Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Dreamer, A Hater, and One L of a Cookie

Sometimes, we fail to execute our best laid plans.
It is a rare, but lucky occasion when we reap the sweet rewards of an unplanned, unexpected event.

I have been told that although humans may dream in color,
pets dream only in black and white.
I dream in baked goods. Colorful, delicious baked goods.

A good dream, much like a new cookbook, will often motivate me to get going in the kitchen.
My post-workday Saturday offered me a double-whammy of ambition. I had a dream about Madeleines (a delightfully spongy cookie I have tasted only once and have never mustered the courage to recreate) and I bought a new cookbook.
As I flipped through my un-christened copy of Rosie's Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book by Judy Rosenberg of Rosie's Bakery fame,
I waffled between choosing a recipe from her Chewy Crunchy list and her Crispy Chompy list.
As I considered each recipe, I spoke aloud, proclaiming my love for the author and her ability to appreciate baked goods for the textural, sensory experience they provide and not just for their flavor.
Enter my teenage son, the hater (see earlier post for a definition of this term).
As was our (sad but true) recent custom, we shared a family room and went about our recreational activities, with nary a spoken word. My intense concentration on list after list of ingredients which included criminal amounts of butter and sugar, could not be broken by his random freak-outs over a tackle-gone-bad in the latest version of Madden NFL for Xbox.
But somehow, on this bitter cold day which threatened high winds and the kind of rain that comes down sideways, my son unexpectedly, responded to my rantings about the importance of a cookie's chewiness.
He requested that we make sugar cookies.
I dropped the book.
I dropped the book because I saw a glimpse of my once-young son who, before the days of organized sports, eighth grade homework, fantasy football, Guitar Hero, instant messaging, cologne, and the brooding that accompanies a changing voice and man-size sneakers, would have willingly participated in my adventurous, if not crazy, culinary experiments.
Those days however, had become fond, yet distant memories.
Tearfully sentimental, yes. But I'm afraid that's not the only reason I dropped the book
We have a history with sugar cookies.

I am the mom who defines my own "motherliness" by my ability to nourish my family with meals and desserts created
in my own kitchen, with my own carefully chosen ingredients, by my own hands.
My son wanted sugar cookies from a boxed mix.
The very last time we made these cookies, I was in
my nourish your mind, body and soul period.
A time when I would spend hours at the market reading every ingredient from every product label before actually making a purchase. It was during one of these the-devil-lives-in-high fructose corn syrup jaunts that I discovered that the favorite mix in question contained only one ingredient whose name I recognized, and that was, in fact, high fructose corn syrup. Needless to say, that mix was forever banned from my kitchen.
So, putting my new cookbook and my need for chewy-crunchy satisfaction aside, we faced a dilemma. We needed a recipe for a soft, chewy sugar cookie that, dare I say,
closely resembled the mix-in-the-pouch variety.
After sorting through my organized mess of recipes whose origins include cookbooks, grandmothers, the internet, garden club newsletters and the simply unknown, I decided to combine two recipes and make a few of my own adjustments based on firsthand knowledge of my son's challenged, if not stubborn, taste buds.

While the end result of our experiment is a sugar cookie we can both be proud of, my greatest appreciation is for this unexpected yet welcomed opportunity that presented itself.

As we multiplied fractions (and thankfully, my son's familiarity with this exercise saved me from a great deal of mathematical embarrassment), and as we scooped and precisely measured flour, I discovered that my not so long ago, five-foot-something son had passed the half-way marker on my kitchen door and was indeed a few inches closer to the big number six. I also noticed that his once snug-around-the-waist, almost man-size pants were now too loose and almost too short; likely a result of daily football practice and simple genetics. As we worked our way through our freshly-concocted recipe, we chatted and we joked. To say it was time well spent is an understatement.

A feeling of nostalgia swept over me. I longed for those bygone days when he would stand on a chair beside me and relentlessly ask questions about the whys and what fors of everything (including, but not limited to the dinosaur kingdom, Star Wars, the sleeping arrangement of a wolf-pack in conflict, Pokemon,
the antidote for a venemous bite, and the reason ground beef makes for great play-doh, unlike its second-cousin, the meatball).

I made a mental note to encourage communication by providing more opportunities for activities like this, our Saturday cookie experiment.

The time was at hand to scoop and bake the cookies. Without hesitation, we jumped right back in to our comfortable identities
as the control freak-they have to be perfectly round cookies-mother, and
the fine-you can scoop them-can I eat the batter- and go play video games-son.

He ate enough batter until he was sick with pleasure.
I scooped one sugar-laden orb after another, rolled them in even more sugar and baked them until they were disks of crispy-chewy sugar cookie perfection.
After just one bite, I knew the recipe for these cookies was blog-worthy, and we were left only with the task of naming them. I wanted to pay homage to the recipes which inspired them. One was a recipe for "Larry's Cookies" which was generously posted by a fellow-bulletin-board member on a popular cooking website. The other was from a community publication which gave credit to Land 'O Lakes, my favorite purveyor of buttery goodness.
The answer was obvious. The recipe title must bear the letter L for the simple fact that Larry, Land 'O Lakes and my son, Logan were all connected by this common thread.
Add a bit of motherly-wit and you have yourself One L of a Cookie.

There is one other L-word, of the four-letter variety, that comes to mind when I think of just how this delightful cookie came to be. But, I'm the mom of a teenager, and on the off chance that he might actually read this post, I'll spare him the embarrassment.
But, you know what I mean.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


One L of a Cookie
**This is a large recipe that yields approximately 20 jumbo cookies. If you prefer, you can reduce the recipe by half to yield about 10 cookies.
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Shortening
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter softened
3 Cups White Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean split lengthwise
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar firmly packed
3TBS Lyle's Golden Syrup (usually available on the same aisle as pancake syrup)
4 TBS Pure Vanilla Extract
4 Large Eggs
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Baking Soda
7 Cups (yes, seven) All Purpose Unbleached Flour
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling ( AKA Sugar in the Raw)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place oven rack in middle position.
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a large capacity stand mixer, cream shortening with butter until fluffy.
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and incorporate with your clean hands into white sugar. Work the seeds into the sugar until combined. Add brown sugar to white sugar mixture and then add sugars to shortening mixture. Blend on medium speed until smooth. Add Lyles Golden Syrup and mix briefly until incorporated. Lightly beat eggs with vanilla extract and add to mixture.
In a separate bowl, add salt and baking soda to measured flower. Whisk to incorporate. Carefully add dry ingredients to batter and mix slowly until just incorporated. Blend by hand until the mixture forms a soft dough. It is important not to overmix--but make sure all ingredients are incorporated and you don't have random streaks of shortening left. Also make sure there isn't un-mixed flour at the bottom of the bowl. A large rubber spatula makes easy work of this.
Cover dough in bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Using a large cookie scoop (an ice cream scoop with a 1/4 cup capacity works well), scoop dough into balls, gently rolling between palms and then roll balls into Turbinado sugar, coating completely. Space cookies at least 2 inches apart on parchment lined cookie sheets. Using the bottom of a glass which has been lightly coated with butter and dipped in sugar, depress each cookie until it flattens slightly.
Sprinkle or spray tops of cookies with cold water (do not saturate) and bake cookies one sheet at a time for about 14 minutes. Cookies are done when edges are slightly golden, and center is no longer wobbly. Be careful not to burn bottoms. Remember that an underdone cookie is better than an overdone cookie.
Remove pan to wire rack. Allow cookies to cool on pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days (if they last that long).
**As this recipe yields a lot of cookies, I couldn't ignore the plea from co-workers for a home-baked treat. My challenge was to keep the cookies fresh for several days before I returned to work. I currently have one dozen of these cookies in my freezer. I wrapped each cookie individually with plastic wrap and then placed cookies in a freezer-safe ziploc bag. I will report back on this freezing experiment as I have never tried to freeze a sugar cookie.

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