I couldn’t let October pass without paying homage to a quintessential family favorite: cookies. October is National Cookie Month. There is just something that is so comforting about these hand-held treats. They are portable, fun to make, the perfect homemade gift, and the sky is the limit with countless flavors. And … ah, the aroma of cookies baking in the oven. They are so popular that there’s a one-day celebration occurring on Dec. 4.
One cannot have enough cookie recipes in their repertoire, especially this time of the year. So, there’s more to come to entice you to get baking.
Did you know ...
— Americans consume more than 2 billion cookies a year, about 300 cookies for each person.
— The average American eats 35,000 cookies in a lifetime.
— 95.2 percent of U.S. households consume cookies.
— Animal Crackers, introduced by Nabisco in 1902, were the first commercial cookie to be mass-produced in the U.S.
— Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is credited with overseeing the first biscuits cut into the shape of men from ginger dough, the precursor to today’s gingerbread men.
— The Cookie Cutters Collectors Club, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1972 as a way for aficionados to collect and use cookie cutters.
— The American National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum is housed in the Joplin Museum Complex in Joplin, Mo.
— Massachusetts adopted the chocolate chip cookie as its official state cookie in 1997. Chocolate chip cookies were invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, Mass. (See my column about chocolate chip cookies with a recipe at https://bit.ly/2NdmxYU.)
— Unagi Pie, a specialty of Hamamatsu, Japan, are cookies made with fresh butter, crushed eel bones, eel extract and garlic.
Test your cookie baking knowledge (answers below):
Which cookie includes butter, sugar, eggs and semi-sweet morsels of chocolate?
Which cookie’s ingredients include flour, salt, cream of tartar and are rolled in cinnamon sugar?
Which cookie shares a name with a movie star from “Gilligan’s Island?”
A small young girl in Paris who lived in a house covered with vines may come to your mind while making these cookies flavored with lemon or orange flower water. Which cookies are these?
Half of all home-baked cookies are what kind of cookies?
Answers: Chocolate chip; Snickerdoodles; Gingersnaps; Madeleines; chocolate chip
If you have room for only one cookie cookbook, “The Perfect Cookie: Your Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (2017, America’s Test Kitchen $35) is it. America’s Test Kitchen’s signature recipe headnotes “Why This Recipe Works” provides in-depth information for the perfect recipe outcome, a reason I enjoy America’s Test Kitchen publications. The “Getting Started” chapter provides a wealth of information about how to turn out perfect cookie, such as how to outfit your kitchen, both equipment and pantry items.
I was especially interested in the science of cookie baking; for example, what makes a cookie crunchy vs. chewy, and how baking soda effects the cracks that form on some cookies. The page about manipulating texture will help achieve your desired results; chewy, thin and crispy, or cakey.
Do your cookies not add up to the correct yield; do they run together; are your chewy cookies not chewy; do they have overly crisp edges? The troubleshooting information provided has you covered.
With holiday bake sales, cookie swaps, and the sending through the mail soon to be in full swing, the storing, shipping and sharing cookies section has some good suggestions.
Now, let’s get to the recipes and baking these delights. For the recipe for S’mores Blossom Cookies, visit https://bit.ly/2JmD2AR.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: Potato chip cookies are one in a long line of recipes invented by manufacturers to push their products on consumers — and, in this case, we’re totally fine with that. These cookies bring together sugar, salt, and crunch for an addictive combination of flavors and textures. For the cookie base itself, we wanted something multi-textured, with the right balance of shortness and chew. Using half granulated sugar and half confectioners’ sugar gave us a cookie that was tender without being too delicate. Tasters preferred potato chip crumbs to the shards found in many recipes — all of the crunch without the sharp edges. During our testing, we thought the cookies tasted slightly of frying oil, and they were sporting edges that darkened too deeply. We had been making our recipe with the test kitchen’s favorite potato chip: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Original Potato Chips. To see if a different chip would produce a better cookie, we tried our recipe with baked, reduced-fat, fried, and kettle-fried chips. Batches made with reduced-fat chips were best; the hint of oil vanished, as did the overly dark edges that were forming as a result of too much fat. We liked the common addition of chopped pecans; they added a nutty crunch without obscuring the salty-sugary contrast. Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat Potato Chips are the test kitchen favorite among reduced-fat chips.”
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, potato chips, pecans and salt in bowl.
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture in 3 additions. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and space them 3 inches apart on prepared sheets. Using a floured dry measuring cup, press each ball to 1/4-inch thickness.
Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until just set and lightly browned on bottom, 10 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool completely on sheet, about 15 minutes, before serving. Makes 24 cookies.
Microwave 10 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Carefully dip half of each cooled cookie in chocolate, scraping off excess with finger, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle flake sea salt over warm chocolate and refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Serve.
The headnote says, “Why This Recipe Works: Try to add pumpkin puree to cookies, and they’ll usually come out cakey and muffin-like. That’s because pumpkin puree is laden with water; when pumpkin treats hit the oven, that extra moisture turns to steam and provides cakey lift. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we wished for a pumpkin cookie that wasn’t like the rest — one that was thin, crisp, and shortbread-like and baked up with a flat surface that we could coat with a flavorful glaze. For a cookie with the texture we sought, we needed to remove as much moisture as possible from the puree. We tried reducing it on the stovetop, but the cooked flavor was too pronounced. To remove moisture without heat, we developed a unique method of spreading the canned puree thin on the underside of a baking sheet and soaking up moisture with paper towels until 1 cup of puree reduced all the way down to 1/3 cup. Adding this paste to the dough resulted in a fine crumb once the cookies were baked.”
Line rimmed baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin puree over towels. Press with second triple layer of paper towels until towels are saturated. Peel off top layer of towels. Place second baking sheet inside first over pumpkin and flip. Remove top sheet and towels. Repeat if needed to reduce paste to 1/3 cup.
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, superfine sugar, 11/2 teaspoons cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until dough looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pecans, pumpkin paste, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, and vanilla and beat until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to counter; knead just until it forms cohesive mass and divide in half. Form each half into disk, wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll dough 1/8-inch thick between 2 large sheets of parchment paper. Transfer dough, still between parchment, to refrigerator and let chill for 10 minutes. Using a 2 ½ inch cutter, cut dough into shapes; space shapes 11/2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Gently reroll scraps, cut into shapes, and transfer to prepared sheets.
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely. Whisk milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and remaining 1 tablespoon cream cheese together in bowl until combined. Add confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Spread glaze evenly onto cookies and let dry for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes about 40 cookies.
6th annual Quince Festival, Nov. 2-3, noon-5 p.m., White Silo Farm & Winery, 32 Route 37 E, Sherman, 860-355-0271 or 917 699 7355; www.whitesilowinery.com. Features six small plates of food prepared with quince. Menu: Quince Cippolini onion and bacon; Quince Pumpkin, quinoa salad with pomegranate seeds; Quince and Manchego Empanada; Panacotta with spiced quince and amaretti and hazelnut crumble; Quince gingerbread cake; and Pretzels with quince mustard. Admission is free. Pay for food and wine. Live music 1-4 p.m. Free outdoor tours, weather permitting.
New Haven Restaurant Week, Nov. 3-8, prix-fixe menus: $17 two-course lunches, $34 three-course dinners. For participating restaurants, visit https://bit.ly/1sQTIxo.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Menu: Sausage, Kale and Tortellini Soup, Cranberries, Goat Cheese, Walnuts over Baby Spinach with Bacon Tomato Vinaigrette, Cavatelli and Braciole, Pumpkin Crème Brulee. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Party: “House of Syn” Nov. 8, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. An upcoming marriage causes a war to develop within two families…and between the bride and groom as well! Wear the craziest green outfit to compete for a prize. https://bit.ly/32gXryX
Cider Conn, Connecticut’s 1st cider festival, Nov. 9, noon, Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, 1074 S. Colony Road, Wallingford. Samplings from more than a dozen participating cideries, food for purchase from trucks, live music and a cider doughnut eating contest. $25 includes branded tasting glass, three hours of cider tastings, chance to participate in a cider doughnut eating contest and live music. Designated driver $15, Proceeds benefit Bushy Hill Nature Center. Info and tickets at https://bit.ly/2BDc8A7.
Celebrate Beaujolais Month, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m., Abate Ristorante, 129 Wooster St., New Haven, $74, 203-469-4218. November is Beaujolais month because that’s when the current vintage Beaujolais is released with the moniker Nouveau Beaujolais. The tasting will be accompanied by a bountiful buffet dinner. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2MsniOD.
Chefs of Our Kitchen Series: Cookbook author Mike Urban will feature dishes from his work, “The New England Diner Cookbook,” one of four books he has written on New England cuisine.. Nov. 13, 6 p.m., Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 203-285-2617, $65 includes pre-event reception and three-course dinner, with wine pairings and a copy of the book. Mingle with Mike at the reception and then watch Dave McCoart, former Executive chef/owner of Sage American Grille demonstrate the dishes being prepared as you enjoy dinner. Reservations required. Validated parking (bring parking ticket to event) at the Temple Street Garage. Proceeds benefit Gateway foundation. Tickets and series information at www.gatewayfdn.org/cook-tickets.
“Worth Tasting,” A New York City Culinary Experience, Dec. 16. I will meet you at Grand Central Terminal (GCT) at 1 p.m.; $275 includes full lunch with one beverage at Le Marais, with chef/owner Jose Meirelles. We’ll stop at Bookmarks Lounge on the rooftop of the Library Hotel for one beverage, before we head to the Brooklyn Museum (includes roundtrip MetroCards for subway between GCT and the Brooklyn Museum and back to GCT). VIP entry to the renown NYC Latke Festival where we will eat our way through countless latke variations plus other holiday treats and open bar. You will have access to the exclusive VIP Lounge, with another open bar, a buffet of latke complementary comestibles and another open bar. At 8:30 p.m., we will travel back to GCT and get you to your train for your return to New Haven. Limited to 10 people. More information at https://bit.ly/31rN8GH. Tickets, call Stephen at 203-415-3519.