Dear Bakers and Friends.
Welcome to the July 2021 Issue of Betterbaking.com! Happy Canada Day to fellow Canadians, happy July 4th to my American readers, happy Ginger Cookie Day (look it up) and happy July to my fellow bakers wherever you are on the globe.
Summertime in these parts calls for easy baking which means short bakes, done early in the day before it gets too hot to bake. Bake at breakfast, enjoy later on. That spells cookie time to me although on the weekends it means pies and crostata. I thought I’d share some of my favorite cookies with you and explain why they’re favorites and how to make them.
Before we get into that our product review of the month is about toasters. Of course it is - when you bake a lot of bread, you review a lot of toasters. This is one of the newest contenders, Redmond Toasters.
#1 Start with a terrific recipe that has just enough butter to flour ratio and some brown and white sugar combination
#2 The dough needs to temper overnight in the fridge
#3 Use baking soda mostly and sometimes a little baking powder
#4 Use unbleached all-purpose flour
#5 Double up on the pure vanilla; these cookies need the extra boost
#6 Make them big and use the twist-method of forming the dough balls (it’s in the recipe, you’ll see)
#7 Use a combination of chocolate, preferably large cut-up chunks of Swiss chocolate in semi-sweet and milk chocolate or purchase Belgium or Swiss chocolate wafers and break them up. Nothing but nothing changes the texture of a CCC better than quality chocolate in large pieces instead of chips.
Also remember this one crucial important thing: you simply won’t get the gourmet bakeshop chocolate chip cookies when you deposit a regular-sized lump of dough on the baking sheet. That's just a fact. A big gob of dough, once baked, is a totally different texture and taste experience. I say this having played around with Chocolate Chip Cookies ever since I first baked. I've added honey or corn syrup, an extra yolk, fiddled with pastry flour or tried half bread flour, changed the oven temperature, position of the baking sheet and types of chocolate used and of course, went through various recipes of others and invented my own. All this to say, if you want a great cookie, you have to use a lot of dough. And btw, that NYT recipe that calls for half bread flour and half pastry flour? That is because the pastry chefs who created them work in professional kitchens where there is only pastry (soft) flour or bread (hard) flour and they combine them to get a sketchy all-purpose flour. At home we have wonderful cookie-perfect all-purpose flour so please use that and make sure it's unbleached.
The Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookie is a classic oatmeal cookie that hits all the right notes. Oatmeal cookies can be hard and brittle or cakey or worst of all, crumbly and dry. I prefer mine to be crispy around the edges and chewy but not cakey in the middle and overall, blue-ribbon winners. To achieve this you need the perfect recipe to start with (I elect my own!) and some great, unsalted butter and most importantly a combination of quick cooking oatmeal and the larger flake, or old-fashioned style oatmeal. The former gives the cookie some bulk and provides a beautiful rounded oatmeal taste but the latter gives you a bit of chewiness which is what makes oatmeal cookies so satisfying. Not all oatmeal is equal by the way. Taste it in a bowl of cereal first. I’ve bought bulk oatmeal as well as health food store oatmeal recently with varying luck, especially the bulk food store variety which tasted rancid. But I’m having amazing results using plain old Quaker oatmeal. I created this oatmeal recipe for a restaurant I worked for and to this day, dozens of oatmeal cookie recipes later, it’s still the winner.
Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip are two staples we all turn to but then there are two other favorites I think should be in everyone’s repertoire. They include Chinese Restaurant Style Almond Cookies and Ginger Crackle Spice Cookies. Again, I make these cookies pretty sprawling and that is what creates the crackly finish to both of them. The almond cookies however, have a crumbly crunch that is addictive while the ginger cookies are crisp and chewy-centered. In both cases the amount of dough that is rather a stiff one and it pushes out as it bakes (stiff dough and leavener will do that) and causes those appealing and characteristic crackles. For the ginger cookies, they are only as good as your spices are fresh and of quality to begin with. Smell the spices you use before you dump them in and when in doubt, buy a new jar of ginger and cinnamon. I used spices from Silk Road Spices in Canada, Penzeys and the Spice House.
Happy July everyone. Keep safe, keep baking and keep sharing what you’ve baked.
Warm wishes and happy baking always,
Master Baker, Author
Free Recipe Best Ever Oatmeal
This is a wonderfully, classic oatmeal cookie. Not dense or soggy soft. Not too crisp or hard - just perfectly chewy, crisp and golden with a beautiful caramel taste. Use the two types of oatmeal called for.
Ultra Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you want gourmet chocolate chip cookies you’re going to have to use a lot of dough and the chocolate called for in the recipe and in the amount given. Don’t stint!
Ginger Crackle Cookies
These are perfect dunking cookies that will make a ginger devotee out of anyone. These are dense, chewy, sweet and spicy cookies.
Chinese Restaurant Almond Cookies
These are the real deal, a recipe shared by one of my tango partners who has a large family-run Chinese food restaurant. His recipe makes tons; I’ve cut this down to a copable amount but you’re still going to gobble them up in one sitting.