The Rector sisters, now teenagers, have been shaping up to become pastry princesses since they were very little, thanks to the family's strong baking genes.
This year, the two Fort Worth girls turned their love for baking into a business they've named Cookie Crumbs. When Bailey, 17, and Riley, 14, decided last spring to raise money for their church mission trip to Kenya, they baked and sold a variety of cookies until their group left for Africa in July, generating $4,200 in the process.
"We carry cookies around in Tupperware and sell them in little bags, two cookies for a dollar," says Bailey, now a senior at Arlington Heights High School. "Now we'll just keep the job going, donating money to the mission orphanage."
While Bailey spends her time working on student council and studio dance at school, Riley, a freshman at All Saints' Episcopal School in Fort Worth, focuses on field hockey and National Junior Honor Society, where her fellow students love the shortbread, chocolate crinkle and cowboy cookies she and Bailey whip up at home. On weekends, they bake for friends hanging out at their house.
Mom Caren Rector, who was a pastry chef in college and earned a degree in nutrition, pointed the teens in the direction of the kitchen, but she says her daughters need no prompting from her. "I'll come home from a meeting and find cookies everywhere. They do all of this on their own."
The girls generously shared favorite recipes from their Cookie Crumbs repertoire. These are sure to make favorite snacks and party treats for your kids in the new school year.
When making these light, airy cookies, which are as pretty as puffy clouds, be sure to separate eggs carefully. There cannot be even a trace of yolk in the egg whites or you'll have to start over. And when beating the whites, make certain that your mixing bowl and beaters are absolutely clean and dry, or you won't get the desired results.
4 egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or salt
Food coloring, as desired
Note: Bowl and beater must be absolutely dry when starting.
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Slowly add sugar and cream of tartar (or salt). Add a little food coloring, if desired. Beat until stiff peaks form.
2. Put in a freezer bag and push the mixture into a corner of the bag. Cut a small hole from the corner of the bag and squeeze out 1-inch-wide dollops of mixture onto lined cookie sheets. Bake until meringue is firm, about 1 hour. Store in air-tight container.
Peanut butter cookies with chocolate frosting
You can make this cookie dough in advance, freeze it and then bake a batch whenever you like; see instructions below. They're perfect for a sleepover activity, too.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until light. Beat in syrup, egg and vanilla.
2. In another bowl, toss flour with baking soda and slowly beat into creamed ingredients.
3. Using a small scoop, make dough balls, rolling each ball in sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet for 7 to 8 minutes in a 375-degree oven.
To make ahead: Line cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze. Transfer frozen dough balls to freezer-safe plastic bags to store for baking later. When ready to bake, roll frozen dough balls in sugar and bake on cookie sheets as above. Cool cookies completely before frosting.
Chocolate frosting: Mix 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup butter (room temperature), 2/3 cup half-and-half, 2 tablespoons corn syrup and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a full, rolling boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and beat with 1 (16-ounce) box plus 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, using an electric mixer. When mixture is smooth, allow frosting to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. If mixture is too thick, add a little more half-and-half. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups.
Spicy cheese cookies
These savory favorites are much more delicious than cheese puffs or other packaged snacks! The salty, spicy, cheesy effect goes great with a tart glass of lemonade or fizzy root beer. Double the recipe for a party, because these will go quickly.
2 cups pecans, chopped
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons paprika
1. In a large bowl, using your (washed) hands, mix together pecans, flour, cayenne, butter and cheese until well-blended.
2. Shape into 1-inch balls, placing 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using a fork, gently flatten the balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
3. While still warm, sprinkle with salt and paprika. Store in an air-tight container.