Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas recap, continued (baking edition part 3)

I'm not sure why, but I didn't do a good job documenting these cookies while I was making them. Maybe it's because I was trying to package these cookies up to give to neighbors. Maybe it's because I knew that I'd be revisiting them soon.

Let me back up.

I got it in my mind that I wanted to make lace cookies. I tend to trust Cook's Illustrated as the baking authority, thinking they've done way more testing than most others-- way more than I have! As far as baking goes, they have not steered me wrong yet.

On the other hand, I knew that we had John's late grandmother's recipe for lace cookies that I had never tried out. So, I did what every normal person would do-- I had a bake off and blind taste test.

LE and I started with Bebe's recipe, following it almost exactly. Even before they went in the oven, I declared them the winner for simplicity. Cook's Illustrated tends to overcomplicate most things, so I couldn't imagine their recipe being easier than this.

The one fatal flaw in Bebe's recipe is that it says to bake them on foil, which creates a stuck-on mess after baking. Stick with parchment or a Silpat, and they'll turn out great. Secondly, I fiddled with the recipe's per-cookie dough size to yield a cookie closer in size to what John remembers.

The cookies have a traditional dough (it's the one pictured above that LE's scooping with the too big cookie portion scoop) and bake into a flat, delicate cookie that is easily crumbled. The middle is slightly chewy due to the oats, and the flavor is buttery and sweet (no surprise there, given the ingredients!). Their chip-like, airy texture makes them really hard to stop eating. We even got feedback from a neighbor that he's not a cookie person, but he likes these cookies.

Bebe's cookie is the smaller cookie on the bottom left and the Cook's Illustrated lace cookie is the larger one with chocolate.
By the time I started the CI recipe, I was a bit tired, which is probably why I didn't take any photos of the process. I plan to revisit this recipe soon, though, and I'll take plenty of photos along the way.

This recipe was noticeably different from the start; you don't use a mixer and heat it on the stove. The dough is syrupy instead of fluffy. Once again, I followed the recipe as written, and it was arguably just as simple as Bebe's. The cookie resulted in something like a very thin toffee, much like a Trader Joe's lace cookie. It's relatively sturdy and breaks into shards as opposed to crumbs.

Strangely, after eating countless Bebe lace cookies, I was not a fan of these CI cookies when they came out of the oven. I could taste the brown sugar more than I liked. John and I both declared Bebe's recipe the clear winner.

Interestingly, though, after I gave my tastebuds a sugar rest, I tasted the CI cookie again and loved them. Sandwiching a bit of ganache between two cookies led to a cookie that I ended up finding irresistible. I also like that you can get creative with the CI cookie; you can shape it into a tube and fill it with whipped cream, make it into a shell shape, or sandwich two together with chocolate, like I did. I'll definitely be revisiting these soon.

So, in the bake-off... it's a tie. To me, both cookies are good but too different to be compared. Maybe this verdict shouldn't be allowed, but both cookies are really tasty for different reasons.

If you're looking for a sweet, delicate cookie that doesn't need to be packaged up-- try out Bebe's recipe. If you're looking for a lace cookie that's a bit sturdier and similar to toffee-- go with the CI.  Either way, you can't go wrong!

Bebe's Lace Cookies
Shared with permission.

1 stick butter, softened
¾ c sugar
1 tbs Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 c old fashioned oats (original recipe calls for quick oats)

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugar together in a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat well. Drop in 1/2-3/4 teaspoonfuls onto a parchment paper or Silpat lined cookie sheet, at least 2” apart.

Bake 7 minutes on the center rack. Let cool for about 5 minutes and then gently transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. You'll be able to fit 8 cookies on a regular half-sheet baking sheet.

Cook's Illustrated Lace Cookies
Make on a dry day to prevent chewy cookies; oats are traditional but this recipe calls for pecans. 

8 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 c light corn syrup
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbs all purpose flour, sifted
1 c pecans, chopped fine
1 tbs heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a medium pot over medium heat (approx 6 min), stirring frequently. Take off heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Stir until smooth (or as smooth as you can with pecans in there!).

Drop syrupy batter onto a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet in teaspoonfuls, 3" apart. For a regular half-sheet baking sheet, you'll be able to fit 6 cookies. Bake on the center rack for approximately 7 minutes, looking for the cookies to spread thin, start to darken, and come close to stop bubbling.

Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before carefully transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely. If you're going to shape into a tube, shell, or cone, let the cookies sit for a shorter period when taking them out of the oven. Then, carefully shape and let cool. If making ganache filled sandwiches, dollop about 3/4 tsp ganache in the center of a cooled cookie and gently press another cookie on top. Allow to harden completely before serving (you can refrigerate them to speed up that process).

Store plain cookies in an airtight container at room temp for up to one month, though you have to really have a lot of will power to allow them to be in your home for that long. Decorate or fill with ganache up to a week in advance.

1 comment:

  1. The cookies look yummy! I love the picture of your lil angel looking so exhausted! LOL


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