I am not from the South. As a result, the only cornbread I’ve had is closer to cake than actual, southern cornbread. Actually, I’ve had southern cornbread; I just try to push the memories of bitter, crumbly cornbread out of my mind because it’s not the cornbread I know and love.
I’ve tried a few recipes, and I’ve found I most like those that call for equal amounts of flour and cornmeal. And, of course, the ones that call for lots of sugar. My bag of cornmeal tried to convince me that 1 tablespoon of sugar would be sufficient. Even more insultingly, it added in parentheses that the tablespoon of sugar was “optional.” How dare you, Bob’s Red Mill. Sugar is never optional. I laughed in Bob’s face as I added a heaping half-cup of sugar to the batter. Shauna 1, Bob 0.
It took me a while to find this recipe–which is kind of sad, considering it came out when I was five years old. But since the age of seven when I first began baking these cookies, I always used the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. It never occurred to me to try another until the New York Times article came out in 2008. Reading such a detailed breakdown of the chocolate chip cookie was an eye-opener. I tried its suggestion of refrigerating the dough for 36 hours, but I don’t have the patience for that. The article did, however, teach me to (a) sprinkle sea salt over the cookies before baking, and (b) switch to a better quality chocolate chip going forward (Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips has been my go-to chocolate chip ever since). The recipe was good, but what I really wanted was a chewy chocolate chip cookie–and so began a five-year process of trying out different chocolate chip cookie recipes.
People can go a little overboard with the “Once you make X, you’ll never want to buy it from stores again!” guarantee. Because no matter how delicious that bread I baked was, I can promise you that I’m still going to buy sliced bread for my sandwiches. The same goes for many things, especially anything involving a large vat of oil, like donuts.
But it is true of some things, at least for me. For most of my life, the only cinnamon rolls I had came from a Pillsbury tube, or from a Cinnabon store at the mall. And I was content with those. But then one day, in the summer of 2009, my friend Kate and I had some leftover yeast after making pizza dough and we used it to make cinnamon rolls from scratch–and nothing was ever the same. Homemade cinnamon rolls have ruined me, to the extent that I have no interest in the Pillsbury or storebought ones, even if presented to me on a platter (which is really quite rude of me, to reject something I’ve been offered. I told you they ruined me).
The bun is just so soft–not flaky like the Pillsbury ones, but soft in the way that freshly baked bread is meant to be. The bottoms are slightly chewy after absorbing the brown sugar-cinnamon-butter mixture that melts to the bottom of the pan as the rolls bake. And the cream cheese frosting has an actual cream cheese-y tang to it because it hasn’t been smothered with too much sugar. Once I tried that combination of deliciousness, there was no going back.
I was fifteen when my best friend, Kate, told me about this ice cream. She was telling me about having dinner at her then-boyfriend’s house the night before. She glossed over the evening itself and skipped straight to the dessert, which, really, is the most important part of any story. The dessert, she said, was strawberry cheesecake ice cream, with chunks of cheesecake in it. This was a new concept to me and I knew I needed this ice cream in my life immediately. That’s when she told me it was Safeway brand, so the Vons down the street would have it.
Because my parents weren’t home, my only option was my older brother. I knocked on his door, poked my head in, and asked if he would drive me to Vons for strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I gave an attempt at a winning smile.
It did not work.
I dwelled on the ice cream for a few minutes before deciding I had no choice but to walk the mile to Vons myself. So I set off on the journey to Vons, breaking into a run halfway there because cheesecake chunks. In ice cream.