A Cookie-Baking Ritual: Which Recipes Take You Down Memory Lane?

November 6 2008, 3:28 PM

Last week, after leaving two sticks of butter on the counter to soften, I pulled down the flour and sugar and lined up bags of chocolate chips, a bottle of vanilla, two eggs, and boxes of baking soda and salt. It was time, in a soft cloud of flour, to bake. After setting the oven to preheat, I pulled a chair to the counter. My 18-month-old (pictured) climbed up to see what I was doing. I explained we were making cookies (recipe below). For her, it was a new activity--an opportunity to make a new mess--for me, it was more. We were creating memories, and perhaps laying the groundwork for a lifelong love of cooking.

As I creamed the butter and sugar, my daughter stood on the counter watching, ooohing as the mixer's paddles did their work. We scraped down the bowl, and, she got a tiny taste of the sweetened butter. Another round of ooohs. Together we added the rest of the ingredients, and as the mixer whirred, Ella stirred an empty bowl with a wooden spoon. After placing dollops of dough on a cookie sheet and sliding it into the oven, I got to work cleaning up. Ella ran back and forth to the oven door saying "hot, hot" and squealing as she peeked through the window at the rising cookies. I'm sure for her, the process was agonizingly slow, but for me it was a chance to reflect on treats made with my mom, my aunts, my grandmother. The sweet smell of sugar, butter, and vanilla, the dusting of flour on the countertop, the anticipation of that first bite--it all brought vivid memories to the forefront. Those childhood moments of baking and decorating holiday sugar cookies, the first time I (successfully) made pie crust under my mother's watchful eye, the long-distance calls when my mom relayed, step by step, family recipes over the phone. When the timer went off and I pulled the golden cookies from the oven, Ella ooohed again, and I felt a sense of success. Once cooled enough so they wouldn't burn her hands, I piled the still-gooey cookies onto a plate and offered her a reward for all that hard work. This time, her oooh was muffled by a bite of cookie. Which recipe takes you down memory lane?

Chocolate-Chip Cookies (24–36 cookies) I first tried these cookies at the now-defunct Savory Inn in Vail. They were--and are still--the best chocolate-chip cookies I've ever tasted. ½ pound butter (2 sticks--sweet cream salted butter--the real deal!) ½ cup light brown sugar ½ cup white sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 eggs 2½ cups bread flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 2–2½ cups chocolate chips Combine butter and sugar well. Scrape down sides, add vanilla, mix, add eggs (careful not to over mix), scrape down. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda; add to wet mixture, mix until almost incorporated. Add chocolate chips, and mix until completely incorporated. (If the dough looks too dry or cookies taste dry, add 1–2 teaspoons of water at this point). Drop cookies on a sheet pan with parchment paper (or well greased pan) and bake at 350 for 12–15 minutes.

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