Monday, December 04, 2006

Who's calling it easy?

The Easy Bake Oven was inducted into the toy hall of fame recently, a fitting tribute for the toy that helped teach me the appeal of the miniature and the thrill of creation, and still inspires nostalgia for baking dubious, tiny cakes through the magic of an ordinary light bulb.

My first memory of baking something full-sized is of chocolate chip cookies.They became my specialty growing up - something of an enforced specialty, since my brother used to request them: plain, unembellished chocolate chip cookies, none of this experimentation I liked to do with oatmeal or coconut or raisins or almonds or what have you.

That's the beauty of baking. It's part chemistry, part artistry. As long as you get the proportions of the important stuff right, the rest is open to interpretation. I've heard cooking is supposed to be like that, too, but tell that to the people who've had to eat my savoury experiments.

My friend who we call the nice Martha Stewart had a card making party and cookie exchange on Saturday. (A few of us also went cross-border shopping today, which means I think I've exceeded my girlie quotient for the month already). So I'm baking seven dozen cookies for the exchange, thinking, well, it's not that many, really, since I'm giving six dozen away. Yes, and getting a dozen each of six different kinds of cookies in return. Math was never my strongest subject.

There's a lot of cookies in my freezer. Guess what I'll be bringing to any Christmas gatherings this year?

I stayed away from my old specialty and went for something a little off the wall, since I figured chocolate chip cookies would account for at least two of the seven dozen. Everyone else figured the same thing, so we ended up with none.

I'd never be mistaken for a Martha Stewart of any disposition, but this is the recipe I brought:

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin (or fresh cooked and mashed)

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar together well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla and pumpkin.

Stir remaining ingredients together and add. Mix well. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased pan. Bake in 375oF oven for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Invite me for a Christmas gathering and maybe you can try them. Along with shortbread, cranberry and walnut drops, snickerdoodles, peanut butter balls, macaroons, and Mexican wedding cookies.

Mmm. I'm hungry. Time to raid my freezer.