Oh, who am I kidding?
When the weather reverts to Seattle-perfect seventies? When the annual peony parade's passing through? When there are exactly (and only!!!) seven days of school left before that supremely looooooong weekend known, in certain circles, as summer break? Who's going to take ten minutes to assemble anything approaching sensical, on a screen?
Not I, said the Molly.
This isn't to say I don't have goodness galore I've been wanting to share, so! Bring on the bullet points!
:: Pretzel cones!!! World, do you have these? Graeter's does, and they are the bomb. I am not a cone person. Sugar, cake, waffle: meh. But pretzel cones? Salt-dusted, barely sweet, cracker-shatter-y pretzel cones? I'm all in. (Upon searching, these sure look like the real deal. Anyone wanna split a case of 60?)
:: In other ice cream news: Jeni's is back!!!!!!!!! I worked in food safety for years, and never saw a company handle a hitch with such integrity, gumption and grace. We welcomed the re-opening with an inaugural trip, Sunday. (Sweet Cream? Passion Fruit? Yes and please.) And, we intend to keep up the heavy lifting. It's a tough job, but we'll be that someone.
:: All the Light We Cannot See. It really is all that. Majority opinion has never held much truck with me, but in this case? 12,522 reviewers are not wrong. (12,523, if you include that one other little reviewer, the Pulitzer Prize peeps.)
:: We are heavy, heavy library users, constantly bumping up against our lending limit. We use much of our quota to check out the latest, greatest children's books. There is no shortage; the ranks are gloriously strong. Of the hundred(s) we've borrowed these past several months, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Goodnight, Already! tie for the titles I'd buy for any five-and-under library. If I were still building five-and-under libraries. Which I'm not. (*Eep!*)
:: Which didn't stop me from adding Home to our own home library, last week. I add zero picture books these days, because we're all firmly in chapter territory. And besides, our library's full up. I'm in culling, not collecting, mode. But this is Carson Ellis, of Wildwood fame, an ENTIRE BOOK OF CARSON ELLIS ILLUSTRATIONS! Each page exquisitely impish with her wonky charm and otherworldly whimsy. Ageless, if you ask me.
:: When you run out of garden twine for stringing up the beans?* And can't be bothered to drive the five minutes to the hardware store for more? Because a) you are filthy, and b) thus, your car will never be the same, and c) you are ever and always a fragile gardener, and know such a break will disrupt your inner Tara and totally sever your gardening mojo? Rummage your yarn basket. Because yarn is just string in disguise! And a total multi-tasker! And maybe best of all, this solves the perenially pesky problem of orphan yarn balls! Even if God knows I've not knitted neon pink anything, ever. (Do people pass off stray skeins like fruitcakes? Smile, discretely drop neon fiber, and vamoose? Is this a thing??)
Anyway, it does the trick. And presumably, beans are colorblind. Also? When you step back to size up your efforts, and spy all that bright pink on beige? You'll feel seriously Purl Soho.
:: *You need to string up your bean poles. No doubt, you knew this. No joke, I did not. For years, I put the poles in the ground, building teepees, waiting for the beans to do their windy thing. Then wailing that my beans did not have the drive or talent or motivation to wind their way properly around the poles, as all good beans should. And as with kids, dropping threats and shaking fists did little to convince my rogue beans to change their ways. And so, until last year, I'd spend hours every Spring, HOURS, trying to train them to the task.
Turns out they needed not just vertical but horizontal help. Just a little scaffolding. Right.
:: This story from Moth Radio Hour.
:: These t-shirts. Soooooo comfortable. I just ordered six. Hello, summer uniform.
:: Last year, we put five raspberries, three currants, and five little blueberry bushes, all in the ground. In a yard that is one-tenth of an acre. Mostly house. And already completely packed with plants. At the time, it was very high effort/low profit, all digging and clearing and weeding, no bearing fruit. Literally. This seemed right to me. All work; no play. I'm very Protestant Work Ethic-y, sometimes. (I totally dug Max Weber, in college.) But this year, there is fruit! This surprises me no end. I don't even know what to do with this fact.
:: Last week, we planted our tomatoes. We started them from seed, for the first time ever. We also bought starts, and planted those alongside. Because I still cannot wrap my head around the potential promised by a seed. Can. Not. Oh me of little faith. I may have, come August, a serious tomato jungle. Not that this is a bad thing. Stay tuned for Fall: all tomatoes, all the time!
:: I seem to have started a quilt. Blindly, blithely. I don't quilt. I don't want to quilt. I don't even want to know how to quilt. But there you go. Don't ask questions. I don't have a clue.
:: Seattle!!!! It's happening, this summer. December was wonderful, but oh, how I missed the ocean. Notforlong!!!!!!
:: I grilled salmon, this past Memorial Day weekend. Wild King. On our Weber. On a soaked cedar plank. Next time, I would up the ginger, and add lime (lots), but mostly? I'd make sure there are many, many, many next times. How have I never grilled salmon?
:: I made snickerdoodles. I liked said snickerdoodles. Adored them, actually. It only took 27 tries.
Am I exaggerating? Probably. It might've been 32 tries. I lost count, long ago. Gave up, too. So many bad cookies. No, scratch that. So many so-so cookies. Snickerdoodles are never bad, exactly, just dry and bland and single-note sweet, and so quick to grow stale, they're often past their prime before bedtime. These are cookie crimes. So I set snickerdoodles aside, years ago, preferring to invest my butter in better outcomes. Until last month, when Mindy Segal set me straight.
My copy of Segal's new book is a porcupine, bristling with flags, top, edge, and bottom. What compelled me to pick snickerdoodles from the mix, I don't know. Especially given my history. I suppose it was a challenge, a dare, to see what Segal could do. A litmus test, along the lines of, "If you can salvage snickerdoodles, I'll know to trust you with strawberry lambic thumbprints, and goat's butter shortbread, and halvah buttercream. But if not...."
My ultimatum never found its finish. Segal totally saved snickerdoodles for me.
Segal's snickerdoodles are platonic. Just-crisped at the edges, almost creamy inside, they are fudgy and squidgy and melting and tender and smartly salted and highly-spiced and interesting. Interesting! They dazzle. They sparkle. They light up and sing and sort of strut around, all raised chins and swagger. I always wanted snickerdoodles to swagger; believed that they could; knew that they should. But they only ever slouched. Until Segal came along.
And the funny thing is, little separates Segal's snickerdoodles from the standard. Like buttermilk pancakes, most every snickerdoodle hews to pretty much the same recipe. Many rated 5-stars. Most of which I've made. And they're... fine. Segal takes the same building blocks of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and that signature snickerdoodle leavening of 2 parts cream of tartar : 1 part baking soda, and tweaks it all, in tiny, essential ways.
The flour's a bit on the lean side, which helps. The eggs are extra large, which doesn't hurt. They bake at a lower temperature than many, 350 degrees, down from a common 400. In my experience, baking drop cookies at dropped temps is a huge win, allowing the cookie to bake through and caramelize, without drying out and hardening and crisping up unevenly. All the sort of little, mindful details that a cookie fiend formulates, and that cumulatively, make all the difference.
And then, there's the salt.
The standard snickerdoodle recipe calls for 1/4 tsp.-1/2 tsp. of salt. Segal calls for two teaspoons. TWO. TEASPOONS. This is everything. Better: one teaspoon is commodity kosher; the second, flaky sea salt. This has the effect of littering the cookies with little salt bursts that don't dissolve; that play like Abbott against the sugared crust's Costello; that glow like neon on the Las Vegas strip. It's pretty great. No, scratch that. It's totally game-changing.
Incredibly, they also pass an exam I'd long ago stopped giving snickerdoodles, so tired of their unanimous failure: The Day Two Test. Now, I know as well as anyone that drop cookies are, by nature, Day One cookies, always best when freshly baked, a sad sorry shadow, by the next day. It's part of the program. I'm down with that.
But what to think when the contract dissolves? When the pre-nup on poor performance, Day Two, no longer holds? I grabbed one of these the next day, with my coffee, having come in from a fevered round of pre-storm planting, and was halfway through before realizing: my second day snickerdoodle was as good if not better than the day prior. Did you see that pig fly?
Not I, said the Molly, not I. I was busy munching snickerdoodles.
gently adapted from Cookie Love, by Mindy Segal
Segal subtitles these, "Any Which Way But You Will Never Lose" Snickerdoodles, and she nails it. Apart from a few tiny tweaks, my main adaptation is seriously upping the cinnamon, from a paltry teaspoon, to a few whopping Tablespoons. I like to see and taste my cinnamon. To that end, I also apply it twice: first, to roll the dough balls, pre-baking; and again, mid-bake, sprinkled over the top, for extra oomph.
Any extra cinnamon sugar is your reminder to make yourself some hot buttered cinnamon toast.
1 cup (8 oz., 2 cubes) salted butter, sliced
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbs. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar, sifted
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. sea salt flakes
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place sliced butter and both sugars. Beat until fully creamed, lighter in color, and fluffy, 3-4 minutes, scraping a few times along the way. When fully creamed, scrape sides again, and add eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated and no longer curdled. Scrape again, add vanilla, and beat until fully combined.
In a separate medium bowl, add flour, cream of tartar, both salts, and baking soda, and whisk to combine. (Or, if you're me, and a total baking hack, distribute dry ingredients directly into the mixing bowl, making an effort to sprinkle ecumenically.) Scrape sides again, add dry ingredients to creamed butter, and beat on low until just combined, 10-15 seconds. Complete mixing by hand with a spatula, scraping and folding in remaining flour that collects at the bottom. Dough will be very soft.
In a wide, shallow bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.
Scoop dough into 1 1/2 Tbs. balls (I use a small ice cream scoop for this), and roll to coat completely in cinnamon sugar. (Note: this makes a fairly large cookie, roughly 2" in diameter. If you use a smaller scoop, reduce baking time accordingly.) Repeat until all dough has been used, lining up cookies in staggered rows of 2, for a total of 8 per sheet, roughly 24 cookies total.
Place in preheated oven, and bake 8 minutes. Reverse trays, top to bottom, front to back, and sprinkle each cookie with another generous teaspoon of cinnamon sugar (there will be plenty remaining). Bake for another 2-4 minutes, until cookies are just going golden at the edges, and centers have lost their shine. Do not over bake. I find the "shine" test is the best measure—
a center just gone dull is ideal. Allow cookies to cool 20-30 minutes on the tray—they'll be very soft and collapse when first out of the oven. Once firm, remove snickerdoodles to a rack to finish cooling completely. Store airtight. Wonderful on days one, two and three.