For Day Two of ‘National Bake Week’ we are going to talk about cookies. Again, this is the format I use when I do my Teen Baking Camps during the summers. Day two is always about cookies. Day one was bread and that is probably what everyone thinks is the hardest to do. So when you do what you think is the hardest, then everything else seems easy and nothing is easier than making cookies.
What is America’s favorite Cookie? Chocolate Chip of course! Chocolate Chip Cookies are probably the most versatile of all cookies to make. First of all, there are many varities of Chips. There are Bitter Sweet, Semi-Sweet, ( my husband’s favorite) Milk Chocolate (my favorite) and White Chocolate. There are also Peanut Butter Chips and Butterscotch Chips which I use those in Chocolate Based Cookies.
Then you can use M & M’s, Reese’s Pieces and my all-time favorite – ‘Milky Ways’ cut up into small pieces. I love the milk chocolate and caramel in those cookies.
The best ingredients to use for cookies is Unsalted Butter (even if the recipe calls for shortening), fresh Eggs, Cake Flour (for softer cookies) and pure Vanilla. I use Vanilla Bean Paste which has a more intense flavor than extract and gives the added exotic look of those little black specks of Vanilla Bean.
For drop cookies, which Chocolate Chip are, it is best to have the Butter and Eggs at room temperature. You want to cream the Butter until it is soft and fluffy along with the Sugar. Once these ingredients have been well incorporated, then you can add the flavoring, flour, salt and leavening agent. For Chocolate Chip Cookies the leavening agent is usually baking soda. Sugar cookies usually call for Baking Powder. In case you are wondering what the difference is between Baking Soda and Baking Powder here it is:
Baking Soda is Bicarbonate of Soda – NHCO3
Baking Powder is Baking Soda combined with an Acid such as Cream of Tartar and a starch filler.
If you run out of Baking Powder you can make your own, that is if you have Baking Soda on hand:
1 tsp. of Baking Powder is = to 1/4 tsp. of Baking Soda + 1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
Once your Dough is made drop it by the teaspoon onto greased or parchment lined baking pans. I prefer to use a #60 food scoop. By using the food scoop it takes only one hand to shape the cookies. If you use a teaspoon you have to use a second teaspoon to push the dough off the first spoon. If you prefer larger cookies, use a soup spoon or a #20 food scoop.
Bake you cookies in a 375 degree oven or 350 degree convection oven. For 2 cookie sheets adjust the oven racks to positions #2 and 4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on how crispy you want your cookies.
Remove the baked from the oven (be sure to use pot holders) and place on cooling racks. If you use parchemtn use can just slide the parchment with the cookies onto the cooling racks. If the cookies are baked directly on the pan, allow them to cool for 5 minutes or so before trying to remove from the pan. Always use a spatula to remove the cookies from the baking pans.
For those people who have gluten allergies, try making Meringue Cookies. These are cookies made for Egg Whites and Sugar and flavorng. The Egg Whites are beaten along with the Sugar until they are stiff and then shaped on the pan the same way as the Chocolate Chip. For more decorative cookies, they can be extruded through a pastry bag using a large star tip. For Macaroons, Macaroon Coconut or ground Almonds can be added to the Beaten Egg Whites.