. Cookies...usually chocolate chip.
Cookies were the matter the question. They made me a good guest, a decent hostess and a fun mother. What to bring to playgroup? Chocolate chip cookies at 10:00 a.m.? Why certainly. We'd been up long enough to justify a little chocolate and enriched flour. There'd be plenty of time later in the day for fruit. I wasn't going to show up at playgroup with a basket of produce. An impromptu invite for lunch? Well if someone was making me a meal, even if that meal was a turkey sandwich, the least I could do was provide dessert. I could turn out a respectable amount (by that I mean that a portion of batter always stayed in the refrigerator at home so that I could be gracious and not devour an obscene amount of cookies, knowing more were waiting for me at home) of Tollhouse wonders in thirty minutes, getting dressed and brushing teeth and hair in between batches. If I anticipated higher maintenance needs before heading out, Tollhouse bars that could go in the oven all at once, and straight to the car from the oven with no cooling in between. 
One woman once commented that if she was in the mood for homemade baked goods, all she had to do was invite me over, knowing I would not show up empty handed. Let's face it, there were times in a young stay at home mother's life that some staples out of the baking cupboard, and a mixing bowl to clean, were well worth an afternoon of adult conversation. So yes, even if you were just after my cookies, the invite was greatly appreciated. If there were (okay, are) going to be hungry children at my house for lunch, and peanut butter and jelly was all that I had on hand, I firmly believed warm cookies made up for a lackluster meal. In some small delusional part of my mind, I guess I believed that all of the other mothers were asking the same drill of questions on the way home from a playdate regarding the intricacies of how time was spent and whether or not there was a grand lunch buffet. Furthermore, I obviously figured my fresh from the oven cookies would absolutely make it into that conversation.

Cookies were for celebrating or for comforting or just because. If I needed the baked goods to look extra special, I would throw the dough on the pizza stone for one giant cookie. Plus, some frosting piped around the edge made it a cookie cake suitable for birthdays even! This worked really least the times I remembered that my cookie stone nicely accommodated half a batch of batter. There was just one time when I forgot and ended up with a flaming ring of dough burning away in the bottom of my oven. The half that stayed on the stone was unharmed, and the sound of the smoke detector and vision of all that smoke never let me forget what portion to use ever again. If someone's pet died, there was a decent chance of chocolate chip cookies arriving at their door as there had to be small small morsel of comfort mixed in with the semi-sweet ones. It was so simple to add flair to a dreary day just by shouting the words "The cookies are ready!" The just because batches held their own near and dear place, often times when all other crafting options had lost appeal, or maybe just a mother's craving. A snack and an activity? Sure, pull up a chair!

Much like the loaves of zucchini bread one might fashion near the end of a grand harvest to use things up, you will find cookies here a couple weeks after Halloween. At some point we just realize a significant dent is not being made in the stash. It becomes no longer enough to just eat the Snicker bar, and it needs more oomf...especially if you are going to call it a proper snack (or breakfast).

Let's face it, everybody has their preference when it comes to the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and it is usually the cookie of their youth. Crispy, thick, chewy, cakey? I will never turn down a homemade chocolate chip cookie. (There was that one year I gave them up for lent...not happening again. You can't imagine how many opportunities, that i had to decline, arose in those forty days.) That is not to say that I enjoy them all the same. I used to love my own cookies. They were soft, thick and cakey, made with margarine. There was comfort in the consistent manner in which I could produce fine results. I had a couple of followers who enjoyed them as well (none of which were my husband who grew up with his mom's crunchy cookies). Then I got mixed up with some crowds chanting about butter being the best to bake with and hydrogenated oils and other banter. I cast aside my sticks of margarine and stepped over to the butter side, and cookies I didn't like as well. My daughter doesn't even remember the cookies the way I once baked them (I think as long as they have chocolate in them, she is good), and the son has a vague recollection.

There is a new baker in the house now. When she first transformed from being happy with whatever ingredients I let her pour, into having more of an understanding about truly participating in the process, I was a little annoyed at times to have such messy dawdling help. I had to remind myself that it was about the process for her, just as much as the end result. Now I try to remove myself from the kitchen completely as she needs to chalk up that independent success. When she announced she was bored this afternoon, I told her she could make cookies. I smiled as I saw her bring her brother a little handful of chips like I always did for the two of them. She also brought him his fresh from the oven portion. I inquired as to why I got no chips and no cookie offered, and her response was that I could get my own. (Truth be told, I had already helped myself to both. Maybe next time I will have some sort of manners willpower and she will wait on me...HA!)

Just a couple of unrelated cookie if this post hadn't already taken on a life of its own, and may or may not have covered where I initially intended for it to go:

I remember having the day off from school as a teen, and my mother leaving me a note to make some spritz cookies to put in the freezer for the upcoming holiday. I am sure I had something really awesome planned, like a day of watching MTV, that I was bummed to have interrupted. I guess I thought if I showed my displeasure I would not have such a ridiculous request bestowed upon me again, so I made some of the dough pink and some purple. Hindsight is 20/20 in that a happy mother returning from work would've been better than my being a smartass.

My son was less interested in adding ingredients to the bowl than his sister, and was happier to dig in the flour container. Sometimes the angle a long spoon projected flour at was not optimal. I didn't get the camera in time to catch the actual glob of flour before it avalanched off his face. I absolutely tended to him as soon as the shutter snapped.
Age 4

Now go bake yourself some cookies, or invite me over!


  1. You could write about cookies all day and I would cherish every last syllable. And I again regret not living closer during your little kid baking years...I would have stopped by three times a week for some of those kinds of offerings! No worries. I probably would have brought SOMETHING....Cheetos maybe? Gum? Mayonaise?

    Yeah. I don't cook or bake, but bow before all those who do. Now where are those Oreos?

    1. Ooooh, I never buy mayo because I am the only one who eats it...what a missed treat opportunity! I feel some molasses mojo coming on! You in?

  2. I am craving cookies, for some reason...

    I have been thinking about getting a pizza stone, but since we don't eat a lot of pizza anymore, I was having difficulty justifying the expense. However, now that I know that I can bake cookies on such a divine accessory, I will put a pizza stone at the top of my list of must haves.

  3. I love cookies. I would also love a Kitchen Aid, but always wonder: is it worth the money? I only bake once or twice a month. What do you think?

  4. My red Kitchenaid mixer lives on my counter....and she takes up lots of room, I tell ya! LOTS of prime real estate since I only have eleven running feet of counter space in our kitchen....(not counting the raised breakfast bar, but it's useless)....

    Your son....bless his heart....I would cry, too.....

    As always, this post has me giggling.... ;P

    I had no idea that you are a fellow cookie pimp! Seriously, I bake chocolate chip cookies often, and I know that folks ask me over for their chewy goodness....

    Have a great week! We baked some pumpkin scones while Big SIs was home for her fall break. We had a great few days together...sad to see her go back to campus yesterday!


  5. This makes me want to plan a cookie bake/share for the holidays.....I haven't made homemade cookies...or homemade ANYTHING in so long. I think that is unfortunate. You've inspired!

    Now where's my glass of milk?

    1. Get your glass of milk and start measuring that sugar!

  6. Even though you claim that you didn't know about National Cookie Month, I think that somewhere in your subconscious, you really did know.

  7. Oh my goodness, that picture is priceless! I LOVE cookies. If I were sure I wouldn't eat the cookie dough "all gone", as my son would say, I'd keep some in the fridge, too.

    1. I do better when the dough balls are in the, because when they are in the freezer I eat them like bon-bons! All gone! :)

  8. What a great story and even better memories. Must be in the air, because for no reason at all, this past weekend had me making pumpkin spice cookies with cream cheese frosting with my boys. Every once in a while I go into "mom mode." And now I'm craving some Tollhouse!

  9. I love to bake too, have been doing cookies and brownie for years - JUST got my first Kitchen Aid last year! The thing is HEAVY and could absolutely break several toes! But, I love it. I love to bake, and that's why I can't lost the extra 20 pounds I walk around with!