Wednesday, May 17, 2006
When I was in high school, I was always desperate for various foods I thought I could only get from my friends and/or their mothers. Stephanie Sheffer made the best chocolate-chip cookies I'd ever had for our AP Physics/Calculus study sessions (we had a great social life). Caitlin Reid's mom produced macaroni and cheese from scratch that consistently made their annual family reunion my favorite culinary event. And Kara Johnston—the girl all the boys loved in 10th grade for her athleticism, self-possession and genius in the kitchen—made sour cream softies, cake-like cookies that looked like biscuits and tasted like a dream.
At graduation, Kara gave each person in our group of friends her recipe, which at the time, I never considered making. I later found the neatly printed index card (in typical Kara fashion) with "Recipe: Sour Cream Softies" at the top when I was unpacking from my move to Jackson, and I decided to give it a try.
Only in the last few months living on my own here have I discovered that, in fact, I can make all these things for myself, and—more shockingly—they are just as good. Better yet, I can buy organic ingredients to use in the recipes and feel a little bit better about indulging in my favorite of the seven deadly sins.
Honestly, the only secret to Steph's cookies appears to be using Crisco (I use the kind that claims to be transfat-free—so much for organic) instead of butter in any regular chocolate-chip cookie recipe; the one on the bag of chips works just fine.
As for Mrs. Reid's macaroni and cheese, I'm still perfecting the bread-crumb topping, but store-bought crumbs are doing the job in the meantime. But because I can make no improvements on Kara's recipe as of yet, here it is.
Sour Cream Softies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. sour cream
3 cups flour
Put the butter in a large mixing bowl an hour or two before you make these cookies; if the butter is softened, you won't need a mixer.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cream the softened butter and the sugar until smooth, then add the eggs and beat well.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the flour, and stir well. Add the flour last, which is easier (and tidier) to do if you mix it in one cup at a time.
Spoon large dollops onto a greased baking sheet (or, for the college student in you, put foil on your baking sheet—one fewer thing to clean). To distinguish a little more strongly from biscuits, pour sprinkles onto the tops, and bake for about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them the last couple of minutes in case your oven is faster than others; the bottoms will burn without warning.