Cookie Mania

April 4th, 2006

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It’s been unexpectedly and tenaciously rainy in the Bay Area, enough that by last weekend everyone seemed to have a combined case of rainy-day blues and cabin fever.  Spring’s supposed to have started – yet all that shows up in the forecasts is more grey skies.

A day at home with the rain drizzling by outside in silvery sheets – there could be no better impetus for a serious session of baking.  I’d been sadly too busy to bake much lately, and I fairly itched to pull out the baking sheets and mixing bowls again.  I made a new batch of tart dough (as my stash was all used up) for the glimmerings of projects I had planned for this week, but I really wanted to bake something right now – something quick, uncomplicated, and satisfying.

What else but cookies, whipped up in the KitchenAid, ready in an hour, to be eaten, still warm and crumbly, with a glass of milk by the window?  How perfectly cozy and tucked-in to have the home redolent of spices and butter for the weary worker coming in from the damp, chilly outside?

Accordingly, I chose the homiest, most classic of cookies for a rainy-day baking session: Snickerdoodles, fluffy and buttery-sweet, scented with sugar and cinnamon; molasses spice cookies, chewy and gingery-spicy; and for pure decadence, chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.

All the recipes came from Great Cookies by Carole Walters, a wonderful compendium of cookie recipes from around the world.  Baking notes: while cookies may seem simple compared to the multi-part creations in p√Ętisseries and restaurants, maintaining the same care in preparing the recipe and knowing how you like your cookies will affect the results.  I like my cookies soft and chewy, with a crispy exterior – the epitome,of course, being right-out-of-the-oven-warm, the top crust crunching delicately beneath the bite,the interior still deliciously moist. I’ve learned that taking most cookies out of the oven while they still look underdone and letting them finish on the rack will help preserve this ideal condition as long as possible: even after they have cooled down they will retain their toothsome chewiness and become nicely soft in the microwave.  Cookies that come out of the oven already hard will, sadly, only become more rock-like.  One time I did succesfully soften a batch of chocolate chip cookies that came out inexplicably hard by putting them in a plastic bag with a slice of soft bread; the cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and become softer.  This is a common household trick for softening up baked goods that are becoming hard and stale.  However, I found it easier just to keep a closer eye on the baking cookies and pull them out before they overbake.

I’ve made many versions of these cookies; all of the recipes below call for chilling the dough for at least an hour before forming and baking.  Since the recipes seem to produce fairly soft and liquidy batters, this is an essential step, and I find chilling the dough makes it easier to handle when forming the cookies, and helps keep them uniform in shape and size.  I usually use my own judgment when determining when to pull out the dough, not to mention how impatient I am for cookies! 

Also, in such a marathon baking spree (I think I ended up with about 120 cookies, or 10 sheets’ worth), you always end up bemoaning your lack of baking sheets, cooling racks, and counter space. I ended up using all six baking sheets in the house, but if you ever find yourself short a sheet and eyeing the just-pulled one from the oven, take the baked cookies off first and run the sheet under cold water to cool it down.  Otherwise the still-hot sheet will likely cook and melt the dough balls you put on and damage the results.

all recipes adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walters

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Snickerdoodles

makes about 40 cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the butter and vegetable shortening in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until combined and soft.  Add the sugar and mix for a couple more minutes.  Add the eggs one a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix on low just until combined. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour or until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with combination of 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until thoroughly coated and place on the baking sheet. Place the balls about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until they have flattened out and browned slightly, and the tops have cracked. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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Molasses Spice Cookies

makes about 40 cookies

3/4 cup butter

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 large egg

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; let cool. (The batter will be mixed in this saucepan).

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves together in a bowl. Set aside.

Stir the sugar, molasses, and egg into the butter with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix until combined. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or until dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with sugar for covering the dough balls.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Roll the ball in the sugar until thoroughly coated and place on the baking sheet. Place the balls about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 9 minutes or until they have flattened out and browned slightly, and the tops have cracked. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

makes about 40 cookies

8 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut), chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (about 4 oz) dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons hot water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks

Melt the 8 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over boiling water. Keep warm.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy and soft.  Add the sugar, then the brown sugar, and mix for a couple more minutes.  Add the eggs one a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the melted chocolate, then the hot water, and then the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix on low just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour or until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Place the balls on the baking sheet about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 10 minutes (they will look slightly underdone). Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • J #1

    hiya, how lovely! i must agree; cookies without a glass of ice cold milk are cookies not worth having ;) have carole walter’s cookie book as well – her recipes totally rock (have yet to bake anything from it that didn’t turn out nicely)

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande #2

    Wow, you went on a cooking cookie frenzy! Superb! You have WAY too many only for yourself! ;-)

  • Cate O'Malley #3

    I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect Snickerdoodle recipe … this one’s next!

  • sam #4

    Cookies are the perfect little snack, especially on rainy days when you don’t wanna go out. Your cookies look fantastic.

  • gattina #5

    Anita,
    tell ya, I want your Molasses Spice Cookies NOW! I normally like cookies hard and crunchy but except this one. Great tips on making/keeping soft-chew cookies!

  • Anita #6

    J,
    Thanks! There are so many recipes in Carole Walters’ book I want to try – it’s always difficult to pick the next one!

    Bea,
    I gave many of those cookies away -another benefit to baking, n’est-ce pas?

    Cate,
    Thank you! I hope you like it – I was very happy with the results!

    Sam,
    Thanks for visiting! There’s nothing more comforting than baking on a rainy day for me!

    Gattina,
    I never made molasses spice cookies before until I found out my boyfriend liked gingersnaps – but further questioning determined that he was actually after these little guys! They are very yummy!

  • Katy at pomelo pleasures #7

    How how funny that we both wrote about the same cookies! Those molasses ones look fabulous! I am feeling seriously molasses deprived over here (still havent been able to find any). Anyway, great minds think alike :)

  • Ivonne #8

    Hi!

    You know I have been contemplating for awhile whether to buy this book. I already have a favourite cookie book called “The Good Cookie” by Trish Boyle, but one can never have too many cookbooks.

    Great article! And amazing cookies!

  • 100g de sucre... #9

    hummmmmmmm !!!! i want those cookies!!! they looks so delicious!!!

  • lory #10

    mmmiam, magnifique cookies!!

  • Ginger #11

    Hello, I just wanted to thank you for these fantastic recipes. I made all three of them yesterday and they are absolutely delicious! My very favorite is the chocolate one, I made the mistake of melting 12 oz instead of 8 oz and swapped the chunks from 12 to 8 but they turned out fantastic (a relief, as I was worried!) I wasn’t sure that I was going to like the spice cookies, but oh my goodness! They are simply wonderful! I love your blog and plan on being a regular! I especially enjoy your recipe page.. It is put together brilliantly! The effort you put into your website shines through and I am so happy to have found it! Thanks again!
    Cheers!
    Ginger

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