Continuing my romantic and nostalgic tribute to Mother’s Cookies today with a sweet filled trip down memory lane to recreate my favorite types of Mother’s Cookies in my own kitchen. My floor is specked with rainbow sprinkles, my counters are a bit sticky with white icing, and my shoulders are a bit tight. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my Mother’s Cookies love story, I have a hard time letting things go. I was determined to try my hand at these iconic favorites. So, when my daughter went down for her nap today I got to work and brought them to life, in my own way.
When Mother’s Cookies closed their doors in 2008, the internet filled with stories, blog posts, and pictures as people mourned the loss of their childhood favorites and raced to the stores to grab packages from the final, dwindling supply. Whether it was striped shortbreads, vanilla cremes, iced oatmeals, or the little pink and white circus animals, many enjoyed reliving sweet-filled memories from their childhood one last time, or so they thought. Luckily, the brand came back alive a year later when Kellogg revived Mother’s Cookies and brought the red and purple packages back to the shelves.
What were your favorites? Diana Cuttrell, Noah & Leopoldine Wheatley’s granddaughter, told me that her grandmothers favorites were the Taffy Creams and Flaky Flix. Diana recounted visiting the factory as a young child, watching the circus animal cookies on the conveyor belt, getting covered in fresh icing and seeing the rainbow sprinkles come down on them. The oven that cooked the circus animals was 240 feet long!
For me, when I stood outside the old Mother’s Cookie factory last month, I instantly thought of the iced oatmeal cookies, and of course the little circus animals. So, in honor of Mother’s Cookies I chose to bake versions of these two yesterday. Of course, I can’t recreate the exact flavors and textures that Mother’s version have, so I created my own that offer a homemade comfort with that same familiar appearance.
I wound up adapting a version of a crispy oatmeal cookie which I then dunked upside down in a thick white icing, which creates a similar look to Mother’s version. I just didn’t have the time today to take you through step-by-step instructions, but this is an easy recipe that creates a large, flat oatmeal cookie, with perfectly crisp edges and a chewy center. The recipe is at the bottom of the post.
For the circus animals, I chose to bake a vanilla bean shortbread, in honor of the original vanilla cookie recipe that Noah Wheatley bought on a street corner over 100 years ago. I used a recipe found online, I didn’t adapt it. I included the link at the bottom of the post. Shortbread is pretty basic and easy. This one did call for vanilla bean in additional to vanilla extract, but you could also make it with just vanilla.
Wilton makes a set of “mini noah’s ark cookie cutters” which is what I used. It included a horse, bear, lion, elephant, and giraffe. They are the perfect size and can be found on Amazon for about $6.00.
Mine baked perfectly in about 9-10 minutes. I then waited for them to cool completely. Once cooled I dunked them in melted “candy melts”. This was my first time using candy melts, I purchased Wilton’s version off Amazon in the bright white and bright pink colors. Another option would be to use royal icing. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to use the candy melts; it covered well, and dries to the perfect hard shell consistency. I am not an expert, so my technique was to to drop several cookies in the bowl, cover them completely in the melted coating using a spoon, dig them out and let them drip off a bit. I would use the spoon to scrap off a bit and smooth it out. The cookies held up really well, only one giraffe lost his leg :o)
I laid them on a rack and showered them with rainbow sprinkles. I did make a first timer mistake here. Don’t put these on a rack, lay them on wax or parchment paper instead. I had a panic moment after mine dried when I couldn’t pry them loose from the cooling rack. Luckily I was able to pop them up from underneath, but they did have rack marks on the underside. Laying them on the appropriate paper would give you a cleaner look.
It was late afternoon by the time I finished them. I traded in the glass of milk for a glass of wine, rubbed the knot in my shoulder, and enjoyed a few. The nostalgia came rushing back biting through the hard shell and nibbling on the sprinkles. The sweet coating over the buttery, vanilla cookie was perfect.
I hope you enjoyed my two day trip down memory lane with Mother’s Cookies. From a double batch of love to a double batch of sweet tasting memories, I know I have.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Crispy Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Thin and Crispy Oatmeal Cookies, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
1 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
3/4 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of loosely packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping teaspoon of honey
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cook)
2 cups of powdered sugar
4-5 tablespoons of half-and-half (milk or cream should work fine too)
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle position of the oven.
Line large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mat
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
In a standing mixer (or bowl with handheld mixer) beat butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together until light and fluffy (about a minute)
Scrap down the bowl, add in the egg, vanilla, and honey and beat again for about 30 seconds
Scrap down the bowl again and slowly add the flour mixture with mixer on low speed
Mix until just barely incorporated, then slowly add oats in (1/2 cup at a time)
Pull the bowl out and give a good final mix with a wooden spoon to scrap up any oats that have fallen to the bottom
Using hands, scoop out about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball
Place each ball on the baking sheet, keeping them about 2 inches apart, they will spread. I got 6 cookies per sheet
Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, for approx. 13-16 minutes. Mine were done at 13 minutes. Edges should be brown and crisped, centers should still be a bit soft
If possible, let the cookies cool completely on the sheet before you move them to a rack, they will stay a bit more crispy this way
To make the icing:
Put powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the half-and-half and stir to combine. I recommend transferring the icing to a wide, low container to let it spread out on a flat surface to dip cookies easily.
Once the cookies are completely cooled, turn them upside down in the icing. Pull the cookie up and let the excess icing drip off. You may find that if the cookie was sunken in in the middle it may be hard for the icing to adhere in certain spots. I didn’t want to press them in and cause them to break, so I just let it be.
Circus Animal Cookies
I used the vanilla bean shortbread recipe found here on the blog the view from great island
As I mentioned previously, mine were perfectly cooked in about 9-10 minutes
For the candy melts, I used Wilton’s Candy Melts in bright pink and bright white, purchased on Amazon
I also used Wilton’s rainbow nonpareils, purchased on Amazon
I followed the directions on the candy melt package for how to properly melt for the best results.
Mother’s Cookies Packages via Andy Perkins, flickr
Mother’s Cookies Truck via Jen, flickr
2 old photos of the Mother’s Cookies factory: 40 Years of Progress for Mother’s Cookie Bakery, Baking Industry, Clissold Publishing Co., Copyright 1954
All other photos by Adrienne Schell