Kitchen Chores #5: Peanut Butter Cookie Improvisation

Born to bake: Even without all the right ingredients, cookie making offers fun-filled opportunities to practice pouring, stirring, counting and chocolate chip decorating.

The cookie-baking thing that has swept through our household clearly has something to do with the weather–the steamy scent of dough in the house a little antidote to the shorter, colder days. But we like to think we are also channeling our new favorite show, Up All Night, in which Will Arnett and Christina Applegate play bumbling, but lovable, parents who know that even with the best intentions things can go awry.

Consider my recent baking session with Clio. Clio had woken up early from her nap. So, with my ability to work stymied, I immediately sought to be productive in some other way, and suggested we bake cookies. In fact, this was a legitimate household chore on our to-do list since Slow Food USA’s value meal challenge this past summer: cookies seemed like one of those things that could be baked at home for much less than bought at the store.

So, out of the Recipes from Home cookbook, we found “peanut butter cookies,” and started to assemble the ingredients, dust off big mixing bowls, and soil a pile of measuring spoons. It was all going so splendidly that even though we didn’t have all the ingredients and the dosages we measured out weren’t that precise, I decided we must plow forward. Who cares if it isn’t quite perfect? We’re baking together. Clio was pouring, stirring, identifying numbers, sampling chocolate chips. What’s the rush?

And by the time we got to the stage of pressing the balls of cookie dough into the baking pan, we were working truly in tandem–me cleaning the counter as Clio shaped and decorated the cookies. It’s hard to believe that this little girl whose very ability to eat and grow I agonized over just a year or so ago, now stands on a chair and can deftly flatten dough balls and neatly press chips into them. Clio counted out four chips for each cookie, noting repeatedly that she was “also” four. And she remarked how “sweet and salty” the cookies were going to be: minutes before, she had added a few extra teaspoons of salt to the mixing bowl when I had my back turned. “Oh gosh,” she said, feining concern. “That’s ok, we can add more sugar.”

A dad's eye view from our recent cookie baking session.

It should be noted that one of the ingredients we didn’t have was peanut butter, so we substituted in some tahini. Another missing ingredient was baking powder, so the cookies didn’t really “rise.” Sarah wasn’t fond of them, saying they were less like cookies than like salty, dense biscuits. Clio showered the cookies with endless compliments. (“These are so scrump, dad.”) I’d say they were similar in texture to the wonderful, yielding consistency of Entenmann’s original recipe chocolate chip cookies. The batch kept for nearly a week, enjoyed as dessert after dinner or on a couple occasions as an afternoon snack. (For another easy-to-make-with-kids recipe that’s been showing up in our kitchen lately, see the below one with oats, walnuts and chocolate chips. We have also added pumpkin seeds.)

Baking with kids always seems like a good idea, and often veers into moments of great joy. But it requires constant vigilance. A few mornings ago,  bleary eyed and trying to make coffee and breakfast, I allowed Cyrus, who is two, to help me crack the eggs over the frying pan. The last time we’d done this, he was hesitant. This time, he whacked the egg down on the edge of the pan so hard that the shell broke straight through and egg gushed everywhere. I turned to grab a sponge, and before I turned back, he had dropped another egg on the floor. To make cake, as they say, you must break some eggs.

Cookies courtesy of Kari Harendorf
1.5 c rolled oats
1 c ww flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c maple syrup
1/3 c oil if you want to make it vegan, or 1/4 c butter, melted
1/3 c chocolate chips
1/3 c walnuts, chopped
Stir together and bake at 350 for 17-20 min. 😉

Editor’s Note: Eating with Clio is our rambling series filled with tips/advice on how to get toddlers to eat healthy, what to do when confronted with food allergies, and how parents can calm their food-related fears.