Let me get this out of the way because I can guess what you might be thinking. Please don’t judge this book by its proverbial cover. Though the perimeters of these cookies look darker than they should, their overcooked appearance belies their light, bright flavor. According to Cook’s Illustrated (CI), they are supposed to look like this. These are sugar cookies infused with the sunny flavor of meyer lemon zest and the nutty crunch of poppy seeds. My husband has just inhaled a couple as I type and I’m trying to discourage him from eating another two for fear that he will sacrifice a good night’s sleep from a sugar high. But I’ve just failed. I must have done something right with these cookies for in the taste department I’ve earned high marks but in terms of texture, I get a big fat, NI: Needs Improvement.
And so continue my cookie chronicles.
I don’t know what it is with me and cookies–I just don’t get great satisfaction out of making them. Ask me to bake a cake and, dare I say, now even a loaf of bread and I would have reasonable confidence in my efforts. But cookies? They certainly look easy enough but I’m never happy with the ones I make. I’m always one element short of achieving cookie perfection.
I (usually) follow instructions; I even make temperature adjustments based on my oven that I know so well. Even in my calibrated oven I baked these cookies at 80% of the prescribed time and lowered the oven temperature by 25 degrees. I rotated the sheets halfway through the cooking time, as well. I took all necessary precautions. Still, these cookies were supposed to be chewy but instead they were crunchy. What could I have done wrong?
As it turns out, I shouldn’t ever second-guess CI’s recommendations. There is a reason their recipes are never short on details. They tell you what works and what doesn’t work. In this case, I looked more carefully at their suggestions and lo and behold–they recommend using a lower-protein flour. Unfortunately for me, I did not pay attention and used my King Arthur flour instead of the brands they specifically recommended. According to Cook’s Illustrated, using the right flour will result in a “softer and more tender” cookie. Wonderful. Had I been an obedient baker, I might have succeeded here.
I don’t want to give up baking cookies–I do enjoy them and frankly, I’d like to be very happy with the ones I make. Lesson learned? Follow instructions carefully. In the chewy to crispy/crunchy spectrum (1 to 10, chewy to crunchy, respectively), these were an acceptable 7–not soft and chewy as I would like but not dry and crumbly either. So close.
I will keep trying. As I mentioned earlier, these cookies were delicious–I added extra lemon zest and poppy seeds so they wouldn’t be overpowered by the sugar component. However, until I unlock the key to baking perfect cookies I leave you with my current cookie sentiments compliments of Cee Lo Green and Gwyneth Paltrow: