Monday, June 25, 2007

More About Cookie Baking

The comments are still rolling in about the "Cookie Baking 101" post. You guys are are full of questions that need answers and I've got a few more things to add:

First, Monique tips us off to using the food processor to make bakers (superfine) sugar from regular granulated sugar. I've heard this before and never tried it but I'm sure it would work nicely. And also along the superfine sugar line, I told you that I didn't think it was essential, but wanted to add that I do really think it makes a difference, particularly if you're impatient with the creaming thing. I've read and see it says on the box that it's supposed to measure the same as regular granulated sugar but frankly, I think that's a geometrically impossible convenience for sugar producers that just gets us to use more and works out OK because a little extra sugar can't hurt much like, say, a mismeasurement of leavener or salt or something.
I find that it makes more of a difference in cakes (giving them a nicer, finer texture), than it does with cookies.

Anonymous asks for the BH&G molasses cookie recipe. Technically, they call it "Gingersnaps" in my 1965 edition (and it has a mistake in it!), and the following is the recipe with my modifications. I changed the name because I don't like any "snap" in my gingersnaps:

Molasses Cookies ala Casa Splatgirl

OVEN 350

3/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. dark molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour*
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove

Cream butter and brown sugar until smooth, light and fluffy. Add molasses and then egg, stirring to combine and then increasing mixer speed to return mixture to light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients.
Portion dough using #16 ice cream scoop. Roll scooped dough balls in coarse sanding sugar (regular granulated sugar works fine too but coarse sugar is prettier and adds a nice crunch), and place on sheet pan 3"-4" apart. Baking time will be between 10-15 minutes depending on your crispy vs. chewy preference. Don't be afraid to bake a test cookie and let it cool to evaluate.
If you're a chewy fan like me, take them out when they're still puffed up and rounded on the top but have started to crack slightly. They will look quite underbaked.
Makes about 18 big cookies.
*this measurement is approximate and depends on how flat or fat you like your cookies. As I've said, don't be afraid to bake off a test subject to evaluate your flour content before scooping the whole batch of dough. Too flat=add more flour, 1/4 c. or less at a time up to 1/2 c.

Courtney wants to know if I substitute butter for shortening 1:1.
Yes, but you need to up the flour content or your cookies will be flat and spread more than with shortening.

I agree with America's Test Kitchen about smushy butter being too warm, but I don't think that it can ever be too cold. It just takes a little more working time when it's straight from the fridge.
Absolutely NO SOFTER than the bend thing would be a good rule of thumb, IMO.

Dear Wende: Try that with an angelfood cake and see how it works :)

Hi Kathy! Let us know how your next batch turns out, and I think that as long as the sheet pans you're using aren't insulated, lining it with parchment will be fine. "Pan liners" from the baking supply are parchment, which, incidentally, is typically silicone coated and not the same thing as wax paper.
Aside from my ban on insulated sheet pans, the most important thing about the pan you use, IMO, is that you're familiar with how YOURS perform. Picking some that you like and sticking to them will help you produce more consistent results.

I had occasion to bake a cake this weekend, and, as if I was being cosmically paid back for thinking I'm cool and talking smart around here lately, I burnt it and it went into the trash. Really, I blame the fact that I haven't ever baked that particular cake in this house and in this oven using convection mode and that I was having an all-around hideous day, but still, rather ironic, eh?
Anyway, prior to burning and then trashing it, I was careful to heed my own advice about proper creaming and wanted to reiterate that it really does take quite a few minutes of beating AND SCRAPING DOWN THE BOWL to achieve that proper, very light and fluffy texture.
I also had a good look at my bags of brown sugar. The C & H bag that I have clearly states "cane sugar" and tells you the difference between real and "fake" brown sugar on the back. But I also have some Crystal Sugar, and not only does that bag NOT say cane sugar, the ingredients list says "sugar, molasses".

Finally, if you're curious to know more about baking chemistry or food science and want more details about this kind of thing that you could ever digest in fifty years, check out Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen".
I keep my copy next to my bed.

Does that make me a food geek?

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