I have an unconventional family, while most mothers lovingly bake cookies for their children; here we do things a bit differently.
“Mom! I invited two friends over to bake cookies”, Alon called as he walked into the house from Judo lessons.
“No problem, but did you do your homework first?”
“I just have a social studies project….”
“How many times do I have to tell you not to invite friends until you finish homework!”
“But Mom! You don’t understand! Baking cookies is the social studies project!”
I didn’t feel like arguing because he has proven himself to be a very proficient baker, especially his chocolate chip cookies. After scouring the new cookie cookbook, Alon found the exact recipe he was looking for and then, like a manager of a baking shop, he began assigning jobs to his friends and younger brother, while he himself was busy organizing the mise en place:
“You zest the lemon”
“You sift the flour, NO! Not on the floor!”
“Cut the butter into small pieces”
“DON’T TURN THE MIXER ON HIGH!
I am so proud and amazed, not by the quality of the cookies, but by their cooperation and imagination. When I next came into the kitchen they were cutting cookie dough into the shape of the continents. I forgot! Alon had to make a model of the world but he also wanted to bake cookies with friends and he found and ingenious way of doing it all. Above all, they cleaned up after themselves (ok, after I told them they would never, ever be allowed in the kitchen if they left it a dump) and this is amazing in itself.
My brother called in the midst of their zesting, sifting and mixing and asked me what in the world all the noise was.
“The boys are baking”
“Isn’t that a sissy thing for boys to be doing?”
“Not if you are doing it in your judo clothes, it’s not”, I told him.
Perhaps it is not the most conventional pastime for a bunch of over energetic ten year olds but Alon’s enthusiasm was contagious. It was the first time Alon’s friends were left completely in charge of the kitchen, even the oven, and with this came a new feeling of responsibility. They read the recipe as if they were going to be tested on it and followed it exactly, even sifting the flour (something I never do). Precisely because this project was left entirely up to them they had a personal interest to do everything correctly. They were proud of themselves and so was I because not only did they create something from scratch they were able to improvise and work together and most of all they were self sufficient, those cookies were theirs alone. Move over David Lebowitz! Here come the baking boys!
Boys Baking Club World Map Cookies
Based on Benny Saida’s recipe from his Cookies baking book.
150 grams cold butter, cut into cubes
100 powdered sugar
2 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
150 grams dark chocolate
In a food processor add the powdered sugar, butter and egg yolks and blend until smooth. Add the vanilla, flour and lemon zest and continue to mix until combined. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and on a clean surface roll it out to about 1/2 a cm. To make the shape of the continents Alon photocopied a map from his atlas and cut the landmasses out. He then placed these shapes on the rolled out cookie dough and cut around it. Bake in oven for about 18 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Melt chocolate in a bain marie then brush the melted chocolate on the cookies.
Grade: Excellent, best tasting social studies project ever. To be fair, Alon did have an unfair advantage because he had some private baking lessons from his grandmother, Safta Yehudit.