Delicious and easy desserts that don't require a blender

The first time I baked cookies myself (peanut butter, at age 8), I knew I wanted to keep baking. I just had to figure out how. Neither...


The first time I baked cookies myself (peanut butter, at age 8), I knew I wanted to keep baking. I just had to figure out how.

Neither of my parents cooked, so we didn’t have a blender, cookbooks, or cake pans. My only guide was one of my favorite aunts – everyone’s favorite aunt – who seemed to have a box of crispy, tender, and steaming blueberry muffins in her baked hands every morning we visited.

During one trip, I perched on a stool next to her as she smashed eggs and poured sugar into a bowl, all without measuring. She picked up a handful of flour and mixed, and maybe sprinkled some more. When I asked her how much she added, she said, “Oh, just the right amount. As she slowed down her punches, I asked why. She replied, “Because it’s almost ready. “

My aunt’s style of cooking by feeling became my goal, as did her ability to feed us effortlessly. Now when I cook for my family and friends, or develop recipes professionally, what motivates me is the urge to nurture when things are going well, to comfort when things go down and to give. hope and joy when all that comes up begins to converge.

It means keeping the dishes simple. But simple doesn’t mean boring.

Sometimes the most delicious form of a dish is to cut off the excess and refine the balance. Ease can mean streamlining steps that require time better spent with those you feed (or leave you with too many dishes to wash). It is also about exchanging meticulous techniques for flexible fail-safe techniques.

Cooking is often touted as a daunting science: if the measurements aren’t down to the gram and precise steps aren’t followed, then inedible disaster will happen. It is also assumed that you need a stand mixer. I love mine as I imagine I would love the James Bond Aston Martin if I had it. Brilliant with a powerful motor, my blender can do all the fancy things. But it’s not necessarily the best tool for learning the art of baking.

Skipping the blender and working by hand lets you experience the tactile joys of the process – and understand how easy intuitive cooking can be. You want a blender to whisk a dozen cloudy egg whites and a food processor to grind the nuts into powder, but, to mash a high proportion of butter into flour, like you would a short dough, you must use your fingers.

Think of shortbread. Press it into a mold and you have a pie crust. Crush it into crumbs, add some nuts and oats, and you’ve got the apple crisp cookie and granola filling. Squeezing dry ingredients into butter lets you experience how flour meets fat, learning how to stop as soon as you feel everything forming a sandy, soft dough.

This same knowledge – detecting when the dough comes together by smelling and adjusting accordingly – also applies to oatmeal cookies and chocolate chips. The oats absorb the liquid like a sponge, so a touch of cream in the mixture keeps the cookies from drying out. But too much air beaten into the wet ingredients can make the cookies crisp. Mixing with a wooden spoon will melt the butter and sugars until creamy and beat the egg until its golden streaks disappear, feel the resistance of the dough and push harder against the pockets stiffer, and to incorporate the chocolate and oats with a sweetness that no machine can duplicate.

The result of this muscle mixing? Cookies that manage to be both delicate and robust, crispy on the edges and caramel chewy and tender in the center.

Making these foolproof candies – alone, quietly, or with other hands big or small to help – can be a therapeutic experience. There is fun in scratching sticky bits and pieces off your fingers, something fundamental to working with other than snap keys and glassy screens. And if you’re afraid to cook – or just don’t feel like pulling out your blender – you’ll find confidence and joy in the kitchen with these easy desserts.

Receipts: Apple chips | Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies

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