Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cookiepalooza

Christmas Cookiepalooza, originally uploaded by riptideredsf
Two years ago, whilst noodling around in cyberspace, I came across this post over at The Amateur Gourmet that transformed a lifetime of Christmas cookie baking. I, like pretty much everybody who has their go-to Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, figured my recipe (well, Good Housekeeping's actually) was The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I baked that recipe, which included peanut butter, oatmeal and Rice Krispies, every Christmas for 10 years as part of my Menage et Trois. Three go-to recipes that became legendary and much anticipated amongst family, friends and co-workers. I'd spend the week before Christmas up to my ears in baking every night after work so as to deliver the freshest cookie trays and gift bags as close to Christmas as possible. It wore me out.
When I came across Adam's post, a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Top Chef Just Desserts contestant Eric Wolitzky, I was intrigued by the same things he was: melted butter and measurement by weight...but the game changer was the note about freezing the cookie dough. How did I not know this!?! Only then did it occur to me that was how my mom was able to produce the insane assortment of cookies we'd bake every year. I'd been torturing myself needlessly.
Form and freeze the unbaked cookies on the baking sheet until solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag. I lay the bag flat on the table to distribute the frozen cookies into an even layer then I suck all the air out of the bag, to make all subsequent bags stackable.
This is the recipe that propelled me into buying a kitchen scale. The ingredients are simple so the dough comes together quickly. I've made a few tweaks to this since last year. I use a combination of chocolate. Bitter and semi-sweet chips as well as a dark chocolate bar that I chop up. I read the tip about using different chocolate from Alton Brown who recommends including milk chocolate as well, but I just don't like milk chocolate. The combination of flavors and textures makes every bite different.
I loved, loved, loved the idea of melting the butter because then I could take it a step further and brown it! I make these cookies all the time now.
The other cookies in this trio are Kim Severson's Bacon Fat Gingersnaps from CookFight and Dorie Greenspan's Beurre & Sel Jammers.
I can't tell you how thrilled and delighted I was when I found Dorie's recipe in this month's Bon Appetit. I started making her recipe for Sables about a year ago when I discovered her recipe for World Peace Cookies (which I currently have in my freezer). She creates Jammers, baked in custom designed cookie rings, for her new cookie store, Beurre & Sel in Manhattan. The uniform shape is recreated in the home kitchen using muffin tins! They're a bit labor intensive, but worth it.
The gingersnaps were the not-all-that bookend,  of an otherwise deliciously prepared meal,  at the book event dinner for CookFight. The cookie I ate that night, though tasty, had been over-baked (like the Gougeres). So, of course, since I vindicated Julia's Gougeres I had to do the same with the Gingersnaps, seeing as I just happened to have a jar of bacon fat just waiting for  my next attempt at skillet cornbread. The bacon fat replaces butter...brilliant! Moisture achieved and Kim's recipe is deemed a keeper!

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