June 22, 2010

Harry and his cookies

It's been a year since I started this blogging thing, a year and three days. That kind of calmly and quietly crept up on me. In the course of a year, one would hope that whatever you've been putting your hand to would improve somewhat. Writing is often a struggle -- I enjoy it, but to get much written down takes me a long time. This is mainly why you see sporadic posts rather than consistently scheduled ones, and also the reason many of the posts are on the short side, rather than long, thoughtful discussions. I've never been one for crafting lengthy epistles. I wish my capacity to write was of a different temperament. With all of the reading that I do, the literature that is devoured on a weekly basis, one would think otherwise. But writing doesn't always come easily.

I find myself envious of my favorite authors, pining over their ability to compose stories that are thought provoking and sentences that are beautifully written. Maybe I'm not supposed to write as they did, but it sure would be nice. Although, even if that was possible, there would still be much drafting and re-drafting of every piece, every paragraph, much scrutinizing of every word choice and pondering over how the words should lie on the page. Knowing how to edit, I think, is one of the key qualities of great writers, and knowing when to stop editing, as well. I get excited about the prospect of writing, of creating a new post, but when the time comes to sit down and actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), the blank page looms, long and endless.

After a year of blogging, I hope that my writing has improved at least marginally. Even though it's still a struggle, the important thing is to keep at it, to keep writing and not give up in the face of that foreboding state known as writer's block. So, what does one mark a year with, a year of much baking and much photographing of what's been baked? Why, more cookies, of course, on which the blog was founded. In celebration of Father's Day, and my dad, this past weekend, I had to make his favorite cookie, the unpretentious snickerdoodle.

Coated in a tantalizing mixture of sugar and cinnamon, snickerdoodles are irresistible. Soft and fluffy, each bite gives way easily, kind of like when you fall back on a super downy feather pillow. The recipe is an old one, residing comfortably in my mother's recipe box, sort of jumbled amidst all the other 3 x 5 cards in the cookie category, remembered but forgotten. It could have been my great-grandmother's recipe, passed down to succeeding family members, or it could have been copied down from an old magazine many years ago. We don't really know where it came from. I prefer to think that it was great Grandma Taylor's. She was known for being an excellent cook, which isn't surprising, considering the number of children she reared. To feed that many mouths a day, one would inevitably get a lot of practice.

Either way, snickerdoodles are a classic cookie and should not be tampered with. It's their simplicity that is most appealing. Just open up the cookie jar after they've been in there for a couple of days, and you'll know what I'm talking about. That warm, sweet scent of cinnamon wafting out is enough to make your mouth water. They are a bit rich, due to a good amount of butter in the dough, but not cloying. If you like cinnamon, this is the recipe for you. They may possibly bring back fond memories of being in your grandmother's kitchen.

Adapted from an old-ish recipe and other sources

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

¼ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon

Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and 1½ cups sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs, mixing until well combined. Beat in flour mixture. Chill dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

In a small bowl, combine remaining sugar and cinnamon, and set aside. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place in a single layer on waxed paper. Roll each dough ball in cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated. Place two inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 44 cookies

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