the cookie diaries, day eight

the cookie diaries, day eight

The story so far: Now that Mike has come up with a vegan, gluten-free version of his holiday cookie receipt, it’s time to start making cookies with his traditional holiday receipt. We’re talking a lot of cookies…like 41, to be exact. Today in the cookie diaries: Traditional Batches #01 and #02.

Mike has baked these cookies and given them out as holiday presents for several years, and his mission this time is to make enough cookies to send back to family members in the Midwest. The traditional receipt is based on an old sugar cookie recipe, but with significant changes.

(Don’t forget…if you’ve been following along with our cookie diaries, your reward will come on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when we reveal Mike’s holiday cookie receipts!)

Baking this first batch was pretty much like getting back on a bicycle after a long time away. Plus, working on the vegan, gluten-free receipt got Mike up to speed on the basic procedure, which is pretty much the same for both receipts.

The only real drama in the batch came when Mike applied a new brand of red sugar sprinkles to the top of the cookies before putting them into the oven; they seemed to bounce off of the dough and all over the cookie sheet.

Mike knew he was back on familiar ground when he began to smell that old aroma…that smell of love, of comfort, of home. Of the holidays.

Out of the oven, the new red sprinkles looked (and tasted) great.

Mike’s using a slighly smaller ice-cream scoop for the traditional cookies, so the yield is somewhat greater: Traditional Batch #01 was 20 cookies; Traditional Batch #02 was 21. More than enough to send back home.

Now it’s full production mode: a batch or even two every day until Christmas. Good times.

 

 

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the cookie diaries, day seven

the cookie diaries, day seven

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #06.

Let’s head straight for Mike’s notes:

“Vegan Batch #06: Made with ingredients and procedure of working receipt, just as confirmation that THIS is the receipt.

“The oven has been set to 375º. Confirmed!

“Dough is resting comfortably. Worked together very nicely.

“I took a lot more care with shaping the balls of dough, trying to make sure they had the right balance of chocolate pieces and not too many chunks of peppermint candy. The dough handled very well, and now’s the time to put on the crushed peppermint candy topping and then put it in the oven.

“I also took greater care in placing the pieces of crushed peppermint candy on top of the cookies. I placed the big chunks directly on top where they could be seen. I also tried to make sure there was some of the red striping on each cookie. Finally, I sprinkled some of the candy dust on the cookies.

“This batch yielded 11 normal-sized cookies and one slightly smaller squib (which got extra peppermint pieces as compensation).

“They’re in the oven now. All appendages crossed.

The-Cookie-Diaries-7-Low
The low, artsy view of the finished cookies. Note how the peppermint candy melts into the crust.

“Out of the oven, they look and smell great. The toothpick test confirms they are DONE. Now to let them cool…

“Five minutes cool, and they are very good. Not too sweet, not too strong on the peppermint or the chocolate. It’s moist and chewy, not grainy; the peppermint pieces give it a little crunch factor.

“Kathy the Chief Taster has already eaten three as of the morning after. I guess she likes them.

“I’ll be taking this batch to work tomorrow, making my vegan co-worker (and my boss) very happy.

“THIS is the vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt I’ve been looking for.

“Now it’s production time. I have 42 traditional cookies to bake and pack for shipment by Friday.

“We’re just getting started.”

the cookie diaries, day six

the cookie diaries, day six

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #05.

“Vegan Batch #05: Made with CORRECT ingredients from base receipt, plus 1+ Tablespoon crushed peppermint candies, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, and 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate pieces.

“This time we’re trying for much less chocolate. I’m using only 1/3 cup of semisweet chocolate pieces, which are smaller than the dark chocolate chips in used Vegan Batch #04. The dough mixed well—even the crushed peppermint candies played nice.

“The batch yielded 11 normal sized cookies and one smaller squib. The dough seemed stickier than the other batches.

“I’m definitely not getting the overwhelming chocolate aroma this time. There actually seems to be more of a peppermint aroma.

“Out of the oven, they look a little paler than user, but they smell great. Just gonna let them cool for a few minutes…

After cooling five minutes: it’s chewy and moist. The big chunks of peppermint candy on top may be off-putting—we’ll see. But this baker thinks it’s a pretty good cookie.

“Later that evening, Kathy the Chief Taster liked it, but I’m having second thoughts. Somehow it tastes like the cookies weren’t completely baked.

“I took a batch to my day job. My vegan co-worker liked them (again) but said they tasted a bit ‘flour-y’—which makes me think this batch may have been a bit underbaked.

“My boss, however, loved it. ‘You can bring me a platter of those any time,’ she said.

“So, for all intents and purposes, we’re there. We have our vegan, gluten-free cookie receipt. Just have to use the correct ingredients and the correct procedure (and maybe small pieces of peppermint candy) on the next batch to confirm.”

the cookie diaries, day five

the cookie diaries, day five

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #04.

This batch was epic…as in twists-and-turns, ups-and-downs, take-up-an-entire-page-of-notebook-paper, go-over-our-blog-post-word-limit epic. It was made with the ingredients and procedure of Vegan Batch #03, but with 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, 1+ Tablespoons crushed peppermint candies, and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. If this works, Mike will have a flavor combination that is close to his traditional receipt.

Mike’s notes can take it from here:

“The dough mixed well with the additional ingredients. We’ll see if I put too much peppermint in the mixture.

“(Pro Tip: Don’t crush peppermint candies with a hammer while your spouse is taking a nap.)

“I’m using the crushed peppermint candies two ways: 1 Tablespoon mixed in the batter and a pinch of the pieces on top of each cookie. Let’s hope it’s not peppermint overload.

“As it’s baking, I’m smelling more of the dark chocolate—I wonder if 1/2 cup was too much.

“Now that they’re out of the oven, I think it was too much chocolate—it basically melted all over the cookie and the cookie sheet.

“They taste almost more bitter than sweet; the dark chocolate really dominates. Good texture and chewiness, though. And they pass the ‘milk dunk test’.

“My vegan co-worker tried one and liked it—and she’s picky. Her only comment was that there was too much chocolate, and that the chocolate should be in smaller pieces.

“…And after all this, I’ve just realized that I put only 1-1/2 cups of flour in the dough, not the 1-3/4 cups the original vegan receipt calls for. So I guess Vegan Batch #05 will have the correct amount of flour, plus a reduced amount of smaller bits of dark chocolate.”

Told you it was epic.

the cookie diaries, day four

the cookie diaries, day four

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #03.

Vegan Batch #02 proved the old baking adage that you cannot mess around with the proportions of an established receipt without paying the price. In this case, using the proportions of Mike’s traditional holiday cookie receipt with vegan, gluten-free ingredients cost him the fluffy, rounded cookie he’s looking for. Instead, Mike got a flat, somewhat chewy but still delicious cookie that Kathy called “a breakfast biscuit.”

So Vegan Batch #03 was made with the proportions of the original vegan receipt Mike’s adapting, plus 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Mike’s notes on this batch are pretty to the point:

“They came out looking just like the traditional cookies–which is a good sign. Still warm, they are moist and chewy and not overly sweet.

Kathy loves them. This is the base receipt for the vegan/gluten-free cookie.”

Eureka, y’all. But now came another important question: what could Mike add to this cookie that would make it just as unique as the traditional cookie he created? We don’t want to give everything away just yet, but Mike’s traditional holiday cookie contains a couple of very cool (and somewhat unusual) ingredients.

Off to the Interwebs for a search of fun and interesting vegan holiday cookie receipts, looking for that certain combination that sings Christmas like a carol. There were many possible combinations, but one in particular broke out in “Joy to the World” as soon as Mike saw it.

We can tell you that the ingredients in question are peppermint and chocolate, and that Vegan Batch #04 was…epic.

the cookie diaries, day three

the cookie diaries, day three

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #02.

You may recall that Batch #01 tasted good, but had a dry and grainy texture. Kathy suggested using unsweetened applesauce to add moisture and more salt to improve the flavor. So Batch #02 was made with those ingredients, plus the proportions and procedure of Mike’s original holiday sugar cookie recipe.

Lemon extract was added to this batch. And this time we’re using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour with xanthan gun already added.

This was The Batch of False Starts. It stared when I laid everything out and realized I didn’t have enough flour. So to the store I went. When I got back, I thought I had run out of baking powder. (Apparently I used baking soda instead of baking powder in the last batch.) So back to the store I went. When I got back this time, I inadvertently found baking powder hiding behind something else in the cupboard. The dough is finally resting, however…

Got 12 cookies (barely) from this batch.

WOW! They are FLAT. And VERY moist—almost too moist.

As for texture and taste: they are very chewy. The salt and the lemon extract really bring out the best of the sugar. Next batch: same as Batch #01, but with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the Bob’s Red Mill flour.

Kathy REALLY likes them. She compared them to breakfast biscuits—very dippable. (So they passed the “milk dunk” test.) This receipt isn’t the one I’m looking for, but this batch may yield another receipt—for breakfast biscuits. Tomorrow: Vegan Batch #03.

the cookie diaries, day two

the cookie diaries, day two

The story so far: Mike is keeping a running diary of his holiday cookie efforts. Right now, he’s on a mission to create a vegan, gluten-free holiday cookie receipt that emulates his traditional receipt. (Wonder why we call recipes “receipts”? Here’s your answer.) Today in the cookie diaries: Vegan Batch #1.

First, Mike had to find an established receipt and use that as his starting point. After a search of the Internets, he found this receipt at Florida Coastal Cooking and Wellness. The plan was to bake this first batch using the ingredients from this receipt and the procedure from Mike’s traditional receipt–which is much different from a traditional sugar cookie receipt.

It’s important when cooking with vegan and gluten-free ingredients to use equipment which is dedicated to those types of ingredients, to avoid cross-contamination. Mike used a #24 ice-cream scoop to form the cookies, which yielded only 9 cookies from the dough.

The cookies were done after 12 minutes, but they didn’t look very brown on top. They tasted “very pleasantly sweet”, according to Mike’s notes. The texture was somewhat light, which was encouraging, since the last thing we want to do is create a dense cookie. However, the texture was also dry and grainy (for reasons Mike didn’t discover until Vegan Batch #2–but that’s a story for tomorrow). The cookie didn’t hold up well to the “milk dunk test”; it fell apart very quickly.

Kathy, who is an important part of this process as Chief Taster, said the cookies had “great sweetness”, but needed salt and moisture.

So this first effort could be called a minor success. Lesson learned: Add salt and moisture. To that end, the next batch would have additional salt and moisture–as well as another important ingredient. But that, as they say, is a story for another day. Like tomorrow.