Hope you had a good weekend! I spent mine ostensibly working on some things to share with you on A Space for Pudding, but mostly just ended up messing around with a cross stitch pattern I bought. Apparently my brain realised that I had a lot to be going on with in terms of actual work but thought I might prefer to take up a new and completely useless hobby instead. This is the pattern I bought and downloaded off Etsy; if you like gutter humour and bad puns, especially about food, you might find it relevant to your interests.

Nicebuns

It’s going to look so cute on the kitchen wall, when I finally finish it in approximately seven months. In amongst all that procrastinating I made a lot of Scotch pastry, which I’ll tell you about later on this week. I also made some delicious maple walnut friands for my Dad for Fathers’ Day, for which I went around to his place and he gave me lunch and a vase full of flowers from his garden. It kind of felt like I’d gone wrong somewhere, perhaps at the part where he was the one being hospitable and giving, not me, but at least I made him some baked goods. I’ll share the recipe this week as well.

Cookies, Not Biscuits

Cookies retouched

When I was growing up, and I’m sure I’m not alone amongst the Antipodean peoples here, we had this standard recipe that my mum would make called ‘Kiwi biscuits’, which are made with condensed milk and don’t have egg in them. I love my mother, and I love biscuits, but I did not so much love the fact that these biscuits were hard and crispy all the way through. I think in my heart I knew that such things are always better when they’re a bit chewy and gooey. I used to enjoy Kiwi biscuits best they were still soft and warm, fresh from the oven, and when I was tall enough and clever enough to use the microwave I just nuked them until they were soft and warm all over again.

This recipe is for cookies, as opposed to biscuits, and they are loudly and gaudily American-style, which is part of their charm. My recipe is loosely based on one from the Momofuku Milk Bar recipe book by Christina Tosi. It is a weird but awesome little book. The Milk Bar is famous for these enhanced milks they sell which are made by soaking cereal in milk and adding sugar and salt and stuff, then straining it. I once used this recipe for a milkshake project I was doing and DEAR LORD, the recipe called for waaaay too much salt for my moderate New Zealand tastes. Their cookie recipes are similar; heaps of salt, heaps of sugar, heaps of saturated fat…I eat more than my fair share of trashy foods, but sometimes you do have to rein it in a bit, so my recipe just has a bit less of pretty much everything.  I’m not even trying to be broadly metaphorical about all things American, it’s just turning out that way.

The ones I have made for this post have cornflakes, chocolate and marshmallows in them because they are based on an original Milk Bar recipe that my good food-friend (and regular friend) Nick always made and took to class for us to eat. He put me onto the book in the first place, and we even served the cookies at an Americano-themed catering event we worked on together. He is a staunch advocate of including the marshmallows, whereas I get a little bit mental about how they tend to melt out the sides and make the cookies look not-perfect. I actually go around them with a knife when they’re fresh out of the oven and chop off the messy bits and smoosh any that have gone oval-shaped back into circles while the sugar is still warm.

The basic dough is my go-to recipe for all things cookie-related, so once you have it, you can add anything to it, within reason: M & M’s, Reese’s Pieces, oats, nuts, various cereals, chocolate drops or chunks, or dried fruit like raisins. It has some cream cheese in it alongside the butter, which is totally optional, but I think it makes for a less greasy product with a more nuanced, slightly cultured flavour to it that offsets the sugary factor. The idea behind it comes from Jewish rugelach.

The key to making great cookies is the creaming of the fat and sugar. You need to get the mixture very thick, fluffy and pale. You’re going to need a stand mixer, and if it has a scraper blade on its paddle attachment, even better. Once you’ve creamed the mixture enough that you think you’re finished, you need to then switch to your whisk attachment and cream it even more, then switch back to the paddle to add your vanilla and egg.

I usually make my dough into two trays of regular sized cookies and one tray of cute mini cookies, for when you are just walking past the kitchen and think it’s been too long since you last treated yo’ self to a little snack.

Basic Cookie Dough Adapted from a recipe by Christina Tosi

Makes approximately 25 regular cookies

Ingredients:

  • 150g Unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g Cream cheese (Optional: you can replace with butter but only use 75g because it is fattier than cream cheese)
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 200g Soft brown sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1t Vanilla
  • 1 t Salt
  • ½ t Baking powder
  • ¼ t Baking soda
  • 300g Soft flour

Method:

  • Put the butter, cream cheese and the sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream them together using the paddle attachment until they are pale and fluffy.
  • Switch to the whisk attachment and further cream the mixture until it is very thick.
  • Switch back to the paddle attachment and add the egg and the vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is mixed and thickened.
  • Add the salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour. Mix gently until it comes together as a dough, but no more.
  • Add your chosen ‘bits’ to the dough, making sure you only mix it as much as you need and no more.
  • Cover the  mixer bowl with cling film and chill it to allow the dough to relax and firm up a bit. It will be very soft to begin with, especially if you are not adding cereal or oats to it, but it will come right once it has chilled.
  • Once the dough is more firm, form it into golf ball-sized balls and lay them out onto trays lined with baking paper. Squish each ball down a bit on the top so that it looks more like a patty. Space them evenly and apart from each other so that they do not join up when they spread.
  • Chill them some more; an hour is a good amount of time. You can do all the dishes while you wait! Chilling them will help ensure they don’t spread too far,  into big flat puddles.
  • Get your oven pre-heated to 180°C. Once it is hot, cycle your trays through one by one. Bake the cookies until they are golden and slightly brown, which takes about 15 minutes. You can bake more than one tray at a time but you need to rotate them so that they each get time on the top rack and bake evenly. They will look and feel like they are nowhere near cooked, but they firm up to their correct texture once they cool a bit.
  • Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Once they are cool, store them in an airtight container.

What I put in my pictured cookies:

  • 125g Nestle Dark Chocolate Melts (half a packet)
  • 50g Mini marshmallows
  • 50g Cornflakes

For more cookie-ness, have a look here.

Rugelach

Rugelach retouched

Rugelach are Jewish cookie-esque things that are made by rolling up a triangle of dough that has filling laid on it. I started making them from a recipe I found in my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, having Pinterested a photo of one ages ago and then never followed up on the idea. I do that a lot.

Now, having eventually gotten around to trying them out and fiddling around with the recipe, I really like making them because they seem to be my husband’s favourite baking item. He gets really enthusiastic about them, which is nice because I like making other people happy via food, especially him. Framing it that way also makes my ongoing love affair with delicious treats seem less troubling and more endearing. We even have our own nickname for these particular treats, because until I bothered to figure out the phonetic transcript on Wikipedia and learn how to actually pronounce it, we had no real clue and just called them ‘roogles’.  I hope that comes off as ‘adorable’ rather than just ethnically insensitive. As for how to pronounce it, it’s ‘roo-gil-uck‘, as far as I can tell.

I also found them interesting because the American incarnation of them uses cream cheese as well as butter, which makes for a really tasty dough that is not too fat-laden and greasy, and has a nice light texture. I used this concept to develop my cookie recipe.

Rugelach Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 225g Unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g Cream cheese
  • 160g Caster sugar
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 1 t Vanilla
  • ¼ t Salt
  • 350g Soft flour
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 35g Soft brown sugar
  • 15g/1 Heaped tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Extra egg for wash
  • Extra caster sugar for topping

Method:

  • Put the butter, cream cheese and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream them together using the paddle attachment until they are pale and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat the mixture until it is mixed and thickened.
  • Add the salt, baking powder and flour. Mix gently until it comes together as a dough, but no more.
  • Turn the dough out and divide it into three equal lumps. It will be really soft and sticky, but don’t worry. Shape each lump into a ball and flatten it slightly into a patty shape. This is to make it easy to roll out later.
  • Wrap each dough patty in cling film and chill them for at least a few hours.
  • Once the dough is well-chilled and firm, take it out and unwrap it, laying it out on a lightly floured bench. Flour the surface of the dough and gently roll it out so it is about 5mm thick. Keep the rolling pin and the dough lightly floured and keep moving the dough to make sure it hasn’t stuck to the bench.
  • Once you are happy with your rolled-out circle, spread apricot jam evenly over it.
  • Sprinkle a third of the almond, sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over the circle on top of the jam.
  • At this point you should cut the circle into 12 segments. I use a pizza wheel to do this, because I like to think I am fancy. A knife is fine.
  • After cutting the segments, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly onto the dough circle. You need to do it after you’ve cut because they just get in the way otherwise.
  • Roll each segment up, from the outside in. There will be a cute little ‘tail’ on the top, like a croissant.
  • Place the rolls onto trays lined with baking paper.
  • Lightly wash each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Get your oven pre-heated to 180°C. Once it is hot, cycle your trays through one by one. You can bake more than one tray at a time but you need to rotate them so that they each get time on the top rack and bake evenly. Bake the rugelach until they darken up a bit and are beginning to go brown. They don’t really go golden but the egg wash gives them a warm colour.
  • Transfer the rugelach to a cooling rack. Once they are cool, store them in an airtight container.