Selected recipes from: The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Countryman Press, October 2004
Ordering Information: Amazon.com
Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
Often sugar cookies are fat and soft, the cumulus clouds of cookiedom. But when you roll out the dough rather than drop it from a spoon, you reach the other extreme: thin and crisp. Make them just a bit thicker, and you've got crunchy. These golden cookies pair nicely with ice cream or fresh fruit. The dough is sturdy enough to be cut into fanciful shapes and decorated.
Yield: about 3-1/2 dozen
Baking temperature: 350 degrees Baking time: 10 to 12 minutes
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) butter 1 cup (7-1/4 ounces) sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional) 1 large egg 1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream 3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) cornstarch 3 cups (12-3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add half the cream, all of the cornstarch, and half the flour; beat well. Add the remaining cream and the flour, mixing just until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Divide the dough in half, flatten each half slightly, and wrap well. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer, to facilitate rolling.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Lightly dust both sides of the chilled dough with flour. If you've just taken it out of the refrigerator, allow it to rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. When you pinch a piece of dough, it should feel pliable, not break off in a chunk. Trying to roll ice-cold dough is like trying to flatten an ice-cold stick of butter; it's more likely to crack and break into pieces than to roll flat and smooth.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured, clean work surface. Starting in the middle, and rolling out toward the edges, roll the dough into a circle 1/2- to 1/4-inch thick. Thinner cookies will be crisper, thicker cookies will be sturdier.
Using a metal turner, pick up individual cookies, and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Edge the turner under the cookie, lift slightly, pull away the scraps around the edge, then give your hand a gentle jerk to slip the cookie onto the baking sheet.
Put the cookies in the oven, on racks set as close to the middle as possible. Halfway through the baking time, exchange the pans on the racks (top to bottom, bottom to top), and turn each pan around so the cookies that were at the back of the oven are now at the front. This will help counteract any hot spots you may have in your oven.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until they're set but not browned. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Use a metal turner to pick up one cookie; if it seems fragile or breaks, let the cookies continue to cool till you can handle them easily. When the cookies are completely cool, store them in an airtight container or in a plastic bag, at room temperature.
Many of us here at King Arthur decided that our perfect brownie should be fudgy, but not gooey, and rich enough to satisfy on its own. It should also be assertively flavored and able to stand up to hot fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream. Also, it needs to have a crisp top layer — as one of the kids said, “Just like ones from a box.” The following recipe fills the bill.
Yield: Two dozen 2-inch brownies
Baking temperature: 325 degrees Baking time: 29 to 32 minutes
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter 2 cups (14 ounces) sugar 1 cup (4 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 3 large eggs 1 cup (4-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour 1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) 1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips (optional)*
In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it's hot (about 110 degrees to 120 degrees), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
Stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth; then add the flour and optional nuts and chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch pan.
Bake the brownies in a preheated 325-degree oven for 29 to 32 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a tiny amount of crumb clinging to it. The edges of the brownies should be set, but the middle still soft. Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool them completely before cutting and serving.
*Chocolate chips will provide tiny molten pockets of chocolate within the greater brownie landscape. Add them if your desire for fudginess knows no bounds.
Nutrition information per serving (one 2-inch square, without nuts or chocolate chips, 39g): 154 cal, 4g fat, 2g protein, 4g complex carbohydrates, 16g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 43mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 200 mg potassium, 68RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 16mg calcium, 50mg phosphorus, 9mg caffeine.
Ossi da Morto (Bones of the Dead)
These crunchy, almond-scented cookies are traditionally baked and eaten in Italy on November 2, the day after All Saints Day, in honor of family members who've passed away. Sound a little odd? Their flavor will conjure up great memories, we promise! Each region of Italy has its own special flavor combination; the following recipe brings out the best in all of them, in our opinion.
Yield: 3-1/2 dozen
Baking temperature: 300 degrees Baking time: 15 to 25 minutes, plus resting time
2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) confectioners' sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 cups (8-1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour 1/2 cup (2 ounces) almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)* 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract or a few drops almond oil, to taste** 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons (3/4 to 1 ounce) milk
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the sugar, baking powder, flour, almond flour, and salt. Add the egg, extract, and enough of the milk to make a smooth, soft (but not sticky) dough. The dough will seem dry at first; keep beating until it comes together.
Transfer the dough to a heavily floured work surface, and divide it into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a long snake about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut each snake into 4-inch pieces. Working with one piece at a time, pinch the center portion of the piece, giving it a slender “waist” about 1/2-inch thick. Plump the ends into knob-like shapes, so the whole thing resembles a bone. Don't worry about everything being straight, smooth, and even; these are supposed to be fairly gnarly-looking.
Transfer the pieces to the prepared baking sheets. Place the sheets in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.
Next day, remove the cookies from the refrigerator. Allow them to rest at room temperature for an hour.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes to make a cookie that's lightly crunchy on the outside, and chewy within. Bake for 20 minutes if you want a cookie that has less chew in the center. Bake for 25 minutes if you want a cookie that's downright hard, like biscotti. Remove the cookies from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
*Substitute 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour if you don't have almond flour.
**Almond is only one of the flavors associated with Ossi da Morto. Other versions call for lemon, anise, cinnamon, or cloves. Feel free to substitute your favorite extract, oil or spice.