The sweetest gift I received for Christmas 2012 was a yellow Pyrex mixing bowl. My brother received one, too. They are both identical to the mixing bowl that we grew up baking cookies in with our mom. We call it The Big Yellow Bowl. It was a gift to her from her mother many years ago. Pyrex doesn’t even make these bowls anymore, so Dad had to track them down on eBay.
Over the years, many Hutton family traditions have changed, we’ve all moved around often, and I live a solid day’s drive from my family. But one thing has made it through every move and stayed the same: we always bake cookies in the Big Yellow Bowl. It’s the perfect size for a big batch of cookies, easy to clean, and special to all of us because it came from my grandmother. Every year, it becomes a little bit more special. And every time we bake it in, we’re more aware that it’s a special old piece and I’m always afraid to break it. But we’ll never stop baking in it.
So when we opened our bowls, simultaneously on Christmas morning, both joy and relief ran through us. There were now three Hutton family Big Yellow Bowls in existence. While it will still be sad if Mom’s breaks, we now have perfect cookie-making bowls of our own. And Ryan and I will no longer have to argue about who will inherit the Big Yellow Bowl. That’s one argument that could have gotten heated.
You see, I learned most of my lessons about baking with Mom and her Big Yellow Bowl. And most of those were learned baking chocolate chip cookies.
So, naturally, when I broke in my Big Yellow Bowl, I did it with chocolate chip cookies. Like most Americans, we bake the Nestle Toll House recipe developed by Ruth Wakefield in the 1930s. I’ve made these so many times, that I know by the first bite whether or not someone uses the Toll House recipe for their chocolate chip cookies. But making them in my new Big Yellow Bowl was the first time that I felt they turned out right in my grown-up, Mom-less kitchen.
All my baking lessons came back to me as I went:
1: Make sure to get all the lumps of butter out when you cream it with the sugar.
2: Level off your measuring cups for consistency.
3: Break your eggs in a separate bowl and check for shells.
4: Add dry ingredients gradually to the wet.
5: Sneak a few chocolate chips to snack on.
6: Never share your secret ingredient.
See, everyone thinks their Mom’s chocolate chip cookies are the best, and I’m exactly the same. It’s a combination of magic from the Big Yellow Bowl and her secret ingredient. We add it at the end, to taste. And that’s all I’m going to tell you.
7: Nine minutes is not a long time, but when there are cookies in the oven, it feels like a long time.
After I finished the cookies, I made a special spot for my Big Yellow Bowl in my kitchen cabinet. I can’t wait to see the cooking adventures that come with it. In my Mom’s, I invented some of my first cookie recipes, stirred up the batter for birthday cakes, and punched down bread dough. I never made brownies in it – I used a purple plastic mixing bowl for that, no idea why.