Specialties of the House: Cookies


I realized writing last week’s Specialties of the House that I haven’t covered baking, so I thought I’d share my “better than sex” cookies. Seriously, a woman whose day job at the time was selling sex toys tell me my cookies are better than sex. I have two recipes I’ve figured out over the years, one for chocolate chip cookies and one for peanut butter cookies.

But first, I want to talk about baking a little bit. First thing you have to realize is that cooking is chemistry. It’s all about a balance between of acid and alkaline, liquids and solids, and dealing with the various properties of different ingredients. You can play around with spices and such with savory dishes, but there’s only a few places you can tinker in baking without seriously fucking things up.

So with that in mind, here’s my recipe for chocolate chip cookies…

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1/2 c butter-flavored shortening

3/4 c granulated sugar

3/4 c brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (get the real stuff if you can, it’s worth it)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

9 oz all purpose flour

12 oz (1 package) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Now here’s the tricky part, bringing all these together. Best appliance for the task is a stand mixer, but if you don’t want to blow $300 on one, a hand mixer will work but double the time.

First step is to add the fat, sugar, and salt to the mixing bowl and mix until it looks almost like frosting, nice and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until the first is completely mixed in before moving to the second. Add the vanilla extract (seriously, spend the extra money to get the real thing…sometimes Imitation Vanilla Extract is okay, but this is one of the cases where the real stuff is far better).

Now, after you get all that mixed together thoroughly, you’ll want to move to a second mixing bowl. Add the flour and baking soda together and whisk together. Slowly add the flour to the batter a bit at a time. Once all the flour’s in, you can stir in the chips.

Okay, now here’s something important. I said “9 oz all purpose flour”, so I want to talk about what that means. Flour is highly compressible, because it’s finely milled wheat. Because of that, a cup of flour measured by volume can weigh between 3oz and 5oz typically, depending on how loose it is. You can measure the flour by volume (which will be 2 1/4c), but you’re doing yourself a serious disfavor by not weighing it. Scales are available dirt cheap, just make sure to get a digital one rather than one with a needle. So many mistakes in baking could be easily avoided if people would just weigh their flour instead of measuring it by volume. Okay, rant over, back to the recipe.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. While that’s going, line a half-sheet pan (that’s a cookie sheet) with parchment paper or a silicone mat. It makes retrieval of the cookies far easier and it’s the best non-stick surface you could ask for. To measure out the dough, I use a #20 Disher. This means that each scoop of the disher is 1/20 of a quart. I’d give you an alternative, but seriously, the things are like $2-3 so go get one. You want uniform balls in this case. Do not overcrowd the pan. I do a 2 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 formation that looks like this lined up :·:·: so there’s 8 cookies per pan. I never cook more than two pans at a time, which is basically one batch as listed above (minus dough you eat as you cook, obviously).

Make sure the oven is up to temperature, then put the cookies in. Bake for 4 minutes, then rotate the pans (put the top pan on the bottom and bottom pan on top, and rotate each pan 180 degrees while doing so so the front side is at the back and the back side is at the front). Following along? Good.

Cook another 4-6 minutes until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges. They’ll still look raw in the middle, that’s normal. Take the pans out of the oven and let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then take them off the pan – And this is where the parchment paper or silmats come in handy, remember the tablecloth trick? Go slowly because you want the opposite to happen here, the mat to move and the cookies stay in place. Let them cool on a cooling rack or on the table for another 5 minutes minimum so the starches in the flour can set. Once cool, they’ll last in airtight containers wrapped in paper towels for about a week or two I guess…never had them last longer than a couple of nights myself.

Okay, I mentioned that it’s bad to tinker when you’re baking, but there are a few things you can swap up here depending on how you like your cookies. I like mine crispy on the outside, but still soft and chewy in the middle and that’s what this recipe produces. But if you like your cookies not quite as chewy and moist so you can dunk them better, change up the amounts of granulated and brown sugar (more brown sugar = chewier, more white sugar = crisper) and the shortening and butter (more butter = lighter, more shortening = firmer). If you like your cookies light and fluffy and almost like mini-cakes, use 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, , replace the baking soda with baking powder, and use just butter for the fat.

Now, taking that in mind and remembering that peanut butter contains a lot of fat, see if you can tell why I make the changes I did in my peanut butter cookie recipe:

1/2 c butter

1/2 c butter-flavored shortening

3/4 c granulated sugar

3/4 c brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

9 oz all purpose flour

1 c peanut butter

4 oz (1/3 package) peanut butter chips

1/2 c chopped roasted unsalted peanuts

The only difference in prep is that you add the peanut butter directly after you cream together the fat, sugar, and salt (that’s what that procedure’s called) but before you add the eggs. You have a choice between using crunchy peanut butter or smooth peanut butter. If you use crunchy, don’t add the extra peanuts. If you use smooth peanut butter, it’s up to you whether you add the extra peanuts or not.

Also, when putting the peanut butter cookie dough on the pans, push them down a little with the back of your disher or with a spoon because these won’t spread nearly as much as the chocolate chip cookies. You can actually pack the pan a little bit tighter as well, and I’ve gone as far as a 3 – 2 – 3 – 2 – 3 configuration without too many issues of finished cookies touching.

And that’s all there is to it. If you have any questions about my cookies or have some suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below. And remember, snacks at game night doesn’t have to be shitty take-out and junk food.

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