A Background on Baking
I am a life-long baker of cookies. One of my earliest memories in the kitchen is “self bake” – I would take out all the things that I considered essential to any baking project, and mix them together in various undecipherable ways before baking them and inflicting them on my parents and little sister.
Gradually I learned that following a recipe can sometimes help improve audience participation during the eating phase, culminating in the discovery of Betty Crocker and her sugar cookies. (I was young enough at this point that my mother’s tidy note “omit salt” was in a foreign language to me, so I translated this instruction – logically enough – to “quit salt”. Fortunately, in my mind it meant the same thing. I have since learned that this was terrible advice. You should never omit salt.)
In the years following high school, moving out on my own and discovering the joys and challenges of living alone or with roommates, I observed repeatedly that friendships are stronger when cookies abound. I baked and left cookies in tidy bags on friends’ doorknobs. I baked and took cookies to work, where they disappeared instantly. And, of course, I baked for myself.
Sugar cookies haven’t remained the staple. I find the dough frankly inferior (as an acknowledged dough-eater, this is vitally important), and refrigerating anything for more than an hour seriously gets in the way of the instant gratification factor. In fact, I don’t think I’ve successfully made sugar cookies in more than a decade. (The last time I tried I used an inferior recipe and tried to tweak the wrong parts.) But sugar cookies were the gateway to myriad delicacies: Snickerdoodles so soft you want to use them as a pillow as much as eat them; Clementine’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies that disappear from a plate faster than any cookie on the planet; Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread that tastes so good it almost makes me cry (and takes so long to make that you want to make 8 batches together so you only have to do it once but you can keep eating them all month).
Cookies have kept me company through decades of changes. They can make me happy, nostalgic, mischievous, creative, generous, boisterous, dangerous, stingy – nearly any mood you can think of can come from a cookie. On bad days, cookies will improve my mood. On really bad days, baking cookies will effectively distract me from the world. On good days, a cookie will make me grin and gallivant. On really good days, I will practically click my heals and fly off into the Cookie Land of Oz. Only in Cookie Land, the ruby slippers aren’t ruby, they’re red decorating sugar, and you can eat nearly everything, including the poppies and the Yellow Brick Road (definitely shortbread).
This blog isn’t just a tribute to cookies, but it is a tribute to baking. And without cookies, there would be no baking. I would never even have entered the kitchen if there hadn’t been, somewhere along the way, The Little Cookie That Could. And if my parents and little sister hadn’t encouraged my hockey-puck, jelly-oozing, inedible creations, there may not even have been that. So thank you to my family, and to my sweet tooth, and to the world of amazing bakers out there who continue to invent new cookies for me to experiment on. This is for you.