I haven't been scheduled for work in awhile, so I've fallen back into my "high school summer break" sleep schedule of... fall asleep just before the sun wakes up. Up until last night, I had filled the wee hours of the morn' staring into some sort of screen: iPad for bejeweled, phone for facebook, or tv for Game of Thrones (Or, you know, everything else on HBO, Netflix or Amazon Prime).
But not last night. Oh no... Last night I needed cookies.
I haven't gone into detail about this particular aspect of my life yet, but I am an avid baker. Usually I am baking breads or cookies, with the occasional fudge, brownie, or bread pudding thrown in for good measure. But cookies: that's my sweet spot (pun!). In the past 6ish years or so, I've been known for one particular type of cookie: Peanut Butter Nutella. And in those 6ish years, I've made thousands? Ya... probably thousands of the same cookie. I've also made many dozens of Dark Chocolate Chip, Molasses Ginger, and even a Butterscotch Chip... but by far, more Peanut Butter Nutella cookies than the rest combined. While I love that particular, very successful recipe... I have been dying to try new stuff.
Last night... I did.
First up, I wanted to find a well reviewed sugar cookie recipe. Don't ask me why I didn't just use my tried and true chocolate chip base dough. That would have been a way better idea. But I digress... So I used this recipe from Allrecipes.com. It had nearly 5000 overwhelmingly positive reviews. AND it had EASY right in the name.... plus it was the first to come up when you google "sugar cookies". STEP ONE: DONE.
Next up, make the dough... obviously. (It would have been really smart of me to take photos of my process if for one second I thought about turning this episode into a blog... but you know, 1AM by this point). STEP TWO: DONE. SORTA. Pause for a second, because if you want to do what I did and have dramatically better results, don't follow this recipe exactly. Add another teaspoon vanilla and another egg. Just... trust me. Oh, and make sure your butter is veeerry soft. Use margarine if you have to (you don't), but get that butter down to at the coldest: room temperature.
Finally, divide the dough into portions that would make approximately 1 dozen cookies each (about 1/2 cup). This recipe called for inexplicably tiny dough balls... A few of the reviews noted that the dough would spread a lot and that's why the balls were tiny (lol). Now, with my control group (because... SCIENCE), I saw practically no spreading at all. In fact, I ended up with tiny hard, overcooked domes. Blech. That was following the recipe to the damn letter, too. Just... not good.
Bake 1 dozen cookies of the plain dough. Done? Yay CONTROL GROUP.
Now for the tricky part. One dozen at a time, start mixing some weird stuff in there. Here's what I went with:
1. Control Group - we already talked about this....
6. Grand Marnier - add 1 tbsp Grand Marnier, Mix well. Bake 7 minutes.
Then reserve the rest (because, yes, there was more dough leftover after making 6 dozen small cookies).
Control Group: Way overcooked at the suggested 8 minutes. Somewhat hard and tasteless (should have put that extra egg and vanilla, damnit). Boring, but could probably be used for iced sugar cookies since it isn't too sweet.
Prickle Pear Jelly: They looked adorable with the fuchsia jelly swirled in it. The taste was an improvement too. A bit of tartness. The overall texture was better, too. Softer. Spread well, cracked top. Overall, this recipe NEEDED the moisture of the jelly to get to a pretty damn decent state. I'd like to try again. Perhaps with more jelly or the prickly pear syrup I usually reserve for margaritas.
Maple Syrup: I didn't put enough maple in it. It did help improve the taste a little, and texture a lot. I also baked them for a little less time. So overall big improvement on the control group.
Snickerdoodle: I needed to put more cinnamon on them. See... I have a cinnamon problem. I love it so much! But my mister is a little less enthusiastic, so I was a bit sparse when I should have just let 2AM insomnia cookies shine like the cinnamon snickerdoodles they could have been. And why the hell did I flatten them? Just don't. It meant the next day they were pretty hard. Not like inedible hard, but they didn't need that extra crisp. Thankfully I took them out at 6 minutes or they would rival Hagrid's rock cakes.
Molasses: These came out DELICIOUS. But I knew they would. I went for it with the cinnamon and allspice and didn't skimp on the molasses. Huuuuuge improvement. I made these a little larger than the others since my usual molasses ginger cookies tend to spread and then crisp up a lot. I figured larger cookie = less crisp. These were soft and lovely, even the next day.
Grand Marnier: I bought a bottle of this stuff awhile ago for... bread pudding? Or something like that. And I've been trying to come up with uses. It smells lovely. Who doesn't like a little citrus with their sweets? Well, most of the yummy burned off in the bake so it was just like the control group only vaguely orangeish smelling. It needed orange zest or something to really bring out the flavor more. So... disappointing. This was just a mistake.
The original recipe is... boring. It definitely needed some help. Overall, the molasses and prickly pear were a huge step in the right direction. I'll definitely be trying variations on those cookies again. By far, Molasses was the winner!
The Loser? Oh ya, that was me. I didn't go to bed until 4 AM (because AFTER the cookies, I stayed up another hour reading Witches Abroad. fml).
I hope you enjoyed this rant. Tonight I'm taking ZzQuil at like.... midnight. Wish me luck!
p.s. If you liked this experiment, let me know! I am always up for more vaguely scientific food research... Mmmm... For Science!
Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies: Here's the original recipe. I modified it by reserving 1/3 cup flour and mixing it with the nutella before adding it to the dough.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: I substitute dark chocolate baking chips, omit the nuts, and just mix the baking soda with the flour and salt before adding dry to wet... Don't do the silly hot water trick. They'll turn out perfect, trust me.
Sugar Cookies: Here's the recipe I did this experiment with. Remember, one more egg and another teaspoon vanilla or you get a cracky hard dome of sadness. Though, if I drank milk, I bet they'd be good dunkers.