There was a time a few years ago when I first moved back to Connecticut that I worked at Williams-Sonoma. I loved this job and probably got more satisfaction out of explaining the merits of of the folded aluminum bakeware and letting customers try out Wusthof and Henkels knives on the little pullout cutting boards than most of the other employees. The people I worked with, however, were fantastic in other ways, and many of the managers did love to cook. One guy who was particularly fun and who went out of his way to be nice to everyone said something to me once that puzzled me. A bunch of us were in the back room discussing things we liked to bake and enjoying cake squares someone had brought in, and this guy said cookies were too much work. Too much work? Cookies were the easiest, simplest thing out there to bake, the thing that even non-bakers might have made once or twice in their lives. I'd been baking them since I was a little kid. Whenever I was hankering for a baked good, more often than not I went to the simple Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the bag. It took less than 10 minutes to stir up the batter. Too much work? What was this guy talking about?
Thinking about it later, however, it dawned on me that he was incredibly right. While cookie dough is often easy to mix up, baking cookies can be a big fat pain. You have to scoop individual balls of dough, one at a time, onto a cookie sheet. Then you have to bake them. Then you have to let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before they hold together enough to lift them, carefully, oh so carefully, onto a cookie rack, where they may or may not survive (beware large spaces between the cooling rack tines, through which the edge of the cookie might slip, break off, and ruin the cookie's aesthetic appeal). Meanwhile, you can't start another batch until the sheet is free, and when it is free, the new blobs of dough often start melting on the hot sheet before you can fill up the pan. What a lot to think about, and what a lot of potential dangers! Isn't it easier just to make cake, or bars, or pudding, or quickbread, or the myriad other baked goods you can make in a single pan?
Thinking about it now, I realize that my Williams-Sonoma manager may have done more than make my work experience a little more lively; he may have influenced my baking in recent years quite a bit, because I don't often make cookies anymore. While this could be considered a loss, I view it as having been a great opportunity to broaden my horizons, and broaden them I have.
But the charm the individual cookies bring is unsurpassed, in my opinion, by any other baked good. There is something wonderful about cookies, and I bet you know what I mean. Cookies silently remind our brains of childhood. They whisper softly to us phrases like, milk and cookies, after school snack, or lunchbox item, picnic food. Cookies, it's no secret, have something special going for them.
Carole Walter's Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
As a kid I usually stuck to three basic kinds of cookies: chocolate chip, peanut-butter, or oatmeal raisin (unless it was Christmas time, in which case I helped my mom bake about 15 different kinds!). As I've gotten older and acquired more cookbooks, however, I am glad to say I've branched out, and these will not disappoint.
3/4 c lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup quick oats
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c creamy peanut butter
2 T light corn syrup
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups TOTAL semisweet chocolate chips and salted cocktail peanuts (you can use any amounts of each as long as the total is 3 cups--I usually like to equal parts of each)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a food processor, process brown sugar, oatmeal, and granulated sugar for 2 minutes until fine and powdery.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer (or you can mix by hand or with a hand beater), mix butter until smooth. Mix in peanut butter and corn syrup. Add the oatmeal-sugar mixture and mix 2 minutes. Then add the egg and vanilla and mix 1 minute longer. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula. Reduce mixer speed to low and add baking soda, salt, and flour. Mix until just blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chips and nuts.
4. Form into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet (I used a nonstick sheet). Flatten slightly and bake for about 9 to 10 minutes until cookies are just barely browned on the edges.
5. Remove from oven and let stand on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack using a thin spatula.
*These cookies will store for 5 days or can be frozen for 1 month.
Balls of dough waiting to be flattened before they go in the oven.
The baked cookies ready to be transferred to a cooling rack.
Cookies cooling on rack ready to be eaten!