Classrooms and cookies

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Many of you who know me personally probably already know this.  One of my favourite things about being a writer is getting the chance to give school presentations.  I’m often invited into classrooms to talk about writing to students, and I just love it.  I get so much energy from the kids, and hopefully I give them ideas for their own writing in the process.

This week I did something a little different.  I visited the classroom of the child of a friend of mine, not to instruct, but to talk about being an author.  Throughout the year they have invited adults in to talk about their jobs and Thursday was my chance. 

My favourite part of class presentations is the question and answer period.  Sometimes the kids ask me if I liked writing so much, why I went into banking at all.  (Good one, and I’m not sure I know the answer.)  Sometimes – and this must be the J.K. Rowling factor – they ask me if I get rich from writing.  (Uh, no.)  Once I was asked if people ask me for my autograph all the time.  (Not unless you count the cheques I write to the phone company, the gas company, …)

More than anything, I hope what the kids heard was a story of second beginnings – of changing your career in mid-life, and in the process making your dreams come true.  I was talking to a writer friend yesterday, one who has won the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year award.  (And yes, that’s as prestigious as it sounds.)  We agreed how incredibly blessed we are to be writers. 

For me, baking and writing go together well.  Thursday morning, while I was thinking about what I’d say to the students, I baked a batch of World Peace Cookies.  While I was beating the butter, I thought about how I loved to write as a kid, but took sensible courses in university to prepare me for a job in banking.  While I was stirring in the chocolate chips, I remembered how, when I left my job to become a full-time stay at home mom, I decided to take up writing again.  And when I rolled the batter into logs to store in the fridge, I thought about the writing courses I took, the rejections I received from publishers, and the many wonderful writers I met en route to getting my first book published.

World Peace Cookies
(from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 Tbsp (11 Tbsp in all) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft and creamy.  Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes more.

Stir in the dry mixture, then add the chocolate chips, mixing only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half.  Shape each piece into a log that is 1½ inches in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  (Dorie says to refrigerate for 3 hours.  I made half the batch after one hour and the other half after three hours, and didn’t notice a difference.)  The dough can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to three months. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.    Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½ inch thick.  If the dough cracks as you cut it, just squeeze the bits back into place.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes.  Let them cool until they are warm, at which time you can remove them from the baking sheet.


51 comments:

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

At school I always enjoyed career presentations. I'm sure the kids loved hearing your advice. As for your cookies, you can't go wrong with chocolate can you! Yum

Jess said...

What a great post--I love hearing about school visits, so if you want to talk about one in-depth in another post, that'd be great! Do the schools contact you, or do you let them know you're available? Do they request certain topics for you to talk about or is it an open choice? Just wondering :)

Kayte said...

And we are so happy that you do write! I hope you mentioned how writing brings pleasure to readers and how what a rewarding experience that is in itself! Guys here love the World Peace Cookies Dorie recipe...request them constantly. I love the flowered plate...I just love seeing flowered plates for some reason...my love of flowers, I guess.

jillbert said...

World Peace Cookies are awesome! I do not love talking in front of groups, but I love listening. I'm sure the kids got a lot out of it and will remember your talk for years to come.

Belinda said...

How lovely and what a wonderful treat (and message) to share with kids.

Brownieville Girl said...

My son had a wonderful teacher in primary school who was also an author - he instilled a love for the written word in all his pupils, particularly my son - something I will always be grateful for.

You are doing a great service by going and talking to kids.

Cookies look great too!!

Angie's Recipes said...

I too love to read what you write and share here...thought-provoking, inspiring, interesting and delicious.
Those cookies look great as well!
Angie

katerina said...

You are so blessed that you got the chance to chase your dream and really do something with your talent. You know many people unfortunately are caught up with their jobs so much and are trapped into professions they do not really enjoy doing and never have the chance to change this. I am in my 40's and only recently have I realized my love for cooking and perhaps a small talent there. I wish I will find a way to make this part of my professional life as well. These chocolate/cocoa cookies look fantastic.

Valerie said...

Baking does have a way of stirring up memories. It must have something to do with the way it makes us feel productive, happy, and a bit like magicians! :-)
I'm sure you inspired a lot of young minds.

Valerie said...

I forgot...your world peace cookies make me want to go bake a batch myself!

Janet Johnson said...

Yum! So didn't you know I'm on a diet (New Year's Resolution and all). My stomach is growling! Thanks a lot. ;)

But seriously, I enjoy baking, too (explains the resolution,eh?), and writing mixes well with anything, doesn't it? :)

Monet said...

As a writer and a baker...this post brought me joy. I'm sure that those kids feel just as blessed as you do. I know that I loved hearing writers speak when I was in school. These world peace cookies look so tempting. I want to make a batch tonight! Thank you so much for sharing them with me!

Kristen said...

What a great thing to have the opportunity to influence so many young minds. Bringing cookies never hurts, either ;-)

Joanne said...

That's the beauty of writing, you can always contemplate it in some way while doing something else ... like baking! Do you write about baking at all in your books?

Beth said...

I just realized that I forgot to write how much I liked these cookies. They were great!
Jess, as a fairly unknown author I contact schools and see if they're interested in a presentation. I have a few presentation topics that I do most commonly, but I always tell them I can personalize it to whatever they'd like me to talk about.
Katerina, I know I'm blessed! I am so grateful that I love to write, and that I've had the opportunities to pursue it.
And Joanne, the only time I've written about baking in my books was in my last one. My protagonist had a baking disaster! Now that I think about it, I'll definitely blog about that one some day.

Kimberly Franklin said...

School visits, that must be so much fun! Getting a chance to talk to all of those kids and share stories and cookies with them. That's greatness!

Sweet And Crumby said...

These look so rich, chewy and perfect. Even some adults need a good "how to revamp your life" speech. Thanks...it's encouraging to hear how happy you are that you changed your career. I keep trying to figure out how to incorporate my baking into a new career path.

Lydia K said...

I love the idea of World Peace Cookies. If only world peace was achieved when the timer went off!

School visits sound like a great thing. I wonder how many kids will grow up someday and become writers, and remember you for your encouragement that day?
:)

Claudia said...

I went from acting to directing to writing (none of which pay big time) and my favorite thing is the working with kids. And enjoying your cookies just like a kid would!

comfortablydomestic.com said...

I think that it is so wonderful that you followed your dream of writing. I just love how following other paths in life can bring about your real passions.

Medeia Sharif said...

So many of us go with something sensible. But the great thing about writing is that you can do it on the side until you fulfill your publishing dreams.

Those cookies look tasty.

Emma said...

I love that you talk to school kids about your writing - books and reading are some of the most important things to me and I'm so glad you're passing this down to the next generation.

Lovely cookies! they look so chunky and full of chocolate :)

Tracey said...

Hi Beth - I left you a response on my blog, but in case you don't see it, the 6 inch cake pans I have are from Amazon. Here's a link: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Daddios-Anodized-Aluminum-Round/dp/B0000VLIHI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1294662163&sr=8-1

Dorie's WP cookies are the best! Yours look lovely :)

Faith said...

I loved reading about the school visit. The cookies look great Beth. another masterpeice.

Have a great weekahead.

Barbara said...

It's wonderful when you can impact the lives of children in such a positive way, Beth. Talented writing is inborn, really. Some people are natural story-tellers...the rest of us do the best we can.
I am an avid reader, but it doesn't seem to have helped my writing any.
Darn.

ezsrecipes.com said...

What a fun experience to get to work with kids a little, and to feel like maybe, just maybe, you've made a difference. And I am sure you have. You're a wonderful writer, I enjoy reading your posts! And the cookies look amazing!

Oh, and in response to your comment on my blog... Saturday's football games were awesome. Sunday's games, well the Chiefs game anyway, left a lot to be desired. Sigh....

Heavenly Housewife said...

What a wonderful experience!
I have got to try these cookies. I've seen them on a lot of blogs and have read fabulous things about them.
*kisses* HH

Laurie said...

These are a chocolate lovers delight!
I used to work with the parks and recreation dept. I loved answer a question time with the kids. :)

FOODESSA said...

Kids do ask the darnest things that push us to reflect...don't they?
If only we were convinced at an early age to go forward with what we're passionate about and not necessarily what we always have to be responsible for. Second beginnings are great...however, beginning on the right foot is the best. BTW...I'm on my 3rd career...mostly to please others' expectations of me.

Glad you didn't give up your dream to publish your book. You were a great example to shine in front of a classroom of impressionable children ;O)

Alright, the cookie monster in me is coming to get that batch of cookies!

Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,
Claudia

Carol said...

What a nice thing, kids always love to have someone special for presentation days! Those cookies look fantastic!

Talita said...

How kind post! It's even more perfect with this great recipe! Yummy cookies.

Heather said...

It must be very rewarding to be a writer, although it probably has its frustrations as well. I enjoy reading your blog so much.

Zoe said...

What a great name for a cookie! World peace sound like Sandra Bullock @ Miss Congeniality...

Very nice post talking how the kids get inspirations from you...

5 Star Foodie said...

Talking to the kids is a lot of fun for sure! These cookies are scrumptious!

Reeni said...

I wanted to be a 'famous' writer from the time I was old enough to know what one was! I would of loved to have you come to my school and talk about it. I love the name of these cookies. Baking is such a good time for reflecting and thinking!

Raina said...

I am always so impressed by writers. To be able to put thoughts into beautiful words on a page is so amazing to me. I think it is great that you give talks to children. You are probably inspiring so many young writers.

These cookies sounds great, chocolate and chocolate...perfect:)

Grapefruit said...

what can be better than getting to live your dream & giving inspirational talks about it to young children.
your WPC cookies look perfect & your thoughts while making them resonated with me because a few are things I think about a lot lately.

Joanne said...

How sweet! This sounds like such a fun experience for both you and the kids! And the cookies look excellent.

Leslie said...

What a sweet post! I almost got my degree in English literature, but did a u-turn and went into accounting. For me it was about not having to make it my life, but to make a good life with it in it. And World Peace Cookies are a great thing to share!

julie said...

Such a great post! I agree with you, writing and baking do go well together. I have always wanted to write for money but went into a more sensible field of science as well. Now that I'm staying at home, I'm back to working on the writing. I guess you could say your post struck a cord!

Mary said...

I still enjoy school presentations like the one you enjoy, even though I'm now behind the teacher's desk. The kids often cannot stop talking about what they've heard for weeks after the presentation. It's very cute when they start (mis)quoting: Well, Ms X said....
:)
If you ever do any presentations in Ottawa I hope to be there. Oh, and I must make these world peace cookies--I keep hearing rave reviews.

Victoria said...

What a great post!! That's so great that you get to talk to kids about your career. I'm sure you do influence them, regardless of their age. Their questions are fun and innocent. I'm glad to hear that you had made a career change partway through your life, because I'm attempting one at the moment, and it's definitely not easy! Hoping it all works out as well as your change has :) Take care!

Krista said...

How fun that you get to do classroom presentations! I still remember meeting authors of children's books when I attended the "Young Author's Conferences" that I attended in elementary school. I met Norman Bridwell (Clifford books)twice! Who knew that one day my children would be watching Clifford on PBS and I'd be reading the books to them.

These cookies sound SO good!

sweetpeaskitchen.com said...

That is awesome that you do classroom presentations...I am a kindergarten teacher and my students love when we have "guest readers". These cookies look amazing! Yummy! :)

Sue said...

What a blessing to do what you love. Great post; I can tell you're a writer, that's for sure:) I need to try these cookies because everyone loves them that has made them!

Indie.Tea said...

You just reminded me of DG's world peace cookies. Yum!

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh yuuuuuu, and what a beautiful post (even after I realised you weren't eating the butter, you were beating it). You're right, we're so lucky.

When I was eleven and in sixth grade, we had two authors come and speak to us. I can trace my desire to be a writer (as opposed to just my enjoyment of writing) to that day exactly. I bet you're doing the same for some of the kids who hear you.

Sorry I've been MIA -- having laptop issues! Now to work my way back through the posts I've missed.

Sweet and Savory said...

I made these, last week, and loved them. I saw the photo before I saw the name and I knew what they were. Obviously, you were a success.

shaz said...

This is such and inspiring post Beth, I'm at the SAHM stage in my life at the moment, thinking about doing something I've always loved (art) but nervous about it. Success stories like yours warm my heart :) And we love books at our place, my daughter gets so excited when they have author talks at her school. You sound like you had lots of fun.

Got to try these cookies one day, they sound fantastic.

Jeanne said...

I love the name of these cookies, and they sound tasty too! Baking does seem to be a reflective activity, that's one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. Those school presentations sure do sound like a good perk to your job. :)

Julie said...

How wonderful you share with children! The cookies look amazing, too!

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