It’s All About the Process

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about making cookies.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about my process, and how I’ve finally, finally learned how to streamline it.

When it comes to baking, I used to be a haphazard everything-in-the-pantry-ends-up-spread-out-on-the-counter- and a if-it-wasn’t-in-the-recipe-I-won’t-touch-it-or-else type. A combination of the two can be lethal. I’ve learned over the past several years, however, that a good recipe is all in the deviation, and that a good day in the kitchen is one that’s organized and planned.

Sounds rather contradictory, no?

Sugary caramel meltaways!

Well, here’s how I bake cookies:

Step one: I do my research. I look at other peoples’ recipes and see what has worked for them. That often means hours (literally, hours) of surfing the internet, trying different search terms and reading every recipe that looks like it might be worth its salt (literally and figuratively) and then comparing the ingredients, the ratios, the results, and, when applicable, the reviews.

I ask myself, do I want chewy or crunchy? Puffy or flat? Rich or light? And then, after looking through the recipes, I start to write. I’ll have guides near me, like Jeff Potter’s Cooking for Geeks or Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food, since they go in depth into the science (chemistry and mechanics) of the craft. Maybe a recipe looks good on paper, but I have to consider the potential outcomes as well as the alternatives. Recipes aren’t written in stone, and often they get better when you use them as a guide but not a commandment.

Then it comes time to test. This is where it can get tedious and often messy (and expensive!). One way I’ve started to combat the tedious mess (and, in a very slight way, the financial piece, although I’m taking suggestions for making extra ingredients appear out of thin air…) is by using weights instead of volumes. In other words: instead of  spilling sugar all over my counter while trying to pack it into one of my 18 measuring cups or several bowls, I now use one bowl and a food scale. Not only are my measurements more accurate, I can pour all of my ingredients over one large bowl*, and I can do the clean up in less than 5 minutes while the cookies bake.

Using my grandmother's food scales to test a Peanut Apple Pretzel Cookie recipe

*I do use a small bowl to set the flax egg up at least 15 minutes before I start baking; the flax needs time to absorb the liquid before I can add it to the wet ingredients, so I do have a small second bowl to clean…

Weighing ingredients is also more cost effective, because I’m using the exact same amount of flour, sugar, etc etc in every single recipe. Using measuring cups is incredibly inaccurate; I can scoop 1 cup of flour 5 times, and get a different weight with each scoop, depending on how I pack the cup. With weights, I can, at the very least, budget my baking so I’ll know exactly how much flour I will get out of each bag.

Now, when it comes to the actual recipes, I go through several before I find the right one. A good example of this process can be found in my Divine Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, which took me a good four days to come up with and then test. Another is the last recipe I baked, the “More Than a Spoonful of Sugar” Caramel Meltaways. I’m still not 100% in love with the caramel recipe I used–I’m thinking of experimenting with coconut milk and oil to see if I get a richer flavor than using Soy creamer and vegan butter–but the cookie itself is exactly where I want it….and it only took me three tries!

Making caramel

Both the first and second recipes I made up came out too bready. The first recipe was similar to my Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I used oil instead of butter, and cornstarch as a thickener. My brother said that they tasted like pancakes (and then asked for me to pour maple syrup on them…).

Not so yummy pancake balls...

The second recipe was a complete deviation from my norm: I used soy milk in the recipe, but that thickened the dough to the point of un-stir-ability (and yes, that’s a word now.) They came out extremely dry, and the caramel seeped out of the bottom and adhered to the parchment paper.

Dry, dry, and dry...and all of the caramel melted out during baking!

The third recipe was exactly what I wanted–I eschewed the milks and the starches, and went for the simplest combination of ingredients–and it worked! Now I just have to tweak the caramels, and I’ll have another killer cookie to add to my arsenal.

Getting ready for the final test...

Speaking of which, now that I’m an official business, I’m going to work on not making killer cookies–i.e. I’m on my way to finding a good commercial kitchen and a health permit, as well as some good old fashioned insurance. Since I’m still small-time, I started a GoFundMe account. If you want to help get KP’s Cookies off the ground, I would really appreciate any and all donations–or, if you know friends who might like to help, I would love it if you could pass my link along to them. Frankly, the sooner I have all of the necessary business-and-health-permit stuff taken care of, the sooner I can focus on important things, like actually shipping my cookies to all of you who have requested such a service.

If you’d like to donate, please click HERE-and thank you, thank you, thank you in advance, from the bottom of my heart,

Love and Cookies,

KP

P.S. I totally just realized that The Bloggess has a post about The Process too…

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