Cookies On a Pedestal
Cookies aren't just for kids. You know it. I know it, and now restaurants and local eateries are showing it.
Apart from Mrs. Fields at the mall and grandma's own, homemade cookies are being popularized at the neighborhood level. As if the concept of the local patisserie is making a comeback, freshness is the selling point at restaurants and the ticket to success for cottage industries.
Just how fresh?
"Allow 10 extra minutes," for freshly baked cookies instructs the dessert menu at one of Boston's upscale restaurants. Sure enough, a sampler of sweet, delicious chocolate-chip, sugar, and butter cookies arrives on a silver tray hot from the oven.
So it goes that the designation "gourmet" with cookies these days is less about esoteric ingredients and more about quality and freshness. The pendulum is swinging back to mom-and-pop simplicity.
"I'm delighted," declares Maida Heatter, longtime cookie expert and dessert cookbook author. "A perfectly made, beautifully shaped, timed-just-right cookie is a work of art.
"There is a general trend in all food toward simplicity," she adds.
Dancing Deer, a West Roxbury, Mass., baking company has infiltrated supermarkets and coffee shops in the area with their luscious ginger-clove-molasses, sugar-key-lime, and chocolate-orange cookies. Always keeping freshness in mind, the bakers print an expiration date on their hang tags.
Finally, there's Finale, a Boston restaurant devoted solely to desserts. When it opened several months ago, the restaurant offered only take-out cookies, explains owner Kim Moore. Funny thing was, "people would look at the menu, but then go to the case [by the counter] and point to the cookies, asking, "Can you just make a plate of cookies up for me?"
No wonder: rich chocolate-fudge, hazelnut-spritz, and Italian-pecan cookies beckon. So great has been the demand for their cookies, the staff is adding to the selection. "I'm a cookie person," Ms. Moore says. "Plenty of people prefer an assortment of cookies rather than a gooey-mushy, over-the-top rich dessert." Put a simpler way: Cookies are the choice if you want something sweet and quick to eat.
FINALE'S CHOCOLATE FUDGE COOKIES
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
16-ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
6 large eggs
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate and butter; blend together.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla until thick and light, (about 1 minute).
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Slowly beat chocolate into egg mixture; fold in dry ingredients. Cover; set in cool place for 3 hours. Dough will become firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of round balls of dough onto lightly greased baking sheet - about 6 per baking sheet. Space wide apart, as batter will spread. (A doubled baking sheet - one on top of the other, will help safeguard against burning.) Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to puff up in the center.
With a spatula, remove cookies to brown paper to cool.
Finale Chocolate Fudge Cookies should be served as soon as possible.
Yields 3 to 3-1/2 dozen cookies.
COCONUT OATMEAL COOKIES
2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
1 cup shredded (sweetened or unsweetened) coconut, firmly packed
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Beat in the vanilla and both sugars; mix well. Beat in the eggs, then on low speed beat in the sifted dry ingredients. Remove bowl from the mixer.
With a wooden spoon, stir in the rolled oats and then the coconut.
Use a rounded teaspoonful of dough for each cookie. Place them 2 to 3 inches apart on cookie sheets (I place only 8 on a 12-by-15-1/2-inch sheet; these spread) Do not flatten the tops - they flatten themselves.
Bake for about 14 to 15 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during the baking to ensure even browning. These will rise and then fall during baking. Bake only until the cookies are golden brown; they will still feel soft to the touch, but do not bake any longer. These become crisp as they cool. When they are cool they should be crisp on the edges but slightly chewy in the middle.
Let cookies stand on the sheet for a few seconds to firm up slightly. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool with a wide spatula.
- From Maida Heatter's 'Cookies,' (Cader books, 1997)