It was late Saturday morning, Memorial Day weekend, and we were at all home, puttering. The kids were upstairs doing their thing, and Jenny was at the kitchen table, her face buried in her MacBook. I opened the refrigerator, and then the freezer.
“We have any butter?” I asked.
Jenny looked up. “Why?”
“I think I’m gonna make some snickerdoodles with the girls,” I said.
“No, you’re not,” she said.
“You can’t make snickerdoodles,” she said. She actually looked serious about this. ”And you definitely can’t write about it.”
“What are you talking about?” I said.
“Snickerdoodles?” God, just the way she pronounced the word: chilling. “I just can’t let you do that. Too emasculating.”
I’m not going to get too deep into the subtext here, or any latent impressions Jenny may or may not have about men who bake — let alone bake snickerdoodles – but let’s just say it felt a little like the person I love very much and with whom I have had two children, was calling my sh#t out. Like, seriously? A guy wants to do something fun with the kids on a sleepy Saturday morning, and he gets hazed by his wife? The thing is, there’s a lot you do as a parent — or, okay, as a father of two daughters — that carries an unmistakable whiff of the surrender-monkey to it. Printing out and memorizing the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s new single: that would definitely be one of those things. Enduring Ryan Seacrest in silence: yup. Nursing a lifelong grudge against musical theater and yet pretending, without complaint, to be Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music when it is called for*. Getting a (small, cute) dog and naming it Iris. Applying toenail polish (no smudges!) in rainbow colors on one tiny foot, and then doing the other tiny foot in the opposite color progression. Over the past several years, I’ve done all those things and so, so much worse and — apologies in advance to all the bros out there who may be reading this — the truth is, I never really gave any of it a second thought. Don’t you kind of check your manly bona fides at the door when you have kids? I mean, isn’t that part of the point?
Given all this, was making a batch of cookies so bad?
“Yeah, I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think I can be married to a guy who makessnickerdoodles.”
She is now married to a guy who makes snickerdoodles.
These were the cookies I loved most as a kid. They’re all cake-y and buttery, with that 360-degree dusting of crunchy, sugary crystals on top; they always reminded me of cinnamon toast, only better. I’m not sure where my mom’s original recipe comes from — it’s hand-written, in her cursive, on a recipe card so old and well-used that it’s practically translucent with butter grease — but I’m guessing it’s something classic, like Fanny Farmer or The Joy of Cooking. It’s got that simple, no-frills quality to it. And look, if I have to butch these things up a little to please Jenny, I will: if it makes you feel better, you can think of snickerdoodles as the Ford F150 of cookies. They’re solid, sturdy, reliable. Strong! Not dainty. They’re not gonna win any fancypants awards, they’re too humble to get you the girl, but they’re also not going to let you down, either. There’s a certain underdog quality to them, for sure. If you want bells and whistles, you won’t find ‘em here. But if you want something that works…
Anyway. You get the idea, and I’m done justifying. Abby and I made these on Saturday morning, when Jenny left the house to (one imagines) go smoke a cigar and watch some ultimate fighting, and we had a blast. Lots of butter, lots of sugar, lots of butter melting into that sugar, lots of very tasty batter to feast on as you go. We made a beautiful mess with our electric mixer, the power tool of choice for the under-8 set. Jenny liked them so much, she had to pour water over them and throw them away two days later to stop herself from binging on them. (Every time she ate one, she would say, ”Ugh, why did you do this to me?”) This is 100% true, by the way. She ruined the cookies because she loved them too much. So who’s the wimp now?
*It was called for.
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, mix together:
1 cup softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a separate bowl, sift together:
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Gradually mix in the dry mixture to the wet mixture until it’s all blended. Wrap dough in parchment paper and chill for about one hour in freezer.
Remove dough from freezer and form round balls of dough the size of small walnuts. Roll balls in mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (the key!).
Bake for 8 minutes and cool on a rack. Makes 5 dozen 2-inch cookies.
From Dinner a Love Story