My name is Andrea Curtis and I am a bake sale lady. There, I said it.
I’m conflicted about this handle for a variety of reasons. Lady, for one thing, just doesn’t fit with my personality. And while I love to cook, baking isn’t my forte. It requires more measuring and precision than is my natural inclination. There’s also the whiff of church bazaar to the whole thing, something that sends me straight back to my smalltown childhood and fear of censure by certain church ladies.
Then, of course, there’s the weird mother guilt/schoolyard competition element to school bake sales. (I wrote about this strange phenomena a few years ago in an article in Toronto Life. Check it out here.)
But once a year, I push all of this aside and gladly assume the mantle. And that day is today: the annual holiday fair at my kids’ school. My good friend, G, and I take our job as bake sale ladies rather seriously, and spend much of November pleading and cajoling other parents to produce hundreds of fabulous baked goods, which we then sell to raise money for the school.
My family likes to joke that the bake sale costs us double: what we spend on the ingredients and what we spend to buy back the stuff I made. But the truth is, my offerings are nothing compared to the incredible works of art that some others (including G, who is a master baker) bring to the table. Snowflakes and mittens, doves and trees all decorated with royal icing; loaves and cakes and on and on.
Still, I’ve developed a secret weapon over my years as a bake sale lady: popsicle sticks. If I’ve learned one thing it’s that kids are suckers for colour (the more garish the better) and anything on a stick.
It sounds ridiculous, but if you bake a cookie on a stick, it’s 100 times more likely to sell/be eaten than if you offer the same cookie plain. (Applying a similar principle I sometimes stick toothpicks in unfamiliar items placed family-style on the dinner table, and it also works. I imagine it could be equally effective at lunch, say, with fruit or veggie kabobs.) Don’t believe me? Give it a try and let me know.
This is the recipe I use for my chocolate chippers on a stick:
Chocolate chip cookies with oatmeal
Though regular chocolate chips are delicious, milk chocolate makes the cookies extra-sweet. Add flax seeds, more rolled oats and raisins for a thicker, heartier texture. I often double the recipe and for special occasions, I add in Smarties or M&Ms.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt (skip this if using salted butter)
1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 c. rolled oats
- 1 cup chocolate chips
1. Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and egg and beat until fluffy.
2. Mix flour, salt and baking soda together, then add to the wet mixture. Sir in oatmeal, then the chocolate chips (and/or smarties).
3. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet and poke popsicle sticks in to the middle of the cookie. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes.