Another round of round foods: bagels, cupcakes, buttermilk biscuits, hamburgers, pancakes, and muffins. More to come, I'm sure.
Sad news, guys. Estelle Getty--Sophia from The Golden Girls--passed away this morning.
Jon and I loved this show. We watched it so often that we'd use the shorthand "Double G's" instead of the full title. They don't make shows like the Double G's anymore...
I know you're probably thinking I'm crazy. Putting chili in a cookie is just strange, goofy, and...well...just plain wrong! You might have a point. Putting chili in an oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookie is just plain wrong. But putting it in a chocolate-based cookie is just plain genius. Chocolate and chili is a perfect pairing.
My Hot(ter) Chocolate cookie is rich and chocolaty and has two layers of heat. The first layer comes from lots of cinnamon, which imparts both flavor and a pleasant warmth. The second layer comes from a dash of cayenne pepper, which adds a really nice kick of heat.
For my El Paso-themed cookie, I think I'm going to recycle my Hot(ter) Chocolate recipe and replace the cayenne pepper with chipotle. Stay tuned!
Black & white cookies are among Jon's favorite store-bought snacks. I think orange Hostess cupcakes are a close second. (And while we're on the topic...why oh why does New Jersey tax baked goods and not other sweets?)
But I have to disagree with Jon...and with Jerry Seinfeld. I really don't like these so-called cookies. They're really just flat cupcakes masquerading as cookies. Ugh...the nerve!
Maybe I'll have to come up with a real black & white cookie--one that's more Quaker Oats Man than Betty Crocker.
Yesterday’s New York Times article on chocolate chip cookies touched on some tricks of the cookie trade, including refrigerating the dough, serving the cookies hot, and sprinkling them with sea salt. The article also addressed chocolate.
Personally, I think the thing that makes chocolate chip cookies so special is that they are so simple. Ironic considering my cookie creations, I know, but when you start messing with la-di-dah imported chocolate or using close to a 1-1 chocolate-to-dough ratio, you're not really dealing with chocolate chip cookies anymore. Instead, you're dealing with expensive delivery systems for fancy chocolate.
Comparing a Toll House or any other homemade cookie to a gourmet one sold at an expensive Manhattan bakery is kind of like comparing a home-grilled hamburger with one of those super-gourmet, super-expensive “bistro” burgers that are made of grass-fed Wagyu beef and stuffed with fois gras and black truffles.
Sure, it’s a “burger” insomuch as it’s round, made out of meat, and served on a bun, but could it ever truly rival a simply seasoned chuck burger topped with ketchup and a pickle or two?
What's true with burgers is true for cookies, and that’s why my Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies use only Toll House semisweet chocolate chips and Hershey's milk chocolate: simple ingredients + simple cookie = perfection.
Yikes…that was a double compare and contrast with a metaphorical twist. Talk about rhetorical acrobatics! But did I stick the dismount?
Yesterday, the New York Times ran this article about how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Here's the gist:
What the article doesn't mention, though, is that oatmeal is the real key to the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Yes, as the Oatmeal Cookie Guy, I have a pretty obvious pro-oatmeal bias. But I truly believe that regular chocolate chip cookies, with their glutenous, tongue-coating texture, just aren't as good as oatmeal-based cookies. Try my Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, which have a 3-1 oatmeal-to-flour ratio, and see for yourself. And while your at it, try gilding the lily by making ice cream sandwiches out of them.
I'll have to try chilling the dough for a while before baking, but I doubt I could go that long without eating it all by myself.
When it comes to eating the cookies warm, I'm in the minority and prefer my cookies cooled. Call me crazy, but I think warm cookies taste way too sweet. (Kind of like how warm soda tastes sweeter than cold soda.) What do you think? Cast your vote in my Hot or Not? poll.
I have to agree about the sea salt. Try my Chocolate & Salted Caramel cookies to taste how salty and sweet go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
This is the third post in a series on cookie recipes and presidential hopefuls’ spouses (see here and here). Based on the reporting of the Telegraph (UK), recent history has shown that oatmeal is a winner (emphasis mine):
“Even her [Michelle Obama’s] cookie recipe submitted for public appraisal--and on which the suitability of US presidential partners seems to rest--reveals a woman of some humour and daring. In her day, Hillary favoured chocolate chip oatmeal cookies; Laura Bush played safe with an oatmeal chocolate chunk variation, while Cindy went for oatmeal-butterscotch (although she's been accused of copying the recipe from elsewhere). Mrs Obama, meanwhile, prefers shortbread cookies with orange and lemon zest--and a cheeky dash of Amaretto.”
Couple with this my research (see here and here), and it’s clear that the perfect cookie for a presidential candidate’s spouse should include oatmeal; have a chocolate, peanut butter, or chocolate-peanut butter base; and be chewy. In short, something like my Peanut Butter Cup cookie, which is a chewy oatmeal-chocolate cookie stuffed with peanut butter, or my Inside-Out Peanut Butter Cup cookie, which is a chewy oatmeal-PB cookie stuffed with chocolate.
Cindy, Michelle: You heard it from the Oatmeal Cookie Guy himself. Go with oatmeal, chocolate, and peanut butter. And make ‘em chewy!
I should totally be a commentator on Hardball.
I sent some of this week's cookies via interoffice mail to my old officemates in the building around the corner. I'm pleased to report the cookies made it intact, and everyone loved them. Huzzah!
And today at an interdepartmental lunch, Christina--a real-life cookie taster and former officemate--suggested that I should start a movement to have people across America (dare I say the world?) make my cookies and bring them in to their respective workplaces. Just picture it: dozen upon dozen upon dozen of bring-in-ables!
Now wouldn't that make work a whole lot nicer?
I was brainstorming ideas for this week’s cookie recipe when it hit me: turn one of my stuffed cookies inside out. And so this Sunday I’ll post the recipe for peanut butter cookies stuffed with chocolate. Y-U-M.
Or is a savory cookie really just a biscuit? Would a cookie--an herby one--by any other name taste sweet? Talk about questions for the ages.
I've had savory cookies on the brain for a while, and the flavors have always been the same: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Yes. You guessed it..."The Scarborough Fair" cookie.
I'd replace half of the butter with olive oil and all of the sugar with ground Parmesan. I'd cream together the butter, olive oil, and cheese. Then I'd add a beaten egg--no need for vanilla this time!--and mix. The herbs would be dried, and I'd go light on the rosemary because...well...I'm not a huge rosemary fan.
Here's a clip of Simon and Garfunkel (and some other dude) singing the song that inspired this cookie.
I forgot my mother's birthday this year. I didn't call, send a card, or even send an email. I know...I'm a bad son. But in my defense, Mumma was away on vacation the week of her birthday. (Ok already...she had her cell phone. I have no defense.) I made up for my slip with belated flowers and a tin of my Lime in the Coconut cookies, which Mumma absolutely loved (and hoarded like a cookie miser).
For Mother's Day, I emailed myself to remind myself to get a card and mail it so that it gets to mumma on time. (Since when are stamps $0.41 apiece, anyway!?) So if you've forgotten about Mother's Day, procrastinated too long, or just can't find the right gift, I've got the solution: Make your mother's day by making Mother's Day cookies. I suggest my Fake-Out-Eos, which are my take on everyone's favorite store-bought cookie: the Oreo. Stay tuned...recipe TK tonight!
With the help of FedEx, you can have a fresh batch of homemade cookies on your mother's doorstep just in time for her special day. The flipside, of course, is that because of FedEx you don't have an excuse not to send a batch of cookies to your mother--even if she is on vacation.
This is a picture of a cookbook called Home and Away from Home that belonged to my grandmother. The book dates to 1970 and was a self-published fundraising item for a ladies’ group from Marshfield, Massachusetts.
As I page through, I get a kick from the old ads for long-gone businesses and the off-the-wall recipes for things like “Seven-Can Casserole.” But I also see handwritten flags to mark things that caught my grandmother’s eye--like this recipe for blueberry cobber that Mrs. Charles Broadbent submitted to the cookbook--and the words my grandmother underlined--like Thanksgiving in a recipe for cranberry-cornbread stuffing. (Just had a flash of that scene in Heathers when Christian Slater underlines the word Eskimo in Moby Dick.)
And those flags with the scripty old-lady handwriting in pencil! (Nobody writes that way anymore.) She certainly predated Post-Its, but I doubt she’d ever use them even if they were available to her. These flags are cut-up pieces of old grocery lists. She used to wash, air-dry, and reuse aluminum foil and Ziploc bags--why not reuse paper?
You see, she had what others called a “Depression-era mentality.” To which she would say, “You kids wouldn’t be able to live through the Depression. You wouldn’t know what to do with a goat!” Yes…a goat, whose milk my grandmother administered to her children as a cure-all for every possible ailment. This, I’ve been told, was the advice she got from a “doctor.”
To this day my mother scrunches up her face and shudders as if she just downed a shot of the nastiest, booziest booze in the world at the mention of—shock, horror—goat cheese. The memory of having cow’s milk swapped with goat’s milk is still too close to the surface, I guess. (Funnily enough, my mother tried the same stunt when my brother and I were kids by replacing chicken cutlets with pork cutlets. Yeah…like we couldn’t figure that one out.)
That’s shorthand for “kosher-for-Passover oatmeal-based cookie.” I’m attending my first Passover Seder this Saturday, and I thought it would be nice to bring a cookie appropriate for the holiday. I thought that what would make this cookie different from all other cookies would be the absence of leavening agents. But I recently learned that oats aren’t K-F-P. Anyone know of a K-F-P equivalent of oats?
UPDATE: Thanks for all the feedback everybody! I've learned that the oats can be K-F-P depending on how the oats are processed (heat-treated oats OK; steam-treated oats not OK) and one's particular tradition (OK for Sephardim; not OK for Ashkenazi). I hope to have K-F-P cookie recipes in time for next Passover.
The crummy weather here in NYC and this article about proposed changes to the It's a Small World ride at Disneyworld got me all broody.
I started thinking of my first trip to Disneyworld. I was in the first grade, and my parents kept the whole thing a secret. They woke me up at some god-awful hour, told me we were "going to see the mouse," and the next thing I knew I had locked myself inside the plane's bathroom and couldn't get out. (I was like six...give a kid a break!)
During that trip I must have cycled through the line for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride fifty times. The teacups? Pshaw! Space Mountain? Please! The Haunted Mansion? Whatever! I was there for the toad, and I rode that ride until it broke--literally. Something got stuck. The lights went on. We had to walk out. And...then the magic died.
What's this have to do with cookies? Absolutely nuttin'!
I apologize for the reduced number of postings lately. I got caught up in The Wire and have done little other than park myself on the couch. I’ve watched fifty-four episodes (yes, that’s fifty-four hours’ worth of TV) in eight days (!!), but I did manage to come up with this week’s Rocky Road cookies…and boy were they bring-in-able.
There are only six episodes left in the fifth season, so the number of new posts will return to pre-Wire levels then. I promise!
In the meantime, though, get a chuckle from this.
Apparently, presidential candidates' spouses' cookie recipes are pretty good indicators of who’ll get to pick the china pattern in the White House.
See…cookies are important. They’re vitally important to the future of our country! Or maybe just good to dunk in milk…
I couldn’t help it. I have to go all Barbara Walters on you…
Even though I’m developing as many unique and--most important--tasty oatmeal cookie recipes as I possibly can, when comes right down to it, I’m just a simple oatmeal cookie guy (OCG) who likes to try on some new flavors for size.
At bottom, I’m probably a chocolate chip cookie. But sometimes I can be a Golden Girl or a XXX Cranberry. (I am from Carver, the onetime cranberry capital of the world, after all!)
What kind of cookie would you be?
I’m talking cookin’, not lookin’. (I’ve got to admit, though, that my newish oven’s got some real retro, what-modern-was appeal.)
But seriously. Some ovens run hot and fast; some ovens run cool and slow. You won’t know what kind of oven you have until you use it. Get to know your oven. Love your oven. (This means you, ma!)
Cooking times can vary from oven to oven, so it’s important to know whether you’ve got a fast one or a slow one. For example, the oven in my first apartment was so slow that I think it actually might have been a refrigerator, my current oven is medium (neither fast nor slow…just right), and my mother’s oven bakes faster than the speed of sound.
So a batch of cookies took about 25 minutes in my first oven, 10-12 minutes in my current oven, and (seemingly) 5 minutes in my mother’s oven. Be sure to adjust the baking time in recipes to reflect your particular breed of oven. You’ll have better cookies, pies, and turkeys--as well as a better relationship with your appliance.
It dawned on me this morning that a "sleeve" of graham crackers is a rather variable term. After all, the brand I use may include more crackers in a sleeve than another brand does. To clarify this measure, I'm going to grind up a sleeve of my graham crackers and update my recipes with more specific volumes.
Update: A sleeve of my brand of graham crackers equals 1 cup of finely ground crumbs. I've updated the recipes accordingly.
Golden Girls fans will remember that the secret ingredient in Sophia's tomato sauce was a mouthful of wine. For my grandmother (Mary), it was a teaspoon of grape jelly...and a jar of Prego. She let the secret slip when she was giving me an impromptu cooking lesson, afraid that I'd go hungry in big, bad New York if I didn't know my way around a stove.
Imagine it: a little old Italian lady who would spend forever on her "good sauce"--the one we had with Christmas ravioli--revealing that her everyday sauce was (gasp!) jarred.
What's my point, and how does this relate to cookies? Simple: Great taste and texture can come from everyday, "nontraditional" ingredients. My secret ingredient, for example, is ground-up graham crackers. They add a little sumpin'-sumpin' that will make you go hmmm. I've also used ground-up Cocoa Pebbles cereal, Nilla wafer cookies, and vanilla-creme wafer cookies. Simply replace some of the dry ingredients--flour, or in my case, oatmeal--with the ground-up add-ins. You can also try adding some flavored liquid ingredients. In my Juliana Skiffle cookie (ginger and lime...I'll explain the name in a later post), I replace some of the wet ingredients with a dash of spicy ginger beer.
So take a page out of my book. Try some dry or wet flavor add-ins the next time you make cookies. But whatever you do, don't mix up raisins with something else, as Mrs. Doyle from Father Ted does.
A lot of people make a big deal about what kind of butter to use when baking. I’m sure Alton Brown has at one point or another devoted a whole episode of Good Eats to the subject, and I’m equally sure that he falls into the unsalted-butter-only camp. But does it really matter what kind of butter you use in your cookies?
About half the cookies I’ve baked in my lifetime were made with salted butter; the other half were made with unsalted butter. Big whoop. The only difference in taste was that everyone liked the salted-butter cookies better than the unsalted-butter cookies. Yes, you read that correctly.
I think of it this way: I’d rather have a piece of crusty bread slathered with salted butter than with unsalted butter. Why? Because the salted butter tastes better than the unsalted butter…that’s why. I think the same is true in cookies. Better tasting butter makes better tasting cookies.
So what’s the take-away from this post? Butter of any kind—salted, unsalted, hand-churned by elves beneath the light of a full moon—is better than using olive oil in a sweet treat. Three words to prove my point: olive oil brownies. (Don’t ask.)
But seriously: Don’t stress about the butter thing. If you’ve got unsalted, use unsalted. If you you’ve got salted, use salted. Just taste what you’ve got before you use it. If your salted butter is really salty, use a smidge less salt in your dry ingredients. If you use unsalted butter in one of my recipes, add 1/4 teaspoon extra salt to your dry ingredients. Simple as that.
I’ll be using maple extract in my Johnnycake cookie, but it strikes me that I should probably explain that decision. After all, why wouldn’t I use real maple syrup in the recipe?
Well…it’s a matter of texture and depth of flavor. In order to impart a deep, rich maple flavor, you’d have to use about 1/2 to 3/4 cups of maple syrup, in addition to the other wet ingredients, which would make a very wet dough. This is fine if you’re aiming for a moist and spongy texture—more along the lines of a muffin top than a cookie.
If that’s not what you’re aiming for, you’d have to add more dry ingredients—flour or oatmeal—to soak up that extra wetness, which would make the cookies really heavy and dense. Ick.
This is where extracts save the day. Half a teaspoon of an extract can pack as much flavor as 1/2 cup of the “original” and won’t add a bunch of liquid to your dough.
I’m going to use the maple extract in the Johnnycake dough and then “baste” each dough ball with real maple syrup before I put them in the oven. With citrus-based cookies, my trick is to give a triple-shot of flavor: 1) extract, 2) zest, and 3) juice. I’ve found that mixing extracts and the their “sources” gets you the best flavor, aroma, and texture.
It started off half-jokingly. I had been playing around with my grandmother’s oatmeal cookie recipe—taking away the raisins, adding chopped dates and dried cranberries, replacing the white sugar with dark brown sugar, grinding the oats—when Jon said we should start writing down all my variations. “Ok,” I thought, “why not?” And so our project, codenamed Operation Quaker, began.
Soon after, it became our Sunday ritual to walk around the reservoir in Central Park or across the Brooklyn Bridge and back bouncing cookie ideas off each other. When we’d get home, I’d do the mixing and baking; he’d act as scribe and run down to the grocery store to pick up whatever we needed. His penmanship still needs some work, but he can now find the spice and extract sections in any supermarket in seconds, probably even if he was blindfolded..
But who was going to eat all those test cookies? Thankfully, I work with a wonderful bunch of cookie fans who are my willing taste testers. When I bring in a bag of four-dozen cookies, and it’s wiped out before the end of the day, I know I’ve got a winning recipe on my hands. Case in point: the “Fake-Out-Eo,” a chocolate-oatmeal cookie stuffed with a cream cheese-and-vanilla-wafer-cookie filling. The secret ingredient was a certain chocolaty breakfast cereal. (Wilma!)
So every Sunday night I bake a batch of never-before-seen cookies, and every Monday morning I ask, “Are they bring-in-able?” And Jon reassures me that they are. He deadpans that my recipe notebook would be the one thing he’d rescue from our apartment if our building ever went up in flames. He better!