September 25 2006 Desserts Newsletter
Editor: Sandra L. Garth
September 25, 2006
o Editor's Notes
o Crumbs the Word
o Cookie Recipes
o REVIEW: Archer Farms Chocolate Dipped Cookies
o Copyright Info
o Editor's Notes
Hi Dessert Lovers!
Who’s the cookie monster in your family? Wouldn’t they just love to find homemade cookies in their lunches? Little cookie monsters would also love to help you bake, and big ones would enjoy sampling. Making cookies is often a child’s first introduction to baking, and you're there to guide them, keeping a watchful eye over anything that may be potentially harmful. Just as your family loves freshly baked cookies, so will others, consider giving them as gifts. Remember, most cookie dough keeps well, so when that crisp fall day rolls around that is perfect for baking, you’ll be ready. Get the milk and hot chocolate ready, it’s time to bake some cookies.
Life is Short, Have Dessert
o Crumbs the Word
How do you keep your cookie jar filled? Any type of baking is a science, but it’s not rocket science. Don’t be tempted by the wide assortment of pre-made rolls and break apart cookie dough for your sugary treats. Filling your cookie jar with cookies baked from scratch is easy and takes less time than you think. Baking cookies from dough that you made gives you another opportunity to control the ingredients, leaving out any preservatives used to extend shelf life. Homemade cookies have been a part of our culinary landscape for quite a while, so homemakers must be doing something right.
That’s a Pretty Old Cookie
Historians say that the earliest cookie recorded dates back to the 7th century in or around Persia. This region was one of the first to cultivate sugar. By the end of the 14th century, filled wafers began to appear on the streets of Paris. As global exploration increased in popularity, cookies became the ideal traveling food, because they were portable and stayed fresh longer.
Sweet in Any Language
Our global neighbors have different names for the sweets that we call cookies.
Australia/England - Biscuit
Spain - Galletas
Germany - Keks or Kels
Italy - Biscotti
A Chip off the Old Block
In Whitman, Massachusetts around 1930, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased a tollhouse and renovated it. They named it the Toll House Inn. Ruth’s desserts soon became famous. One day while baking butter drop cookies, Ruth decided to cut chunks from a bar of Nestlé’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate into the dough. To her surprise the chocolate held it’s shape and didn’t melt. That was the birth of the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. As the cookie’s fame grew the Nestle, company began making changes to their chocolate bars. The first revision was to score the chocolate bars and include a chopper to break them into chunks. In 1939, they made it even easier for bakers and began to manufacture bags of chocolate morsels. Thanks guys.
What’s in the Jar
Cookies fall into five different categories (give or take). The stiffness and type of dough determines their placement.
Bars - These are baked in a pan and bear a strong resemblance to cake. The dough is more like a stiff batter, and is either spread or patted into the pan. After cooling, they can be cut into bars, diamonds, or squares. Bars can be frosted or sprinkled with an optional topping. Over mixing makes for a hard and crusty top. Over baking bars results in a crumbly, dry texture. To test for doneness, touch the top lightly, a slight imprint should remain.
Drop - The dough is somewhat stiff, mounds when dropped, and flattens as it bakes. With drop cookies, allow ample room for spreading. This type of cookie is done when it has a lightly browned edge, and a soft indentation remains when it is touched. An over baked drop cookie will be dark and crispy and if it’s under baked it will be doughy.
Refrigerator - After mixing, this dough is very soft and must be refrigerated. Allow it to chill long enough to become firm. These are the typical slice and bake variety. To retain a round shape dough can be packed into a clean juice cans (don’t remove the bottoms) and chilled. When ready to slice, remove the bottom, push the dough up and use the top of the can as a cutting guide. Another option for clean cutting is to slice with fishing line.
Rolled - When you think of rolled dough, you have to think of cutouts. This is a stiff dough. Work with small amounts of chilled dough and handle as little as possible. Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. Working the dough too much results in a tough cookie. If you have trouble transferring the dough from your work surface to the baking sheet, try rolling and cutting out the dough on the cookie sheet and then remove the excess.
Shaped - This is the softest dough for shaping and molding. Usually this type is forced through a cookie press, but can be shaped by hand as well. Most cookies in this category retain their shape, some will flatten slightly.
Make them Pretty
Now that you’ve settled on the type of cookie to make, you may want to dress them up a bit after baking. The possibilities are endless.
Frosting- Cookies can spread with either canned or homemade frosting. Keep in mind when storing them that if you stack frosted cookies the frosting will be flattened and adhere to the bottom of the cookie on top. A powdered sugar glaze made with powdered egg whites, vanilla and just enough water or milk to make it pourable, will produce a shiny glaze that hardens as it dries. Frosting also adds another level of sweetness.
Sugar - Decorative sugars are quick, easy and come in different colors.
Sprinkle tops of rolled, shaped, or dropped cookies before baking. Powdered sugar can also be dusted over baked cookies, repeat dusting for heavier coatings.
Jams and Jellies - Make a thumbprint before baking and fill after baking. These are nice enhancements but they will soften crisp cookies. It’s better to use jams and jellies for sandwich cookies.
Chopped Nuts and Candies - Roll cookie dough in your choice of finely chopped nuts before baking. Coating the cookies before baking allows the nuts to be toasted, increasing the nutty flavor. Sprinkle chopped candy on top while cookies are still warm, so that they will adhere.
Keeping them Fresh
The first rule is, don’t mix soft and crispy cookies in the same container. The crispy ones will become soft. Store crispy cookies in a container with a loose fitting lid, and soft ones in container with tight lid. To add moisture back into soft cookies that have hardened, place half an apple skin side down in container. Toss it out after 2 days. It’s easiest to keep bar cookies in the baking pan. Many pans come with lids or you can cover it tightly with foil.
Store in freezer using press and seal bags or freezer containers. Unfrosted cookies will keep for 8-12 months. Pack soft dough into containers, and roll stiff dough into logs and wrap in heavy-duty foil. Freeze up to 6 months.
Don’t use spreads, liquid, reduced fat or soft type margarines for baking. Butter is always better.
Too stiff dough will bog down your mixer; add the last of the flour by hand.
Always place dough on a cool cookie sheet to prevent dough from spreading.
Wipe or rinse sheets between baking.
Most recipes that use butter or shortening don’t require that the baking sheets be greased.
Dark sheets absorb heat, which can cause over browning on the bottoms.
Remove cookies from sheets immediately and place on wire racks for cooling.
Delicate cookies, which should be allowed to slightly firm before removing.
If cookies are hard to remove from sheets, place them back in the oven for no more than two minutes.
No wire racks, no problem. Place cookies on a wax paper covered countertop sprinkled with sugar.
Now that you have all this information, it’s time to bake some cookies.
o Cookie Recipes
Nut Squares - Bar
These are so easy, and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand.
¾ cup sugar
1 ¼ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 cups graham crackers, finely crushed (approx 14 full squares)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Grease an 8 or 9-inch square pan, or spray with non-stick spray, and set aside. Beat eggs until thick and lemon colored in a medium size bowl. Add the sugar in a slow steady stream, beating thoroughly. Mix in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the graham crackers and walnuts into prepared pan. Bake at 300° F for 25-30 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.
Applesauce Cookies - Drop
Perfect for this time of year and a nice lunchbox treat. Can you imagine how great your kitchen will smell as these are baking?
1 pkg 2-layer size spice cake mix
½-cup canola oil
You’re going to love how quickly these come together. Blend all the ingredients in a large bowl on medium speed with an electric mixer. Drop by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° F for 12-15 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.
Sugar Pecan Crisps - Refrigerator
To coat the dough with the pecans, spread the finely chopped nuts on waxed paper and use a gentle rolling motion to add an even coating.
¾ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg (give the egg a few whisks with a fork first), vanilla and salt beating well. Slowly add in the flour. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, this makes the next step easier. Remove from refrigerator and shape into a 12-inch log, then wrap it in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for about 2-3 hours. After it’s thoroughly chilled cut into ¼-inch slices. Bake on an un-greased cookie sheet at 350° F for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 4 dozen.
Sherry Almond Rounds - Rolled
If using Sherry doesn’t suit your taste, try undiluted frozen apple juice in it’s place.
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
3 TBS Sherry
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cup finely chopped almonds
1 egg lightly beaten
2 TBS water
Red and green sugar crystals
Cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the sherry and stir well. Mix flour, and salt and combine with the creamy mixture. Stir in the almonds.
Flatten the dough between two sheets of wax paper, this keeps it from sticking. The other option is to chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 1 ½ hours. Roll to about ¼ inch and cut with a round cookie cutter. Place cutouts on un-greased sheet. Mix the egg and water and brush lightly over unbaked cookies. Sprinkle with colored sugars and bake at 375° F for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen.
Peanut Butter Meltaways - Shaped
This is one of those treats that you can’t eat just one, or two, of.
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Cream the peanut butter, butter and both sugars beat in the lightly beaten egg. Whisk together the flour, soda, the dash of salt (To make it easier a dash/pinch is less than 1/16th of a tsp, which is a very small amount) and add to the creamed mixture. Chill for 10 minutes. Work with half the mixture at a time, and force through a cookie press onto an un-greased baking sheet. As an option you can sprinkle the unbaked cookies with finely chopped peanuts. Bake at 400° F for about 8 minutes, take care not to over brown the cookies. Makes about 5 dozen.
o REVIEW: Archer Farms Chocolate Dipped Cookies
Sometimes you have to give in to temptation and shop for your goodies. I’ll admit I did that a couple of weeks ago. While shopping at Target I spotted a small tub of Archer Farms Cookies. Archer Farms is Target’s in house brand. They were bite-sized chocolate dipped sandwich cookies. Very good and very chocolaty. Picture mini Oreo’s dipped in milk chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate. Some of the cookies were individual and others were clusters. These lovelies are good as a stand alone dessert or would be scrumptious with ice-cream or pudding. At $3.99 they aren’t a bad buy. There weren’t any other varieties on the shelf, and the Target Team member I spoke with did say that a peanut butter dipped selection was also available. A word of caution, it’s easy to eat too many.
o Copyright Information
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