Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chewy Sugar cookies - 2 dozen

I made these 2 weeks ago. Straight from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Excellent cookies. But here's what makes it so:

Dynamic Duo: Baking Powder + Baking Soda
Many cookie recipes contain both baking soda and baking powder. Since each is a leavening agent, why do you need both? The answer is that the two work n tandem to create cookies that not only rise--but spread--to the right degree. Plus in this recipe, baking soda has one more purely aesthetic effect: It creates cookies with an appealingly crackly top.
Baking powder is responsible for the lift, since it is engineered to produce most of its gas after the cookies go into the oven, where the dough sets before these bubbles can burst.
But too much lift can mean cookies that turn out humped. Here's where baking soda comes in: As long as there's an acidic ingredient in the dough for it to reach with, a small amount of baking soda can even things out. Baking soda raises the pH of dough, weakening gluten. Weaker gluten means less structure and cookies that spread, Goodbye, Humped shapes.
As for the crackly tops, baking soda reacts immediately in the wet dough to produce large bubbles of carbon dioxide that can't all be contained by the weakened dough Before the cookies can set in the oven, the bubbles rise to the top and bust, leaving fissures in their wake
The bottom line: For a baker who likes her cookies just so, the use of both baking powder an baking soda can be a potent combo.

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. table salt
1-1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 T. unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 T. milk
2 t. vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour,baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Place 1-1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.

3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 T. each. Use hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2" in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 t. sugar remaining in shall dish, discarding any remaining sugar.

4. Bake 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11-13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

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