My fondest childhood memories are of my mom and I in the kitchen. I look at this photo and remember the thousands of cookies I have seen her bake. I always relished the intimacy of watching her while she worked. The way she silently read the recipe to herself, her lips moving as she formed the words. She'd have her left hand on her cookbook, her right hand would drift up to her mouth, where her index finger would rest on her top lip. She would tap her finger on her lip as she thought, and I would feel the anticipation rising as she got down to business.
She is meticulous; measures carefully, and assembles all of her tools and ingredients before she begins. When she forms a cookie into a ball, or rolls dough out for cutting, her hands move with such gentleness, such grace. The dough seems to willingly submit to her touch. Of all the cookies people receive as gifts, or at Christmastime, my mother's are the ones they are excited to eat. Her cookies do not get taken to the office the next day and left in the break room, "because really, who needs the calories?" They are devoured. Too often, in one sitting.
I have a favorite story about baking with my mom. I was little, younger than the photo above. I was sitting up on a stool at the counter "helping" her. She kept flour and sugar in these large Tupperware storage bowls. I reached to the bowl on the counter in front of me when mom wasn't looking, and grabbed a handful of white powder. I quickly shoved it all into my mouth, thinking it was sugar. My satisfaction at having pulled one over on mom didn't last long. My eyes teared up, and I started to cough, plumes of flour puffing from my surprised mouth. My mother laughed as she pounded me on the back and forced me to sip water. She says she was afraid at first that I would choke. But as my expression changed from panicked, to confused, to indignant, she realized I'd be all right. She never gets tired of telling that story, and mimicking the sounds and faces I made as I coughed up the last of that flour. I don't get tired of hearing it either, or at laughing at myself. I don't remember that day, but in my mind's eye, I can visualize reaching for that big Tupperware bowl, with an expression of mischievous and satisfied delight.
So I guess it's only appropriate to bake some cookies in honor of Mother's Day, and the woman who prevented me from choking on that tiny fistful of flour. It's only one of many ways she has saved me from disaster over the years, so I hope to do her proud. Picking the recipe was easy, mom's Snickerdoodles are the best. This recipe, as well as many of my childhood favorites, can be found in Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. Mom gave me my own copy for Christmas a couple years ago. As I flipped through the pages it was like taking a stroll through all the holidays of my childhood. The Snickerdoodles were marked with this note:
The recipe is a snap; mix dough, form into balls, roll in cinnamon-sugar, and bake.
Wow... these are the best cookies I have ever made. Picture the scene. It's early on Sunday morning, the neighborhood is quiet, and the husband is still asleep. The apartment is filled with the warm, toasty scent of cinnamon. The first batch of cookies comes out of the oven. They are perfect. The bottoms are the exact same color as the tops. The exterior of the cookie is crispy with cinnamon sugar. The inside is moist and oh so tender. When you break the cookie in half, you hear a delicious sound. It is the sound of a rich, buttery kiss.
Of all the things I've learned from my mother, learning to bake ranks high on the list. The woman does it right; meticulously, carefully, and with a generous measure of loving care. Every time I eat a Snickerdoodle I am transported into the past. I'm a little girl again, sitting on a high stool in my mother's kitchen. I eat my cookie with that same smile of satisfied delight, and bask in the memories of my fortunate and happy childhood. My only regret on this Mother's Day is that I am in Seattle, and my mom is at a casino in Windsor Ontario living it up. I really hope she wins big. She deserves it.
Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you.
1 cup shortening (can use part butter or margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 T sugar
2 t cinnamon
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix shortening, 1 1/2 c sugar, and eggs thoroughly. Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt; stir in. Shape dough in 1" balls. Roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies will puff up at first, then flatten out. Makes 6 dozen cookies (according to the recipe, but myself and others have found it comes out closer to 3-4 dozen).