Family can go far beyond the family you’re born into, and Mary Helen Haskell’s story of finding a friend who became a part of her found family sounds almost serendipitous looking back.
Give Cookies are what I call a legacy recipe. It was given to me by my best friend Martha Keith Butler. Martha’s story of the recipe is that it was given to her mother, Alice Lloyd Adamson Keith, by a friend. Now, Alice was born in late 1880s or early 1890s, as I recall, so this is a forever recipe. Martha was born and bred in Nashville, Tennessee, moving to Memphis, Tennessee, for husband Bill’s State Farm job. From there, they moved to Bloomington, Illinois, where we became friends through our church and, as she once remarked, “like the sisters we never had.”
The original recipe called for coconut—true to the South—which we deleted because I am allergic to coconut. It also called for creaming first [and] then whisking the dry together before adding. No matter what we were baking, we always whisked together the dry ingredients first so our creamed mixture did not have to sit while we measured and whisked. Martha used to just use a spoon to drop the cookies but was soon using cookie scoops for everything. Give Cookies are really easy and quick to bake. Martha’s daughter Ginger, who still lives in Bloomington-Normal, says she remembers she and her sister, Karen, helping their mother make Give Cookies around Christmastime.
—Mary Helen Haskell as told to Chessa Parker
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (220 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar*
- 2 large eggs (100 grams)
- 1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups (120 grams) old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup (96 grams) pecan flour*
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 4 (18x13-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, oats, pecan flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat at low speed until combined. Scoop dough by 2 tablespoonfuls, and place 3 inches apart on prepared pans.
- Bake, one pan at a time, until edges are golden, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack.