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It all began innocently enough, with the following plea for cookie help posted on our General Topics board:
Pepperidge Farm's big cookies are getting worse and worse. It's the old cooking-the-lobster syndrome (big food biz knows they can degrade foods -- i.e. make 'em more cheaply -- with impunity so long as they do it extremely gradually, and like lobsters being slowly heated in a pot of water, we never know we're being manipulated...consider NYC pizza for a prime example). And they're the best available mass-market cookies out there. And the nearest good bakery cookies to my apartment are 20 blocks away, not exactly a quick walk in the nabe.
This query elicited 76 replies (not counting the lengthy debate over whether or not nuts in cookies are "wrong"), from both amateur and published professional cookie bakers. Tons of recipes, tons of tips. Since 76 postings (mostly contained in two monster threads: Need Cookie Recipe and Doh! Just Freeze the Darned Cookie Dough) are awfully tough to wade through, we've collected all the recipes, all the links, and a few particularly useful tips into this article. Not every good message was included in this article (shoot, they ALL were good!) and some of the following material has been lightly edited.
I'm sick of it. I've resolved myself to actually bake. Can't get through the winter without cookies. Love cookies.
Does anyone have a cookie recipe that is flexible (so I can add different stuff to stave off boredom) and very quick/easy (I'm really too busy for this)?
I like most cookies (especially butterscotch), but consider raisins in cookies to constitute senseless cruelty.
Alternatively, if anyone knows a be-all/end-all cookie cookbook which isn't all froufrou (I haven't heard of any, but I don't follow baking books very carefully), I'd love to hear about it.
The first thing the would-be cookie baker must do is to buy some ingredients. The following are the Cookie Staples. These are all the provisions called for by the recipes printed below (except for John Thorne's Byzantine Arnhem cookie recipe), so you can print out this list and bring it to the grocer's:
- All-Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder
- Baking Soda
- Brown Sugar
- Sweet (unsalted) Butter
But before you stock up, get up to speed with the following ingredient tips (which came in reply to a query about which ingredients are most worth splurging on):
- Chocolate Chips or Pieces
- Nuts (e.g. walnuts)
- Rolled Oats
- Peanut Butter
- Various flavorings and additions, e.g. jam, lemons, cinnamon, Boyajian orange oil, Mexican Ibarra chocolate, chili powder, butterscotch chips, etc...
So long as your basic ingredients are of good quality (and why would you want to use something that isn't?), fresh, and real, i.e., butter not margarine -- unless you're avoiding dairy, I think you'll notice the difference much more in the good vanilla extract, chocolate chips, fresh nuts (which taste even better if you toast them), etc.
It depends on which ingredient is the highlight of the recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for a small portion of ground nuts, the quality of the nuts is probably less important than if you are putting whole macadamia nuts in a chocolate chip cookie. Same is true for fruit. In general, I think high-quality butter and chocolate are essential. I remember reading in a number of places (Cooks Magazine comes to mind) that despite the debate that goes on about which is the best vanilla (including source and manufacturer), the high heat of baking destroys a lot of the subtle nuances that differentiates them and people can't tell the difference in the finished product. This may be true for other flavorings as well.
I think it is important to use a good quality unsalted butter for most of your baking. Where I live, I most often use Land O' Lakes sweet butter. On the occasions that I'm feeling flush enough to splurge, I will do so on the more costly Plugra, especially in a short or butter-style cookie. I also recommend using superfine sugar which dissolves and blends better with other ingredients and results in a nicer texture to cake batters and cookies. The King Arthur catalog offers a larger quantity of what they call "Bakers sugar" than you can usually find in the grocery.
[Note: see other information on French butter elsewhere in this file]
What ingredients are worth a splurge? Definitely the flavorings, nuts and dried and candied fruits (ALL must be FRESH), chocolate and butter.
FAT: Margarine is not an option, unless you are on some dietary restriction - I'll never forget how my Mom's best friend and next door neighbor (big on economies) economized by making Mom's special Christmas cookie recipes with margarine rather than butter - they weren't worth eating. Butter is tricky, because you have to know whether your recipe is based on salted or unsalted butter. The midwestern index card recipes I grew up with all used salted butter but that is unstated - I know I have to add salt when I make these in NY with unsalted butter. Most decent cookbooks will specify.
I have never tried the superpremium/European butters, which contain a bit less water, in home cookie baking so can't comment on whether that would bring further improvement in flavor or texture. Some midwestern recipes also use vegetable shortening rather than butter - they can be improved somewhat by substituting a couple of tablespoons of butter, if you prefer the tast of butter - shortening does lend a nice, crispy texture.
VANILLA: There have been vanilla taste tests (notably in cooks mag) which have concluded that for cookies and other baked goods, vanillin actually works better than natural vanilla because its flavor is more persistent. but I continue to use natural vanilla anyway.
CHOCOLATE: I would say good quality bittersweet chocolate is a must. In my opinion, Hershey's is too sweet and fruity. But again, taste tests (I refer to Cooks again) show that this is a matter of personal taste and that different chocolates and cocoas show better in different dishes.
EGGS: Good fresh eggs will definitely make a difference in taste.
PANTRY: Standard supermarket flours and sugars are fine for cookies generally - this is a homely (haimish), unpretentious product after all - for special purposes, there are special sugars, golden syrup, etc. but these will be specified.
I haven't used French butters, but a NY Times article discussed their superiority for pastry (the author tested Poilane butter cookies with various butters, and concluded that they're definitely only like made-by-Poilane if you use the high-butterfat, cultured French butter). In a cookie where butter flavor is the point, e.g., butter or sugar cookies or shortbread, I can see it making a difference. Even in regular sweet butter there are noticeable taste differences. A couple of years ago, a taste test in the Times preferred Plugra/Keller's (European-style) and Land O'Lakes. I use the latter usually. Of course, different things are available in different regions, not to mention countries.
As an aside, I know heat kills differences in vanilla, but I couldn't bring myself to use artificial extract, and I usually shun supermarket brands wih sugar and glycerin, and just use Nielsen-Massey for everything. It may not help, but...
I love Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chips for my semi-sweet chips. Look for 'em and a warning, they taste much better baked in a cookie than out of the bag for some reason.
Also, you can go to Lechter's and get this cookie scooper, like a mini ice cream scoop. Much easier than using a spoon and your fingers once you get the hang of it. And the cookies all come out the same size which helps even baking.
Freezing and Storage
Here's my basic plain cookie offering. It's from a 1934 WKY radio cooking booklet, a compilation of recipes called "Long Lost Recipes of Aunt Susan" by Patricia V. MacDonald (of Hot Springs Ark). I've made a few changes, but this is basically her recipe. Many people of my generation thought "Aunt Susan" was a long deceased family member before we learned it was someone with a column and radio show in the 30's - but our grandmother's all collected her recipes.
Aunt Susan's Foundation Cookies
1/2 C butter
1 C sugar
1/4 C rich milk
2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla OR 1 tsp fresh lemon & a little rind
Mix as usual, chill overnight, roll, slice and bake 15 minutes at 400.
Basic chocolate- add one square melted chocolate. For fudgier, add two.
Oatmeal: add 2 C rolled oats, 1 tsp mace, 1/2 C molasses
Butterscotch: substitute brown sugar
My own version of an old Fannie Farmer Cookbook recipe.
Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup peanut butter
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup peanuts
1 cup chocolate chips
Cream together the peanut butter and butter, beat in the two sugars and then stir in the remaining ingredients in order. Arrange by teaspoonfuls on baking sheets. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
I think there are two basic recipe varieties that will fit your requirements of fast, easy, and flexible: a basic drop cookie and a basic icebox butter cookie.
Basic drop cookie is the basis for chocolate chip, oatmeal, etc. and can be adapted with additions or flavors of your choice.
My Basic Recipe
The beauty of icebox cookies is that you can make a ton, roll into logs, and keep in fridge or freezer, then slice off as needed (they slice easiest when partially thawed). Here is a link to a very basic butter cookie recipe from Gourmet, listed with several variations using the same dough, to give you ideas. Use brown sugar for a butterscotchy cookie, vary flavorings with extracts, lemon peel, spices, etc., or incorporate finely chopped chocolate, nuts, etc. The dough is very workable, so you can make a big batch and then mix different flavorings into portions of it.
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (white or brown, depending on the flavor you want)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2-3 cups additions (chips, nuts, dried fruit, etc.)
Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs and vanilla, sift flour, baking powder and soda, salt over butter mixture, beat in, mix in additions. Chill several hours or overnight (or freeze for 20 minutes) for best results. Drop by tablespoons at least 1 1/2 in. apart on greased cookie sheets (or better, ungreased parchment paper on cookie sheets) and bake ~10 min. at 350 degrees or until lightly golden, set but soft. Let sit on baking sheet a few minutes, then remove to rack. Best to wait at least 10 min. before eating.
For oatmeal cookies, increase butter, eggs, and sugar by half and add 2 cups rolled oats as you beat in flour.
If you want cookies with a chocolate base, you can replace 1/4-1/6 of the flour with cocoa and add more sugar in either recipe.
My favorite chocolate chip cookie variation: use above recipe with brown sugar, to which you add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or chili powder, and use Ibarra chocolate (available in Mexican groceries, at Safeway, or via link) in place of choc chips. Chop the chocolate with a chef's knife. Heaven.
any further details would have to come from my grandmother and I ain't holding a seance for nobody
8 oz sweet butter
3 oz sugar
2 egg yolks
blend flour and butter
add sugar and blend
add yolks and mix
roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick
cut with a thin glass and bake on a greased cookie sheet
bake till edges are light brown (dough browns easily)
optional - smear jam on cookies and make sandwiches
I freeze dough in cookie-sized balls in ziplock bags - that way you can just grab one or two and toss them in the toaster oven)
I have had great success freezing drop cookie dough, as well as refrigerator- and rolled-cookie dough. My rugelach dough doesn't do so well when frozen for long periods of time though (even though chilling is part of the filling process). Sharon Herbst, the author of the fabulous Food Lover's Tiptionary (see more info below in the "Books" section), writes that most doughs can last for up to a year if wrapped airtight and thawed before baking.
Her suggestion for freezing cookie dough is to drop it onto a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then transfer the dough drops to freezer-proof wrapping (whatever that is...I never use it, just put everything in Tupperware). Place frozen dough on cookie sheet, cover w/wax paper and thaw. Refrigerator logs require more time thawing before slicing. Frozen toll house cookie dough makes good cookies but is delicious raw and eaten straight from the freezer (standing up).
You can of course freeze already baked cookies for about 4-6 months if you have the willpower to wait and see if they get freezer burn instead.
If you like them with icing, frost them after freezing and defrosting dough, otherwise you have to freeze them individually on a pan, -then- store them together.
You should be able to refrigerate any sugar or butter cookie dough or basic drop cookie dough for a few days, after which it will start drying out; you should be able to freeze it (double-wrapped) for a month without deterioration in quality. Sturdier recipes withstand refrigeration or freezing better than very delicate ones.
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham
Maida Heatter's Cookies
Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies
As far as my own cookie needs, I find Marion Cunningham's recipes in the cookie section of her Fanny Farmer Cookbook to be just ace. Best gingerbread ever.
But the acknowledged Paganini of cookie baking in America is Maida Heatter, whose cookies are just grand, and her latest, called something like Maida Heatter's Cookies, is the bible of the genre (earlier editions, which bear grandiloquent names but may be cheaper in paperback or at the Strand, are probably just as good).
All the pastry chefs I know swear by Heatter.
A Treasury of Southern Baking by Prudence Hilburn
Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer (1997 edition, spiral-bound)
I wanted to warn you against Maida Heatter's Cookies. I own it, it's wonderful but I fear it ain't for you. In fact, it often is not for me as many of the recipes are long, long steps, longs ingredients, etc. and I *am* into baking!
I would like to recommend a book called The Treasury of Southern Baking published in 1993 by Harper Collins Publishing, the author is Prudence Hilburn. I hope you can find this as the recipes are GREAT. And EASY. It's all mixed by hand and for some reason often in round numbers i.e., 2 sticks butter, 1/2 cup peanut butter and uses all normal ingredients (for example, Maida Heatter would be 1 stick plus 2 tbsp. butter, 2/3 cup unsweetened p.b., just an example). Hilburns's recipes are resilient to substitutions and she has several butterscotch ones! Don't get turned off by the occasional use of "self-rising" flour -- don't think that's in cookies anyway). The one elaborate thing she has you do on occasion is to put flour and chocolate chips in the food processor to make a chocolate flour but it's worth it! The cookie chapter is long and good.
If you can't find that book, or in addition, look into The Joy of Cooking and The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Both have easy cookie recipes and often list substitutions so you get an idea of how to play with the recipes. The Joy also had great freezing advice in the back, that way you can make them once and freeze the rest for fresh cookies all the time! (Basically, allow cookies to cool completely: several hours, wrap in foil and plastic bags and use within 3 months)
Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri
Cookies Unlimited (like the Maida books) have crazy, over-the-top, special occasion cookie recipes in them -- recipes that require three fillings, four saucepans, 27 ingredients, and a good soaking of raisins in rum.
But they also have stuff like "world's best chocolate chip cookie" and "chocolate chocolate-chip oatmeal cookie" (especially good, it's in Maida's book, very yummy) and basic gingersnaps, bar cookies, etc.
You should look at these books if you don't want to use the standard recipes "on the back of the bag."
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts
Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts (out of print)
I have been using Maida Heatters books for years, and highly recommend them. She is fussy in her instructions - sort of like some old perfectionist mama - but I like that - I feel like when I do her recipes (and perhaps ignore particular instructions, while appreciating the wisdom of others) I am interacting with a definite personality. There are a lot of cookie recipes out there that are not much more than a list of ingredients - well, these aren't in that category. But I've never found that they have too many or too exotic ingredients or too many steps. Give her a try.
I don't have her cookie-specific books, but Great Desserts and More Great Desserts contain, among other things, the Pecan Cookies Americana (the toffee pecan on shortbread base) that every fancy shop and caterer offers now. etc. etc.
Joy of Cooking by Irma Von Starkloff Rombauer (1975 edition, hardcover
I recommend the refrigerator (icebox) cookie variations in the Joy of Cooking...1975 edition (I have both the recent and the older Joy of Cooking, and almost all the recipes are different in the newer one (only something like 50 out of a couple thousand went unchanged). The new one may have great ones for refrigerator cookies, but I haven't tried them.
The Food Lover's Tiptionary ("An a to Z Culinary Guide with More than 4500 Food and Drink Tips, Secrets, Shortcuts, and Other Things Cookbooks Never Tell You") by Sharon Tyler Herbst
The Tiptionary is pretty nifty -- she's got about 100 tips on mixing and forming dough; using the right baking sheets and pans; baking and cooling; storing; and giving or mailing.
And, in general, it's an indispensable, easy-to-use reference for all cooks, from beginners to
professionals. Among the hundreds of subjects covered are proper food
storage, best measuring techniques, substitutions, flavor enhancement,
and methods for fast clean-up.
Betty Crocker's Cookie Book by Betty Crocker(?!?)
On my last visit home I finally managed to steal back from my father the cookbook I used most in college -- Betty Crocker's Cookie Book. I loved many of the cookies in it and found almost all of them easy to bake. I'm very curious to see if they still taste as good to me -- i.e., will my own cooking suffer the same "it's not as good as I remember it" as the commercial stuff?
Cookie Classics (Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen)
by Kristi Fuller
Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever! by Debbi Fields
The Joy of Cooking has every good cookie recipe. Also check out Better Homes and Gardens. There's a buttermilk brownie recipe in one edition of that book that will blow you away. and if you want easy, decadent cookies, why not just go right ahead and get Mrs. Fields' book. She's a nutcase but my favorite gingersnap recipe with cracked black pepper is in there. i heard she lived in a cave for three years doing nothing but perfecting her recipes.
I was horrified -- horrified! -- that nobody mentioned Leslie Glover Pendleton's excellent book (One Dough, Fifty Cookies) on this subject. LGP has done a lot of test kitchen work for Gourmet and has definite chops. I know the title makes the book sound like it has high suck potential, but the cookies I've made from it have been great -- exactly what you seem to be seeking in your original bulletin board post. Pendleton describes how to make a basic butter cookie dough (which you can make in huge batches and freeze for future use) and then gives oodles of recipes for all kinds of great cookies -- drop cookies, bar cookies, refrigerator cookies (whatever those are) -- all which, of course, use the butter cookie dough as a foundation.
On a similar note, I too am greatly saddened by Pepperidge Farm's gradual demise. In my childhood, they were the acme of storebought cookie elegance. But no longer.
Cote d'Or chocolate is Belgium's best mainstream brand of bar chocolate, and I'd bet it'd make for awesome chips. Cote d'Or is not officially imported to this country, so it's pricey when you can find it, but Belgian beer importers Vanberg and Dewulf sell their milk chocolate bars VERY inexpensively (though shipping's a bit high -- flat rate $6.75 when last I checked -- so buy some beer and other stuff to fill out your order!).
On the back of every package of Nestle chocolate chips is the most simple cookie recipe in existence. This Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe also has like 100 variants.
Like Jason says. Or change the 1 tsp vanilla to 1/2 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp Boyajian orange oil. For anyone who loves the orange/chocolate combo, the oils (they also make lime, lemon, and tangerine) are terrific cookie-baking investments. They can be found at Dean and DeLuca, sometimes Zabars, and they last 1+ years refrigerated.
You may want to check out this article by Corby Kummer (who says cookies are "my addiction and my survival food") about Nick Malgieri's Cookies Unlimited. From The Atlantic Monthly, here's Confessions of a Cookie Eater.
Also, I know I deserve to be shot for this, but I swear the best butter cookie (actually they are officially "sugar" cookies) I've ever had -- a truly astonishing cookie -- was from a ... Martha Stewart recipe.
First there's the Cookies:
themselves, then there's the Royal Icing.
Heidi has this to say about the icing:
Royal icing enables you to produce a very pretty decorated cookie, especially if you get into piped designs which I am fairly sure you won't be tackling anytime soon. That said, I don't think it enhances the quality or taste at all of a good butter cookie the way a sprinkle of sugar will, the sugar providing a textural sensation that doesn't interfere with flavor. In fact, I would not leave any basic butter cookie (excluding shortbread here) unadorned whether they are rolled and sprinkled on the surface or sliced off a log which you have rolled in a sugar prior to slicing for a little crunch on the edges. There are, of course, softer creamier types of icings you can opt for but that's another day.....
...but John insists:
"Well, frosted is the only way I've had these -- and they were pretty damn good."
Epicurious has Caitlin's Mexican chocolate chip cookie recipe, originally printed in Bon Appetit. IMPORTANT NOTE: you MUST use Ibarra chocolate chunks rather than the semisweet chocolate chips Bon Appetit shamefully switched into the recipe! See drop cookie recipe, above, for more Ibarra notes.
Also, to repeat a link, Caitlin recommended (above) an Epicurious page about basic butter cookie dough and some variations.
John Thorne also liked that NY Times article on French butter (also mentioned above). He says that "Dorie Greenspan explains what makes French butter better (it's the acidity, stupid) and then shares Lionel Poilane's deceptively simple butter cookie recipe." That recipe is here
The last word goes to John Thorne, who graciously granted permission to reprint two of his cookie recipes, one fiendishly complex, the other quite simple (note: the Arnhem cookie recipe is the punch line of an absolutely wonderful story; get the book and read the whole thing for full satisfaction).
Toasted Oatmeal Lace Cookies
(reprinted with kind permission from Simple Cooking by John Thorne)
Because of the large amount of sugar and butter in the recipe, these cookies spread out in a large, irregular circle, crispy brown at the edges and with a smooth praline glaze underneath. Expect the dough to seem too wet, use your heaviest cookie sheets, and don't try making them on a humid summer afternoon.
2-1/4 cups rolled oats
2-1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound sweet butter
I egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Preheat oven to 375'F. In a large, ungreased frying pan over medium heat, stir the uncooked rolled oats for about three or four minutes or until they release a sweet nutty aroma and crisp up a little around the edges. Turn into a large mixing bowl and let cool enough to handle. Then mix in the sugar, flour, and salt. In a small pan, melt the butter, letting it become completely liquid but not to foaming. Pour it into the bowl with the other ingredients, stirring until the sugar has melted. Then beat in the egg, vanilla, and ginger.
Drop the batter from a teaspoon in small balls set about 2 inches apart. Don't try to flatten them and don't crowd them; you'll get about 9 cookies to a sheet. Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until they just turn golden brown. Let cool only until they are hard enough so that a spatula can be slid under them, then immediately transfer to a sheet of wax paper spread out on the counter, where they can cool without touching each other. Let them cool completely before putting them away. They will freeze successfully, or they can be put into an airtight tin between layers of wax paper. Kept dry like this, they will stay crisp as long as there are any left. Mrs. Appleyard says she kept some once for almost two days.
(Makes about 50)
(reprinted, with kind permission, from Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne, Matt Lewis Thorne)
Although Arnhems are in most ways a pleasure to make (and will inspire in the experienced cookie maker all sorts of ideas), mixing the dough requires a powerful, stand-mounted electric mixer: don't even think of using a hand-held one. I suspect that a sturdy food processor could manage this dough (using the plastic blade), but we don't have one on hand to test that hypothesis. However, the trusty old K5A took it in its stride. Please read through the recipe carefully before attempting to make these cookies; some forethought is required. makes 1 pound of cookies (i.e., a lot)
1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4.5 ounces) whole milk (see footnote #1)
1/8 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 of a standard .6-ounce cube of fresh yeast or 1 scant teaspoon of dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
about 1 cup crushed rock sugar or sugar crystals (see footnote #2)
A heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough paddle or a food processor fitted with a plastic blade.
The cookie dough should be prepared several hours ahead of the time you plan to make the cookies.
Combine the flour, milk, lemon juice, yeast (crumbling it into the mixture, if fresh), and salt into the bowl of the mixer or processor. Turn the machine onto high. As soon as the contents of the bowl are well mixed, add the first cube of butter. Beat this into the mixture for 1 minute, then add the next cube, beating this into the mixture for 1 minute. Continue in the same way until all the butter has been amalgamated. The dough will be soft and elastic to the touch. Use a spatula or dough scraper to form it into a ball. Place it on a plate, cover it with a bowl, and set it in the refrigerator until cool, or about two hours. If you wish, you may leave it overnight.
When ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 275°F and line two standard cookie sheets with parchment paper.(see footnote #3)
Sprinkle the work surface on which you plan to roll out the dough with a coating of sugar crystals. Uncover the dough and, with a sharp kitchen knife, divide it in half. Form each half into a round ball.
Coat the first ball of dough thickly with sugar crystals and transfer it to the sugared working surface. There, use a rolling pin to gently roll it out as thinly as possible, pausing frequently to sprinkle it and the counter with more sugar crystals. Also, while this is still possible, periodically turn the dough over so that more sugar crystals can be sprinkled on the bottom surface. The thinner and more evenly the dough is rolled, the better (and more authentic) the cookies; it should be almost as thin as homemade egg noodle dough.
If you wish, use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into ovals, the traditional shape. Otherwise, use a pizza cutter or sharp utility knife to cut them into rectangles, roughly 1 by 2 inches. Set the formed cookies into one of the parchment-lined cookie pans and place this into the preheated oven. The cookies should be baked until their tops are caramel-colored and their bottoms a crisp brown. Dahl's time is 30 to 45 minutes; we used insulated cookie pans, and our baking time was closer to an hour. While these bake, roll out and form the second batch of cookies in the same way.
Remove the baked cookies from the oven and-taking care with the hot pan-slide the parchment paper and cookies onto a wire cooling rack. Remove them from the paper as soon as they are cool enough to handle (see footnote #4). They keep well for at least for a week in an airtight container-but are best eaten within the first two or three days.
1 - The exact amount will depend on your flour. If your mixer struggles with the dough, dribble in more milk.
2 - Dahl writes that his own Arnhems were not quite as good as the real thing. This may be because his recipe substitutes crushed sugar cubes for the Dutch kandij suiker, amber crystals better known in this country as coffee sugar crystals. We used Billington's Amber Crystal Sugar, which is the ideal size-like fine gravel. But any amber coffee crystals will work well-larger ones should be crushed down to size with a rolling pin.
3 - Don't substitute the new Teflon baking mats for parchment paper; these don't work nearly as well.
4 - If your cookies have puffed up and have a chewy rather than crisp texture, they weren't rolled thin enough. They'll be good, but you won't think them contenders for the world's best cookies.
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