Basics 101: Customizing Cookies Part II

An example of a failed experiment: I added marscapone cheese to these lemon cookies with some very flat results.

Warning: Proceed with Caution! So you’ve locked in your base dough and you’ve done some cookie experimentation. Ready to move onto some AP level baking? Here ya go. This part is where things get tricky. If you’ve followed the previous post, then you’ve already changed the flavorings, but have yet to change the integral structure of your cookie. The sugar, the flour, and the fat in a cookie are the brick and mortar of your recipe. Change these and you are drastically altering the structure and chemistry of your bake. So tread carefully, but have fun. The worst that can happen is a bad batch of cookies and that’s really not that bad.

 

A heavy dose of cream cheese makes my Cranberry and Orange Cream Cheese cookies a little tangier and a lot heftier than their butter only counterparts.

1) Change the fat: Fat provides flavor, is a binding agent, and is a key component for creating texture and a good “crumb.” Fat can get complicated because each one reacts to heat and temperature a little differently.  Even experimenting with different types of butter has changed the bake on a cookie. I’ve experimented a lot with vegetable shortening and lard because there isn’t a huge difference in melting points and they aren’t very likely to burn when compared to butter. Nut butters and soft cheeses like ricotta or marscapone also work well when paired with butter because they have similar consistency. You can also try baking with vegetable fats like coconut oil or avocado, but these will require a little more fiddling with because they have a lower melting point. Remember, start small taking out ¼- ½  cup of butter from your recipe and then increasing with each experimental batch.

 

Molasses Crinkles get their color and flavor from combining molasses with white sugar. It also gives this cookie a very tender crumb.

2) Change the sweetener: Even adding 1 extra tablespoon of molasses or swapping out light brown sugar for dark brown sugar, can dramatically change the flavor and texture of your cookie. Like different fats, different sweetners have different burning points, so tread lightly.

Sweeteners  I’ve used (not including “diet” sweeteners or sugar alternatives like Splenda because eww, gross…I mean, good for you being healthy?):  dark brown sugar, molasses, honey, and applesauce. I would be hesitant to use agave nectar. I’ve heard mixed reviews about its success in baking.

 

For my cowboy cookies, I add ground up pretzels to give these cookies a robust texture and some extra saltiness.

3) Change part of the flour: The flour is really important because the gluten in the flour will develop the protein/structure of your cookie Think of gluten like framing for a house; it supports the structure of your cookie. It also adds some leavening components to your dough and may affect the rise and spreading of your bake. I use unbleached All Purpose flour for baking cookies (Its full of the gluten, which is delicious!). Low gluten or non-gluten flours can add great texture or flavor, but they can change your cookie in a very drastic way. Caution: The intention of these examples is to play with texture and flavor. Gluten-free baking is its own awesome branch of baking, but one that requires more than just replacing your basic wheat flour with a non-gluten flour such as almond flour or rice flour. So unless a recipe specifically says its “gluten free”, plan on keeping your AP flour handy.

C and S Note: Same thing as above-substitute a small amount of All Purpose Flour with your replacement flour and work your way to bigger changes.

Chocolate cookies get their dark color and chocolate flavor from coco powder

Examples: cocoa powder (chocolate cookies!!); cake flour for a finer crumb; almond flour (great flavor!), wheat flour for added fiber (bleh!). You can even grind up other cookies and snacks into a powder for added flavor.

So are you hungry yet? You should be. So get out there and get experimenting! It’s really the best kind of craft project…the kind you eat.

C and S Disclaimer: Once again, this post is unsponsored. Because of course. 

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