What No One Ever Tells You About Baking Cookies

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thimble-cookies (1)I’m an exploratory cook/baker.  I learn from experience. and discovery.  I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again, my mother did not particularly enjoy cooking or baking.  Her strategy for baking cookies was to dump everything in the mixer and turn it on full speed.  If they didn’t bake quick enough she’d turn the heat up.  The results?  Very interesting, often disastrous.

I was sitting at lunch the other day at work.  Someone had left cookies there for staff.  They were very tasty but I commented on them, constructively of course, and someone said, “I didn’t know about that.”

Of course, as a teacher, I never miss a teachable moment.  Here, right here in the middle of the holiday baking season, I got to share what I have learned about cookie baking!  Wahoo.

1.  First of all, read through all the instructions first.  You might not know this, but some people leave steps out and some recipes have quirky directions.  Prepare yourself.  I have a complex chocolate chip cookie recipe that has ingredients like 2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons of bread flour?  Really?  That precise?  Yes, and may I add well worth it.  Grown men have wept over these cookies.

2.  Use unsalted, room temperature butter and beat the heck out of it until is is pale yellow, light and fluffy.  Totally worth the extra time.

3.  After the butter is sufficiently beaten, don’t over beat from this point on–incorporate till mixed and stop.

4.  Obviously preheating the oven is essential.  When the oven is preheating and temperature is higher to heat the oven up.

5.  Never discount the importance of a cool pan and once the cookies are on the cookie sheet — CHILL the dough!  Fridge, freezer, out on the back porch in the winter — wherever, just CHILL the dough.  The results?  Cookies with a beautiful shape and lift.  Not flat, greasy cookies that have spread all over the cookies sheet.

6.  Leave the cookies on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to cool so they will come off the pan nicely and retain their shape.  When cooled a bit place them on baking rakes to avoid a greasy overcooked cookie bottom.

7.  So when you go to round two of cookies, always make sure the baking sheet is completely cooled.

Trust me, everyone has had cookie failures.  I have a confession to make.  Last weekend I threw two batches of dough out.  I finally figures out that there was an error in the recipe.  Oops.  By the way, another good reason to read through the entire recipe first!

Happy Holiday Cookie Baking — G

“Grown Men Have Wept . . .”

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That’s the phrase I always use when explaining how good a recipe has turned out or in reference to my “keepers.”  You might not know this but I am famous for my chocolate chip cookies.  People beg for them.  In my father’s later years he lived with us.  It was a joy to have this totally capable, independent man live with us.  He was a blessing to us.  We were dependent on him not the other way around.  A bit of a health freak he had a couple of weaknesses.  One of them was chocolate — particularly chocolate chip cookies.  That was probably where my search for the perfect recipe began.  I had a chocolate chip cookie jar in the pantry.  When it got low, low, not empty my dad would take a bag of chocolate chips (which we were never out of!) and set it on the counter.  Just a little reminder that is was time to fire up the Kitchen Aid. 

All the kids, kids of all ages, who came to the house knew where two things were, Grandpa’s candy jar, full of M&M’s and the chocolate chip cookie jar.  They’d walk in the door and look at an adult with knowing eyes, waiting for the nod to go ahead and help themselves.  When grandpa died, the candy jar and cookies were at the funeral home during his visitation.  It has been two years and I can’t get myself to put either away!

Like any good recipe, you tweak.  This chocolate chip cookie recipe is tweaked to the nth degree.  If you try it, promise me you will follow the directions carefully–or just tell me you did.

Grandpa’s Amazeballs Chocolate Chip Cookies (AKA:  Grown Men Have Wept)

Ingredients:

2 cups bread flour

1 2/3 cups cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 large package chocolate chip cookies  –  Use good chocolate

Sea salt.

 Directions:

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  I use a plastic Tupperware bowl with a lid so I can use it to store the completed dough in the refrigerator.  Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter until it is light in color.  Add sugars and beat for an additional 5 minutes.   Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.

Remove bowl from the mixer stand and pour in chocolate chips and mix by hand until incorporated.  Place in a covered bowl and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  Refrigerating prevents these cookies from going flat when they bake.  Look at the completed pictures and see the beautiful “lift” these cookies

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Using a large cookie scoop, scoop mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Don’t over bake.  Let cool  on sheet for 5 minutes and move to a rack to cool.  Doing so ensures that the cookies will remain crisp and not get soggy on the bottom. 

Makes about 2-2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Notes:

1.  I have frozen the dough in preformed scoops and stored them in a airtight container.  I take them out a couple at a time and bake them when I want just a few warm ones to serve with ice cream on top.  They taste good but don’t have the height that the unfrozen cookies do.

2.  Refrigerating is essential with this recipe.  This is not where you want to take a short cut.

3.  Measure exact and follow directions.  Things like sifting the flour, softening the butter make the difference between average and perfection!