The other day, with all the cookie making I’ve been doing recently (check out my Facebook and Insta for the Mardi Gras themed cookies I made over the weekend!) Frankie asked me if I now preferred baking over cooking. The answer is no, I don’t prefer either over the other. In fact, while cooking provides a body calm and space for creative agency, baking has recently become an essential part of my emotional calm. A part of my grieving process if you will. It’s been just two months since my grandmother passed away, and every time I make cookies, I know she would have loved them because she always had a sweet tooth and thought chocolate caramel cookies were an acceptable form of breakfast (which, some days, it really is). And I’ve been baking because I actually enjoy it so I’ve got years of stubbornness to make up for.
The precision and time and dedication needed is incredibly cathartic for me, and it’s been so very helpful in healing. Where I abhorred baking or the idea of dedicating an entire Saturday to it, now, I’m preplanning ideas for my next baking endeavor and looking for new cutters (though I know I really shouldn’t, haha), and constantly pinning ideas for designs. I’ve got events coming up I want to bake for, skills I want to try my hand at. Even though I can only maintain a certain number of cutters because of the size of my current living space, my options for my more generic cutters (circles, squares, plaques, etc.) Re endless, and thus, room for more creative agency.
So no, I do not prefer one over the other, but each provides me with a different outlet for expressing myself. Cooking is a tension release from a long work day, and baking is calming and therapeutic, and frankly, my cookies have been my way of “writing” lately because I just haven’t wanted to write, which is not a good thing for someone who got a Masters in writing…and writing is incredibly therapeutic in its own way, but writing about the bad or sad parts of our lives is one of the hardest things to put down into words because of the nature of their meaning. And mourning is hard, mourning is difficult and it hurts and no words can make it better. Just time. And this is all incredibly depressing to write down now I know, but I think I honestly have needed to face my moment right now for what it is so that it’s not something I’m running from (not that I’m running, I’m not, but there are days I think back on my train to work and almost break into tears because it’s still too hard to talk about sometimes and other times, there’s something that you want to say but aren’t sure how to say it, so I made the choice on Sunday as I drafted this post to leave it messy and sporadic because that’s the only way to say it). And I don’t want to let writing be pushed to the side because it brings and gives joy too.
So there it is, in all its messy glory, but it’s there and I feel better because it’s been there this whole time. But then Frankie asked me too, would you try baking other things now that I know it’s no longer a thing I can’t do. And the answer is yes, yes I want to make more complicated things and go back to trying the kind of baking that I used to pull my hair out over, including basic, chocolate chip cookies. BUT per my man’s special request (since he’s been such a force of support for me on my weird days and always going out of his way to do something really special for me – just last night he picked up sushi for dinner, grabbed me from the train, AND had the manual back gate to his parking spot already open so I wouldn’t have to get out of the car to let him in, then popped my a beer and got season 6 of GOT on because I’ve been shameless binging the show for the 10th time in preparation for the final season…it really is the little things) I made M&M Chip Cookies! Spoiler alert: I nailed it!
They are, for our household, perfect, and I know exactly what three things have changed to get these results. #1: My sugar cookie work, of course. Based on my research and current practices in the mixing process, I now know what creamed sugar is supposed to look like, and that’s key, and most likely why I was having such problems for so flipping long! Which leads me to #2: My KitchenAid. This device has become ESSENTIAL to my cooking because, especially when working with cold butter instead of room temperature butter), it ensures that I get the correct creamed consistency that cookies need, versus what I think is okay when my arm gets too tired using a hand mixer. And I feel that it gets a better mix in general than my hand mixer ever had. And finally, #3: Cook times. Recipes give you a range because all ovens are different. Even the more modern, newer ones – they’re all set up differently, so having that range, and not just going by the actual time, but rather indicators that they are done is how you know. And it takes time to figure that out! I still am guessing/eyeballing my sugar cookies because sometimes they need 5 minutes, rotate, 5 minutes, and other days 4 1/2 minutes, rotate, 4 1/2 minutes is the perfect amount of time. It really just depends, and being able to tune in and check on those indicators is a skill I’ve been working on a lot lately!
But these cookies were just a breath of fresh air in my kitchen. Not because they weren’t sugar cookies, but because there were no hiccups, no problems. They came out exactly how they were meant to, consistent in their uniformity (3 tbsp cookie scoop is a good thing to have on hand for that), and I was relaxed the whole time. No sweating over if the batter looked right, no burnt edges (just browned), soft and chewy center (as they should). They were perfect, and I regret ever being so stubborn and unyielding about baking more. Lesson learned my friends, lesson learned. — Cooking Maggie
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 200g light brown sugar
- 75g granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 420g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 packets of M&Ms (a little over 1 cup, which is what I would start with, and then add more if you want)
- 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Cream together butter and sugars in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix until combined.
- Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined. Fold in the M&Ms (and chocolate chips if using).
- Using a 1.5 oz cookie scoop (3 tbsp), scoop cookie dough onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart. You can add some M&Ms on top for show!
- Bake for 8-10 minutes (just until the sides and tops are starting to brown). Allow cookies to cool on pan before moving them to a cooling rack OR let them cool for about 2-3 minutes on the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack and into the fridge to cool off!