Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What's with the cookies?

In a previous life, before I really embraced fiberly endeavors, I used to do a lot of cooking. Now, most of the day-to-day meal preparation is done by Tom, who, like my father*, is a great explorer in the kitchen. Most of the time his creations are good. Some are extraordinary (he makes the BEST hamburgers and omelettes!). Some - not so great. (There was the lamb loaf early in our marriage that even Stanley wouldn't eat!)

I am still, however, the baker in the family. I've been baking cookies since I was seven and still have the last vestiges of a scar to prove it. I have ginger cookie and chocolate chip cookie recipes that have been great successes from my youth in Colorado to living single in Sacramento to married days in San Jose. But when we moved to West Linn and my drop cookies turned into lace cookies.

Was it the new ovens? Was it the humidity? Was it the flour?

So I turned to cooking chemistry on the internet. Sunset had the best information, including chocolate chip cookie recipes to test to get different result (flat/crispy, puffy/caky, chewy, etc.) Shortening vs butter, hard flour vs soft flour, number of eggs all affect cookies in different ways. I did some serious cookie baking (and I'm sorry to say ate my way out of my favorite pants...but I've been working on that.)

Turns out it was the flour. We discovered the Bob's Red Mill store in Milwaukie, OR. They have a all purpose flour that I decided to try. It made the BEST biscuits from my already favorite recipe. But because it is so fresh (being milled locally), it was too soft and moist for my cookies.

So now I have two different AP flours in the house. Bob's for more structured baking and Gold Medal for cookies. My Crackly Topped Ginger cookies are now crackly again and the favorite 60's era Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip cookies are soft and chewy. Hooray!

*When we lived in the Philippines, Daddy used to take a tray of spices and sauces, along with a fondue pot, and sit in front of the football games broadcast on the AFTV (Armed Forces Television) and make some of the best spaghetti sauces, chilis, and stews. He was definitely the chef of the family. To this day, my mother would rather do just about anything than cook.