If you know one thing about me, it is this: I love a cookie. I come by it very naturally as my mom is a lifelong baker. I grew up feasting on pies routinely, munching sweet rolls on special occasions and gobbling up cookies weekly. Mom joyfully baked for bake sales, baklava one of our family’s still talked about triumphs. As a little munchkin, I was often the egg cracker. As I got older, I learned that baking anything well takes great care. Especially a cookie. In my estimation, baking a delicious, chewy cookie is an art form.
I never know when the idea to bake cookies will pop into my head. For this reason, I always have the needed ingredients on hand. However, I also know baking a cookie cannot be rushed. For this reason, when the cookie fairy taps me on the shoulder, I carefully choose a morning to make magic happen. The evening before baking day, I place my eggs and butter on the counter. They warm themselves from the outside in. “How old is my baking soda?”, I ponder. Past mistakes have taught me old baking soda will ensure a flat cookie.
The morning of baking day, I pull mom’s handwritten recipe book out of the cupboard. I open to the worn down page with “Chocolate Chip Cookies” at the top. I scan the list and quickly remember all I need to grab. I head to the pantry and, one by one, set all the ingredients on the counter. I press the oven on and await its’ beep at 375˚. I carefully measure the first three ingredients into a bowl. Precision is of utmost important. First, the flour. The scrape of the knife across the cup sends the excess flour back into its’ large container, the rest goes into the mixing bowl. Another scoop of flour. Scrape and plop. A measured bit of salt joins the flour. A meticulous teaspoon of baking soda is added to complete the trinity. My whisk plunges in, they mix together forming white, airy powder.
The next step is what I consider the secret of mom’s recipe: shortening entitled Crisco. Whereas most recipes call for all butter, mom’s recipe splits it. A half cup of Crisco and the stick of room temperature butter go into the mixing bowl. They whir together and become one. Next, white and brown sugars are added. I’m careful not to rush this step. As the sugars unite, the combination transforms from heavy and dark to light and fluffy before my eyes. I crack two eggs into a small bowl ensuring no shell. One by one, they slide aside the butter and sugar. Vanilla is added to the party. All the ingredients mingle.
The time has come to add the dry trinity to this baking shindig. I start my mixer slow to ensure flour doesn’t fly everywhere. I add the next third. Mix. Scrape. The last third. Mix. Scrape. Finally, the star of the celebration arrives: the chocolate chip. I’m not real fancy. I’m partial to Hershey’s semi-sweet or Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet. Some recipes call for one cup. That won’t do. I add the whole bag.
With my batter prepped, I pull my cookie sheets out. I smile inwardly at these old cookie sheets. A gift from mom, they are heavy and light silver from a baking store. She always told me, “The tools of your trade matter; don’t settle for cheap.” I’ve also learned the hard way that thin, dark cookie sheets burn the bottom of cookies because a dark pan retains more heat. Each sheet receives twelve round balls of dough. I place in the oven and turn on the oven light. I love to watch the transformation happen.
My recipe says 8-10 minutes in the oven, but when the scent of sweet sugar drifts lazily towards my nose, around 7 minutes, I take a quick glance. Knowing your audience is important since time is of the essence. My father-in-law loves a crisp cookie. I, myself, am fond of a chewy cookie. As soon as the top doesn’t look raw and is still light, I pull them out. As they rest on the cookie sheet, they continue to cook for another minute outside of the oven. I place them on my cookie racks. Their aroma wins them an audience. “Mom, can I have one yet?” “Yes, yes, yes!” We all grab one and bite into the warm, chewy goodness.
These days, sugar has a bad reputation. I’ve been in circles where sugar is the center of debate, the common enemy among a group of people. In some ways, I get it. America is clearly obese. Processed foods have taken over this country, obesity rampant and sugar gets the blame. However, you’ll never convince me not to eat a cookie. I’ve seen how a simple cookie has power. The power to transport people to a place of joy, reminding them there is still plenty of goodness in this world. I’m grateful this type of cookie love was poured into me and, now, I can pass it on to another generation. Thanks, mom, for always welcoming me into the kitchen.
Have you ever considered baking a cookie an art form? What else could be considered an art form that is an every day, ordinary task?
Tell stories about cookies: What is a favorite memory you have about a cookie?
Are you ready to go make a batch of cookies? Grab a child and let them crack the egg!