In the kitchen this morning while making cookies, I paused to scrape down the beater of my stand mixer. I scraped it messily, leaving enough batter to lick off cleanly before dropping it in the sink.
The sight of a batter-coated beater or spatula evokes a near-Pavlovian response in me. I absolutely have to sneak a finger-full, then I lick the rest off, then dig into the corners to get every last bit of batter.
When we were little, my four sisters and I would fight over the beater. As soon as we saw my mom pull out the stand mixer, we’d hover nearby, waiting for a taste. Getting to lick the bowl was the ultimate prize—if you’re an expert at it, you can scrape practically an entire scoop of cookie dough from the empty bowl.
All those little moments are important pieces of what it feels like to be little. We were lucky—years of running wild and ruling our little corner of the earth were built solidly on a foundation of small, joyful routines.
So I’ve been thinking about the other things I’d like to pass on to little ones of my own, when I have them (this is not a subtle announcement that I have a bun in the oven. The only buns in my oven for the foreseeable future are real, cinnamon sugared ones.)
Here are a few of those little, daily things. They mattered a lot to me, and though they may not be newspaper-worthy moments, I'd want my family to experience them:
Drying their clothes on a real clothesline outside in the fresh air, so the sheets on their bed feel crisp and slightly stiff.
Making applesauce outside on the grass on an early, still-warm fall afternoon. Cranking the softened apples through a food mill, getting sticky and making a mess and watching in awe as the fruit mysteriously separates into spoonable sauce and dried skins.
Milking a cow and all its attendant pleasures: The sound of a metal milking pail plinking against the metal handle. The sweet, earthy smell of hay matted on the floor of the milking stall. The heat of proximity to a solid, warm animal. The steady, rhythmic stream of creamy milk coursing into the pail.
Skipping rocks on the surface of the pond. Swimming in the same pond, kicking your legs out to feel the tickling heat of the top sun-warmed layer of water, then the chilly murky depths, then cold mud squishing between your toes.
Our ragtag band of sisters traipsing to the barn to see the sheep shearer on his annual visit. Watching as he corners a bleating sheep, deftly flips it onto its side, and flicks on the electric shears. The buzz of the razor, the heat of the day, the sweaty muscles of the sheep shearer as he cleanly shaves off sheets of oily wool.
A few of these will be harder to come by. Who knows where I'll live in a few years: farm or mountain or city. But regardless of place, I will certainly be making a lot of cookies, and there will be plenty of dough-coated bowls for little hands to sneak into.
An excellent cookie dough to eat raw, but also to bake, is for molasses ginger sugar cookies. I love these cookies any time of year, but they feel particularly right for fall.
Be sure not to use blackstrap molasses: It's too bitter here. Don't skip the step of chilling the dough before shaping the cookies; it makes it much easier to handle.
Chewy Molasses Cookies
Adapted from Brer Rabbit Molasses; makes 24 cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
turbinado sugar, for coating
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the molasses and egg and beat until incorporated, stopping to scrape down the bowl now and then.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Put the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.
A bit before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Scoop the dough in tablespoon-sized balls, and roll each one in sugar, then place on a parchment-lined sheet (you need the parchment; they will stick!). Leave at least 2 inches between each cookie.
Bake for 8-12 minutes. Remove from the oven when the cookies are golden brown all over (the edges will be considerably darker but that's okay as long as they aren't burnt). Let cool on the sheet until firm enough to move to a baking rack to finish cooling.