Thursday, February 16, 2012 Kitchen Sink Cookies
The other day I made oatmeal raisin cookies with almost no oatmeal and absolutely no raisins. Neat, huh? This is one of the joys of having gone to culinary school. Understanding recipes and how they work allows you the freedom of changing them around, if need be, and you won't end up with an inedible product.
Professional baking recipes are done by weight, not volume. Nothing about cups in a professional recipe. At different times of the year that cup of flour is going to have different weights, never mind how densely you pack the cup. If you weigh the ingredients you'll end up with a more consistent cookie (or pie crust, cake, bread, etc.)
So here we go. This is basically the recipe. I'll explain the science as best I can, including viable substitutions. You'll notice some of the smaller amounts (baking soda, cinnamon) are in teaspoons. Not everyone has a scale that can measure such small amounts. For the larger amounts a postal scale does the trick. It's worth the investment if you're going to be baking a lot.
Kitchen Sink Cookie Formula
4 oz Butter
7 oz brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon sour cream
6 oz AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 oz oats
1 Tablespoon milled flax seed
4 oz raisins
Okay, so let's first talk about those lines. Those indicate your mixing pattern. The first ingredients are creamed together in a blender - keep mixing until it looks like a uniform cream. Starting off with room temperature butter is key.
Add your egg and mix it in until the mixture is again uniform. Add your vanilla and sour cream and mix in.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl before adding to the dry ingredients. Once it is all combined add the raisins.
Bake at 350 until done, this depends on the size of your cookie. Mine were slightly less than the size of my palm and they took 20-25 minutes.
Now! Onto the fun stuff and the science - they go hand in hand.
The butter is obviously the fat in the recipe. You can substitute apple sauce for butter if you're watching your calories. You can do half and half and get the taste of butter and half of the fat. The pectin in the apple sauce also helps keep your cookies together. And you can always substitute another fat - shortening, oil, bacon fat. Go ahead.
Brown sugar is what we call an acid (along with maple syrup, honey). The molasses in the sugar reacts with the baking soda to provide a little lift in your cookie. If you don't have brown sugar you can do half white sugar and half molasses, maple syrup or honey. If you were to use plain white sugar you'd need to use baking powder, which contains an added acid. And you'd need to use more of it - one teaspoon of soda is roughly equal to three teaspoons of powder. But why bother? Brown sugar gives the cookies a fantastic taste.
Sour cream is another acid (as is buttermilk, yogurt) that will react with the baking soda. I've started replacing milk in recipes with sour cream. I made corn bread with sour cream... Mmm, mmm, mmm. That'll have to be a future post.
As for the oats in the recipe, that's where I came up short. I used what little oats I had in combination with the crumbs from the bottom of my Kashi cereals to make up the 4 oz. I crushed the cereal a little just to break up any big chunks. You can use steel cut oats, cereal, granola. Have a little fun.
And the raisins...the raisins that I didn't have. I used chocolate chunks from a hot chocolate kit, sliced almonds and pecans. Hence the kitchen sink reference. Go nuts with this one, no pun intended. Dried fruit, chips, nuts, bacon! Just try it!
If you follow the ratios and principles of the recipe you're almost guaranteed not to fail. I say almost because we all make mistakes - and even if you screw it up the ingredients only cost a couple bucks.
So go ahead and try it! What's the worst thing that can happen?