Posted on Nov 3, 11:06 AM
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Do leftovers over right.
This author has a distaste for surprises. There’s no skydiving on the bucket list, bungee jumping, long walks down dark alleys in foreign countries and, along similar lines, submitting for dessert, an untested cookie recipe could happen in something like a hostage situation where duress came in to play, but why risk it? Thankfully, with time remaining to fulfill a tall order of three kinds of cookies, not only will there be testing to avoid surprises, but there will enter into the testing that thing that eludes many of us in the kitchen: Organization.
Three very unlike recipes will produce over two-hundred cookies. They share some ingredients and each cookie has some unique ingredients that surely will affect each independently. Cookie recipes aren’t rocket science, but instead have a couple interesting deciding characteristics. Soft or crunchy? Bready, sugary or molassesy/caramelly? Size and flavor notwithstanding… Fats, shortenings, butter and baking soda or baking powder affect the softness or crunchiness. It doesn’t matter way in this post, it just matters that you know so when making your own holiday cookie wishlist, you have some idea of what to expect. The bready to caramel-like spectrum is traversed by sugars. Multiple sugars or liquid sweets with even two minutes of extra heat will come out chewy, but be hard leftovers – you’ll have made candy with the heating and cooling process. So pick a cookie with lots of sugars (to flour ratio) if they’ll be consumed quickly and while warm.
Source lots of recipes to familiarize yourself with sugar/flour ratios. You’ll get a feel for what’s what relative to what isn’t what the deeper you go. We weren’t paid to say so, but we’ve got a source that’s been instrumental in packing on a few extra pounds this season: The Big Book of Cookies from Betty Crocker. Thumbing through, the holiday wishlist came to include Double-Chocolate Cherry Cookies, Apple-Date Swirl Cookies and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies – seriously? What a line up! This book has seen kitchen excitement unrivaled by anything short of bottles of wine – certainly no other cookbook in the library has inspired the desire to crank out THREE recipes simultaneously. So, that’s the plug and enough of it. How does one best prepare for 17 and-a-half dozen cookies in a standard suburban kitchen?
Tired of hearing the truth? Organizing your measurements beforehand will help you not forget crucial ingredients and help you track multiple recipes that are calling for different measures of the same ingredient. Those ramekins they use on TV? They can save your sanity in the kitchen and they take a second to clean out.
As preachy as this is, organization begins right at the very, very beginning. Since we’re not on TV, we don’t have people measuring things for us beforehand so we have to. Run to el cheapo home store and do yourself a kitchen favor: Get a dozen plastic or glass or ceramic or whatever ramekins, or monkey bowls. Best that they’re non-reactive (like glass) and they don’t need to be big. They hold powders, spices, Tablespoons of this and that, eggs, yolks and nearly anything else you need measured beforehand and the advantage is that you can take a headcount before combining things to double-check you haven’t left anything out.
Baking uses heat as the catalyst for all kinds of chemical reactions. It's elaborate but true. From the baking sheet you pick to the space you leave between cookie dough balls to the measure of those dough balls, it's all important. If the recipe you're using is untested in your oven, follow the recipe! Someone else tried and tried and this was the best result.
This organization extends to the baking sheet. In the Kitchen Lab, this is fun because it’s science! Proper space and the flow of heat are crucial when dealing with mass and the interaction of ingredients. Cookies do some rising – it’s not magic, it’s baking soda and baking powder and acids (in some cases). If you grill meat, you wouldn’t just slop the meat around over the heat and roll it willy-nilly, you’d aim for direct heat or indirect heat and time the exposure for doneness. Cookies somewhat require attention to detail too. When a dough ball is supposed to be a quarter-cup and 2-inches from its neighbor, do it!
These crowd pleasers came out better than expected by following instructions throughout. A quarter-cup scoop just about measured an ice cream scoop which made things easy. Each cookie was risen nicely and stuffed with chips keeping them a mouth full. To date, the best. Also, inspired the much larger cookie sheet (shown over the older, smaller one).
Finally, on this attention to detail topic, the baking sheet we used to use had four sides and was dark metal. The new baking sheet holds 50% more, has only one raised edge and is a lighter color. The lighter color helps with evenness on the bottoms, the lack of sides means there are fewer eddies in the current of heat at the edges and bigger just means more happiness. You don’t have to consider science when baking cookies, but remember that to fulfill a large order, put some effort into tidiness. Thankfully, since this is a dry run of the cookie recipes, count on a follow up post to spell out any recipe changes, include taste reviews, cookie pictures and holiday baking tips!
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