Sugar: There are so many sweeteners out there! Agave, maple syrup, Sucanat, stevia, crystallized sugar, powdered sugar; and, they all have their uses. Remember that baking is about science and balancing the equation of wet and dry ingredients. So, if you want to make a cookie with maple syrup as the sweetener, you'd have to balance that by adding more flour. If you want to make a crumbly cookie like shortbread, you'd use confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) instead of regular sugar since regular sugar melts and turns into a binder in cookies. Say you make my Double Chocolate Snow Cookies and you are watching your cane sugar intake and want a healthier option. Lessen the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, add in more stevia, and replace the crystallized sugar with maple syrup, which has a lot of minerals and vitamins. Now that you have introduced more liquid into the mix, you will also need to add more dry ingredient to balance the equation. So, add some more flour or cocoa powder. It takes some experimenting to really know the ropes but that is ok. Enjoy, experiment, and soon you'll be able to create any combination of flavors and your own recipes just by understanding the chemistry behind baking.
Eggs: Like butter, eggs are a binder. If you have ever made meatloaf you know that it calls for eggs. In meatloaf, bread, and cookies, eggs are the glue that holds the product together. Eggs are comprised of two parts: the yolk and the white. The yolk is the fat and it makes cookies, brownies, cake, and bread denser, richer, and more moist. The whites are the protein and it makes desserts crunchier, crumbly, and fluffier. In most recipes, you need a balance of rich and fluffy, but, in some chocolate recipes it helps to add an extra egg yolk in for richness. If ever you have added too much flour to a recipe that has already called for eggs and you don't know what to do, you have two options to create a balanced product. You can add more eggs or more butter. Next time the flour bag tips over into you dough and you are crying on the floor, wondering what in heck you're going to do now that your cookies are ruined and your friends will be disappointed and will disown you....no worries.....you've got the knowledge to fix it up like it never happened!
Butter: This may be the best part of the cookie for some of you and for others, this may be the most difficult to work with. For all of you vegans out there, remember that butter is simply a saturated fat. Just replace it with another saturated fat! A saturated fat is a fat that remains solid at room temperature. The best option is Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil . It adds a light coconut flavor which you may or may not like but the other options are not very healthy and are usually hydrogenated vegetable oils. I use Organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil in my cooking, baking, frying, and even on my skin and hair every day. It's a great investment and provides many healthy essential fatty acids, helps regulate your thyroid, balance hormones, and can help increase metabolism with prudent daily use. Anyhow, for all you butter-lovers, butter is the fat that adds richness to cookies and, like eggs, binds the product. Added too much butter? Add more flour/dry sugar for balance. A little short on butter for the recipe? Add an egg or an egg and a yolk to replace a couple tablespoons of butter. And remember, buy local if possible and ALWAYS buy organic! Organic produces a better product, creates better texture, better flavor, is healthier for you, for the environment, and for those you love. A great investment for a few extra bucks.
- In a recipe, mix all the wet ingredients in one bowl and all the dry ingredients in another bowl. That means salt, flour, cocoa powder, dry sugar, baking powder, baking soda together. Eggs, soft butter, vanilla extract, milk, water, and liquid sweetener mixed well in another bowl. Once the ingredients are mixed well in their own bowls, slowly incorporate the mixture into one bowl using the folding method. This means to be gentle with mixing. DO NOT knead, beat, or otherwise be aggressive to the dough. Treat it like a baby, or a mine! Or a 3,000 year-old piece of China worth millions of dollars. "Why?" You may be asking. Well, by being aggressive, kneading, or over-mixing the dough, you are forming gluten from the wheat flour and your result will be bread, not a cookie. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold layers of the dry and wet mix on top of each other until it ends up well-incorporated. There is a picture of what the batter should look like below.
- Pre-heat the oven! Not with the baking sheet in the oven!
- Do not place cookies straight on the metal baking sheet; always use parchment on top of the sheet not only because it helps prevent the cookies from sticking but also because it prevents the burnt-bottom & raw middle syndrome cookies often get.
- Taste the batter before shaping the dough
- Keep cookies about 1 inch apart
- Check the cookies 5 minutes earlier than the earliest bake time. Better to be diligent than to end up with rock-hard burnt cookies
- Take cookies out of oven a tad before they are exactly ready. They will continue to cook a little once you take them out of the oven and taking them out early prevents over-cooking.
- Freeze extra cookies in a freezer bag. They'll last for an entire year if well-kept!
- When melting chocolate, NEVER EVER NEVER melt the chocolate in a pot or pan on the stove! I hate to tell you but this is murder. Just plain murder. It may not seem like it but that chocolate is now useless, overcooked, and not even your dog will want it. Instead, use a process called TEMPERING. Put an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Place a large metal bowl on top of the pot so that the bowl's sides rest on top of the pot. The steam from the boil will heat the chocolate perfectly. Stay by the chocolate, mixing it gently with a rubber spatula. Keep moving the chocolate around to make sure it all melts and that the chocolate on the bottom does not overheat. When all chocolate is just melted, take the bowl off heat immediately. Chocolate should be smooth, thick, shiny, and not too hot. Congratulations, you just tempered chocolate!
|Double Chocolate Snow Cookies!|
- 1 cup of organic, unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup organic cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
- 8 oz semi-sweet organic chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, softened, not melted
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 2 large eggs plus one additional egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Stevia extract to taste if you prefer sweeter cookies (I added 1/2 tsp stevia extract to mine)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or coconut oil, softened
- 1 cup packed confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
- 1 tsp creme de menthe or mint oil/essence/extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
|Local, organic eggs from free-range chickens!|
|The Dry Mix bowl|
|Step 1 of Tempering Chocolate|
|Step 2 of Tempering Chocolate|
|Step 3 of Tempering Chocolate.....almost all melted|
|The melted chocolate mixed with all the other wet ingredients|
|Cookies before baking|
|Snowing the cookies|
|My beautiful babies!|
|Thin crunch on the outside, moist on the inside.....perfecto!|
|Double Chocolate Mint Snow Sandwich Cookies.....that's a mouthful!|
|A sea of cookies!!!!|