In the 1992 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton said “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies….” creating a firestorm in the media. Politicians came forward to defend the “stay at home mom” and cookie baking. The Clinton campaign returned fire saying Hillary was capable of baking cookies and provided a recipe.
What all the verbiage of “cookie-gate” obscured was the true value in cooking with your child.
The world is a complicated place. We often never see how things are made, from the family car to a loaf of bread. Anytime a parent can expose a child to the many facets of how things work, they help prepare their child for the big wide world.
Of course, baking the food we eat is only one aspect of our lives. Changing the oil in the lawnmower, building a tree house or putting money aside in a piggy bank all offer valuable lessons in mechanics, construction and finance.
But baking is easy, accessible and a great introduction to chemistry (baking soda makes the cake rise), agriculture (from where the flour, eggs and milk come), production and assembly (the coordination of systematically following a formula to make a batch), and even marketing (“is the homemade one better than the store bought one?”), all with the added bonus of learning fractions.
A retired school teacher once told me after decades of teaching fractions with measuring cups, they now teach fractions using a pizza as the visual aid because so few children have baked. But she felt the hands on experience of filling and emptying the measuring cups was a far more tactile and understandable introduction to the concept of fractions for a young child.
So with that in mind here is an easy, fun recipe for shortbread cookies that has long been a favorite in our family. It has all the basics: an easy recipe of ingredients you usually have in the pantry, the fun of rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters, and the delight of decorating with sprinkles and frosting.
Lessons in fractions, agriculture, production and artistic expression all hidden inside one simple recipe.
How to Make Shortbread Cookies
3⁄4 Cup of butter
3⁄4 Cup of sugar
1/8 Teaspoon of salt
2 Teaspoons of vanilla
2 Cups of flour
Method: Cream butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl with a mixer or with a spoon. Add and mix in the salt and vanilla. Add and mix in the flour.
If you aren’t using a mixer you may have to knead the last of the flour in by hand (little ones love this). Roll dough out on a floured surface about 1⁄4 an inch thick and cut out shapes.
Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow baked cookies to cool for one minute on the sheet.
Then remove them from cookie sheet and continue cooling on a rack. Ice with homemade or store bought icing and decorate. Enjoy!
Printing off some thank you cards like the ones below to go along with your cookies as a gift makes another lesson of appreciation!
Dianne Miller is a landscape painter who lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters. Her work includes the Little Bunny series written for her children when they were preschoolers. The simply written and illustrated books gently guide Little Bunny through the challenges of life. Click here to find tons of original, free printables and the Little Bunny series.