Sunday, September 06, 2009

Edible Word: Confections of a Closet Master Baker

If you are a long time reader of The Sour Dough (if there are any of you left after my almost month long absence from this little spot on the web), you know that besides baking and now golf, reading is my other deep abiding passion.

I typically have three or four different books going at any given time. A quick survey this morning of my bedside table revealed the following titles: John Feinstein's Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major, Julie Nicolson's The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm, Mary Lovell's The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and this round of The Edible Word's book, Gesine Bullock-Prado's Confections of a Closet Master Baker.


When The Edible Word's hostesses Cath of A Blithe Palate and Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness asked me if I wanted to participate in this round I didn't hesitate to say yes. After all, I was going to get a chance to read a book about someone who is living a fantasy of mine, chucking their current life in for a chance at the nagging dream of owning their own bakery and making good on that dream.

One of the over riding themes in "Confections of a Closet Master Baker" is making the treats from family recipes, especially the author's mother and grandmother, for friends and family. As I read through the book and the wonderful recipes, I began to think about my family recipes. I have the recipe boxes of both my maternal and paternal grandmothers as well as copies of recipes my mother and mother in law have made for me of their recipes. But, rarely have I made these well loved recipes for anyone other than family. Reading in "Confections of a Closet Master Baker" how people reacted with extra joy when receiving a loved family treat made me want to break out my family recipes and share them with friends, co-workers and you, my readers.

Chocolate looms large in the recipes in Ms. Bullock Prado's life. She even stole a whole bag of Oreo cookies from a neighbor's pantry once to satisfy her craving for chocolate sweets. Chocolate has always been a mainstay in my family treat baking but no one cookie, brownie, or cake defines my family's love of chocolate more than my paternal Grandmother Myrna's Magic Chocolate Cookies.

My father is the oldest of thirteen kids. When all the siblings and their families would gather once a year at his parent's lake house on the shores of Burt Lake, my grandmother would bake for a week getting ready for the onslaught of over twenty grandkids. With that many kids, there was sure to be disagreements over chewy versus crisp cookies and my grandmother's Magic Chocolate Cookies could satisfy both in one cookie.

These cookies are chewy and gooey during the first day but become light and crisp after the first day and a quick three minute trip to a warm oven will return them to chewy status. Either way, crisp or chewy, their is enough chocolate goodness in these to satsify any kid of any age's craving for chocolate.

The ingredients for Magic Chocolate are simple, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder (either natural or dutch processed work fine).

I always sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and set it aside before beginning the recipe. This makes the last step of the dough easier to mix.

Then I cream the sugar and butter using my stand mixer (you can do it by hand too). The recipe calls for a scant 1/4 cup of softened butter to two cups of sugar. When you start creaming, don't worry if you don't think you will have enough butter. You really want buttery sugar and will have the butter and sugar creamed enough when it looks like this:

Butter and Sugar for Magid Cookies

Next, whisk two eggs with vanilla and combine it with the butter sugar mixture.

Butter, Sugar, Egg Mixture for Magic Cookies

Then I add the flour mixture, one 1/2 cup measure at a time. The dough will be stiff at first after you've added the last one or two 1/2 cup measures.

Magic Cookie Dough Still Stiff

Don't worry though because after about two or three minutes of mixing at medium speed your dough will become soft and deep, dark chocolate brown.

Magic Cookie Dough

I let the dough rest a few minutes while I gather and prep the cookie sheets and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. I also like to get a bowl of sparkling sugar to roll the dough balls into before placing them on either greased cookie sheets or parchment paper.

Magic Cookie Dough Balls

Using a teaspoon, I scoop a little dough out of the bowl and roll it into a 1/2" diameter ball, roll the dough ball into the sparkle sugar, and place about 2" apart on the cookie sheet.

I bake the cookies for about 7 - 9 minutes, until the cookies just spread and a few cracks appear on the cookies. After removing them from the oven, I let them sit for two or three minutes until they just set up before placing them on the cooling racks to cool.

Chocolate Magic Cookies

They will be chewy and dark satisfyingly chocolate for the first day or so. If you want crisper cookies right out of the oven, let them bake for 8 - 10 minutes but keep your eye on them as they will go from crisp to toothbreaking hard quickly if you do this.

Personally, I love them as cookies the first day and then use them to dip into my espresso the next day.

Who knows, if I ever decide to do what Ms. Bullock-Prado did when she left her high flying life in Hollywood and open a bakery in some small town in Northern Michigan, these Magic Chocolate Cookies may just be the signature afternoon treat of my little shop.

Grandma Myrna's Magic Chocolate Cookies

1/4 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
2 eggs, large
2 tsp vanilla
2 C AP flour
3/4 C cocoa powder, either natural or dutch processed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C sparkle sugar to roll dough balls into (Optional)

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until the sugar is completely coated. Whisk together two eggs and vanilla and combine into the sugar mixture. Add floor mixture one 1/2 cup at a time. Dough will be stiff at first but mix for 2-3 minutes until combined completely.

Let dough rest for a few minutes. Using a spoon, scoop out enough dough to make 1/2" diameter dough ball. If using the sparkle sugar, roll dough ball into sugar and place on greased or parchment paper prepared cookie sheets 2" apart.

Bake for 7 - 9 minutes in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Let cookies rest on pan until set up when removing from the oven before placing on cooling racks.

Enjoy warm or cool. Cookies will be chewy for the first day and then become crisp and light after. To make them chewy again, place three minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Makes 3 dozen cookies. Will stay fresh for three or four days or can be frozen.