Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Cookies are Crumbling (But That Doesn't Stop Us From Eating Them)

My love of baking comes from my Aunt Dot. She owned one of those 1950s era Betty Crocker cookbooks bound in a three-ring binder with full color spreads of the most beautiful food I have ever seen.

Otherworldly, fanciful delicacies that I as the daughter of Chinese parents never saw. I was far more used to rice and duck and soy sauce chicken and bitter melon soup. Not rows upon rows of iced cookies shaped like snowmen and bells and rocking horses; or three-layer yellow cakes iced in white with flaming peaches on top; or brunches with fat doughnuts, sugar and nut crusted coffee cakes and pancake stacks heavy with syrup and butter.

My mom, being from Hong Kong, cooked mostly traditional Chinese meals; my Aunt Dot did too, but Aunt Dot had a strong streak of Southern in her. Aunt Dot wore printed shirtdresses, sounded like a Southern farmwife (she called scuppernongs scuffledimes) and introduced me to fried chicken dredged in a batter of flour and water then fried in an inch of oil. I loved her very much.

She was also the one who introduced me to the sweets I salivated over in her Betty Crocker cookbook. Having a sweet tooth herself, Aunt Dot's favorite Saturday afternoon pasttime was making cookies and I was always her willing assistant.

One of her best cookies was actually a recipe that didn't come from Betty Crocker. I'm not sure where it came from, but we still have the original, written in a flowing cursive with a slightly shaky hand. I love how she instructs us to bake the cookies at 350 or 375 degrees. These were the cookies she made for each of us during holidays or as college care packages.

I made them recently again for the first time in years. Pulling the sheets out of the oven with their familiar brown sugar, nutty smell brought back memories of Aunt Dot, all buttoned up in her red and blue kitchen smock, with a spatula in hand and a big smile on her face.

Cornflake Cookies

1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of flour
3 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 box of cornflakes
1/2 cup of nuts

Preheat oven to 350 or 375 degrees (or compromise like me to 360 degrees).

Cream softened butter with both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix. Add cornflakes and nuts and mix one more time. It will seem like there are way too many cornflakes for the batter, but don't worry! It will mix in.

Using a large tablespoon, drop half spoonfuls of cookie dough on baking sheets. I usually fit 12 to a sheet. Bake for 15 minutes; cookies should have flattened and be lacy and golden brown.

Cool for a moment then remove from baking sheets. Yields about 4 dozen crisp, crumbly and delicious cookies.

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