There are two kinds of cooks, those who cook from recipes and those who just add a little of this and a little of that. We are in the former category, unfortunately. Because following a recipe takes time. We find ourselves inexcusably flipping back and forth to the phone (why not print it out after the 5th time making it?), taking it off sleep, and checking ad infinitum whether it was 1 tbsp or 1 tsp of garam masala.
Don’t get us wrong. We love recipe books. They inspire us as well as guide us. But nothing quite beats the time-saving of going into the kitchen and being able to pull out exactly what you need in a second because you simply know all the ingredients and all the tools you’ll need without having to reference a device or a book once. So for those of you who feel you don’t have “time” to cook, here’s a suggestion: memorize a recipe. Just one or two. You will be amazed at how fast something can go.
People are still impressed with our cookies (and, by association with us), even though they take so little time to make. There is NO better hostess gift. We whip up a batch of this, stick it into a preserve jar, add a tag with cooking instructions and voila, we are the life of the party. We have a holiday party to go to where the people have everything. What is she going to do with another candle? Trust me, no one needs another bottle of wine, and they don’t remember who brought it even if it’s a good bottle. Everyone remembers the person responsible for that incredible smell wafting from the oven throughout their house the next day when they are facing a mountain of wine glasses to wash.
People like getting the dough even better than the cooked cookies. Why do they need cookies when they already have planned for a dessert? Then there’s awkwardness of feeling like they have to serve them then and there, even if it doesn’t fit with their overall plan. Not only does giving dough save you prep time, but you can also make the dough look artful in a preserve jar with a package tag giving them baking ingredients.
So, no, it’s not dinner for 4 (and it’s probably worth memorizing one of those go to dishes, too). But it has reaped us so many benefits over the years. And we are able to do it because we have memorized the recipe, so can just dash these out in minutes.
Photo: Handle the Heat
1. Salt: We use fleur de sel or sea salt instead of regular table salt. Truth be told, we almost always use sea salt instead of table salt. It’s just better. It used to be you had to spring for Le Saunier de Camargue, but now most stores carry La Baleine or a Whole Foods generic brand.
2. Let it Sit: Something magical happens between the eggs and the butter the longer the dough sits. The New York Times did a taste test and found better results each 12 hours they waited. We try to let it sit at least overnight, but 48 hours is the standard. They’re fine, of course, if you have to bake them right away, but they’re just better if they can sit for a day or two. This is another benefit of giving just the dough: the waiting time is built in.
Photo: Joy Food Sunshine
3. Don't Over Bake: Over baking is worse than under baking. We watch our cookies like hawks. We want to bake them only until they are solid enough to be removed from the oven. Start checking them around 8 minutes. They won’t be done, but ovens are different and you don’t want to let them go too long. No one has ever complained that a cookie was too undercooked.
4. Invest in a Silpat: These silicon mats save your life baking-wise. There’s nothing worse than working hard to bake cookies and having them break while you try to get them off the sheet
5. Use good ingredients: You can taste the difference when you use good flour, good European butter, and high-quality chocolate.