Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goodbye, Mr. Easy-Bake.



My love of baking began with the Easy-Bake oven.

Sadly my passion had little to do with craft or artistry, but with making money. My parents weren’t the allowance types, which meant that acquiring spending money (money I typically used for candy) meant either working for my parents’ sweatshop-like wages (10 cents to iron a piece of clothing?!) or generating some type of entrepreneurial scheme.

I often sold things door-to-door, either cleverly packaged, holiday-themed snacks or greeting cards. I could always sale my wares, but I was painfully shy and rarely willing to venture farther than the friendly doors in my immediate neighborhood.

The one money-making venture that never failed me and never forced me to leave my own front yard was the sugar cookie business. My sisters and I would spend long summer mornings cutting and baking bite-sized animal-shaped sugar cookies. Our cookies were well-loved in the neighborhood and they always made us a happy stash of money. The ingredients were so basic, my parents didn’t even expect a cut of the profits.

Our cookie-baking mornings always began with batches made in my sister’s Easy-Bake oven. I think we reasoned that tiny cookies required a tiny oven. We would eventually realize that sticking with the Easy-Bake would take all of our time and we would never make any money, so we would switch to the Big Oven. Yet, even as we baked in the Big Oven, we’d still run batches through the Easy-Bake. I suspect we believed this practice added more authenticity to our process. And as children, we found a certain kind of magic in light-bulb baking that just didn’t exist in the Big Oven.

Every time we baked our sugar cookies, even though we were fully aware of the limitations of the Easy-Bake, we started off with the tiny light bulb oven.

This week, the inventor of the Easy-Bake oven, Ronald Howes, died. In memory, I baked a batch of tiny sugar cookies. I think everyone has an ideal sugar cookie from childhood. My husband’s is crisp, lightly spiced with nutmeg, and topped with colored sprinkles. This is mine: soft, cakey, and oh-so-slightly browned. And bite-sized.

Only the Big Oven to work with today. Tasty cookies, but not quite the same. Goodbye, Mr. Easy-Bake. And thanks.

Cut-out Sugar Cookies
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together flour, salk and baking powder, set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. The mix will be lumpy and separated, but no worries. Stir in dry ingredients until just combined. Divide dough into two balls. Roll one out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes and place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through. The dough scraps can be re-rolled.

These cookies are great plain, with icing, or with a sprinkling of cinnamon-date sugar.

2 comments:

  1. I missed this when you posted originally. What a cute story! Hope you are doing well! : )

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  2. I looooved the Easy Bake oven, it was such a mystery! Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane, and the cute image of you going door to door...

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