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Advent: Christmas Cookie

It seems like Christmas more than any other holiday is sponsored by “the cookie”.  I know a group of my girls friends are gathered tonight for a cookie swap.  So, what about you?  What’s your favorite cookie recipes?  Have you ever hosted or attended a cookie swap?  Have any good recipe recommendations or insider tips to plan the perfect “exchange”?  Link up and share your recipes!

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Cookies are one of my favorite things to make.  They are so versatile and so forgiving!  I feel like I could be the mix and match mama of cookies.  Wait, I’ll just leave the expertise to her.  But I do love to experiment!

My favorite kind of cookies to make are cake mix cookies.  There are lots of different recipes for these, but I just do:

1 cake mix – any flavor
1/3 C oil
2 eggs

Then, you can mix in anything – chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, etc.  You bake them at 350 for 10 minutes.  You can mix them with any flavor.  I love funfetti, strawberry, or red velvet with homemade cream cheese icing.  So easy and the sky’s the limit on the possibilities!!!

I wish I could say I actually planned this, but I find it ironic that last night was the cookie baking class at a local place I’ve fallen in love with.  Heirloom Food and Gifts on the Rogers square (2nd street) is becoming a little haven that I love.  Jen is such a great chef and I love her style and approach to cooking.

She is really interested in understanding the chemistry of cooking and then using that knowledge to change things to different flavor pallets.  Each month she sets a new menu for the restaurant and serves about 5 specials.  She is a clean cook and tries to keep things organic and green whenever possible.  Its such a great way to cook and I’m so excited about learning more from her. 

But, last night was all about the cookie – chocolate chip cookies to be exact.  I’ll save lots of the details but I want to share some of the cool things I learned.

A cookie is basically 4 parts:

  • fat
  • flour
  • sugar
  • flavor

I’m quickly learning from Jen that while we have great food regulations in American, we have nothing on the content regulations of Europe’s food producers.

When it comes to fat, margarine is basically only 55-62% fat, butter is 86%, and shortening is 100%.
Flour has a similar spectrum in relation to proteins in the base.  Many of us keep “All Purpose UnBleached” flour because its, well, all-purpose.  But, to keep things more controlled cake flour is on the low end of proteins included while bread flour is on the other, or high, end.  Its not that one is better than another, but more proteins means tougher like a bread dough and less proteins means more tender and fluffy.  As for sugar, most of us are used to the white granulated kind, but I think we are all quickly learning that any other type of sugar is better.  She even taught us tonight to think about sugar as a “wet” ingredient.  When you look at it that way you realize that maple syrup, honey and agave nectar are all perfect substitutions.  I was completely surprised by this because its really hard to think of a grainy substance as a “wet” ingredient, but when you think about how you cream it together with butter and add it in with the other wet ingredients, it makes perfect sense.

So, we took the traditional Toll House Recipe and did some experimenting.  I would like to encourage you to take a little challenge that I’m going to make – finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

Now that I understand the components, I feel like experimenting will be so much easier.  Tonight we made one batch with 1/2 all purpose & 1/2 bread flour, one with all bread flour, one with All Purpose flour, but we used 1/2 white sugar and 1/2 DARK brown sugar.  I think the last ones were my favorite of the night. 

It was amazing how one was more cake like.  One was sweeter.  One was chewier.  I think that’s the thing I love about cookies is that one simple little basic ingredient can change the flavor and texture so much.  But, I love being able to experiment! 

Here’s the ultimate basic cookie recipe:

Toll House Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

I’ve always been a bake cookies at 350 for 10 minutes and while that’s easy, tonight I learned that cooking cookies at 375 gets them hotter fast so they make a perfect crispy edge and then bake from the inside out.  I think I may have found a new step to cookie perfection!!!

Best part of the night was that we got to bring home the leftover dough to continue our testing!  What about you?  What do you love about cookies?  What’s your favorite cookie recipe?

Here’s to cookies!!
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