Posts Tagged ‘cookies’


Practice makes perfect, and I still have much practice to do before my sugar cookies with royal icing is just so. Here’s another incarnation, for Easter!

I chilled the dough overnight, baked them before work – that’s right, 6am slave to the oven! – and decorated them after work until midnight.

I was going to be really clever and write Easter and other things on all the cookies…then I got tired and just managed to do two cookies each for the kids and one for the rest of my family. I didn’t even do a Rachel cookie! I learned that everyone likes to have their name on a cookie. Actually, I brought some to work and got in trouble with a coworker because I made two cookies with a friend’s name on them and forgot to separate them before I went around to distribute. The coworker managed to select both prenamed cookies! She gave them back, but it was preventable and awkward.



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these turned out a little crunchy, since I haven’t made them in a while…which means I should consider this to be a practice run for the “real thing.” soon.

I ate my first snickerdoodle in Beijing, China. I was getting a ride to a school function from someone, and they gave me one as a snack. It was soft and buttery, cinnamony, and heavenly. And, perhaps because I was only 11 at the time, I was refused the recipe.

Fast forward a couple decades, and I discovered joyofbaking and their recipe for snickerdoodles. And it is one of my favourite recipes to make. Short list of ingredients, simple procedure, delicious, homey cookies, and the recipe yields a lot. It’s all a win-win. Plus, our apartment was freezing, and I decided to see if a fire in the fire place, space heater, and hot oven could raise the ambient temperature inside the apartment. And yes, the electric heaters on the wall were cranked up to the max. of 35C.


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gingerbread cookies 20130101 8

My brother had given me a fantastic gingerbread cookie around Christmas and so I decided that it was high time that I made gingerbread cookies myself. Unfortunately, the project still needs work.


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I know, I’ve been completely neglecting this blog! I find that working full-time has put a bit of a damper on my culinary enterprises; fortunately, they do still emerge every once in a while. I’ve been home sick since yesterday with some kind of stomach virus, so now have a few moments to share some recent baking activities.

physics cookies

physics cookies

I was excited to once again make cookies for my husband’s classes, and as requested from last year, am including pictures. Actually, it was my idea to make cookies – I like making cookies, and I like practicing how to use a piping bag. I almost didn’t make them in time – from my experiences last year, I knew that a cookie flooded with royal icing requires at least two full days to dry in my apartment, and since I started making them on Sunday for a Monday class, I was too far behind to do that. But recalling how quickly royal icing dries on the decorating tip and mixing bowls, almost instantly turning into a smooth cement, I figured that this year I wouldn’t flood the cookies, I would just simply ice out the equations. And fortunately, these thin writings, using a #2 decorating tip, dried and hardened completely within a couple of hours instead of agonizing days.


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matcha shortbread cookies

I sat on the matcha powder bought during our trip to Kyoto in January last year and only just cracked it open today, over a year and a half later. And over a year past its expiration date. I think we all do this. We buy an expensive ingredient, and it’s so precious that we’re afraid to open it when we get home because we know that we can’t afford to replace it if something goes awry when following an unfamiliar recipe with an unfamiliar ingredient. Never having bought or used matcha powder before, I was scared that my recipe wouldn’t work and the precious powder would have been wasted. Kyoto is supposed to be famous for its matcha, and so I had made a point of buying as much as we could afford in the expensive cash-only city – which turned out to be a tiny, tiny little tin containing roughly 3 tablespoons worth of powder. It still looked and smelled great, and I had no intention of throwing it out.


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I had seen a Martha Stewart show, wherein Martha had recommended that you could make cookies out of leftover pie dough. I tried this a couple of times without success with a crust recipe I use for quiche (recipe from my father-in-law, not Martha Stewart), but the cookies really just tasted like…quiche crust. No amount of sugar and cinnamon could make them taste like cookies. Perhaps this was because the recipe was made using shortening and not butter.

cutting out cookies. I often use a small wire strainer to powder the surface with flour or sugar. I'm never satisfied when I fling it around using my fingers like they do on tv.

Then, when I started using pâte sucrée as a crust for tart tatin, I found that I again had leftover pie dough. I would lay rolled out dough over the hot dish of bubbling apples, and it would basically melt into the right shape. This left me with several handfuls of dough which couldn’t be rechilled because it was already partially melted. So I folded in more sugar, cut them out, and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar liberally over each. For extra measure, a pea-sized bit of butter was added to the top just before they were put into the oven. Because a little bit of butter never hurt anyone. To my great surprise, these cookies turned out edible and my husband actually named the “pie cookies” his favourite cookie, above even chocolate chip and ginger molasses cookies.

extra dot of butter on top makes a big difference. I only needed ~1 pat of butter for the small batch.

After much grumbling (“ugh, they’re not real cookies, I prefer snickerdoodles, blahblahblah”), I was eventually persuaded to make a whole batch of pie cookies, and not just from leftovers. I was still reluctant, though, and did not write down my additions to the pâte sucrée recipe, so the first couple of batches came out differently. Some had more butter, some were baked longer, etc.. I hadn’t made them for a while, and couldn’t remember what I’d done. Once I used iodized table salt instead of my usual kosher salt, which resulted in salty cookies (husband didn’t notice, but I couldn’t stomach them). The extra dot of butter, in addition to improving the overall flavour, helps to hold the sugar and cinnamon on the top of the cookie, but too much butter resulted in brown cookies that weren’t as flakey.

pie cookies. or "petite gâteaux seche au pâte sucrée â Martha Stewart." I think.

Pie Cookies

Based on Pâte Sucrée (sweet pastry dough) from the Martha Stewart Show

2 ½ c. flour

½ t. salt

6 T. sugar

1 t. cinnamon

2 egg yolks

1 c. + 2 T. butter, cold/frozen, cut into small cubes

~ ¼ c. water, ice cold (use more if needed)

In a large food processor, combine flour, salt, sugar. Pulse to mix.

Add butter. Pulse until it resembles cornmeal.

Add egg yolks, one by one, pulsing.

Add water until the mixture comes together when pressed together. Do not overwork dough.

Empty onto a large piece of seran wrap and divide into two lumps. Form each lump into a ball and then flatten into a disc. Wrap each well with seran wrap and chill for at least an hour and not longer than two days.

Roll out dough. Sprinkle with extra sugar and cinnamon and a small dab of butter on each.

Use cookie cutters, bake at 375°F ~11-20 min..

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saving dough for later. I use a lot of these plastic containers, though my husband hates to wash them.

This one is my current favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I prefer huge, soft chocolate chip cookies with large chocolate chunks. Why eat two or three little ones when you can have one giant one? Buttery, crisp Nestle Tollhouse cookies have their place, too, but I always look for a soft, chewy cookie recipe when I have a craving for chocolate. The great thing about this recipe is that I can use some of the dough right away and can save the rest for later. This makes it great for baking for two people, because we can always have freshly baked cookies around. Nothing like melted chocolate chunks oozing into your mouth as you bite into a tender, warm cookie that you’ve just made from scratch.

creaming together butter and sugars. This is about halfway done.

I’ve tried substituting the cake flour and bread flour with run of the mill all-purpose flour. The result was still good, but the cake flour and bread flour make the cookies extra light and tender. Unfortunately, I don’t use either flours for anything else, so they have to be stored carefully. Our windows don’t have screens and we keep them all open from spring to early fall. Last year, I opened a half-used bag of flour and discovered a wriggling worm still inside. My anthropologist friends, fresh off of field work in third world countries, advised me to sift out the worms and continue using it, but I’m pretty sure that I threw it all out. Fairly sure. After that, I invested in several more large flour containers, though I’m a little disappointed that you can’t pick them up by their lids. Doesn’t that meant that they’re not quite air-tight? Or perhaps the flour is too heavy. Oh well.

as of yet unused (though certainly not unloved!) standing mixernnmm

When I made cookies as a child, we always melted the butter in the microwave. I don’t know why we did this, and I don’t remember how those cookies compared to others’, since we only made them about once a year for Christmas or for extremely special occasions. Nowadays, I often leave a pound block of butter outside of the fridge, either in the microwave or the cold oven. The cats know how to pry open the wrappers to get to the good stuff, so it can’t be left unattended on the counter. I usually buy several pound blocks of butter when they’re on sale and freeze them in a large freezer bag. This way, they keep almost indefinitely and I don’t have to worry about them going bad or absorbing fridge odors (kimchi odors + butter = smelly butter). I sometimes forget to plan ahead, and when I’ve been desperate to make something, I’ve had to grate frozen butter on a box grater. It works, and the resulting curly bits of butter are pretty and fragrant, but it’s very disconcerting since a large block of butter so closely resembles a large block of cheddar.

60% cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I prefer using binder clips to rubber bands in the kitchen.

This is all by way of mentioning that the process of creaming together butter and sugar is actually quite important. Use room temperature butter so it’s soft – during winter, I sometimes soften it for a couple seconds (not to the point of melting, but softening just slightly) in the microwave. Our apartment is very cold in the winter – think stone sunroom surrounded by large heat-draining windows – and butter left out of the fridge does not soften. One of these days, I’ll try using my massively extravagant standing mixer, which was an incredibly generous wedding gift, but for now (that is, until I get more counter space and/or a dishwasher), I do this manually for about five minutes until I am really tired or until the mixture gets lighter and airy. Only this mixture doesn’t get lighter in colour because it includes brown sugar. The important thing is to mix it around vigorously in order to introduce a lot of air into the mixture, almost like whipping cream. It sounds stupid – airy butter? – but it does actually make a difference, and you’ll have lighter, more delightful baked goodies because of it.

semi-sweet chip (left) vs. 60% cocoa chip (right)

There’s a lot of flour in this recipe, and I always worry that it won’t get completely incorporated. But it does. My favorite chocolate chips for this recipe are Ghiradelli. I had read a product comparison several years ago, and these were the winner, but I can’t always remember whether I prefer the 60% ones or the semi-sweet ones. I think 60% are better, if only because they are twice as large. I haven’t yet found these in Montreal, so I always stock up when I go to the US. They’re sometimes on sale, which is always a bonus. Use one and half packages because this is a large recipe and you never want to be left with those last spoonfuls of dough without any chips in them.

I use a giant ice cream scoop that I only use for this recipe. It’s about a 1/3 cup. Most of the cooking shows advocate using these springy ice cream scoops for making cookies because the cookies are a uniform size. Also, they end up perfectly round and you don’t have to fight with your two spoons to scrap off the dough. I use them for gougeres and biscuits as well. My problem is in finding the appropriately sized ice cream scoop – I have about three, and sometimes I buy a new one, thinking it’s a different size, only to bring it home and discover that I have two or three of exactly the same size. Doh!

perfect mounds of dough. And perfect foodie close up - yay me!

I have a couple of silpats, but I could never get used to baking with them. The cooking times have to be increased and the bottoms of the cookies stay too soft for my liking. Instead, I use parchment paper, which is easily available and not too expensive here. Because I always line my cookie sheets, they are still beautiful and in perfect shape after many years and many batches of cookies. I don’t have to furiously scrub a scalding sheet mid-bake because the butter has burned on it and I don’t want the rest of the cookies to also taste burnt. They don’t have layers of dark brown grease stains from who knows what. I don’t have to worry about scratching the baking sheet with the spatula because it’s already protected by the parchment paper. Clean up is easy because you just throw away the spent paper and lightly scrub the mostly clean baking sheet. It’s a win-win situation.

Once the dough is arranged on the baking sheets, I gently press them down a little. I tried skipping that step, and ended up with overcooked edges and undercooked centers. Then I sprinkled them with fleur de sel. Chocolate chip cookies need a little saltiness and this recipe is not very salty. My husband doesn’t like this step, but he can always scrape the flakes off the top with his finger.

I politely broke this cookie in half, but perhaps I should have taken a pic of the half-eaten one, which was gooey with chocolatey goodness

The cookies come out looking and tasting perfect. They are best right out of the oven, but the chocolate chips remain soft and melted hours afterwards. The cookies become hardened and denser with each day, but doesn’t stop me from eating them for breakfast. Er, I mean as a snack.

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