Monday, February 23, 2015

Cookie Mixing Methods

Depending on what you're baking, a specific mixing method is usually coupled with that product. For the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Soft Lemon Cookie procedures, I employed the creaming method. Cookies, quickbreads, yeast doughs, cakes, pie doughs, and laminated doughs all generally require different mixing methods (or variations of the same method). Below are three mixing method options for cookies, each with their own pros and cons. Usually, it is best not to stray from the mixing method outlined in a specific recipe.

Creaming Method :: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. The fat, sugar, and salt are creamed together with a paddle attachment or beaters at low speed. Liquid is added slowly so the emulsion is not broken. Sifted dry ingredients are incorporated. Always resist overmixing. Pro :: Creaming until the mixture is light and fluffy results in a lighter cookie due to air incorporation. Con :: More time-consuming than one-stage method.

One-Stage Method :: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. All ingredients are mixed together at once until uniformly blended. Pro :: Simple and quick. Con :: Does not achieve the lightness and volume of the creaming method.

Sponge Method :: The sponge method generally involves eggs, which [obviously] are not used in vegan baking. However, learning about 'traditional' baking procedures can only lead to innovations in similar vegan methods. The sponge method begins as the other two do: All ingredients are measured and brought to room temperature. Eggs may be warmed slightly for greater volume. Eggs are whipped with sugar to the proper stage (soft peaks for whites, thick and light for whole eggs or yolks) and remaining ingredients are folded in gently so as not to overmix or deflate the eggs. Pro :: Eggs provide volume and aid in leavening. Con :: Eggs aren't vegan!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

As I have mentioned before, mixing develops gluten. When mixing occurs, flour proteins are hydrated and air is incorporated. Oxygen reacts with the gluten to strengthen the dough. To quote Professional Baking (6th ed.) by Wayne Gisslen, "The mixing action develops the gluten by stretching and aligning the gluten strands into an elastic network" (p 99). This is why overmixing results in a dense, tough cookie - too much gluten devlopment!

So, when I write 'resist overmixing', I really mean it. Once all ingredients are incoporated, step away from the rubber spatula and a delicious cookie full of tenderness will be in your future.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Soft Lemon Cookies (with a Snickerdoodle variation)

Soft Lemon Cookies, poppy seed variation and original.

Yield :: 1½ dozen (recipe can easily be doubled)  |  Bake :: 350°F, 15 minutes

  • Another Citrus: Use the zest of another citrus fruit in place of lemon zest (orange, lime, grapefruit, tangerine...).
  • Ultimate Lemon: Replace vanilla extract with lemon extract for extra lemon flavor. After rolling dough portions in sugar and slightly flattening the cookies, sprinkle with a little extra lemon zest for color.
  • Lemon Poppy Seed: Add a fair amount of poppy seeds (use your judgement) to your sugar before coating your portioned dough.
  • Snickerdoodles: Omit lemon zest and coat the cookies in cinnamon sugar (ratio 4 oz sugar to 0.4 oz ground cinnamon).
  • Spiced: Use pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon in the snickerdoodle variation.

Continue for the recipe!