I generally enjoy cooking, but in the past I have been pretty anti-baking. I think I know why.
When Everette and I were first married, and I was in charge of bringing snack to small group. Seemed simple enough. I thought I would make homemade from scratch chocolate chip cookies. I busted out my brand spanking new air-bake cookie sheets and my wicked awesome Kitchen-aid mixer. Ready to show the world (or more accurately the ladies in my small group) my housewife/baking prowess. There were several things about this endeavor that in hindsight weren't too smart. First I think this was probably the first time I made cookies unsupervised by a more experienced chef. Secondly, I decided that the prospect of arriving with warm cookies fresh from the oven trumped my inexperience so I waited until that afternoon to make them.
Needless to say disaster ensued. The cookies spread out flat on the pan and were basically a flat mushy chocolatey burned disaster. Of course it was too late to do anything about it so... we arrived with gross cookies. Both Everette and I were grumpy and mortified.
That pretty much ended my baking stint-as further solidified by the fact that our bread maker is sitting in the pantry untouched (except for one time I think). I parked the Kitchen-Aid in the garage (literally-we have one of those appliance garages in our kitchen :)) except for once a year mocha ball extravaganza. Another tragedy of this event was the fact that my sister-in-law bought me (for Christmas, I think) a giant (and I mean giant) book of cookie recipes. They had all sorts of gourmet cookies that I was so excited to try. I frequently take the book out and look through it hoping to find something delicious and simple. I never have. I was too intimidated and quickly put the book away. I never made one cookie from that book in the five years I have owned it, convinced I would have to live off the kindness of others (cookie making that is).
Until recently. Everette loves loves loves peanut butter cookies. And I have made them a few times over the years but they always turn out hard and crunchy (once again leading me to believe I was unable to make even the simplest cookies). Good flavor, bad texture.
So I set out on a cookie quest. I was searching for the perfect peanut butter cookie and chocolate chip cookie recipe and the technique to make those chewy (but not gooey nor crunchy) cookies.
I tried shortening vs butter, cutting the butter in with a fork verses the Kitchen aid.
Here is what I have learned...
1. Land O Lakes has THE best tasting chocolate chip cookie recipe ever!!! (it is inside the box-WARNING: it takes 3 sticks of butter)
2. Air bake pans super duper suck (the cookie book even says so)! The cheapy cheap pans from Wal-mart work just fine.
3. Do NOT (I repeat) DO NOT put more unbaked cookies on a warm pan. Wait until the pan cools. (this was one of the fatal errors in the Cookie Fiasco of 2003-another revelation from the cookie book)
4. Which won't be a problem because the MOST IMPORTANT secret in cookie making is................
LET THE COOKIES COOL ON THE PAN! That's right.. do not remove the cookies until the are cooled completely. Place the entire cookie sheet on your cooling rack (to speed up the cooling) but do not remove the cookies until they are cooled. This is the trick to chewy delicious cookies.
Now that I feel that I can successfully make cookies, I tried my hand at not one, but four recipes from the cookie book. I only slightly over-cooked one.