Posts tagged cookies

The great pumpkin

Don’t ask me what I was doing with a can of pumpkin when I’ve only just admitted to having almost more squash in my possession than Florida has early voters.


The can’s been in the pantry for roughly a year, skirting the back edges of the canned foods corner, an extra from some months-ago kitchen endeavor. (I think it was a risotto, one I’d planned to make twice, but, well, you know how that goes.) I’ve noticed the pumpkin now and again, while rooting around hopefully for a can of tuna or wondering when I used up the last of my San Marzano stash. All the while the can’s been hanging on standby, patiently getting pushed from one side to the other. I’d see it on the periphery and wonder when I’d feel like using it, when the temperature would dip low enough that pumpkin would be reasonable.

Well, the temperature (still 90s, sigh…) is hardly declaring pumpkin time, but the calendar says it’s perfectly acceptable – no, desirable, even – to use a little pumpkin. And not only to use it, but to let it be the main event, the raison d’être, of a baked good.


Pumpkin + turning on the oven = Fall. Fall = Happy. At least in my corner of the kitchen.

Allow me to get a little Cook’s Illustrated on you for a sec, as I explain the process behind these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Most recipes I found use oil, but I didn’t want the texture to be too cakey. And I like — no, adore — what butter does to a cookie. I cobbled together a few recipes found at Cooks.com and AllRecipes.com (this one in particular), popped them in the oven, with a good result. But the texture was missing something.

Taking a hint from David Leite’s now famous delayed-gratification Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, I put the rest of the dough in the fridge for a few days. I think it was Shirley Corriher who said that allows the egg to spread out and coat the other ingredients, thus lending a different texture. And letting the dough ‘age’ gives it a more complex flavor, to boot. I thought the cookies that resulted from the refrigerated dough were better, both in texture and flavor.


Enjoy, and happy Halloween.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Play with this one a bit: I used butterscotch chips in half the batch. They’re also good topped a few flakes of sea salt just before baking.

2 ¼ C white whole wheat flour (or use all-purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 C butter, softened
¾ C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 15-oz. pure pumpkin
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 C chopped walnuts (optional)
1 12-oz bag bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (if not refrigerating dough) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating just until incorporated. Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla extract. Gradually stir or beat in the flour on a low setting until dough is smooth. Stir in walnuts, if using, and chocolate chips.

Place dough in fridge overnight or for up to 48 hours, or proceed with baking instructions. When you’re ready to bake, drop dough by 1 ½ tablespoons (or using a small cookie scoop) onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake until edges are golden but cookies are still soft on top, between 9 and 12 minutes (11 was just right in my oven).

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Don’t laugh

[Recipe: Snickerdoodles]

It’s the weekend, and around here we like to celebrate with cookies. Far be it from me to go too long without baking a sweet something. Those lime bars remain on the horizon, I promise. But first I need to share this old favorite with you, because I know you’ve been working far too hard.

So where does the name snickerdoodle originate, anyway? It’s one of those nit-picky things that has always made my eyes roll. Love the cookie, I do. Hate the name.

Who needs a cutesy, gimmicky name for a pastry that’s appealing not for what it’s called, but that’s delicious for its minimalism, its clean and pronounced flavors. Easy as it is to churn out, it really is kind of an elegant cookie that way. Yet someone had to go and give it a name that makes it sound like it came from the state fair.

Of course, I had to Wiki it. I doubt there’s any other space so compact — the space of a few paragraphs — that packs in so many theories, so much lore. But it’s interesting stuff, for a cookie.

Can it be attributed to German baker Paul Gramm, whose assistant sent townspeople into fitful laughter with his tricks, hence the Snicker, and who was nicknamed Doodle? A little unimaginative, don’t you think? I mean, I could have come up with that.

But if it’s true, then the snickerdoodle’s subsequent introduction to the United States was — raise your eyebrows, now — a little scandalous. Get this: the recipe was allegedly stolen from Gramm by one Brian Ullman, a Pennsylvania baker who introduced the confection stateside and dubbed it a powdered Christian cookie. His business partner exposed the theft, they had a falling out, and then they went at it, avenging each other in what was called the Cookie Wars. Dangerous times, to be sure.

Personally — and I do take these things personally — I prefer the next version. I’m a linguistics girl, so I like the Joy of Cooking‘s take: Snickerdoodle is a corruption of the German word for cinnamon-topped sweet rolls, schneckennudeln.  Another author says simply that the name originated in New England, and blames the chefs of the early 1900s for their generally kooky recipe names.

But enough faulty speculation. What follows is the best recipe for a soft, moist snickerdoodle I’ve found, no speculating about it.

Snickerdoodles

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 C sugar

1/4 C butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg

3 tbsp sugar

3 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1 cup of sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Cover and chill for 10 minutes, or overnight.

Combine the remaining 3 tbsp sugar with cinnamon. Shape dough into balls the size of a cookie scoop (about 2 tbsp worth — this will yield about 2 dozen balls) and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place balls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or covered with Silpat or parchment paper. Flatten balls slightly with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Cookies will be soft and may appear undone, but they will set up as they cool, remaining soft. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

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Hiding in

A funny thing happened on the way to my in-laws. I’d actually just come from their house, which is minutes away from ours, and I’d popped back home to grab something we’d forgotten, when I remembered I had a batch of cookies to make.

Brian’s brother and his family were in town, and so we were doing the requisite family togetherness pizza night thing, and the mood was – as they like to say in poor novels – rich with tension, so I didn’t at all mind having to ditch the party momentarily.

When I arrived home and saw “Pure Dessert” propped open on my stovetop, and magic flour dust from that morning still settled on the counters, I glanced sideways at the clock and wondered if I could put my dough together in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes to read and carry out a recipe I hadn’t made before. Fifteen minutes to whisk together the buckwheat and all-purpose flours, to just-to-smoothness cream the butter and sugar and vanilla, to briefly knead and mound the dough and shape it into a log, wrap the accomplishment and stick it – almost toss it – in the fridge, where it had to rest overnight to prepare for slicing.

So was this an avoidance tactic or what, my temporary deferment of the inevitable, this backdoor expression of mental anxiety? I know baking provides good and proper therapy, but it seems a little much to dodge encounters with well-meaning family by holing oneself up with one’s kitchen friends. There’s got to be a psychological term for that one.


Just that morning I’d taken full advantage of the glut of ready lemons rolling around in the bin to make Alice Medrich’s suck-your-cheeks-in lemon bars for a social thing. Only the yield was too small, and my lack of eggs prompted me to set my heart on making her Nibby Buckwheat Cookies instead, a recipe I’ve had in reserve for a while (and which has been blogged to death about already, but trust me, it’s deserving).

Brian called right as I was finishing up and I fumbled tellingly with the phone buttons, snippets of dough on yet unwashed fingers. Maybe I do need a diagnosis, but somehow making that dough, even if I had to hop madly around the kitchen to do it, bolstered me for an evening of the three brothers and their parents rehashing stale childhood caper stories/bachelor party hijinks/news of long-ago neighbors. It wasn’t the delivery pizza or family fun that brought a sly smile to my face that night; it was knowing I had a confidential batch of cookie dough, waiting for baking.

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