Last night, as I was settling onto the sofa to watch home improvement shows (we are moving soon), the phone rang. The voice on the other end asked me if I could bake something to sell during the intermission of the play that my kids are in tonight. Okay, okay…there were better things I could be doing with my time than putting a dent in my sofa.
After digging around the freezer and kitchen cabinets for a little while, I found that I had all of the ingredients that I needed to make a recipe that I had just seen in the most recent issue of Everyday Food magazine. The recipe sounded delicious and I quickly found myself getting engaged in the task at hand.
As soon as the cookies came out of the oven, I carried one upstairs to my husband who was working on a software deadline. As usual, when I feed him a new recipe I watch him and wait eagerly for what I hope will be positive feedback. He simply looked at me and said, “tasty but a little cakey…” I tromped down the stairs to taste one for myself and confirm the diagnosis. Yep, he was right. The flavor was good, but they were a little dry and cakey. Not what I was hoping for. (The batter tasted fantastic, though!).
I decided to do a little research to find out what makes a cookie cakey. With the help of my mentor, Alton Brown, I learned a few things. His shows Cookie Clause and Three Chips for Sister Marsha are filled with information about how different techniques and ingredients can alter the consistency of cookies. Here are a few things I learned:
- When you cream butter and sugar together, the sugar crystals punch holes in the butter than can be further leavened (later) with baking soda or powder
- Over mixing or over rolling the batter creates too much gluten, which can result in a tough cookie
- Butter can melt quickly, causing the cookie to spread before it has time to set in the oven.
- Shortening has a higher melting temperature, which allows the cookie to rise and set before spreading
- Liquid in the batter turns into steam in the oven, which creates “lift” in the batter while it is cooking
- The higher the ratio of brown to white sugar creates a more tender cookie
- Baking soda causes the batter to become slightly acidic, which tends to rise more, spread less, and be more fluffy
- If you allow your cookies to cool on their pan, they will continue cooking and might become tough.
I am not sure if I did anything wrong when I made these cookies. Perhaps it was the combination of baking powder and baking soda. Maybe my eggs were larger than those used in Martha Stewart’s test kitchen, creating more steam and therefore more “puff.” I might have even over-mixed them… I would need to experiment further to find out if it was user error, or simply just how the recipe was really meant to be. Here is the recipe – give them a try and let me know your take on them!
John’s Kitchen Sink Cookies
Prep: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes, plus cooling
These home-run treats cover all the bases: They’re chewy and rich, sweet and nutty. Dried apricots or dates would also work well here. For tropical taste, skip the oats, and add in an equal amount of sweetened shredded coconut.
To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
- Gradually beat flour mixture into butter mixture just until combined.
- With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chunks, raisins, pecans, and oats.
- Drop 2-inch balls of dough, spaced 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets.
- Flatten dough balls slightly. Bake 12 to 16 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned, rotating sheets halfway through.
- Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.