Suzi's Blog

The Chocolate Cookie Detective

My mattress is high, so when I roll out in the morning my feet dangle. That gives me time to check the toes and ankles and few muscles. I can check for a cat on the floor. Am I ready to plop down, do I need to find the Ben Gay, is this a stretching day?

In that moment of suspension, I am a bit vulnerable. Things can happen. Yesterday I had a flashback, a vision that invoked every one of my senses. I suddenly remembered, and immediately craved, a chocolate cookie from deep in the past. A soft, plumpy, cakey cookie topped with a hard chocolate glaze.

I could see it, I could taste it, I could hear the crunch of the glaze. But there were issues. I could not remember its name, or where it came from, or how to make it. I wanted it.

I am not a detective, but I watch Law and Order. It’s all about eliminating the suspects. With 3000 cookbooks, I had a lot of suspects. It might be called profiling, but I decided I could eliminate the Chinese and Japanese cookbooks. South American, Mexican, and Southeast Asia, too. Appetizer-to-dessert cookbooks were out. This had to come from a real baking book. And I had this cookie before I met Suzen, so it to be pre-1985. My fingers trailed over the books on the shelves, rejecting most, pausing now and then, moving on.

And there it was. The usual suspect. It had to be this book. This author. Once again Maida Heatter was the, well not a real culprit, just the rediscovered author.

I turned each page of Maida Heatter’s Cookies, seeking a morsel both chocolate and glazed. Page 40 was the gold: Big, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies. Reading the recipe I began to remember making this wonderful cookie, one mixed in a saucepan with milk to generate the fluffy puff of chocolate. I don’t know when I last made it. Twenty years ago?

So, yesterday, I made it, I tasted it, and it’s everything I remembered. Down to the crunch.

If you don’t have any of Maida’s books, get one. She’s one of this country’s most important and prominent baking mavens. Her books elevated the quality of cookie cookbooks and she has been nationally acknowledged for her contributions.

Twenty years ago I went to book signing she was holding. She asked my name. I said, “Brian.” She signed and stopped. She opened the book to a recipe and said to me, “You should make this for your nice wife.” I was wearing a wedding ring, but how she knew Suzen loved rugelach I’ll never know.

Now that I’ve found my old chocolate cookie, this weekend it’s back to the rugelach.

Big, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 30 cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk

Cookie Preparation:

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Cut the butter into ½-inch slices and place in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Add the chocolate and cook over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar. The mixture will look curdled — it’s okay. Add the egg and vanilla to the warm chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in half of the sifted dry ingredients. Then, very gradually, just a few drops at a time, stir in the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir briskly until completely smooth.

Use a heaping teaspoonful of dough for each cookie. Place them in even mounds 2 to 3 inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, reversing sheets top to bottom and front to back to ensure even baking. The cookies are done if the top spring back firmly when lightly touched with a fingertip. Do not overbake.

Let stand for about a minute or so and then, with a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to rack to cool. Prepare the glaze.

Glaze Ingredients:

1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup strained confectioners’ sugar

Glaze Preparation:

Over hot water, in the top of a small double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter on moderate heat. Remove top of the double boiler and stir in the 1 ½ tablespoons of hot water and the heavy cream. Add the confectioners’ sugar and stir until smooth. If necessary, adjust with a bit more water or sugar to make the consistency similar to a heavy cream sauce.

With a small metal spatula, smooth the glaze over the tops of the cookies, staying about ½ inch away from the edges.

Let stand for a few hours to dry.

Source: Maida Heatter’s Cookies

Colossal Peanut Butter Cookies

Last month I posted a recipe for Subtle and Smooth Peanut Butter Cookies: http://www.cookingbythebook.com/blog/recipes/sublte-smooth-…butter-cookies/. Some of you have written back to say they are lovely and could I recommend other peanut butter cookies. After all, one recipe is never enough. Here’s a superior one from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.

I’m happy to say that this recipe is colossal in pleasure as well as size. This recipe, too, has some ingredient secrets: lots of egg and lots of butter. The batter is smooth and soft. The baked cookies are tender, yet do not crumble away. This recipe calls for adding chopped unsalted peanuts. I skipped the chopping part, enjoying the look of big half peanuts poking through a golden cookie. Or, you substitute milk chocolate chips for that chocolate-peanut fix that we all crave.

I made a batch of these for a relative in the hospital and we gave the cookies to her family for delivery. It’s a nice family but Suzen just spoke with our relative and it seems that mysteriously in transit all the cookies disappeared. The relative is out of the hospital and we are seeing her tomorrow. I’ve just baked a new batch of these and I will personally deliver them.

I’m not saying if you bake these cookies you will have to guard them, but you might just carry the canister of them around with you as safety precaution.


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We hope you enjoy this blog and enourage you to let others know we
are here. Each recipe has been tested and will offer you a rich flavor
experience.
If you have ideas or questions, please feel free to email us:

brian@cookingbythebook.com
suzi@cookingbythebook.com

Enjoy!


 

Colossal Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

2 ½ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark born sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Preparation:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter at medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the granulated and brown sugars. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract. At low speed, gradually beat in the dry ingredients then the chopped peanuts until blended. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to45 minutes, until the dough has firmed up.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease an insulated cookie sheet or line one with parchment paper.

Using a ¼-cup ice cream scoop or cup measure, scoop 6 portions of the dough on the cookie sheet, spacing them evenly. Moisten your palm to prevent sticking, and flatten each scoop into a 2 1/2 –disk. Using a fork, make a crosshatch indentation in the center of each cookie, sliding the fork across the cookie to continue the indentation all the way to the edges.

Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes, until golden around the edges but still soft in the center. They will firm up as they cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle