Welcome to The Cookie Monster, a blog about the most marvelous, versatile, and beloved bakeable item in the land: The cookie. You may see occassional forays into pies, bars, and other sweet treats, but my main focus is and has always been on the bite sized genius behind my very favorite snack. Happy Baking!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let's-pretend-they're-healthy cookies

I find that nothing compliments a relaxing weekend away quite like some fresh baked cookies. Especially when I'm a guest at a friend or family member's vacation home, I try to bring something tasty along. This past weekend Joe and I joined our good friends and their kiddos for a nice skiing/ice fishing getaway at Lake Winnipesaukee, so naturally some cookies were on my agenda.

I knew some majorly bad eating was in my future with this crowd. Pizza, burgers, bagels, more pizza, cheese and pepperoni platters.... and lots and lots of beer. In anticipation of all this gluttony, I decided to make Oatmeal Raisin cookies to make myself feel better. The irony? They're pretty much just as bad for you as any other cookie.... but shhh don't say that outloud, since I ate about half the batch myself... Oatmeal's good for you right? Well, yes, unless it's mixed with the following....

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 cup raisins

First off, as always, cream together the butter, shortening, and two sugars. Add the rest of the "wet" ingredients, as well as the baking soda and powder. Mix this all together until its nice and smooth, then add in the healthy stuff.

I suppose using whole wheat flour would help the situation but.... I didn't....and you still have all that butter. yummmm.

Once everything is mixed together, roll heaping table spoons of the dough into balls and place them an inch or so apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. it's pretty sticky, so i would avoid touching any household items or domesticated animals until you're done with this process.

Bake the cookies at 375 for 9 minutes :)

These are seriously delicous, fake-healthy cookies. Enjoy. Pretending the weekend calories don't count is half the fun.

now, back to the gym....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Old Favorite

It used to be, when I decided to bake something, I'd make whatever sounded interesting, challenging, or new at the time. Pecans, candied ginger, and fresh fig. Tequila-spiked cookies, biscotti, and dark cocoa pockets......the sky was the limit. But recently I have been faced with a new, and very important, factor to consider: Children.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid I didn't want anything to do with any nutty/strange/gourmet/wacko cookie that might appear on an aunt's gaudy serving dish or in a family friend's gift basket. I didn't care who made them. I didn't care if it was rude. That crap was gross. So, in honor of my cookie-ignorant childhood self, I've come up with a handful of "kid friendly" cookie options. Because in my world, nothings worse than when a kid thinks your cookies suck.

At the top of my list is the Snickerdoodle. it's classic, it's soft, it's rolled in sugar and cinnamon, what's not to like? It also happens to be my good friend Kristin's favorite cookie of mine, though she enjoys breaking the name up in a hyphenated manner such as "Snick-Er-Doodle" to emphasize it's yumminess....

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
sugar and cinnamon for rolling

First off, make sure you have enough eggs. woops.

Quick trip to the store....

OK moving on ;)

Even if your cookie recipe says to mix a whole bunch of ingredients together as a first step, ignore it. first mix together the shortening or butter, and the sugar (or sugars if you're using 2 kinds). Always. No excuses. The coarseness of the sugar texturizes whichever fat you're using and makes a nice, smooth base to evenly mix the rest of the ingredients into. otherwise you'll have a chunky mess.

Mix in the remaining wet ingredients, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix some more. Now add the flour a little at a time on low speed. Don't overmix it or you'll end up with a cookie texture resembling a pizza dough. blech.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining granulated sugar and cinnamon (I always go heavy on the cinnamon) You could also add a little nutmeg, clove, or ginger if you wanted to make this cookie a little less kid-friendly.

Using a spoon to make equal cookie portions, roll the dough into little balls, and then roll each ball into your sugar/cinnamon mixture. Place on the (parchment lined) cookie sheet, about an inch or so apart. these will spread out quite a bit....

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, until the cookies are just set. brown edges=less delicious. You're going for a crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside experience.

Carefully move your delicacies to a wire rack, they will be SUPER SOFT when warm so be careful not to break them.... or you could break one on purpose and eat it, which is generally how I roll...

These are very simple, very addictive cookies. Pretty sure I ate around four of them hot off the press.....


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A 75th Birthday

So this is my first official cookie blog post. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, as I spend hours in the kitchen stressing over flour measurements and how to transport frosted cookies without a result of total destruction. Today I made a particularly finicky and fragile bunch of cookies that were just too beautiful to eat and forget about, so I decided I would start a record of my baking, the only creative thing I really do ;)

Today I was attending a 75th birthday party for Joe's grandma. I wanted to bake something so we wouldn't show up empty handed, but really I just wanted to use my new cookie toy that I purchased with a Williams Sonoma gift card from Christmas. These toys often seem very gimmicky to me, but this one was SO worth it.

This cookie cutter uses little letters that can slide onto a track on its underside and make an impression of whatever you spell in the cookie dough. does that make sense? because I worded that horribly. So cool. It makes for very fancy looking cookies without all of the time-consuming, finesse-requiring frosting with pastry bags.

I opted to spell out "seventy five" instead of just doing the traditional "Happy Birthday" because I thought it would make me seem more creative, when actually I'm just using a really cool cookie cutter.

I used my favorite basic sugar cookie recipe, which is very quick and easy to roll out. it makes about 2 dozen medium sized cut out cookies:

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup (I think, I can't remember and I'm too lazy to go get my cookbook)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
pinch salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

Cream together the wet ingredients and the sugar. add in the salt and baking soda, and lastly, the flour, a little bit at a time. divide the dough in 2 and chill for about 20 minutes (the recipe says 3 hours, but that's crap... no worries)

Heavily flour the rolling surface and rolling pin, cut out your desired shapes and transfer (carefully) to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. **** I use parchment paper EVERY time I bake. whether the recipe calls for it or not. The casualty rate among cookie creations is drastically reduced**** Bake for 6+ minutes at 375. I always check them at 6, when the edges start to brown, get 'em out of there.
I made a simple piping frosting and dyed with with regular blue food coloring. basically mix together 1/2 cup of shortening, a little vanilla, 2 cups of powdered sugar, and milk, a table spoon at a time. vary the amount of milk the vary the thickness of the frosting. baker's note: add the powdered sugar at low speed, otherwise your mixer (and your kitchen) will look like this:

I always fold in the coloring by hand, so I can see clearly when it is totally mixed, and not weirdly marbled.

I used some disposable pastry bags, a number 3 round frosting tip, and some leftover Christmas decor to create these little beauties:

But I think this one is my favorite:

Happy Birthday to Nene!!!