my first memory of baking was as a child, standing on a new purple rubbermaid stool and feeling important as my sister and I measured out ingredients for snickerdoodles and mixed them together under the watchful gaze of my college-aged aunt.
my aunt had seemed confident and in control at the time, but when the cookies came out of the oven and we tried them, she had this look on her face that I didn’t understand at the time. however, after years of baking, I have finally come to recognize as the expression I wear every time someone first tries my baked goods, or reads something I’ve written for the first time – that desire for approval.
when I was a child, I baked for myself. even if everyone else thought gummy worms in muffins was weird, if I liked it, I was happy. but as I grew older and fell into the routine of endlessly seeking approval for papers, for piano, for most of my decisions, I began to develop worries that even if I loved something, others would not. and when others expressed disappointment or concerns, I took in their comments as a reflection of my personal flaws.
it’s strange to look back on that moment when my aunt watched my sister and I take the first bite of her cookie recipe and recognize that in that moment, my aunt, a fiercely independent world traveler and one of the smartest people I know, was vulnerable to the opinions of two kids.
as I navigate 23 (apparently the age when nobody likes you), I am still trying to figure out my next move. but there’s something I realized – not everyone has the same tastes, and not every decision can be met with unanimous approval, and ultimately, my image of adulthood was not truth, but (mis)perception.
we’ve been told that growing up means letting childhood become memories, but I don’t want to just remember the girl who tried to bake bread in a car parked outside on a hot summer day (and then tried to eat it, to her mother’s dismay). I want to take a lesson from her that life has no recipe, that really, no one has it all together and it’s okay to do things (and even totally mess them up) because you want to, not because it is the formulaically “right” thing to do.
my sister has started her final year of dorm living; it is a bit shocking to think that we are now both older than my aunt was back then (and even more shocking to think that my aunt is married and about to have her first child!). I sent my sister some pumpkin snickerdoodles, a combination of her favorite cookie and favorite fall ingredient. fluffy, tangy, and with warm spiced pumpkin flavor, these snickerdoodles are as delicious as those of my childhood memories.
3 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 + 1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
scant 1 cup (185g) sugar
3/4 cup (150g) light brown sugar, packed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup (187.5g) canned pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
jaclyn bell. pumpkin snickerdoodles. cooking classy. 24 oct 2014. accessed 17 sept 2015.
2 in bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar (until combined; not pale and fluffy). occasionally scrape down sides and bottom of bowl throughout mixing. mix in egg yolk, then mix in pumpkin and vanilla extract. with mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients, then mix until just combined.
3 divide dough in half and cover each half in plastic wrap, then chill for 45 min to 1 hour.
4 preheat oven to 350ºF. in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup sugar with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. scoop dough out, ~2 tbsp per ball, then roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture until evenly coated and transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. space cookies ~2 in apart and using your palm, flatten cookies slightly.
5 bake 12-14 minutes (slightly under-baked, as they’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet after being removed from the oven.) cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.