Thursday, March 6, 2008

Book club and Cookies

I have belonged to several different book clubs and each has been fun and interesting. The group I am reading with now is such a mix of ladies in age. They each bring a wholly different view of what we are reading to these get together. It was so funny the month we read a book about a women in a 1950's life. The younger women were shocked at how this women waited on her family and her husbands behavior towards her. She had no life of her own. The 4 of us who lived through this time period had to explain how this was all possible and even comfortable to most of these women. It was a view through the ages. How much we must not understand about time periods we didn't experience. 'You'd had to be there to understand' kind of thing.
So this month was my month to present the information on the book and author and provide treats. I puzzled over this. It's a favorite hobby of mine, planning food and get together. I enjoyed this planning process and decided cookies and punch in crystal cups would give us the feeling of the Southern hospitality that was lost during the Civil War, which was the time period we were reading about. I wanted cookies people may have never tasted. I choose recipes from my growing up period. I spent a delightful day in the kitchen making the cookies yesterday and when they were served I didn't hear anyone say they knew any of the cookies. Success!
Now I want to share these cookie recipes with you. Some you may know some you may not, but to me they all have a past, a history.
I thought it best to give you cookie baking hints in this blog and devote a blog to each cookie recipe so you can collect them one at a time as you wish to use them.
The following information may seem too much for you, read it and what you need will stick with you. Not only has experience taught me about making cookies, moms of five kids bake a lot of cookies, but in 1993 I took baking classes at the Voc-tec school in Kirkland. We did a full unit on cookies. If any of you need large quantity recipes I’m happy to provide!
There are three basic cookie mixing methods. One-stage: low moisture cookies can be mixed in one bowl in one stage, put it all in the bowl and mix it!
Creaming: Creaming of the fats affects the texture, leavening, and the spread of cookies. The amount you cream is important. A small amount of creaming is desired when a cookie must retain it’s shape and not spread too much. If a cookie is thin and delicate, or high in fat, too much creaming will make the cookie crumbly. How to do this: place fat and sugars, salt and spices in bowl and mix at slow speed. For light cookies cream until light in color and fluffy. For denser cookies blend to a smooth paste, but NOT until light.
Sponge: egg is taken to a foam and sugar added slowly, and flour folded in. One-stage cookies are: Bar cookies, chewy brownies, Creaming cookies are: icebox cookies, oatmeal, sugar, chocolate chips. Sponge cookies are: madeline’s, cake style brownies,
Remember the muffins, we barely stirred them once the flour was in? Well cookies don’t want to be stirred much once the flour is in. We don’t want to develop the gluten. That’s best for bread with lots of moisture to move the project along. Cookies are very low on moisture. DON’T OVER BEAT COOKIES once the flour has been added.
Cookies can take a good many shapes and that changes how they cook and taste. This is called make-up method and it is what causes us all the work in cookie making. Make-up methods: Bagged (Spritz cookies) or pressed-uses soft dough to go through cookie gun, pastry bag etc
Dropped (chocolate chip, macaroons)-soft dough, has bits and pieces in it, load a spoon or cookie scoop ,drop on pan
Rolled-(sugar cookies) stiff dough, chill thoroughly. Roll, cut, scraps rolled and cut
Molded-(peanut butter, snicker doodles) divide in portions place on baking sheets, flatten with fork, hand, cup dipped in sugar etc. Icebox (butter tea cookies)-prepared dough is formed into cylinders from 1 to 2 inches in diameter and wrapped and chilled. Then cut into uniform thickness cookies and baked. Bar-(biscotti, Raisin spice bars) shape dough in long narrow strips, cut crosswise into bars.
Sheet (brownies, lemon bars)-you may think of these as bar cookies. Spread dough into sheet pan and top with goodies and bake, cut when cool.
The most important thing with forming your cookies is keeping them all the same size so they all cook evenly. If you are going to garnish the top of your cookies do that right after you put them on the pan or they get a skin on them and nothing sticks. This includes sugars, nuts, sprinkles, etc.
Most cookies are baked at a relatively high temperature for a short time as in 350 degrees for 8-10 min. Here are some temperature issues to watch for:
Too low a temperature-hard, dry, pale, spreading cookies
Too high a temperature-decreases spreading and burnt edges Over baking-dry cookies
rich doughs full of butter over brown quickly. Check bottoms that is where is shows most. Most cookies are done when light,golden brown.
Remember to cool your cookies completely before storing, if any warmth remains it will steam the cookies and they will be wet.
Ready for some recipes....Here we go...

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