“How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.”
What do we do when the weather switches from sunny perfection do drizzly reality? Make cookies. Such as, for example, the above-pictured perfect snickerdoodles. This recipe (below) came from a cookbook called The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. It’s quite the hefty tome, elucidating on the art and science of cookie-making to an extent rarely seen outside of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In short, the cookbook is incredibly bossy. It starts off with a section detailing such crucial differences as how semi-sweet chocolate morsels are not equivalent to semi-sweet chocolate chips, and how they should not be lightly interchanged. Each recipe demands something outrageous, like that the flour should be freshly hand-ground by artisans in small, local mills no greater than 15 miles from the kitchen, to preserve freshness.
At first I scoffed at these strictures. Cookies are cookies. We’ve made innumerable batches of cookies substituting milk-chocolate for semi-sweet chocolate chips, white sugar for brown, granulated for decorator’s sugar, omitting nuts and berries, or tossing in whatever kind of oats we had, be they quick or slow.
But after following the directions in this cookbook exactly a couple times, I finally learned something amazing: The by-the-book cookies turned out better. Not just better. They turned out exceptionally delicious, the epitome of their type, wowing even jaded cookie snobs. In fact, they so far exceeded any such cookie I’d made before with more laissez-faire methods that I hardly recognized them as the same species of cookie.
All this to say that, if you try the recipe below, trust me: Follow the recipe exactly. Don’t skip a step, don’t fudge on the “resting” time, don’t pass on the lightly-greased hands, don’t shrug off turning the pan halfway through. It’s well worth the hoop-jumping to finally sink your teeth into a warm, golden example of cookie perfection.
2 2/3 cups all-purpose white flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar, combined with 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for topping
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease several baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.
In another large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and corn syrup until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well-blended and smooth. Beat in half the flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Stir in the remaining flour mixture until evenly incorporated. Let dough stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until firmed up slightly. Put the topping in a shallow bowl.
Roll portions of the dough into generous 1 1/2-inch balls with lightly greased hands (the dough will be soft). Roll each ball in the topping. Place on the baking sheets, spacing about 2 1/4 inches apart. Using your hand, slightly pat down the tops of the balls.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 8 to 11 minutes, or until just light golden brown at the edges. Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled. Let the baking sheets cool between batches to keep the cookies from spreading too much.
Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 2 months. (As if they’d last so long!)