A mother’s food memory of baking and having fun in the kitchen.
Before I became a mother, I had many thoughts and ideas about the kind of parent I’d be to my kid(s). Like most, these ideals stemmed from my own childhood. Food is a big deal in our family; Dad had always been a terrific cook and my earliest food memory is of the ubiquitous belachan (fermented shrimp paste) aroma that permeated our kitchen (and our whole apartment) whenever he made my favourite sambal belachan. I used to compete with my siblings to see who could tahan (Malay for tolerate) the most amount of said sambal. Oh the beads of sweat that would trickle down my temple as I shoveled down that tangy, briny and very shrimpy chili staple with copious amounts of rice and whatever was on our dinner table.
Though not much of a baker, Dad would whip up some gloriously light and fragrant orange pound cake whenever my school had a fund-raising carnival (fellow Convent girls will know what I’m talking about). You see, we each had to contribute to our class ‘stall’ and my dad’s slices of pound cake would always sell out by mid-day. At $0.10 a slice, it was quite a steal.
To this day, any mention of pound cake and I think of that citrusy rendition that I associate pound cake with. With my eyes closed, I catch an imaginary whiff of that orange scent, from all the freshly grated rind.
That cake memory may very well be the genesis of a certain fantasy I began to paint in my mind – I would own a large kitchen where I baked/cooked everything my heart desired and where I would eventually relegate my kid(s) to, training them up to be my adorable little Oompa Loompas. Isn’t it every parent’s dream for their kids to bring them breakfast in bed during the weekends?
Thus began my personal journey as an amateur baker and cook (I can’t teach my kid(s) unless I pick up some skills eh?). In 2005, I started a little blog to document my kitchen experiments, both good and not so good ones. It was an era before Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp mind you. Blogger (and later on WordPress) was the hottest platform to be on. I made so many wonderful friends (far and wide) via my blog. I used to participate in what was called “Blogging by Mail“. I’ve had hardtack candies sent to me from Tennessee, USA, and I once mailed Milo and my signature chocolate chunk cookies to Iowa. I moved my blog to a .net domain in 2009 but due to some technical roadblocks I lost my site (along with my posts) and relied mostly on Instagram to churn out more foodporn and what I’ve since been baking for my own family and kids.
Having been more nostalgic, and contemplative (no thanks to the pandemic), I re-read some of my old posts and realised that I really miss long-form writing. Instant posts on the ‘Gram or FB just didn’t cut it. There was an itch to scratch. With more time on my hands, I sunk my teeth into WordPress once more. There’s no time better than the present for me to document this chapter of my life as a mother and wife. It would be really nice for my sons to have a record of our kitchen (and other) adventures.
Yesterday, my son Ciaran walked into the kitchen and asked me “where cookies?”. Last weekend’s batch of homemade oatmeal cookies had been depleted (we are a very hungry family) and he wanted more. I asked what type of cookies he wanted me to make – “Peanut butter!” he shouted with enthusiasm. Our family goes through peanut butter faster thank you can say “peanut butter jelly time”. Our preferred brand of choice is most definitely Pic’s peanut butter. They use hi-oleic peanuts and they’ve got a salt-free option that we love.
With my jar of peanut butter at the ready, I started to prep and weigh out the ingredients. Just as I was about to combine everything, in came Ciaran with his wide smile, and a really sweet “Wanna help you Mama”. At that second, my heart swelled with pride and love. My little kitchen helper brought over his stool and he helped to mix the flour, and also the gooey peanut butter mixture.
You don’t really need a mixer for this recipe. We did it by hand, with our trusty whisk. Once the dough is formed, make sure you chuck it in the fridge so that it’s nice and firm for easy shaping later on. Now this is the part that Ciaran enjoyed the most. If your kid loves Play-Doh, this would be a fun activity!
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar (I substituted with coconut sugar)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter (my preferred brand is Pic’s)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 175°C. Prepare your baking sheets (or just use a silicon heat-proof mat like I do).
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
- In a large bowl of electric mixture combine the melted butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract. Beat just until well blended. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
- Refrigerate cookies until dough is stiff enough to shape into balls, about 2 hours. Using a tablespoon scoop out dough and with wet hands shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart of baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork or a cookie press lightly press on the ball of dough to slightly flatten and make an indentation.
- Bake until bottoms are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cookies cool briefly on the pans. Using a wide flexible spatula transfer the warm cookies to a rack to cool.
Makes about 36 cookies.
*Taken from Williams-Sonoma Cookie cookbook.
They are pretty dope warm, and fresh out of the oven but make sure you let it rest for at least 15 mins on the pan so it sets right. I had to pry Ciaran away from the hot sheet pans as he was so eager to take some once he saw me get them out of the oven.
Ciaran wanted 1, 2, 3 pieces and since he was such good help, I obliged.
Cookie-making is a great gateway to an exciting world of baking for kids who want to help in the kitchen. My 3yo boy seems to share our passion for food. We can’t wait for him to advance to ‘bigger’ recipes – even if it’s just so we can put our feet up one day and have him cook a meal for us.
To all mothers out there, I wish you a hearty Happy Mother’s Day. I congratulate you for all you have done and even more that you will do for your kid(s)!