----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: Christmas Cookies

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Cookies

One thing I love to do around Christmas is bake cookies. I haven't baked too much this year, but today I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Not to brag or anything (well, okay, to brag a little bit), lots of people tell me that my chocolate chip cookies are the best they've ever tasted. So, I thought I would share my baking secrets.

One of the most important (and underrated) aspects of good cookie-making is having the right cookie sheets. I used to have the best cookie sheets, and they were just a no-name brand, but they consistently turned out good cookies. They were all ugly and stained and scratched up, though, so I gave them to my 18-year-old college student brother (I'm so generous), thinking that I'd get new, better ones as a wedding gift. That did not happen. Today, I used a thin, shiny silver cookie sheet, and I had to throw the whole tray away. I did have an Anolon tray that worked pretty well, but it's not a true cookie sheet. Still, on the Anolon tray, the cookies browned evenly and released easily. Think about it...even if you're just making break-n-bake, a good cookie sheet will make your process much easier.

I know the premade dough cookies are quick and painless, but there is still no comparison to made-from-scratch. You will be able to taste the difference. And today, even with my failed batch, it only took me about 45 minutes to make fresh, hot cookies--and that includes clean-up time.

So besides having a good cookie sheet, here's what you have to do: Stick to the Toll House cookie recipe. It is the best. But here are some things you should know: first, you have to use REAL BUTTER. Don't try to make these into some low-calorie, low-fat abomination. They are cookies. They are supposed to be decadent. If you just want something dietetic, go buy yourself a box of Snackwell's and save yourself the bother. Okay, so you use two sticks of real butter, and you have to soften it first. It needs to be soft, not melted. I accomplish this by taking the butter out of the refrigerator a few hours before I'm going to bake, but you can acheive the same effect in the microwave, as long as you work slowly. Oh, and you should use unsalted butter whenever you're baking. The Toll House recipe has salt in it, and if you use salted butter, the cookies could be too salty. An added bonus to using butter: it's less likely that the cookies will stick to the pan.

You also need to use real vanilla extract. The artificial stuff is cheaper, sure, but it really doesn't taste as good. Why try to fake it? Oh, and make sure not to mix up your baking powder and baking soda. You need baking soda for this recipe. When you measure out the brown sugar, pack it firmly. If your brown sugar is hard as a rock, you'll have to go out and buy some new. And next time, keep it sealed in a plastic bag so it will stay soft.

Once you've got the dough all prepared, measure it out onto your quality cookie sheets with a little ice-cream scooper. That way, you'll get cookies that are the same size, so they'll cook more evenly. And the dough comes out of the scooper easily, so you don't have to keep pushing it off the spoon with your finger. You do that, and next thing you know, you've eaten most of the dough. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...I secretly like the dough better than the finished cookies!)

Bake the cookies as directed, but check them even before the nine-minute mark. They could be browning too quickly, especially if you're using a dark pan on the top rack of the oven. And in just 30 seconds, these cookies can go from golden brown to burnt. What a waste! Once you've pulled them out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, then remove them to wire racks with a spatula. But if you don't have wire racks, just put them on a plate. But try not to pile them on top of each other or they'll all stick together. You should have a little metal spatula to lift the cookies off the sheet. A big one will work, too, but if the cookies are close together on the pan, a big spatula will be harder to manuever.

So that's it. Those are my tips for making truly excellent chocolate chip cookies. To recap:

Necessary equipment:
Quality cookie sheets
Small ice-cream scoop
Small metal spatula

Necessary ingredients:
Everything that the recipe calls for, obviously, but make sure to use real, unsalted butter

Bake these for your boyfriend or husband and he will think you are a domestic goddess. Or just a goddess. Whatever you prefer.


  • At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One thing I love around the holiday time is receiving homebaked goods. There's something about homemade cookies that are so delicious! Of course, I am not completely limited to cookies...toffee works just as well!
    Your wonderful Big Sis!! :)


Post a Comment

<< Home