Mix a little history into your next cooking session with your grandchildren. These favorite cookie recipes come with their own stories and may even be part of your family's history. Besides a history lesson, you can work in a lesson on kitchen safety. When you're ready to branch out, try these techniques for fun cakes and cupcakes. And don't forget to eat your homework!
01 of 08
A sugar cookie by another name, Southern tea cakes are an English tradition that somehow took hold in the South. The English often added currants and other ingredients. Most Southerners prefer the plain vanilla version. These are a staple in many families at Christmas. Some like them thin and crisp. Others like them thicker and with a simple icing. The grandchildren will probably want to gussy them up with colored sugar or sprinkles. They are a fairly big project as you must refrigerate the... dough, roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters. They are, however, adaptable to all holidays and occasions, and they are guaranteed to disappear in no time.
02 of 08
Most children know and love the the story of the gingerbread man -- "Run, run, run, as fast as you can!" They may not know that the Pennsylvania Dutch used to bake foot-high gingerbread men and prop them outside their houses at Christmas time. Besides being rich in tradition, gingerbread cookies will introduce the grandchildren to the wonderful smells of different spices. This recipe requires an hour refrigeration before rolling out. You can use the hour chilling time to draw and cut out... patterns for your cookies. Use waxed paper or parchment paper; then roll out the dough and cut around your pattern with a knife. Of course, you can use cookie cutters, especially if your grandchildren are young.
03 of 08
Snickerdoodles have a long and interesting history. They have been popular in the United States since the 1950s, but similar cookies were popular in medieval and Renaissance Europe. The earliest recipe bearing the snickerdoodle name is dated 1902. No one seems to know for sure where the name comes from. Some say it is derived from the German schnecken, meaning "sticky bun." Others say it is a nonsense word or a generic term for a cookie that could be made very quickly. This classic... cookie recipe is fun for kids to make because they get to roll the dough in little balls and then roll the balls in a cinnamon and sugar mixture. The finished cookies look really good, too, because the cinnamon and sugar coating makes a crackly pattern. The dough needs to be chilled in the refrigerator for one hour before forming into balls.
04 of 08
05 of 08Peanut butter cookies are a relatively new variety, dating from about the 1930s. The grandchildren will enjoy forming the dough, which has been refrigerated for an hour, into balls and then flattening the balls with a fork dipped in flour. No less a cooking figure than Craig Claiborne, in no less a venue than the New York Times, once discussed why the fork maneuver is such a essential part of baking a peanut butter cookie. Claiborne couldn't come up with an answer, but I believe the peanut... butter makes the dough stiff enough that it wouldn't get thin and crisp if not flattened. We always made a criss-cross pattern by pressing twice with the fork. I'm told you can also flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass, but I wouldn't risk it.
06 of 08I grew up on these oatmeal cookies. They are unlike both the sweet, chewy oatmeal cookies found at fancy bakeries and the hard ones found packaged at the grocery store. These are a substantial, not-too-sweet version that probably provides the best nutrition you can find in an old-fashioned cookie, especially if you can get the grandchildren to eat them with raisins. It's probably advisable to make a test batch which includes some without raisins or nuts and some with raisins but not... nuts--well, you get the idea. The good news is that these are drop cookies that can be baked immediately after mixing them up. They also keep well and pack well in lunches since they are not fragile.
07 of 08
I had to include these because the making of them in my household always signaled a special occasion. This recipe is very similar to my mom's, which was included in a set of cookbooks published in 1940 by the Culinary Arts Institute. I still have several of the CIA cookbooks, but the cookie one is in pieces. By the way, the cookbooks I have sold for 15 cents. This recipe is not easy, but the cookies do come out so pretty. Give it a try with your older grandchildren, especially if you have a... budding chef in the family.
08 of 08
No-Bake CookiesThis list wouldn't be complete without this favorite of my daughters, chocolate no-bake cookies with peanut butter and oatmeal. No-bake cookies originated in the United States during the Great Depression, and this version is still fairly cheap to make. Most no-bake cookies are more like candy because they don't contain flour, but the oatmeal in this recipe keeps it from being too sweet. It's a quick recipe because it doesn't require any oven time, but younger grandchildren... won't be able to help you with the stove-top part. The nuts are, of course, optional.