Monday, August 29, 2011

Week Five -- Serious Cookies

I realize that two weeks in a row of cookies is probably a faux pas, but I see last week as more of an experiment -- I mean, come on -- cookies from a mix. These are the real deal. Cookies are so often maligned as being only for an afternoon snack or just for kids, but I’m tired of going to dinner at someone’s house or to a restaurant and having some fancy-shmancy nonsense that some people call dessert served to me simply because it’s fancy or complicated. I have decided to start a movement that will hopefully help elevate cookies to their appropriate place in the culinary world. And I’m pretty sure that these cookies will go a long way toward making this happen.

Before you start these cookies, you must understand a few things. At the risk of channeling Martha Stewart, I do have to say that if you start messing around with either the ingredients or the method, you will not have the same results that I have had with these. For instance, if you decide to replace the butter with margarine, beware that these will not be the same…meaning they won’t be as delicious. Unless you have a dairy allergy or are a vegan, stick with the butter. Not only does it taste better, but it really is better for you. So, here goes… this recipe is infinitely malleable as long as you follow the principle recipe and the method. Really, your only limit is your own imagination here.

Serious Cookie Master Recipe

2 sticks butter softened (use REAL butter)
1 ½ cups DARK brown sugar
1 egg
1 t REAL vanilla extract
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (you can also use graham flour with excellent results)
1 t baking soda
Pinch salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar until it is fluffy. You can do this either by hand or with a mixer.
3. Add egg and vanilla. Cream again.
4. Sift together flour, soda, and salt or just use your hands to fluff them together in a separate bowl. Add to the wet mixture. Now, here is where things can go wrong. Only mix this until it comes together… do not over mix. If you start working the flour too much, you will develop the gluten. This is desirable in bread… not in cookies.
5. Add oats and whatever mix-in’s you choose. Mix gently.
6. If you are working in a cool kitchen, you can go straight from here. If it’s a bit warm, chill your dough first.
7. Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.
8. Bake 10-12 minutes for 2T size mounds of dough.
a. These also can be made into monster cookies… Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use the 1/3 cup measure or even the ½ cup measure. You should flatten the dough blobs slightly with your fingers if you do the monster cookie method. This will help them bake evenly.

Cookie Mix-in Options:

Cherry Toffee Chocolate Chip
1 cup dried cherries
6 oz chocolate chips
1 cup toffee pieces

Toffee Pecan –
1 cup toffee pieces
1 cup chopped TOASTED pecans – Don’t be lazy. Toast your nuts first on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven. Check them often. They will burn quickly. (You can substitute any nut… walnuts, almonds, etc.)

Coconut Almond
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup toasted sweetened coconut

1 cup milk chocolate pieces
1 cup chopped toasted peanuts
1 cup toffee pieces

Traditional Oatmeal
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Other mix-in options: citrus zest, candy pieces (such as MnM’s, chopped up candy bars, bashed up candy canes), chopped dried fruit, crystallized ginger, caramels (add a little sprinkle of sea salt just before baking).

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