Chocolate Chip Doodles

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I am on a cookie roll these days. If you aren’t into cookies, don’t despair, I will get back to more varied posts after the holiday craziness. We have been concentrating on the baking and holiday preparations for the last few weeks, so there has been precious little experimentation going on in the kitchen.

Chocolate chip doodles are some of my first memories of cookies. My mother first made them with carob chips, as she didn’t eat chocolate for a lot of my early childhood, and I didn’t like it. She used carob as a chocolate substitute often. These cookies really are my favorite when made with carob chips, but they are pretty darn good made with chocolate chips too. Think a snickerdoodle made with brown sugar and chocolate chips, but with a cakier texture. They are some of our favorite cookies, yet we tend to make them only at Christmas time. No idea why. I am vowing to change that this year, when we are ready to make cookies again after our holiday indulgences.

I love the added touch of rolling the cookie dough balls in a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. When I was young, Mom used to put the leftover topping on our buttered toast at breakfast the next day. Tastes of childhood.

What are some of your favorite early food memories?

Download or print the recipe.

Chocolate Chip Doodles
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 7-9 dozen cookies

You can make these with 2 cups carob chips instead of chocolate chips, for a whole different cookie. I prefer them this way, but carob can be an acquired taste.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Topping:
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat butter and brown sugar together until well mixed. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy. Add flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill dough for at least an hour for easier handling. If you chill for more than an hour, let the dough rest on counter for a few minutes to soften just a bit before trying to work with it.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix topping ingredients together in a medium bowl. Line baking sheets with parchment for easy cleanup. No need to grease them if not using parchment.

Roll dough into small balls about ¾-inch in diameter. I use a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop to make the balls. You can make the cookies larger if you like. Dip the top two-thirds of each ball in the topping mixture and place sugar side up on baking sheets. You may have to “fluff” the sugar mixture with your fingers every so often – it tends to compact after a few dips.

Bake cookies 7-10 minutes, depending on size. Cookies will puff up and then flatten as they bake. Try to take them out before they flatten totally, but while they are still a bit puffy. They will look slightly underdone, but not totally raw – let them cool on the pans for a few minutes to finish baking. Be sure not to over bake or the cookies won’t be soft and chewy. Move cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

Store cookies in an airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

Russian Teacakes

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I like cookies. Well, to be honest, I like pretty much all baked goods. But I do like cookies a lot. And my favorite cookies are Russian teacakes, also known as Mexican wedding cookies. I love the shortbread texture, with its slightly crumbly, buttery richness. Add pecans and an icing-like coating of melted powdered sugar and you have cookie perfection, as far as I’m concerned. And they are quick to make, which is icing on the cake – or cookie.

These are easy cookies to make – the dough comes together in minutes. Be sure to only bake one pan at a time, and don’t put more than twenty cookies on each pan. They need to be coated with powdered sugar while they are hot, and if you bake more than twenty at a time, they will cool before you get them all coated.

My mom likes these cookies as much as I do, and she figured out that if you put the powdered sugar in a plastic bag, you can shake the hot cookies in the sugar and get them done quickly, and with little mess. Don’t do more than three or four cookies at a time, or you won’t have enough room to move them around to cover them thoroughly. And shake them gently, or the cookies will break. Or shake as hard as you like, since the cook gets to eat the broken ones.

Download or print recipe here.

Russian Tea Cakes
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup finely chopped pecans
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter, ½ cup powdered sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add pecans, flour and salt and mix well.

Roll into small balls, ¾ inch or smaller. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden and set, and cookie bottoms are golden brown. Do not bake more than one pan at a time or you won’t be able to coat them all with powdered sugar before they cool too much.

Roll cookies in powdered sugar while still hot. You can put the powdered sugar in a plastic bag and gently shake 3 or 4 cookies at a time until covered. Don’t shake too vigorously or the cookies will break apart – they are fragile until cool.

Carefully place coated cookies on racks to cool completely. You can dust with additional powdered sugar after they cool, if desired.

These keep at room temperature for weeks, in an airtight container. Freeze for longer storage.

Homemade Rolls in One Hour

What can I say about these rolls so that you will try them? You need to try them. They easily go together, rise and are ready to eat in an hour. Nothing about the process is hard, and they are certainly worth an hour. They turn out buttery, though they aren’t high in fat, with a nuttiness from the white whole wheat flour that gives them much more depth of flavor than your average dinner roll. I love white whole wheat flour and use it in almost all of my baked goods. Check out my post on whole grains to get the full story on my favorite flour.

The rolls contain both yeast and baking soda, a combination that allows them to rise and be ready to bake in no time. You truly can start mixing these up an hour before you want to eat dinner and have them come to the table hot and ready when you are. They don’t have the exact texture of a roll that has two rising times and a longer mixing time, but they come pretty darn close. Did I mention they are ready in an hour?

The original recipe called for a lot of shortening and butter, both in the dough and poured on top during baking. I made them as written once, and they were good, but actually kind of greasy. I switched the shortening for butter, and reduced the amount in the dough by half. I greased the pan with cooking spray instead of pouring in melted butter, and used just one tablespoon of butter on top of the dough. You can still taste the butter, but they are much easier on the waistline and cholesterol levels.

Even if you have never baked with yeast, you can make these. Try them and let me know what you think.

Download or print recipe here.

One Hour Rolls
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 rolls

These rolls require only a few minutes of actual work – the rest of the hour is rising or baking time. These are perfect to mix up before dinner – they can rise and bake while you are cooking the rest of the meal.

2 packages active dry yeast
¼ cup sugar (or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided (you call use all-purpose flour, if you prefer)
1 cup all-purpose flour, approximately
1½ cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and ½ cup plain yogurt)
¼ cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda and 2 cups white whole wheat flour. In another bowl, heat buttermilk and ¼ cup butter in the microwave until warm, but not hot. It might curdle, which is fine. If you get it too hot, wait for it to cool down a bit so you don’t kill the yeast with the hot liquid.

Add buttermilk mixture to yeast mixture and mix, either by hand or mixer, until well combined. Add 1½ cups white whole wheat flour and mix well. You should have a soft dough. Cover bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes. This allows the whole grain flour to absorb more of the liquid and helps ensure you won’t add too much all-purpose flour, which will make the rolls dry.

If dough is too soft to handle after the rest period, sprinkle with about ½ cup of all-purpose flour and mix well. Spread ¼-½ cup all-purpose flour on the counter and scrape dough onto the flour. Knead until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute. You might need to add a bit more flour if dough is still sticky.

Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch pan. Pat dough evenly into pan. If dough springs back, allow it to rest for a minute or two and try again. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 pieces, cutting almost through to bottom of dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees about halfway through the rising time.

Brush tops of risen rolls with 1 tablespoon melted butter, taking care not to deflate them. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from pan and serve hot. Cool any leftovers on a wire rack before storing. Once completely cool, store in tightly closed container. Freeze if keeping for more than a day or two. Reheat rolls in a 300 degree oven, covered loosely with foil.