Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Tis the season for cookies!

My life revolves around cookies this time of year.

I love to impress my friends with chewy cookies that are soft like marshmallows when they bite into them, but packed with deep rich flavor. Melting dark chocolate, adding instant espresso powder or grating fresh ginger are some of the secrets.

My cookie baking ritual started a few years ago when I used to have off the last week of the year. I was single and needed something to fill my time to keep me out of trouble – which meant obsessing over ex-boyfriends or shopping holiday sales with money I didn’t have.

I came across a Martha Stewart holiday cookie magazine, bought a couple of air bake cookie sheets, and an oven thermometer. I read up on the difference between Dutch processed and regular cocoa (Dutch processed has been treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity so it doesn’t react with baking soda. As a result one can’t be substituted for the other).

I learned how to carefully spoon flour into measuring cups, the importance of leveling everything with a knife, and how to melt chocolate in a double boiler (I break up the chocolate in a metal mixing bowl and place it over a pan filled with ¼ inch of boiling water). 

Before I start baking I build in an extra hour to bring the butter and eggs at room temperature. Some of the batters also require chilling time in the fridge or freezer. That is what gives them that impressive chewy goodness.

The other trick is making cookies that are simple but look impressive like the Martha Stewart Espresso Snowcaps.

The batter is left in the freezer for 45 minutes so it can be rolled into balls that are coated twice with powered sugar. When the bake they cracked giving it the appearance of snow caps on chocolate – in other words winter heaven. My chocolate chip cookies have chips and chunks in the batter which is chilled for about an hour. Peanut butter surprise cookies have both peanut butter in the batter and a mini peanut butter cup that gets pressed into the cookie halfway through baking.

Photo from Martha Stewart
So Happy Holidays everyone!!! My your next year be as rich as the deepest dark chocolate and as wonderful as a warm gingerbread cookie loaded with cloves that make your tongue tingle.