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Dec 2, 2006 03:37 AM

Baking From My Home to Yours: Cookies

December 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the Cookies chapter of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Salt & Pepper Cocoa Cookies were a disappointment. The recipe is not difficult at all, but the texture was very much like fine, dry sand. Plus I don't think there was quite enough sugar - and the recipe only uses confectioners sugar - to offset the unsweetened cocoa. I used plain old Hershey's cocoa powder; the recipe does not specific any particular type of cocoa powder other than unsweetened and makes no reference to dutch or non-dutched cocoa powder.

    The salt and pepper flavor was about right but totally overwhelmed by the bitterness from the cocoa powder.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DiningDiva

      what is the difference between dutch and non-dutched cocoa powders?

        1. re: BKchompchomp

          Dutched cocoa has been treated with an alkali (Sp?) to mellow it. It also changes the way it reacts with leaveners. You shouldn't use them interchangeably in recipes without adjusting the baking powder and/or soda. If there are not any chemical leaveners, you can use whatever you prefer.

      1. I made the peanut butter crisscrosses. Like most folks who bake, I made a few revisions. I couldn't get a hold of salted nuts, so I used unsalted and upped the salt in the dough to roughly 1.5 tsp. I skipped the step about rolling them in sugar. And, to about 1/2 of the dough I added chopped up Callebaut bittersweet chocolate.

        These cookies were a real winner. I thought they were great tasting, nice texture (I would prefer chewier, but I think the only way to get really chewy peanut butter cookies is to use crisco, shudder) and help up well until the next day when my colleagues ate them all! My yield was ghenerous compared to her estimate (I got about 45 cookies, she estimates 40).

        One thing I did notice was that the recipe is nearly identical to the CI recipe in the Best Recipe (I was looking there to do a compare/contrast). Regardless, I think that at least for now, this is my go to recipe for peanut butter cookies.

        Next, I want to try to brown sugar/pecan shortbread!

        36 Replies
        1. re: Smokey

          how would vegetable shortening make a cookie chewy? I find that cookies seem chewier when there is a high ratio of brown sugar/moisture to flour.
          Do I have it wrong?

          1. re: toodie jane

            Mmmm, maybe that was the critical difference with her recipe? I always simply assumed it was the crisco as the shortening...

            1. re: toodie jane

              No I used to buy these wonderful sugar cookies from a bakery and I asked why were they so wonderfully moist and chewey. Their secret was that they used shortening in the dough.... I would of never guess that thinking it had to be butter.

              1. re: toodie jane

                If I'm not mistaken there are two ways you can make a cookies chewier:

                One way is to underbake them, either by reducing the baking time and letting them cool until set (warm undercooked cookies fall apart) or by chilling the dough before you work with it so that the centre remains relatively less baked while the outside is crisp, giving it structure, or by decreasing the amount of fat in your cookie. That sounds counterintuitive, but fat will actually get quite hot and brown your cookie faster resulting in a more crispy cookie.

                1. re: Torvum

                  I'll second that, Torvum. I'm learning that more fat--I usually stick to butter--equals more crispy, while more flour lends a cakier, chewier texture. Chewiness also depends on ingredients: dried fruit, for example.

              2. re: Smokey

                I made these too and everyone loved them... my great aunt asked for the recipe and that is always the greatest compliment... when an elderly person asks for a classic recipe like that! I have pictures to post as soon as I get them. I didn't have salted peanuts either, but I toasted unsalted peanuts in the oven for a bit and then tossed them with salt. We made ours a little smaller since peanut butter cookies are SO rich!

                1. re: Katie Nell

                  And the pictures from our mini baking extravaganza...
                  (Also pictured are the applesauce bars on the gold rimmed plate.

                  Also from the baking extravaganza, but not from Dorie's cookbook are the Cream Sandwich cookies, courtesy of Martha Stewart, the current best cookie title holder of the Katie Nell fan club :-)
                  Also pictured are the Chocolate Toffee Brownie Bites from "The Good Cookie", currently in second place for the best cookie of all time from the fan club... (These really were AMAZING!!


                  Okay, now I'm not sure if the applesauce bars fit in this category or not? These were really good... we did sub dried cranberries for the raisins. Loved the glaze! And now it's time for their close-up...

                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    KatieNell those are some great pictures! Looks like a lot of great baking went on :-)

                    If you have time, would you mind posting the recipes for the cream sandwich cookies and chocolate toffee brownie bites?

                    1. re: eriberri

                      Here are the cream sandwich cookies... obviously, I didn't do hearts! People would be mad if I only made them once a year! ;-) I recently discovered that if you roll the dough in balls and then roll in sugar and flatten, then you don't have to mess with rolling out the dough and cutting with a cookie cutter (I get tired of that sometimes). I use regular granulated sugar instead of the sanding sugar usually.
                      I'll have to paraphrase the chocolate toffee brownie bites tonight!

                      1. re: Katie Nell

                        Thank you! I actually found the brownie bites out on the
                        internet after googling for a few minutes. I like the idea
                        of rolling by hand rather than cutting out. They sound
                        really yummy! I think I'll try them with rasp. jam. Thanks

                    2. re: Katie Nell

                      It's funny, all of the posts I have read on those applesauce bars have been really glowing, and I just can't get interested. Different strokes for different folks, huh?

                      1. re: Smokey

                        I even like that kind of thing but it just sounds like another spice cake to me - I have a recipe I like already, and there are so many things to bake, so little time ;) In fact the whole book seems like that to me, love to bake but the internet is so full of variations on these themes that I can't get excited about it. Except for the brioche post...

                        1. re: julesrules

                          You know, you hit the nail on the head with my issue about the pumpkin muffins. I think I'm looking for "Smokey's personal Best recipe compendium" and I simply decided the pumpkin muffins weren't up to that caliber (for me). Similarly, she's got like 7 recipes or something for brownies, but I've got no interest in baking any of her brownie recipes, even though folks have really liked at least one of them. I've developed my favorite brownie recipe and I'm no longer straying from it. I'm using the book to search for recipes that might make it into my Best Recipe compendium (and, I'll grant you, the peanut butter cookies are SERIOUS contenders).

                          1. re: Smokey

                            Yeah, I feel the same way about the brownies too... I already have my 'best of' recipe for that. I don't know, I really liked the applesauce bars, but I don't usually make that sort of thing, so I suppose it was a bit of a novelty. It would probably still be third on the list of those 4 things that I made, but I'm a chocolate girl all the way! (I also mostly tried the applesauce bars because they got such rave reviews on egullet and I knew the great aunties would like them- it's right up their alley! :-)

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              You know, I've read each of those brownie recipes a couple of times and can't get excited about any of them either. I feel the same way about the chocolate chip cookie recipes. I think that if I gave friends anything other than the CI recipe, they'd ask me what I did wrong. I'm tempted to do a side-by-side, but as you say, too many recipes, too little time.

                              However, I don't yet have a "personal best" brownie. Could you, have you, Smokey and Katie, posted yours before? Do you have links? If not, could I ask you to paraphrase? I'm still searching.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Yeah, I'm with you on the CI CCC recipe. After searching around and trying quite a few (even after trying the CI recipe), I've decided that really is the best (for me). I just shrugged at her CCC recipes--too many recipes, too little time.

                                I'll write a note to myself about the brownies. Just to give you a sense of what I'm after in brownies, I do not like super 'fudgey' brownies. To me, fudgey means there isn't enough flour in them and I like something more toothsome, not something delicate. And I definitely don't want cakey. I like chocolate cake, but consider it to be a cake, not a brownie and I want a brownie, not a cake. (Can you tell, the texture is what I really care about?!) I also use decent quality chocolate (usually sharffenberger, TJ's pound plus, Penzey's cocoa). Honestly, I think you can make a decent brownie from lots of different recipes if you're willing to pony up on the chocolate, because it's the dominant flavor in a brownie. Finally, I like my brownies thick, not thin. I strongly believe in the importance of the nut in a brownie, but do not feel the need to prosletyze (sp?) quite so much on that issue and will leave nuts out of batches where allergies or other personal preferences are involved.

                                I'm not actually as dogmatic and inflexible as I appear in this post, and unlike some posters, I completely accept that you'll make the brownie you make with your ingredients and that's cool. But I want you to have a sense of what my goal is when I make my brownies so you'll be able to judge whether it's even something you want to try. Ok, now the challenge is to remember to post the recipe!

                                1. re: Smokey

                                  JoanN--Ok, here it is. I freely admit, this may have been taken from another source--CI? JoC? Maybe it is really something I melded from all of the above. Can no longer remember and my notes don't reveal these facts to me!

                                  These are meant to be cooked in a 7x11 pyrex at 350. I butter and flour the pyrex for easier release--don't bother with parchment paper or whatever. Position your a rack in oven on middle rung.

                                  5oz. unsalted butter
                                  5oz. unsweetened chocolate
                                  1.8c sugar (I actually cook by weight, and don't remember the weight of a cup of sugar--sorry. I probably use a mix of roughly 50% brown sugar and 50% white sugar)
                                  1/3 tsp. salt
                                  2.5 tsp. vanilla extract
                                  2.5 large eggs at room temp. (I probably use three, whisk them up, and just eyeball removing .5 egg!)
                                  5.5 oz flour (I think I decided to try bread flour and I like it)
                                  2.5Tb natural cocoa
                                  Melt butter and chocolate together, let cool slightly. Stir in sugar, salt, vanilla (you can just use a wooden spoon, you're not really trying to aerate this). Mix in eggs, one at a time (ok, that doesn't really work with my list of ingredients, but you know what i mean) until incorporated. Add flour/cocoa and beat until incorporated. Scape batter into pan and bake until top is uniformly colored and a toothpick inserted comes out with a few most crumbs, 35-45 min. (definitely check them--you really don't want to overbake).

                                  I let them cool in pan, but I'm not super anal about that. I think these are really, truly, infinitely better the next day. I think out of the oven they're fine (they've got a great smell), but the texture is wrong.

                                  i didn't give instructions for adding nuts, because that's a personal choice and if you want to add nuts, you probably know it and can figure out how many to add and when in the stirring process.

                                  let me know if you ever try it and what you think.

                                  1. re: Smokey

                                    Thanks, Smokey. I usually bake by weight as well, so no problem. And I'll definitely add nuts. I'm on a cookie tear at the moment. May have to empty my little freezer before I can start adding more, but I'll let you know when I do get around to it. And I will. Thanks again.

                                2. re: JoanN

                                  I found our "go to" brownie recipe at this place.
                                  The only difference is that we toast the chopped nuts and we think it makes a difference in the final taste. We got the recipe from a very old Bon Appetite and it is not on the site. The corner of the Xerox we are using where the date would be is chewed off and I don't feel like digging through all those years looking for it.

                                  1. re: yayadave

                                    Thanks, YYD. The addition of corn syrup is interesting; never tried that before. And I, too, usually toast nuts before adding them to brownies; adds to the depth of flavor. I'm adding this to my "Brownies to Try" file.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      Mine is coming too... forgot to paraphrase it last night, but for reference, it's the chocolate chunk brownie recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook!

                                      1. re: Katie Nell

                                        Everybody needs a "go to" brownie and chocolate chip cookie recipe. They are truly American food inventions.

                                        1. re: Katie Nell

                                          I don't have that book and a quick online search didn't turn it up so I would appreciate a paraphrase whenever you get around to it. Thanks, Katie.

                                          1. re: Katie Nell

                                            Brownie recipe here!

                                            Okay, first of all, I lied to you! I so thought it was in the Baking Handbook, but, in fact, it was in her magazine in the July 2005 issue. I do not like fudgy brownies AT ALL, so I think this is more what a brownie is "supposed" to be like, but probably more towards the cakey side of things.

                                            Chocolate Chunk Brownies

                                            2 cups all-purpose flour
                                            1 1/4 t. baking powder
                                            1 1/4 t. salt
                                            2 5/8 sticks (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
                                            7 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
                                            2 3/4 cups sugar
                                            4 large eggs
                                            2 t. pure vanilla extract
                                            2 cups (10 oz.) white chocolate or milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

                                            Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet (the one I use is I think 12x18 or something like that- DO NOT attempt to use a 12x9 cake pan- stupid me did this with disastrous results!) Line the pan with parchment paper and then spray again. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together and then set aside. Combine chopped butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler until almost melted and remove from heat to cool slightly. Put chocolate mixture, when cooled, in a mixer bowl (Martha says to use a mixer with the whisk attachment and this is always what I've done, but I'm sure you could improvise if you don't have a stand mixer.) and add sugar; beat chocolate and sugar until smooth, approx. 3 min. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 more minutes. Add the flour gradually until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks and pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are set but still soft.

                                          2. re: JoanN

                                            I've heard of adding corn syrup as a way of increasing chewiness (a desirable quality in a brownie, to me). I'm just not crazy about corn syrup (there's already a lot added to processed foods). So, I prefer to use it as a sweetener in only a couple of places (e.g pecan pie) and to reduce the likelihood of crystallization in caramel making. Just my two cents.

                                            1. re: Smokey

                                              Ain't much. Maybe it could be replaced with honey and adjust the sugar.

                                              1. re: Smokey

                                                How about golden syrup? I don't really know if it's similar or totally different from corn syrup... but Nigella reccoed it and I dutifully bought it!

                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                  That makes a lot of sense. Better than my idea.

                                      2. re: Smokey

                                        Yup, I have been using the Fry's Cocoa brownie recipe for 20 yeears (I'm 32), with various add-ins, so to me it's a comfort thing I suppose. I tried the Ghirardelli recipe once and was totally disappointed. I'm sure there are Greenspan recipes which are more delicious than my simple cocoa recipe but I just don't care! How anti-chowhound of me.

                                  2. re: Katie Nell

                                    Katie Nell,

                                    Great job! I see you are meticulous in baking and serving. Exquisite!

                                    Which cookbook are the Martha Stewart Cream Cookies from? They look like something I'd like to make.

                                    1. re: SilverlakeGirl

                                      Thank you! I don't know if they've been in a cookbook or not, I've printed off the recipe from Martha's website so many times and lost it so many times, that I now keep copies everywhere I have recipes in my house, just in case!! Here's the link to the recipe:

                                    2. re: Katie Nell

                                      Hi Katie,
                                      Not sure if you'll get this at this late date, but...I finally made the toffee brownie bites. Every freakin' one of them stuck to the pan. Have you had that happen? I don't know what I did wrong - sprayed and floured three of the pans, used cocoa powder on one just to see if that would work instead of flour. They all stuck!!! I had doubled the recipe too. What a waste. I'm so sad. They were for a party tomorrow so I'm going to make some regular brownies tonight, and perhaps put the crumbs from the bites into some ice cream or something.
                                      Any thoughts or suggestions?

                                      1. re: ScarletB

                                        Oh no, that's so sad! I sprayed and floured, and I think my mom removed them when they were still quite warm. (In fact, I think I remember them being too hot on her fingers even, so almost right after they came out of the oven.) I'm getting ready to make them next weekend, so I will see what happens then. If I remember correctly, we had a little trouble with sticking but just a few bits here and there... some we pieced back together a little bit, but they weren't all that bad. I tend to panic over things like that (I'm a bit overdramatic when things don't go my way in the kitchen :-), but once we poured the glaze over them, you couldn't really tell that there were bits missing here and there. I'm so sorry they didn't turn out for you... I hate when that happens! Don't know if it makes a difference, but we did use a lighter pan, not a dark non-stick pan.

                                        1. re: Katie Nell

                                          Thanks for the sympathy - I needed it! I was quite dramatic by myself in the kitchen this morning, cursing at the pans and the brownies. My poor cats are probably still under the bed :)
                                          Maybe removing them while warmer rather than waiting 10 minutes will help. I'm scared to try them again because I can't stand wasting all those ingredients. How full do you fill the mini-cupcake tins? Maybe I overfilled them?
                                          Do you think spraying without flouring would help? I don't really understand the point of the flour. Usually I feel it's so that muffins aren't greasy to the touch, but with this recipe, there's a glaze so you wouldn't notice if they were greasy. Or maybe the spray with the flour in it?
                                          I don't know. Let me know how your next batch turns out.
                                          Thanks Katie!

                                          1. re: ScarletB

                                            Ah, geez, you are so going to think I'm insane! I have every other Friday off and today I was off; I usually bake and cook most of the day for fun, and so after your troubles, I decided I was going to bake the brownie bites and see if I could figure out the problem... well, I didn't! I just made a mess! Part of the problem could be that I don't have an actual mini muffin pan; I used the fancy pan pictured below which has lots of crevices. (Before when I made them I used my mom's mini muffin pan.) Anyway, I sprayed the first row with baking spray, coated the second row with Crisco, and the third row with butter. Then, I dusted flour on one half of the pan. The first batch I underbaked and they did not come out in one piece at all... I ended up throwing this batch away. The second batch... some of them came out perfectly, some of them, the tops just came off, and some just didn't come out at all... there was no correlation in the type of grease I used and the ones that popped out, but they were all floured ones. At this point, I gave up and put the batter in some ramekins, and I'll probably just eat these with ice cream or something! The only think I can think of is that my mom has extremely deft fingers! I did find that if I used my fingers to gently pry them out that this worked better than trying to get a knife in there, but this could be because my pan had too much detail to it. I am going to attempt them again next weekend when I have a mini muffin pan. Sorry I couldn't figure out the problem- thought I was being so smart in my experiment!

                                            1. re: Katie Nell

                                              That is a fancy pan! Thanks for trying again. Please report back when next you try them.
                                              Some of mine didn't come out at all, except in chunks and some the tops popped off as well.
                                              We did end up putting the crumbs into homemade vanilla ice cream, which was a big hit. I ended up making the triple chocolate brownies from Gourmet instead.
                                              Also made a luscious lemon curd cheesecake from Epicurious that was unbelievable!!!
                                              I can't decide if I'll try the brownie bites again or not. How about putting the glaze on a different brownie recipe cut into teensy squares? I think the idea you mentioned before about not really waiting for them to cool too much might work. Anyway, please post back. Thanks!!

                                3. I just pulled the Molasses-Spice cookies out of the oven and they are smelling wonderful. I made the dough a few days ago and just got to them this afternoon. The recipe made 24 big cookies.

                                  The dough was sticky to work with, you needed to portion it out and roll into balls then roll them in granulated sugar and flatten with a glass. With trial and error I found that pressing them on parchment with sugr on it helped to keep the bottoms from sticking and I flattened them with my fingers and liberally sprinkled sugar over the top before pressing with the glass that and a bit of Pam helped to keep the dough from sticking to the glass. I think I will have a better hang of where i want to go with the next batch.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Candy

                                    We finished dinner and each had a cookie for dessert. They are very good and I will make more next week in my cookie marathon. These are really big cookies and I think I will make 48 instead of 24 cutting down the size.

                                  2. I made the chocolate biscotti a couple days ago. I used chopped pecans that I already had on hand and mini-chocolate chips (I'll admit, I didn't feel like chopping nuts and chocolate). Overall, I would say they were at hit at work as I kept getting "visitors" to take one. Personally, I would have baked them longer the 2nd time as they were not as crisp as I would have liked. The flavor was good, but I have finally come to the conclusion that overall, I don't like chocolate cookies all that much. Everybody else seemed to love them, but I will stick to a more traditional, non-chocolate biscotti next time-my tastes are not chocolate.

                                    1. I just tasted one of the Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread cookies. They are delectable - melt in the mouth texture, wonderful flavor of brown sugar and pecans. It will be hard not to wolf these down by handfuls.

                                      I didn't roll the dough out and cut into squares, I formed a log out of chilled dough and sliced into 1/4" thick cookies about 1.5" in diameter which is comparable with the recipe instructions. Baking time was dead right.

                                      The only puzzling thing was the photo in the book - this is on the page facing the recipe and shows pale shortbread. The recipe also says that the shortbread should not color much during baking. My cookie dough was darker than the photo even before baking, about what I would expect for a mix of butter, brown sugar, ground pecans, flour and cornstarch. It was about the color of light brown sugar. After baking they were a slightly darker shade. It's no big deal, just a puzzle that the photo shows such a pale cookie.

                                      The recipe reminded me of Maida Heatter's recipe for brown sugar shortbread but with the addition of ground pecans. I love the Maida Heatter version but this is even better.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: cheryl_h

                                        Cheryl,for what it's worth, on another site, most of the comments about this recipe are that the cookies aren't even as dark or as uniform as the ones in the photo. Everyone on the other thread agrees with your assessment, that despite how they look, it is a delicious cookie.

                                        Could the difference in the color of your dough be the type of brown sugar you used? Dark brown vs. light brown?

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          DD, I'm glad to hear I'm not seeing things. I used light brown sugar and the unbaked cookie dough looks pretty much like it. The photo can't be of this cookie, I suspect it's of one of the other shortbreads made with white sugar.

                                        2. re: cheryl_h

                                          Wow, I'm psyched to try these! They were already on my list, but you may have bumped them to the top!

                                          1. re: Smokey

                                            I finally made the brown sugar/pecan shortbread cookies. I'll agree with comments on this board and others--mine are much darker than her photo (even sprinkled with sugar!). However, I used dark brown sugar (it's what I have in the house and prefer) and I toasted my pecans before chopping them up. They got a bit burnt in the toasting, which added to the darkness of the dough. It also (IMHO) added to the flavor of the final cookie product. Last night they were a bit too chewy (nice texture in general, but not what you want from a shortbread). They've lost the chewiness, but definitely don't have the delicate sandiness of a shortbread. This is, however, my first time trying any kind of shortbread recipe, and there could certainly be user technique error at play, as well as ingredient issues. Although i did my best to get the pecans finely ground, I wanted to avoid pecan butter, so, at a point, had to cut my losses. I think some of the pecans may have been a smidge too coarse. Additionally, I added a bit more than she called for. It was hard to estimate how much whole pecans were required for 1/2c ground, and I didn't really want to waste anything. So, I tossed in everything I ground.

                                            Bottom line, the flavor of the cookies is amazing. The brown sugar and pecan flavor is great and I really like these. However, I'm not sure I would promote them as shortbread cookies (at least not to a knowledgable crowd) because they don't have the right texture to me.

                                            Oh, and I also had spreading problems, even though the sheets were cool and the dough had been refrigerated for 24 hours.

                                          2. re: cheryl_h

                                            I made these yesterday and I am a bit disappointed in them. The color was fine and I cut back on the baking time. They spread more than I had anticipated and the instructions were to roll them to 1/4" thickness which is just too thin. I find I really prefer shortbread made with rice flour instead of cornstarch, the melting quality in you mouth is much better with rice flour.