Caitlin Klütz, a senior majoring in English Writing and minor in Publishing and Printing Arts, loves creating things with her hands. She loves a good history docuseries to dive into. She is a reporter for The Mast and loves writing creative fiction and nonfiction. She hopes you find comfort in her writings.
Clinking. Molten. Ginger.
October 2019, “The Before”
Unwrap the butter. Place in a saucepan that is deep enough to swirl constantly, make sure your stovetop is clean. We need to brown the butter, that is, toasting the milk solids until it becomes nutty and decadent. Move the pan by constantly swirling it, let the butter spiral on its own. It cannot burn, which is why it must stay on the stovetop as much as it can. Give it your all for 5 — 8 minutes. If it becomes hard to swirl without spilling, you may use a spatula to stir gently instead. We want the nutty taste in our cookies, not burnt.
A young woman stood in front of the molten butter, tense. She debated getting a rubber spatula—she felt like she wasn’t spiraling properly this time. Her wrist had become tired after the long day of writing. It was late in October; things had begun to finally settle in her life. Cracks and crevices were filled with textbooks, writing, researching, and assignments. Stirring the butter was a break.
Normally, she would hum or sing with music while she did tasks like these, but her voice was tired. Though, well used. Music and choir classes were the first and last classes of each weekday, starting with Monday morning’s Music theory, finishing the week singing sweet melodies on Friday afternoons. Bold, bubbling melodies surrounded her in the presence of fall.
The butter was coming to a steady bubble, puffing ever so slightly. This is when you know it’s in the last stages. Just keep it moving; that was the key. You shouldn’t use a spatula for this stage, except for scraping some flakes from the bottom of the pan. The bubbles will rise into a thick foam. When it resembles a large, frothy latte, take it off from the heat. Grab a spoon. Tilt the pan to scoop a spoonful of this ambrosia and examine. It should be deep in color with flakes of golden brown. When you pour it back in, the solids should cut through the foam, settling in the bottom of the pan.
The butter must cool for some time, never use it hot. If it’s too hot, when you add the egg, it can scramble. That’s the worst, ruining your brown butter.
The warmer the butter is, the flatter and crispier the snickerdoodle will be. The cooler and more solidified the butter, the fluffier and puffier the cookie will be. It’s up to preference. The woman preferred hers to be flatter, with crisp edges that folded over itself. She poured the mixture into the bowl, watching the flakes settle at the bottom.
She couldn’t count how many times she made these cookies. But she wanted to get them perfect. These weren’t for herself or family. She always heard the same thing from them, “This is your recipe? You have to send me a copy!” However, she never made them for a gathering of friends before. Friends, she was seeing some friends. Before this year, there weren’t many people in her life she considered close friends. She thought that they could use a little sweetness.
The dry ingredients. Scoop the flour in the measuring cups, leveling. One-and-a-half cups — 2 cups, add as needed. Sometimes the browned butter has less water evaporated from it than normal, so the more flour the better. Other times, it can be too crumbly if all is added. Start with 1½ cups, simply add in spoonfuls if needed. Then you’ll need to add the spices.
She fetched the spices from the cabinet across from her. She reached in, feeling for the right clinks and noises, knowing which ones were needed by how they felt in her hand. The cinnamon was larger than the others, with a small lid. The cardamom was in a glass container, with a metal top. Ginger and cloves were in small shakers from the same collection. She held them in her hands, clinking while moving them to the counter. She preferred mixing them all together before adding them to the flour; that way they were evenly distributed throughout. She measured the baking soda and salt, adding those as well. Grabbing a whisk, she began mixing, making sure everything was well distributed in the flour.
An aroma of warmth arose through the kitchen–spices, molten butter, as well as the slight sense of heat from the preheating oven. How could anyone be nervous with an atmosphere such as this?
Anyone but herself, so it seemed.
The gathering was tonight. It was agreed that it had been a long and tedious week for some of the folks in theory class, so they decided that it would be fun to pop on a movie, eat some snacks, and dish out about the week. She was invited through the other second soprano, Sadie. They had been small friends since the previous semester, in spring. Sharing a few classes together, neither required the other to become a friend within the classes of interest that they had. They shared disinterest in becoming friends, in fact. They disliked their psychology professor’s hurried presentations and slow stories.
The butter was still melted, but only warm. Now, it was time to add the egg. The egg should reach room temperature, but it’s okay if it’s not. It isn’t key, but a preference. Add the butter to a stand mixer if you have it, or a larger bowl that can hold more than the flour bowl has. Measure your sugars, making sure to pack the brown well. Mix with the butter. As it comes together it may look greasy, but it will blend once the egg is incorporated. Crack the egg on a flat surface. Add into the butter. Add your vanilla, smell how wonderful it is before adding, it’s key. It isn’t known why, but it does boost one’s mood and brings delight. Start mixing slowly, then work your way up to a medium pace. The mixture should be paler than it was starting out, to fluff up your egg. This will add lightness to the cookies, not puff, but a better crumb.
Slowly add the flour, a half-cup at a time during mixing. By the end, if it resembles batter, you still need a bit more flour. Add spoonfuls if needed. It should still appear wet—but as dough and not batter. Stop when everything is incorporated. Let the dough rest, let it hydrate for 30 minutes or so. If you don’t wait, then it will bake in a soupy mess, resulting in an overbaked, too caramelized, uneven cookie. It’s also wise to cut and lay parchment paper on your cookie sheets during this time for an easy move-on once the dough is supple and hydrated. Blink and then 30 minutes will pass.
Scoop into 1½ — 2 inch balls, roll in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and cardamom. Then bake for 9 — 12 minutes, letting cool on a wire rack once they’re set after coming out of the oven.
Who was going to be at the gathering? The soprano with long black hair, what was her name, Audrey? The tall and burly tenor, with thick glasses, Isiah? The alto with curly hair and a big smile, Stella?
She couldn’t wait to share these with all of them.