Sweet, Savory, Decadent, Healthful - All occasion baking with Mani Niall
This month I am focusing on cookie recipes, in anticipation of Sweet Bar Bakery opening later in 2012. For all recipes, I have three criteria:
- Looks and tastes great
- Explore high quality ingredients
- Don’t leave anyone out!
To make cookies look and taste good, there are a few tricks that baker’s use which home cooks can easily adapt. For instance, portion scoops. These are essentially ice cream scoops, and they come in all sizes. Why are they important? For a cookie, the texture is best when they are ever-so-slightly rounded as opposed to evenly flat. This allows the center, the highest domed part, to stay softer and chewy while the thinner edges get crispy while baking. That way each cookie has both soft and chewy components. You don’t have to go out and buy scoops of all sizes, but maybe try rolling the dough into a little ball before placing it on the baking sheet.
For visual flair, try sprinkling a few particulate on top of the cookies before baking, pressing them in gently to the dough so it looks natural. This can work with simple chocolate chips, oats, nuts and dried fruits or grainy sugars such as demerara or turbinado, or seek out coconut palm sugar. Palm sugar is quite common throughout Southeast Asia and is becoming available in natural foods and ethnic markets.
By not leaving anyone out, of course I mean don’t forget vegan and gluten free diets. I try to make cookies for these categories that still look and taste great for everyone.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan) I actually prefer the taste of the non-hydrogenated shortening in chocolate chip cookies since it is essentially palm oil which hails from the tropics, as does chocolate. They are made for each other!
Palm Sugar Shortbread My family are all shortbread lovers—my Mom used to say it was our Scottish side. While I don’t stray far from the all-butter approach, I have experimented with everything from 100% whole grain, to almond and even hazelnut shortbread recipes over the years. This is my first time making it with this uniquely flavorful sugar . It is cooked down from the sap of the sugar palm, also date and coconut palm trees. I love the smoky, caramel flavor it imparts to the shortbread.
Oatmeal Trail Mix Cookies – gluten free This is a simple riff on oatmeal cookies. The trail mix is more interesting than standard raisins and walnuts. You can choose your favorite trail mix, even including chocolate chips! Mine is a combination of cranberries, almonds, pistachios and pecans. For the flour, I have substitued the basic ratio of 2/3 rice flour and 1/3 corn starch to bind the cookies. (Feel free to omit the rice flour and cornstarch, simply use one cup of all purpose flour if you do not want these to be gluten free).