A week ago, I went over to my Celt’s mother’s house to have dinner with the Celtlings, and when I got there, his mother asked me about my day. “So what did you do today?” she asked, generally curious.
“Oh, you know,” I began, riffling through my memory for all the boring mundane activities of my day. “Some laundry, washed some dishes, watched a movie. Oh, and baked some cookies.”
“What? Again?” she said, with laughter in her voice. “You certainly do make a lot of cookies.”
It had never struck me before her comment, but thinking about it, she’s right. I -do- make a lot of cookies. At the time, I couldn’t figure out just exactly why. But through this past week, I’ve pondered on it, and I think I’ve come up with a few good reasons why cookies are the backbone of my baking repertoire.
1. They’re easy. My Celt would argue that it’s easier to head down to the store and buy a package of Keebler. And I suppose that’s true. But if you’re a lover of baking, like me, cookies represent the easiest way to get goodies from a pile of ingredients into a tasty treat. Beat some butter, add some sugar, eggs, extract, flour, and leavening, then toss in whatever chips and nuts you favor and bam, you’ve got a recipe for deliciousness.
2. They’re quick. I can make a batch of cookies (provided I’ve left the butter out to soften), in a matter of forty-five minutes. That is amazing for someone as impatient as I am. Got kids coming over? No problem, I’ll make cookies! Headed to game night in an hour? No problem, I’ll make cookies! Forgot a friend’s birthday/anniversary/special occasion? No problem, I’ll make cookies! It’s also a lot easier to grab a cookie and go, than it is to slice a piece of cake, or pie, put it on a plate and sit down to eat it.
3. You don’t need a lot of space. I live in a one-bedroom apartment. I have three little tiny counters, and that’s it. Rolling out pie dough becomes a hassle, and I just don’t have room for complicated recipes that involve multiple pans and different tools. However cookies, with the help of an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, can go from mix-master bowl to pan, and only need to be on the cooling rack for a few minutes. Not to mention that I can store them easily in Tupperware and don’t generally have to move around the contents of my cupboards or refrigerator to store them (not that they last long enough to store).
4. They’re cheap. Ok, I will admit that butter isn’t all that cheap these days, especially with the rising costs of milk. And a bag of chocolate chips can cost you upwards of $4.00. Don’t even get me started on the price of nuts. But if you figure that you can make 24+ cookies out of this expense (and I generally get to divide those between a group of my friends, and my family), you’re really getting a lot for your money. Your flour and sugar costs remain low, considering you’re using only 2 cups and 1 ½ cups of each respectively. And now that grocery store chains like Kroger are beginning to produce generic, but pure, extracts for under $3.00 a bottle, it’s really much more affordable to make your own cookies than you think.
5. They’re comforting. My mother wasn’t much of a baker. That is to say, she didn’t bake a lot while we were growing up. What she did make, however, was delicious. And one of the things that were always around was freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Even to this day, when I smell the cookies baking in the oven, I’m whisked back to a time when life was much simpler. When all I had to worry about was which mouth-watering, molten cookie I was going to try to steal from the cooling rack, and if you could get there before my older brother could take the best one. Biting into a creamy, steaming cookie, fresh out of the oven, just feels like it takes away any troubles, at least for a few minutes. And if that doesn’t make baking your own cookies worth it, I don’t know what does.
6. They’re just plain tasty. When you make your own cookies, you can cater to your own tastes. Every batch you make can be exactly how you like it. Keebler only makes cookies one way. But you can make yours with milk, semi-sweet, dark or white chocolate. You can use peanut butter, or walnuts. You can add coconut, or M&Ms. You can make it with vanilla extract, or black walnut, or almond. Any way you think might be good, you can do. And if you’re always making it the way you like it, you can be guaranteed that you’re going to enjoy every bite.
So, I praise the humble cookie once or twice a month by baking them myself. It’s my nod to the Slow Food Movement. If you have time to watch an hour long television program, then you have time to bake cookies. And no Keebler Elf can compare to someone who spends a little time and effort to bake something for someone they love. I say, get in your kitchen, whip up a batch of cookies, and spread a little happiness, one chocolate chip at a time!
Peanut Peanut Butter Chip & Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup peanut butter morsels
1 cup milk chocolate morsels
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup peanuts (I use roasted, lightly salted whole peanuts)
In a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer, but the dough becomes rather stiff and hard to work with) fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, then add both sugars and cream together. Add the eggs, one at a time until blended, then the vanilla, baking soda and salt and blend until combined. Working in ½ cup batches, add the flour, blending each addition just enough to be damp. Once all the flour is incorporated, add the morsels and nuts, folding them in by hand with a spoon.
I like to use a cookie scoop or small ice cream scoop to dish the cookies out onto sheet pans. If I’m making large cookies, I’ll scoop six generous scoops of dough onto each pan; for smaller cookies, I’ll scoop twelve level scoops onto each. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes (check them at the end of ten minutes for doneness) until just set. Remove to a rack to cool.
A few books on baking cookies that I recommend:
Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours
The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion
Best Ever Cookies: Cookies ‘Round the Calendar…Yummy, Easy-to-Make Favorites for All Occasions!