Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cookie of the Month

Back when I used to subscribe to Martha Stewart Living, there was a monthly column on the last page called "Cookie of the Month." Since my husband, boss, and doctor mandated break from work, I have been trying to do the things I love to do that energize me and bless others, and one of those things for me has always been baking. And from the very beginning, my favorite thing to bake has been cookies. For years, my friend Annie made one of her New Year's resolutions to bake more bread. And I always thought that sounded great so I copied her but then never actually followed through. Because here's the thing I realized: I can buy really good bread. I live within walking distance from a really good French bakery and another little market that carries the daily wares from one of Des Moines' best bakeries, South Union Bakery. But most cookies one finds at a typical bakery are just not good. Generally speaking, I find bakery cookies to have more flour in them than flavor. And grocery store bakery cookies all have the same, unnatural preservative filled taste. Yuck! And don't even get this family started on national brand cookies. With the possible exception of the Oreo and Pepperidge Farm Chessman or Milano, no one will never find store-bought cookies in our house. Okay, okay, there's one other funny little exception, but that is another post. The point is, I really love to bake cookies, and it is a great way to bless my family with otherwise unattainable deliciousness. It took me a while to realize all of this so I felt it was worth a few words.

Anyway, so far this year, I've made a different batch of cookies each week. The first week, I didn't try anything new, just an old favorite, chocolate chunk mocha cookies. The next week, I tried one that I remember first seeing and trying when it was published about twelve years ago in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas cookie issue, Laura Bush's cowboy cookies. I only tried it that one time, but with ingredients like coconut, oats, and chocolate chips, I figured it was worth trying again. It was! The next week, I felt like a peanut butter cookie. I tried this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it was great. But the best cookie I tried all month, and therefore my pick for January's cookie of the month, was an M&M cookie. I asked the kids what sounded good and Elspeth asked for an M&M cookie. She has always been a girl after my own heart! I could've made the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe and subbed in M&M's for chocolate chips, but I have long wanted to perfect the texture of chocolate chip cookies and find that it is tricky to do. One thing I think is always necessary is mixing by hand rather than using an electric mixer. An electric mixer seems to over mix the dough and cause the cookies to spread too much in the oven. But the main problem of spreading dough in my mind has always been butter as it has a lower melting temperature than shortening or the margarine I used when I first began baking. The problem with margarine and shortening, of course, is that they are  disgusting. But I have never quite been able to get the nice, thick cookie I want with butter. Until now! According to the recipe I tried, the over mixing is definitely a culprit, but the lower melting temperature of butter is definitely the main issue. And that is why this recipe requires freezing the dough for at least four hours first. Furthermore, there was a bit more flour in this recipe than in most chocolate chip cookie recipes, a full three cups as opposed to just two and a quarter cups in the Nestle Toll House recipe. While I tend to think many cookies have too much flour in them effecting both the texture and the flavor, I decided to trust this recipe. The flavor was amped up with a full tablespoon of vanilla as opposed to a mere teaspoon of vanilla in the Nestle Toll House recipe and also with the use of browned butter. Browning butter is simple and it really adds a richness to the butter's flavor. The result was one of the best cookies I've ever made or eaten!

Bakery M&M Cookies

1c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1c. brown sugar
1T vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3c. flour
1c. M&M's
1/2c. chocolate chips
- melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; swirl melted butter over heat until butter solids turn brown. remove saucepan from heat and allow butter to cool slightly
- in a large bowl, mix sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. pour in cooled brown butter and mix together.
- gently stir in eggs- don't over mix
- sprinkle baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour over sugar mixture and fold in
- mix in chocolate chips and m&m's
- use a tablespoon to scoop dough into large balls
- freeze dough balls on parchment paper for four hours
- bake frozen dough on parchment lined baking sheets for 10 minutes at 375

1 comment:

Fittsy said...

I love that you're posting recipes again! You are the cookie master. Your chocolate mocha are still a favorite here too! And I know we will love these M&M cookies too. (M&Ms remind me of you always.)

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