Published in the Shelter Island Reporter on December 21, 2016
I will never forget the first time I made a cookie. I put my 5-year old fingers in the flour, tasted and thought, this cannot possibly become something delicious. But it did. The sugar cookies I made were misshapen, and probably under-cooked, but never mind, they were delicious, and I couldn’t wait to make that magic happen again.
The holidays are a good time for baking, and making cookies is one way to instill a love of cooking in very young children. Of course, this only works on children who like cookies.
Don’t do what I did with my own child. My oldest son’s first independent experience in the kitchen began when I put out the ingredients for a tender, crumbly butter cookie called Oatmeal Frosties, and set him loose without a recipe. I had a dimly-formed idea that if I removed constraints it would allow him to be creative and enjoy the experience, like the policy of his elementary school to allow creative spelling for young writers. The resulting cookies contained most of the same ingredients as Oatmeal Frosties; but were inedible. I did save his “recipe” (pictured below) which he helpfully wrote down for future reference.
Much later in life he became a very good cook, and learned to spell.
I should have started him off with the recipe; an ideal one for kids. The best way to mix the dough is with small (recently-washed) hands. It has very few ingredients, and none of them is potentially poisonous, like uncooked eggs. But the best thing about the recipe is the way it shows a budding baker the magic of taking ingredients from dust to delicious.
Makes 50 cookies
1½ cups rolled oats
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar plus 1 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla
I cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1. Mix oats, flour, vanilla, one tablespoon of the sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl.
2. Cut in the butter with two table knives or a pastry blender or mix with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. It’s ready to shape into cookies when you grab a handful and it starts to hold together.
3. Shape the dough into cookies about two inches long and an inch around — like very short, very fat pencils. Don’t worry about making them all exactly the same or smoothing the ends; the rougher the cookie, the better it will hold the sugar. (see the final step.)
4. Bake at 350 degrees on an ungreased pan or parchment for 15 minutes, until the bottoms are very light brown.
5. Cool the cookies in the pan about 15 minutes, and roll in the remaining confectioner’s sugar while they are still warm. If you want them to be very sugary, roll them in the sugar while they are still hot.