Clarissa and Bunny each took a cookie from the plate.
“Oh wow, Fannie, where did you buy these Snickerdoodles?” Clarissa asked as she swallowed the first cookie, “they should be illegal.”
“I baked them,” I said smiling with satisfaction running my fingers over my short cropped brown hair.
Clarissa laughed to the point of snorting.
“Yeah, you made these all right,” Clarissa said gasping for breath.
“Clarissa, honey, what has gotten into you?” Bunny asked with her refined Texas accent her red pony tail moving like an irritated cat. “Why don’t you believe Fannie made these cookies.”
“No offense, but they’re not flat and hard but rounded and chewy with just the right amount of crinkle on top,” Clarissa said looking from me to Bunny. “I’ve known Fannie most of my life, she can bake anything but a Snickerdoodle.”
“Clarissa’s partially right,” I said. “Until a few weeks ago, I did have a Snickerdoodle impairment.”
Bunny laughed. “A Snickerdoodle impairment?”
“When we were kids, I didn’t know Snickerdoodles were supposed to be soft, chewy and rounded,” I said, “that is until Clarissa’s mom made them for our Campfire Girl meeting after school one day.”
“I’ll never forget the look on Fannie’s face when she ate her first real Snickerdoodle,” Clarissa said shaking her head her red ringlets framing her face. “You’d have thought she died and went to heaven. She hounded my mother for the recipe until she gave it to her.”
“I was a little persistent, wasn’t I?” I said laughing.
“Persistent, you were a possessed eight year old.”
“I just wanted to show my family there was another way to make the cookies.”
“Yeah, and where did that land you?” Clarissa asked laughing.
“All right, I’ll bite, what happened?” Bunny asked taking another cookie from the plate.
Sunlight poured into the bright yellow kitchen. The yellow laminate counter top polished to a high gloss. In the center of the counter stood a white Sunbeam stand mixer surrounded by a bag of flour, eggs, sugar, shortening, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon sugar.
On a piece of waxed paper I placed a bowl and sifted two cups of flour and added cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. In the bowl for the stand mixer, I creamed together the sugar and shortening, adding the eggs one at a time.
Adding the flour mixture in small increments the dough formed in the bowl. I wiped the drool from the side of my mouth.
After chilling the dough I formed small walnut sized balls and rolled them with care in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Using a ruler, I spaced them two inches apart on the ungreased cookie sheet.
The bell on the oven rang letting me know we’d reached 400º F. According to Mrs. Morton’s recipe they should cook eight to ten minutes.
The moment of truth.
I hovered over the oven with the light on watching the cookies rise and crinkle just like at Clarissa’s house. The sweet smell of cinnamon filled the air. The timer sounded.
I imagined the heavenly host singing the Hallelujah Chorus as I removed the cookies from the oven.
Patience Fannie Patience.
In the time it took to remove the cookie sheet from the oven and walk over to the cooling rack the cookies sank like the Titanic.
My mother walked into the kitchen as I removed the cookies from the sheet, biting my lip to hold back the tears.
“So these are the famous Morton Snickerdoodles?” my mother said surveying the cookies. “Fannie, they look just like our family recipe. I thought you said they were special?”
“Mom, I don’t know what I did wrong?” I said my lower lip quivering.
“Fannie, they’re just cookies, you don’t need to cry over them,” my mother said. “Have you taken a bite yet, there’s still hope,” she said putting her arm around my shoulder.
I shook my head unable to speak.
“Why don’t I pour us each a glass of milk and we will each have a nice warm cookie?” my mother said retrieving the milk from the fridge.
She poured the milk.
“Shall we try them together?” She asked.
“On the count of three. Ready, one, two, three.”
We bit into the warm, flat cookies. The familiar tang spread over my tongue as I chewed the cookie. The cinnamon and sugar heightened the experience. The chew was missing.
My mother smiled and nodded. “They taste just like grandma used to make them.”
They were crisp and edible.
“So what happened?” Bunny asked taking a sip of milk.
“She made me come over and supervise the next batch,” Clarissa said laughing.
“Clarissa yelled, ‘you don’t sift the flour, who sifts flour?’ she grabbed the sifter out of my hands when it was full. I grabbed it back,” I said laughing. “My mom and sisters ran into the kitchen to see what was going on. Clarissa pulled one way, I pulled the other and we looked like ghosts.”
“Don’t forget El. When Fannie’s mom left the room and no one was looking, she stood on her tip toes and stretched until she could get the bag of flour. It dumped on her head,” Clarissa said laughing.
“Lenora Jane felt sorry for us after that and thought she’d help us clean up and brought in the vacuum,” I said laughing, “it never occurred to us not to use the canister vacuum with it’s gigantic blow hole. It sent a cloud of flour from the kitchen into the dining room. We were in so much trouble. My mom stood over us while we scrubbed the kitchen back to her favorite yellow and scoured every inch of the dining room. I don’t think even a gnat’s eyelash was left when we were done.”
“So the only way her mom would let her make another batch was over at my house,” Clarissa said. “My mom helped cause she heard all about the flour incident. The cookies turned out fine.”
“So taking what I learned at their house, I waited until my mom went for her hair appointment and made another batch of Snickerdoodles,” I said shaking my head. “They were flat as a pancake. My dad and sisters ate the evidence before my mom got home.”
A flat warm cookie disappeared into my father’s mouth. As he chewed he looked from me to the oven and scratched his head.
As he shoved another cookie into his mouth he said through the cookie, crumbs landing on his blue polo shirt, “you know Fannie, it could be we need to check the temperature in the oven. It might not be getting to 400 degrees and that would affect your cookies.” After shoving another cookie into his mouth he said, “boy these are good. Can you pour me another glass of milk?”
Lenora Jane and Eleanor wandered off as I washed the dishes about the same time as my dad finished the last cookie.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I’ll asked Lenora Jane to watch El and you and I can go to the Ernst and pick-up an oven thermometer. Then we can see if it’s the oven temperature.”
My father backed the mobile land yacht out of the driveway. He waved at my mother as she returned and mouthed ‘hardware store.’ She smiled and waved us on.
The mobile land yacht pulled into a parking space three down from the front door of Ernst. My father, a hardened do-it-yourself-er, guided me straight to aisle 11, kitchen gadgets and instruments. On the end of the aisle neat rows of gadgets hung from long hooks. My father scanned the rows. Reaching up he pulled down a silver colored gauge.
“Fannie, this is just the ticket,” he said smiling.
When we got home I rushed into the kitchen with the thermometer, ripped open the packaging and hung it from the top oven rack as shown in the picture on the box. My father caught up to me.
“Well, Fannie, you sure are in a hurry.”
“How long before we know the oven temperature?” I asked turning the dial up to 400 degrees.
“We need to give it about twenty minutes to be sure.”
I set the timer and marched back and forth in front of the oven until my mother sent me to the laundry room to fold clothing.
I heard the tell tale ring of the timer and ran back into the kitchen. My mother and father arrived right behind me. I opened the oven door. A wave of heat poured over me. The thermometer read 360 degrees.
“Well that answers a lot of questions,” my mother said, “like why it always takes the pot roast an extra 30 minutes to cook.” Looking at me she said, “Fannie that probably explains why your cookies are falling, they’re undercooked.”
“Can this be fix?” I asked looking from my mother to my father hoping my baking days weren’t numbered.
“We can do one of two things,” my father said. “turn up the oven until it reaches 400 degrees or experiment with baking times. Let’s try turning up the temperature first.”
We turned the temperature up 20 degrees at a time. When we reached 480 on the dial we over shot our mark. Dad turned it down a smidgen. We waited. The thermometer read 400 degrees ten minutes later. Using a permanent marker he drew a line on the dial and wrote 400.
“Mom, may I make some cookies before dinner?”
“Sure, I’m dying to see what these cookies are supposed to look like,” she said.
Thirty minutes later I pulled the first batch of Snickerdoodles from the oven. The perfectly domed cookies waited until I put the baking sheet on the cooling rack before they fell like a soufflé.
“I tried twenty-eight different recipes over the last ten years, and every one fell,” I said.
“So what was the solution to your Snickerdoodle impairment?” she asked her blue eyes dancing.
“I watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. They were baking bread and stressed the importance of weighing flour for recipes because of the inconsistency between dry measure cups.”
“And what happened?” Clarissa asked before drinking her milk.
“Using my heirloom measuring cup, I measured a cup of flour and poured it onto my scale,” I said laughing. “A cup of All Purpose Flour is supposed to weigh 5 ounces. My cup of flour weighed 3.75 ounces. There wasn’t enough flour to support the other ingredients. It was like wearing the wrong bra and not knowing it.”