LOS ANGELES — How do you like your cookies? Plain, fancy, crisp, crunchy, soft, chewy, with nuts? There are loads of choices, but for the lunch box/bag brigade, young and old, the sturdier, not-so-fragile ones fare best in withstanding a trip to school or the office.
“Cookies should be simple for everybody to make — and should taste great,” says Tina Casaceli, author of Milk & Cookies: 89 Heirloom Recipes from New York’s Milk & Cookies Bakery. The pastry chef/owner of the four-year old bakery in Greenwich Village says, “the key to delicious cookies is to use good ingredients.
“In the bakery, we use only high fat European-style unsalted butter because it contains less water and more fat than regular butters and results in a better quality cookie.” She also suggests weighing ingredients [more precise] instead of using cup measures [both are included in her recipes] for more consistent product results. Also, don’t forget to add a little sea salt to the dough.
Only mix lightly (stop the mixer while the dough is still streaky and the ingredients are not fully blended) and then finish mixing by hand. The dough gets tough if overmixed.”
Five basic dough recipes — vanilla, double chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter, and sugar — are included in the book along with numerous variations using each such as Mocha Latte Cookies, Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies, or Lemon Drop Cookies.
“It’s just a lot easier to work with a couple of doughs that work well,” Ms. Casaceli says. Play with the various doughs, changing and jazzing them up with different add-ins such as nuts, flavored chips (chocolate, mint, butterscotch, white chocolate), dried fruits, sprinkles, and such. Have fun and create your own personalized variations.
For ease and convenience, make a batch of one of the plain doughs, divide into smaller portions and freeze (up to a month if well wrapped). Before baking, defrost the dough (in the microwave for less than a minute to soften, but not cook, or in the refrigerator overnight) and knead in desired additions.
Ms. Casaceli recommends using heavy stainless steel cookie sheets lined with parchment paper for best cookie results. Watch cookies carefully during baking (you might have to turn cookie sheets) to avoid burning the bottoms.
“There’s a cookie out there for everybody,” says Stacy Adimando, author of The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics. “You can endlessly mix, match, and stuff your cookies to suit whatever it is you like, and almost every single one you dream up can be achieved by the average person in under an hour.”
Ms. Adimando’s mission was to “tweak old-school (and classic) recipes into something easy and new and now my own,” by adding different mix-ins and flavors, substituting ingredients and changing the texture. She encourages home bakers to do the same.
“Make cookie dough when you have 10 spare minutes and store it in the fridge or in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap” until ready to bake it off. Keep in mind that most baked cookies freeze well — so you can keep a stash frozen to pull out at the last-minute for lunches or snacks.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking OR old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (use best quality chocolate and don’t scrimp on chips)
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place butter and sugars in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until smooth and creamy. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, one at a time, beating well between additions.
Place flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl; mix well and add to butter mixture. Beat until everything is well incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl, add chocolate chips and mix in. Form dough into heaping teaspoon-size balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Using your palm, gently press down.
Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven 12-15 minutes until cookies begin to brown at the edges. Cool on cookie sheet. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies.
Source: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook, by Gretchen Holt-Witt with Sally Sampson.
1 3/4cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla OR almond extract.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
Beat together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, working them in one at a time until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and butter, mixing well until dough begins to form. It will not come together completely. Add almonds and stir to evenly distribute.
Turn out dough onto a cookie sheet with lightly floured hands. Divide in half and shape into 2 logs, each about 1 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches wide.
Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven 20 minutes (this is the first of 2 times you’ll be baking them), rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let logs rest on sheet 20 minutes. They’ll still be slightly spongy to the touch, kind of like dense bread. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and return logs to oven.
After 20 minutes, transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut into 1/2-inch slices using a serrated knife. Finally, move slices (cut side up for any ends) back to one sheet and bake 40 minutes more. The biscotti will still be slightly soft while warm but will harden fully once they’ve cooled.
Yield: 3 dozen cookies.
Source: The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, by Stacy Adimando.