Cookie Karma

My biggest passion in cooking and baking has always been cookies. Why cookies? Because no person is ever unhappy to receive them. Cookies are an amazing, fun-filled pastime for all ages in every culture. This is something you can do by yourself or with other people for special occasions – or for no occasion at all.

It has been my life’s pursuit to find the greatest cookie recipes of all time; although just recently I have come to the conclusion that this is impossible. Due to the different tastes and preferences between individuals (not to mention between cultures), it would be impossible to find the top ten definitive cookie recipes.

For example, every Christmas I give an assortment of cookies as gifts. Many of the cookies are rather expensive to make, as well as difficult and time-intensive. I also include a couple of simple favorites, such as chocolate chip cookies with red and green chips. I have one friend who, no matter how exotic and magnificent the cookies, will choose the chocolate chip cookie over all the rest. Or, take my father as another example. My dad is a “condiment man”. No matter what the cookie, he will add a few additional spoonfuls of jam or chocolate on top, making the topping-to-cookie ratio about 10 to 1. The sight of these cookies after he’s done with them are so depressing… It’s a crime against cookies, and if I had a badge I’d arrest him in the name of good taste. Unfortunately, it’s what he prefers.

There is an old adage that “the first bite is with the eye” and I believe it very strongly. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps it overrides our taste buds, so that before we take the first bite, we’ve already decided how it ranks on our charts. I don’t know, but I am determined to find out. All hail the birth of a reoccurring cookie column.

You know what I’d really love to do? I would give anything to have my own television show dedicated to cookies only. We could explore all kinds of cookies in various cultures, over various holidays. Or just plain old cookies for kicks! I could dedicate an entire month to exploring different chocolate chip cookies, because there are so many different and amazing chocolate chip cookie recipes out there. Or even an entire month to cookies that have nothing to do with chocolate, for all those crazies out there who don’t like chocolate – trust me, those people exist. I work with one of them. They’ll eat chocolate, but it’s not their favorite. This strangeness really is fine, as there are many different kinds of cookies out there that have nothing to do with chocolate. I could even have special guests! Travel the world! Explore ways to package cookies for gift-giving! Release books of our annual cookie finds! Boldly go where no cookie-lover has gone before! Yeah, that would be amazing, although not likely. Still, I can dream, can’t I?

The Food Network is now taking applications for their next season of “The Next Food Network Star”, and have extended the deadline to October 24. I watched the first one, and was disappointed in the winners: two chuckleheads showing you how to throw a party. It’s definitely more entertainment than it is food knowledge, but I can see how that would be more popular, as the network is trying to bring in younger viewers. In the back of my mind, I entertained the idea of sending in an application, but during the contest you are required to cook all different kinds of food, with recipes that you’re either making up as you go, or a bunch of recipes that you’ve come up with yourself. I’m afraid that I’m just not that talented with other kinds of food. I can do it with cookies, but not much else.

But hey, if you’re a talented cook and you send in your application, let us know. If you get chosen, we’ll watch the show and vote for you. Email me at Ask Blue Midget or comment below and I’ll live vicariously through you.

There is a new television program that will be airing soon on the Food Network, called “Sugar Rush”, where the host explores all kinds of desserts and treats, not just cookies. As far as I have been able to find, there is very little out there on just cookies. I wonder why? There are a plethora of different books dedicated solely to cookies, although I have yet to find a television show or even a magazine dedicated to them. Why is this? If you’ve got a swanky television producer anywhere, have them give me a call. Yeah, I know, this is also not likely to happen. Ah well.

I baked up a storm this weekend, and for the first time ever, pulled out my cookie press which I am now madly in love with. If you do not have a cookie press and you like making cookies, get one. The cookie that I went with was a fantastic little spritz with pecans. The baking time was between 5 – 7 minutes. Normally, I under bake my cookies because if you take your cookies out of the oven and leave them on the cookie sheet to cool, they will continue to bake for a couple of minutes because of the heat from the cookie sheet. Even if you remove them from the cookie sheet right away, they will continue to bake for a minute, after you take them out of the oven. This is why, when I bake chocolate chip cookies, I will take them out when the centers are still a little white, usually a minute or two early. Unfortunately for these pecan cookies, you can’t use that method (I baked them for the full seven minutes) otherwise when you dip them into the chocolate they will break off. If you are still having difficulties with the cookies breaking in the chocolate, add a little more shortening (another ½ tsp.) to the chocolate, to thin it out.

If you prefer cookies that are a bit simpler, the cookie is delicious on its own and does not require the chocolate dipping. It is also terrific with tea.

If you are a first time cookie press user and you’re having problems, it could be from a couple of things. First, make sure that that the disk is facing the correct way. When I first tried out the press, I didn’t read the directions all the way, and put it in backwards. Normally you wouldn’t think that it would be a problem, but it is. The other thing I had an issue with is that because these cookies require so much butter, I couldn’t get the second batch to stick onto the pan: when I would pull my cookie press gun away from the cookie sheet, the dough wouldn’t stick and I’d end up with a glob of dough onto the end of my gun. You may have to wipe down your cookie sheets with a little soap and hot water after each batch to get them to stick.

Lastly, do not use margarine! It usually has more water in it, and your cookies will end up with less-than-stellar results. Use unsalted butter in these cookies for best results.

Chocolate Dipped Pecan Spritz
1-1/2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground pecans
1 teaspoon baking powder

Chocolate Dip
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 teaspoons shortening, divided

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; beat in egg and extracts. Combine the flour, pecans and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Using a cookie press fitted with disk of your choice, press dough 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 5-7 minutes or until set (do not brown). Remove to wire racks to cool.

This recipe courtesy Taste of Home magazine.


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