Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Apples to Applesauce Cookies

Greetings on the last full night of 2009! Now that the big holiday season is almost over, I am finally getting to the business of cookie baking! I decided to start with the very first recipe in the book for my maiden adventure, and that was Applesauce Cookies. These are from the "drop cookie" category in that the dough is simply "dropped" onto the baking sheet and not formed into nice little shapes ahead of time. This particular dough also had to be chilled for "at least two hours" before baking. Since I couldn't get to batter assembly until later last night, I decided to make this a two night ordeal.

So let's see... essentially this was not a difficult recipe as far as the mixing goes. However, it does call for two cups of well drained applesauce and 1/2 cup of cold coffee, neither of which are ingredients that I normally keep on hand. But I embraced the challenge and strained off two cups of applesauce and broke out my little Mr. Coffee brewer and made a fresh pot of French Roast. Also worth mentioning is that I omitted the raisins called for in the recipe, but this is because they were non-essential, and to be honest, I just hate raisins.

After a full evening of mixing (thank heavens for my stand mixer), I put what appeared to be a LOT of batter into the fridge for 24 hours. When I arrived home, I got out my two new baking sheets and my handy metal scooper, and went to work. My dishwasher is now humming with all my messy dishes for the second night in a row, so I can share the results with you. First of all, the consistency of this cookie turned out to be on the cake-y side, which is fine. It's sort of an apple/spice/nut mini cake. Really not bad actually, and I definitely did not miss the raisins. However... for some reason, the cookies made at the end of the batch got a little inconsistent. I was using the same size drops, pans and baking time, but for some reason the last batch of cookies through the oven came out much thinner and more spread out. I'm not sure if this had to do with the temperature of the batter (although I did put it back in the fridge for a while) or perhaps due to a settling of certain ingredients in the batter over the past 24 hours. The flavor/texture of the cookies was fine, but the didn't come off the pan as nicely - these will likely be the bits kept amongst family consumers.

All in all, not a bad experience for the first recipe attempted. With the New Year just a day away, I will likely not return to baking until next week, but I will be starting with an orange flavored cookie AND the frosting that goes with it. It was apparently submitted by a woman in Iowa and it was hugely popular for her, so hopefully I can do it justice. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cooky Primer Challenge

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a single female who lives in the magical part of the country known as Minnesota. At the moment, we're under a pending winter storm warning that is threatening to put a serious damper on Christmas travel plans for my family. Fortunately, my mother and I (mostly my mother) have already completed some of the holiday prerequisite cookie baking. In Christmases past, my grandmother bore the entirety of this responsibility, and in my opinion, no one has ever been able to do it quite as well as her. Sadly, fate did not allow her to remain with me until I reached the proper age of cookie-wisdom sharing, but she did leave us her 1963 copy of Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. It contains a large portion of her Christmas cookie repertoire, along with her own personal measurement alterations and suggestions pencilled within her favorite recipes.

Up until now, my own personal cookie repertoire consisted chiefly of the basic: chocolate chip. Sure, I've ventured out into the occasional biscotti or double chocolate brownie cookie from time to time, but I've never spent too much time looking over the full breadth of cookie offerings made by Ms. Betty Crocker. However, after pressuring my mother to make my favorite Christmas cookie (Spritz) and receiving a flat-out refusal, I borrowed the book and brought it home with me to attempt the process on my own. My experience was far from perfect, but the end product tastes (even if it doesn't look) like my grandmother's.

This experience left me with a strange feeling. It made me feel oddly domestic (very unusual for me) and gave me a strong desire to make more cookies. This is not an experiment in which I am seeking to prove anything to anyone else, although I expect that my experimentations will make their way to my family and coworkers as time goes on. This is my attempt to prove to myself that I can follow a recipe, even one that may not be popular or even known in this decade, and there is some strange satisfaction in that accomplishment for me.

At the very beginning of the Cooky Book, there is an introduction called the "Cooky Primer." Here is the challenge it issues:

This is a basic guide to baking perfect cookies. Follow these "hints and helps" to achieve professional, party-proud results with a variety of America's most-made cookies. Even experienced homemakers may welcome this little refresher course leading to the ever-full cooky jar which makes your kitchen the most popular room in your home. At the bottom of each page in this section you will find color photographs of the many different types of cookies featured in this book. How do yours compare with them?

To clarify, I am not an "experienced homemaker," and I am not going for "professional" results. But I certainly will use those color photographs to compare my results. Thank you, Betty.