Basics 101: Customizing Cookies Part I

The very first thing one needs for creating any cookie is a good base dough. A cookie base is usually  some combination of sugar, flour, fat, leavening agent,  flavoring, filling, and egg (with the exception of shortbread and some other British “biscuit” varieties). How do you get a good base dough you might ask? You take a standard recipe, like a good chocolate chip cookie dough, which is essentially a butter brown sugar dough, and you practice making it 1 Billion times, tweaking as necessary until you have created perfection. If you feel daunted by the task of creating your own basic cookie dough, do not despair. Just remember my tried-and-true rule for cooking: if you don’t have it, steal it. You can even steal mine (See previous post). I’ll even close my eyes for a moment while you do it. Done, sticky fingers? Good.

Once you have developed and practiced your basic dough, you can start making adjustments to create your own signature cookie. Your friends will be impressed by your culinary genius and most important, you will be able to smugly lord your creativity over them while they stuff their pie-holes (cookie-holes? Is that a thing?)

Lets start this first post in our two part series with some Elementary level options before moving onto the Ph. D level experimentations. Class, lets begin.

These Toffee Chocolate Chip cookies are topped with heath bar toffee crunch

1) Add a topping: This is by far the safest because it adds a new component of flavor and, sometimes, texture to a cookie without altering the cookie’s integral structure itself.

Example: I add a pinch of sea salt to the tops of my chocolate chip cookie. This decision was such a good one, I named a freaking blog after the combination. I’ve also I added toppings like cinnamon and sugar, crushed nuts, powdered sugar, and toffee.

 

These cream cheese almond cookies feature a healthy dose of almond extract.

2)  Change the Extract: Also pretty safe. Once again, you are changing the flavor without changing the structure of the recipe. Just swap the same amount of one extract for another. The effects can be strong or subtle depending on your choice of extract. Either way, you will manage to make a classic cookie all your own.

Example: Swap out the traditional vanilla extract with almond extract, strong brewed coffee, or even bourbon or blackstrap rum. Just make sure not to switch up the amount too much so you don’t water down your cookie dough.

 

Mexican Hot Choclate Cookies have cinnamon and chile added to them for a complex flavor profile. Photography courtesy of Brad Lemon of Hyde Park Photography

3) Change the spices: Most Chocolate chip cookie recipes forgo using ground spices; however, adding ground spices can give you a big flavor change without changing the texture/structure of the cookie. This route tends to be less subtle than changing the extract, and, therefore, takes a bit of practice and tweaking. When I first made my Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, those initial batches were pretty awful. However, once I got the blend on cinnamon and chile right, they became my signature recipe.

Examples: cinnamon, clove, ground ginger, nutmeg, fresh coffee grounds (coffee and chocolate are an amazing match), chipoltle chile powder, any chile powder, fresh ground pepper, fresh orange zest, fresh herbs…well you get the idea.

 

These Apple Oatmeal Cookies were a real doozy to get right. Once I did, though, the results were delicious

4) Change the filling: This one may seem like a simple move, but adding certain consistencies or too many filings can alter the texture of your cookie. Oatmeal is a wonderful addition, but too much could give you a drier cookie. I once made apple cookies, but I didn’t cook the excess water out of the apple enough before adding them, which made my batter wet and gave me a super flat cookie. Tip-If you are adding new fillings try to starting with 1/2 cup and increase from there.

Examples: Dried fruit, nuts, different types of chocolate, chopped candy….you get the picture

There you have it, gentle reader. Stay tuned next week for our AP level class on customizing cookies. Happy baking!

Disclaimer: This post is unsponsored. Bleh.

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