Saturday, 21 March 2015

Welcome to the completely unsolicited just because I want to Cookie Bake off !

It's early morning on the first full day of spring. Yes, we made it through another harsh winter. The front yard is south facing so it has melted and the bits of trash and the ugly garden are now visible. Plans for this yard are nebulous. All I know is the stupid black garden border will be coming out as will the strange combo of plants. The only thing I really want to keep is the lilac bush. All grass ( all 10 square feet of it) will go as well. Such a waste of time trimming that. I'm thinking I'll plant the entire yard with a wildflower garden that will attract butterflies. We had one of these many houses ago and the flowers are colourful and the butterflies are wonderful. So, let's set that aside until the ground thaws and get back to the bake off.
Once I finally sat down and organised my recipes I had 111 recipes to get through. I've organised them by type; shortbreads, with nuts, shaped etc. For our first entry I chose three recipes that were versions of the Snickerdoodle. Snickerdoodles are sort of a sugar cookie that has been dressed up. I like them because they don't require rolling and cutting. I hate rolling and cutting cookies. Gingerbread men end up limb-less under my less than patient hands. Mixing and applying royal icing, blech. Let's be honest, royal icing tastes like nothing. I like to concentrate on taste with all of my baking so perfection of shape is the least of my worries.
Back to the Snickerdoodles. The point of my bake off is to wade through my copious collection of recipes and discard, deep breath here, the ones that don't pass the test. These recipes are coming from my three decade collection of Christmas Cookies magazines that Better Homes and Gardens puts out annually. I'm trying to purge my collection of magazines so these will be the first to go. Focus Nancy, I chose three recipes to bake this week. A classic Snickerdoodle, a Saffron Snickerdoodle and a Snickerdoodle crescent. ( It's fun to write the name a bunch of times!!). I used my seasoned tasting panel, my kids. Each household received a dozen of each type and were told to let me know what the conclusion was. I kept some in the freezer for a certain sister who wanted to be part of this but lives several hundred miles away.
  The signature feature of Snickerdoodles is rolling them in a sugar/spice mix before cooking. Classic has simply white sugar and cinnamon ( the darker crackled cookie above); Saffron had a Chai mixture and the Crescents had their flavouring rolled inside. So, back to the tasting. The final consensus was,
 " Why'd you spend money on saffron, mom? We can't taste it." The classic version was good when it was still warm but became too chewy once cooled, the saffron one had the best texture remaining fairly short and soft after cooling. I was disappointed with the saffron ones in that I expected the cookies to take on a yellow hue and have some of the earthy flavour associated with the spice. Maybe I was too conservative with my dash of saffron.
 The crescent was another beast altogether. Whoever named it a Snickerdoodle was taking artistic licence. This is made from a cream cheese pastry nothing like the normal texture of a classic. The pecan spice mixture used inside is delicious but the final consensus on this one is it tasted like a cinnamon roll. Given my aversion to fussing with shapes these cookies just aren't worth the trouble. I don't know about your house but here if a cookie recipe only makes 3 dozen cookies it isn't worth the effort. Three dozen are gone in a flash. Add to that the fussing of chilling and rolling of the crescents and this gets them removed from our list of recipes to keep. I'm thinking I'll keep a note of the filling though and figure out another way to make use of that.
The classic version is also going the way of the dodo.I'd forgotten the texture and since the family consumes most of my cookies their votes carry a lot of weight.
 I'd like you to please note my use of a lovely kiwi plate. I thought the colours looked spring-like. There was some debate, as there always is with this gang, as to whether or not I have the plate upside down. I made the executive decision that I like it this way. Having veto power can be wonderful!

In the end a version of the Saffron Snickerdoodle will remain. I say a version because we all liked the Chai spice mix the cookies were rolled in ( minus the saffron) and the texture. I know I will be playing with the spice mix to create a Ferrier version. The cardamom in the mix is one of our favourites.
There you have it, week one of my bake off. Next week I think I'll pull out my cookie press and make some spritz cookies. This is the lazy cooks way of making shaped cookies. The doughs are soft and you can makes dozens of cookies in a very short period of time. I have three more recipes I want to try, stay tuned.                                                                                                                              

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