You can’t spend much time with me at all without being offered a few cookies I just baked. This you know, either from experience or hearing it all the time. Truth is, I like giving people cookies more than almost any other food. And, armed with my birthday KitchenAid mixer, I’ve been baking cookies so much lately, you’d think I’d run out of places to send them. But with cookies, you can really only bake too many when you run out of people you know and, well, people you don’t know.
I’ve recently joined Operation Baking Gals, an organization that was started by Susan of DoughMESStic as a way of encouraging her cousin, who was away from his wife and new baby. It’s now grown to something of a blogging phenomenon, with several groups of several bakers, all sending baked goods to soldiers who need to be reminded of home. The premise is simple: each month sees a few volunteer leaders who post about their chosen soldiers. Bakers sign up, and, during the same scheduled week, everyone blasts the military with cookies.
I really like this idea because I really like our military men and women. There’s something so admirable and selfless about sacrificing your time, your energy, your safety for a cause bigger than yourself (i.e., your country). Sometimes, when life is going very well and calendars are very busy, when the table is filled with good things to eat and friends to share it with, when, overall, things are good, it’s easy to forget how it all got that way. At least, it’s easy for me. It’s easy to overlook freedom, the byword of American politics, easy to forget that it was argued over, fought for, died for.
As a kid, I was never very attached to history class, always learning just what I needed to get the right answers on tests, never catching the point that the names were real people, just like you and me.
But somewhere along the line, that changed, maybe when history happened before my eyes with September 11 or when I started to know people who were fighting overseas, maybe when I read a few historical fictions or saw war movies. The idea of war, of fighting in it or of losing someone you love to it, is still very removed from my immediate life; in fact, most of the time, I don’t really think about it.
The difference now, though, is that I recognize that feeling—that ability to enjoy life and all its pleasures without fear of immediate threat or harm—is the very thing our military fights for. It’s what we have when they’re doing everything right. It’s what thousands of WWII soldiers gave their lives for. It’s been purchased with self-sacrificing courage. And that’s why they’re heroes.
For this care package, I wanted to send the very best, so, of course, I made the New York Times chocolate-chip cookies again. I put together the dough (with the chocolate discs this time, found at my local grocery store randomly) Thursday night and waited until Sunday to bake them. Also, because a few of you insisted it matters, I purchased a container of sea salt and made that the finishing topping instead of kosher. I tasted them, and, yeah, they’re amazing.
Along with the chocolate-chip cookies, I made a batch of Martha Stewart’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies, which are soft and tasty, with a hint of lemon from some zest. Sprinkled with sugar (I didn’t have sanding, so granulated worked fine), they’re beautifully sparkly. Two layers of sugar cookies and two layers of chocolate-chip cookies filled my tupperware container, which I stuffed into a flat-rate box, along with bubble wrap and other stabilizing stuffings.
Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
Very slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
- 2 large eggs
- Additional sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Put sugars and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop (*I prefer the cookies a bit smaller and just used a tablespoon); space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sugar.
Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.