dsc04136from Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, p. 375-76.

Deep. How many baking books can you characterize as deep? Shirley Corriher’s new book on baking aims to infuse home cooks with the principles of baking. It’s a heady transfusion. I sat reading the book for a couple of hours on the first day I had it. The good number of recipes I’d like to try encouraged me. The complexity and ramshackle organization of the great body of knowledge stored in it intimidated me. Wasn’t Scribner once known for its great editors? Or was that only for the likes of Thomas Wolfe?

Nevertheless, I found many elements of the format pleasing. For instance, each recipe begins with a little introduction, which is followed by a box, “What This Recipe Shows,” filled with the key chemical or constituent advantages demonstrated in that particular recipe. A beginner can learn immediately. A more experienced cook will learn the rationale or the science informing many of the techniques she or he has learned haphazardly over time. Anyone who really has a desire to understand the math behind the synthesis of flour, sugar, fats, and eggs can do so here. For the rest of us, who would prefer to let Shirley and the likes of Harold McGee handle that side of cooking, we can get on with baking in blissful ignorance.

I’m glad I read around in the book before I settled on making something seemingly simple like these cookies. I wouldn’t have known, for instance, that King Arthur’s unbleached all-purpose flour, which I happen to have in my flour bins, is high-protein — something I learned only in the introduction to the cookie section — and so preferable for cookies but not for cakes.If ever there was a cookbook designed for this blog, Bakewise is it. It needs someone to sort it out in order to get the full flavor of it. I suspect this book will turn out to be one of the best investments I’ve made in a cookbook purchase. But it’s not for daytrippers.

Let’s get started:

What This Recipe Shows:

  • Roasted pecans ground to a coarse meal help thicken this dough and add great flavor.
  • The baking soda is excessive and overleavens, but it does aid in making a slightly darker cookie.
  • In order to make the dough thick enough to shape into rolls that can be chilled and then sliced, I reduced the eggs from 2 to 1. [My note: but she didn’t; must be a typo]

3 cups (10.5 oz/297 g) pecans

1 cup plus 2 Tblsp (9 oz/2.55 g), unsalted butter, divided

1 tsp (6 g) salt, divided

2 1/4 cups (10 oz/287 g) spooned and leveled unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp (5 g) baking soda

1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz/ 298 g) sugar

1 tsp (5 ml) unsulfured molasses

1 Tbsp (1.5 ml) pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs (3.5 oz/99 g)

2 cups (12 oz/340 g) semisweet chocolate chips

Nonstick cooking spray, optional

1. Arrange a shelf in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F/177 C.

2. Spread out the pecans on a baking sheet and roast until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. While they are hot, toss the nuts with 2 Tbsp of the butter (1 oz/ 28 g) and 1/4 tsp (1.5 g) salt.

3. When the nuts have cooled, place 1 1/2 cups (5.25 oz/149 g) of the pecans in a food processor with the steel blade and process with quick on/offs until very finely chopped to a coarse meal. The nuts will chop unevenly, so do not try to get every nut finely chopped, but watch the overall batch carefully — do not go to pecan butter.

4. In a bowl, best together the pecan meal, flour, baking soda, and the remaining 3/4 tsp (4.5 g) salt. Set aside.

5. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining 1 cup butter (8 oz/226 g) with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and vanilla. On the lowest speed, beat in the eggs. Beat in the flour-pecan meal mixture in several batches.

6. Coarsely chop the remaning 1 1/2 cups (5.25 oz/ 149 g) pecans. Stir the pecans and chocolate chips into the dough. Work in with your hands, if necessary. Shape into several logs about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter, wrap plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 36 hours if desired.

7. Turn up the oven to 375 F/191 C. Line a baking sheet with Release foil, nonstick side up, or parchment sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Slice the dough into 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) slices. Keep unbaked dough refrigerated. Place on the baking sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake until the edges just begin to color, 9 to 11 minutes.

Now, my turn…

I have to say I ignored the bits about Release foil and nonstick spray. The cookies came off the parchment paper without a problem. Second, on the page before this recipe (p. 374), she mentions at the end of her story about the origin of chocolate chip cookies that one master baker in NYC refrigerates his cookie dough for 36 hours to achieve a “drier, firmer dough.” She notes, too, that “Flavorwise, standing time is a gold mine, allowing the doughs’ flavors to meld.” So, now like the Slow-Rise Bread, we’ve entered the age of the Slow-Meld Cookie.

I have no idea why she calls for unsulfured molasses — one of the few things she doesn’t explain — but it turns out most molasses are unsulfured, I think.

When she says to let the nuts cool, pay attention. Grinding hot nuts brings out moisture and so renders them into a paste. Cooled nuts grind to a coarse meal.

I found the dough too chunky to slice easily. So, I left the dough in the bowl and refrigerated that. When the time came to bake, I scooped out a heaping tablespoon of dough, rolled it with the palm of my hand into a ball, and then partially flattened it.

The next time I make these cookies:

As happy as I was with how they turned out — buttery, crisp around the edges, and chewy in the center, next time I won’t flatten them as much as I did. I want a cookie with a smaller diameter that’s thicker and chewier. But it’s an excellent cookie.

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