Salivating, eager, insatiable: my sequence of physical and mental reactions to cookie dough. Simply uninterested: my reaction when staring at freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It used to be that when I decided to "bake cookies," it translated to something a little more juvenile: the only thing I truly wanted was the dough.
You know that voice inside your head warning you when something seems off? Mine manifested itself as the internal baking timer, warning me when cookies or brownies were at their peak, leading to perfectly chewy, moist and delicious baked goods. Yet those fresh, homemade treats would sit on the counter untouched, on a plate covered in saran wrap, until their remains were lifeless and stale.
Around age 12, when I was capable of and responsible enough to work the oven, this routine began. I found something cathartic and relaxing about measuring and pouring, cracking and mixing; it distracted me from my middle school homework and Bat Mitzvah tutoring. By high school, it became an activity to build and foster friendship -- the cookies leaving an intoxicating smell throughout my house and my guests and siblings satisfied with homemade sweets. On my sacred few days home from college vacation, you could find me in my kitchen making Peanut Blossoms, the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, or quickly throwing together Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies (which I discovered, after many trials and tribulations, is hands down the best store-bought brownie mix out there).
It all started with the batter and dough. If anyone tries to deny that cookie dough and brownie batter are typically more rewarding than the baked goods they're meant to be, they're asking for trouble. Why else would hundreds of cookie dough-related recipes surface on Pinterest and food blogs? Why else would Huffington Post readers vote Half Baked to be their favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's? Why else do hundreds of lonely, brokenhearted or simply hungry girls rush to the packaged dough section of the market to grab a cookie dough log to eat... likely all to themselves?
I remember my cookie dough intake skyrocketing in two specific scenarios: one after a particularly complicated and messy "break" from my high school boyfriend and the other when I continued receiving rejection and deferral letters from the universities of my dreams. In both circumstances, although life felt like it was crumbling around me (ah, high school), I could always resort back to that measuring and pouring, cracking and mixing that kept my stomach satisfied and my head clear.
As hard as I tried, I couldn't help but feel like the perfectly leavened goodies were disappointing in comparison to the dough that I was slowly picking off the one-inch spoonfuls awaiting their time in the oven. Eventually, I became territorial of my dough, feeling protective and reluctant to share with anyone, treating it like my child I was unwilling to let friends and family hold.
I'd become a perfectionist in the art of cookies and brownies, but rarely tasted my own finished product. I felt like an actress refusing to watch herself at the premiere of her own movie. An artist unwilling to look at her own masterpiece.
The older I've gotten, the more I've become determined to experiment. After all, when people search for the holy grail (the perfect chocolate chip cookie), they're not talking about the perfect dough. And even though I missed the batter, it became a ritual to take the first few bites of the finish products with friends, family or even strangers. The moment of silence followed by an "Mmmmm" became quite addicting as well.
I gained the willpower to find new recipes that required patience for satisfaction (banana bread, crepes and my sister and I even made French macarons) and slowly but surely I steered away from that deadly combination of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.
Even though my baking projects and choices have matured, deep down my first instinct will always be to add the word "dough" to the end of the phrase, "I'm making cookies!"