Monday, January 25, 2010

Cookie Craze

Janet here: A cake can sit on my counter for a month and I can walk by it untempted. Put homemade cookies on the same counter, and I suddenly find reasons to walk into that room and oops, a cookie is in my mouth before you can say "chocolate chips." Simply put, homemade cookies are my downfall.

They're also my go-to activity for pick-me-ups. Rainy, disgustingly gross day? Bake a batch of cookies. Feeling as if the family is a little at odds? Bake a batch of cookies. Blizzard outside and the house is feeling cozy? Bake a batch of cookies. As far as I am concerned there is little that a batch of homemade cookies can't fix.

When Rachel and I discussed baking cookies for this week's blog, we decided to make a cookie we'd never made before. I decided I would NOT make something with chocolate, despite every fiber in my body suggesting otherwise. (A day without chocolate is, in my opinion, a day wasted.) I also went to a cookbook I've never used. I bought Mrs. Fields' Cookie cookbook after I worked in a mall selling clothes. I had just gone back to work and we didn't have enough money for childcare so I sold clothes three days a week so I could spend the fourth day working on my freelance writing career. It was a mindless gig with some fun women, made all the better by my daily visit to the Mrs. Fields shop for a warm cookie. While not chocolate, I will say these cookies are pretty damn tasty. What's your go-to baking activity when you're feeling down? Let us know ... while enjoying a homemade cookie of course.

Creamy Lemon Macadamia Cookies
makes 2 1/2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 1/2 cups (7 oz.) whole macadamia nuts


Heat oven to 300 degrees
In a medium bowl combine flour, soda and salt. Mix well with wire whisk and set aside.
In a large bowl, blend the sugars well with an electric mixer at medium spped. Add the butter and cream cheese and mix to form a smooth paste. Add the egg and lemon extract and beat at medium speed until fully combined. Add the flour mixture and macadamia nuts. Mix until combined. Do not overmix.
Drop onto the cookie sheets. Bake 18-20 minutes. Immediately transfer to a cool flat surface. Try not to eat six in a row.

Rachel here: So, for my attempt at a cookie I had never baked before, I went with something embarrassingly simple: sugar cookies. The shame is in no way connected to baking something simple (simple can be so wonderfully perfect), but rather that when I finished baking these cookies I realized that, in fact, I HAD tried to make these cookies before and, as was the case with this time, I am yet to turn out sugar cookies that are just right. Argh! The first time I used this recipe was a few years back during a holiday baking crunch when I was looking for a quick cookie recipe to bulk up my cookie reserve. Instead of vanilla I threw in blue food coloring. OOPS! The cookies came out too thin and umm...too blue. This time, I opted to try to the lime zest variation (since I'm pregnant and this has left me craving any and everything citrus). Again, though, my cookies came out too thin. I am officially at a loss. Has anybody else had this problem with sugar cookies? If you have, I would desperately love to hear from you with any tips for avoiding this problem in the future. Anyway, though a bit on the thin side, I have dutifully sampled and would still recommend this recipe (taken from my culinary bff, The Best Recipe), particularly if you plan on decorating your cookies (because then their thinness might work to your advantage in that you'll have more room for your frosting artistry). Anyway, seriously, leave feedback if you've encountered my sugar cookie dilemma or with any insights into avoiding it on my next attempt. In the meantime, enjoy!

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tspn. baking powder
1/2 tspn. salt
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup for rolling cookies
1 large egg (Just as an aside, I recently read that extra large eggs are painful for chickens to lay and so, beyond the fact that most recipes call for a large egg, this cemented my commitment to not buying extra large eggs. Though an animal eater, I am one with a conscience.)
2 tspn. vanilla extract
2+ tspn. lime zest

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks on the lower and upper-middle levels. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and 1 c. of sugar until fluffy. Scrape down sides (if using an electric mixer) and add egg, 1 tspn. lime zest and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
Combine remaining 1/4 c. of sugar with remaining 1 tspn. of lime zest. In your food processor, process until sugar turns green and zest is evenly distributed. No food processor? Bummer. I would try a fork to combine these ingredients, again aiming for green sugar. Roll 1 1/2 inch balls in the sugar mixture and place on baking sheet.
Butter the bottom of a drinking glass with a flat bottom that is roughly 2 inches across. Dip in leftover sugar before pressing down on each ball of dough until about 1/2 inch thick and 1 3/4 inches across. Dip glass into sugar as needed (every few cookies).
Bake, reversing positions after 5 or 6 minutes (about half-way through cooking). When edges are pale golden (after about 10-11 minutes) remove from oven and cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to complete cooling.

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