Cookie Challenge Secret Ingredients

Discussion in 'Cookies' started by ksamnic, Aug 21, 2019.

  1. ksamnic

    ksamnic New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    I am hosting a cookie making challenge (like chopped or whatever) at a family gathering this coming weekend. They can make cookies or squares. I am trying to come up with three interesting/unique 'secret ingredients' that are not too silly (we still want the cookies to taste good!).

    I was thinking of things like twinkies, carrot, etc ... but I am kind of stumped. The teams will have access to basic cookie dough ingredients, plus most cookie add-in things from my pantry.

    Any ideas?
     
    ksamnic, Aug 21, 2019
    #1
    1. Advertisements

  2. ksamnic

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,146
    Location:
    Northern California

    Christine Tosi’s cornflakes and marshmallow cookie is a huge hit. So maybe think about favorite childhood cereals or treats.


    Mixing middle Easter flavors like orange and cardamom in shortbread, or go old world and mix mace and orange zest. But if you use mace you want to get the whole mace and grind it. Otherwise preground mace that’s set around a while is just going to taste like nutmeg.


    With shortbread you can also go savory. Think Asiago and herbs.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Aug 22, 2019
    #2
    1. Advertisements

  3. ksamnic

    ksamnic New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Great ideas! I was thinking of cumin as a spice - but cardamom would probably pair better with other cookie stuff.

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and had another idea that maybe I could forage and get some salal berries or oregon grape, but these tend to be bitter, maybe better suited to cocktails than to cookies!

    A friend suggested bacon ... but unfortunately there are a few vegetarians in the group who would probably not be too happy ...

    I don't know anything about mace - never used it or even knowingly tasted it. Is it flexible in how it can be used?
    I want to give the teams three items that don't necessarily 'prescribe' a result ... so the breakfast cereals would be excellent (very flexible in how one could use them). Maybe a cereal, a mild cheese, and a fruit or veg (I think that things like carrot or zucchini dress up well). Persimmon?

    Thanks for replying!
     
    ksamnic, Aug 22, 2019
    #3
  4. ksamnic

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,146
    Location:
    Northern California
    You just want to be careful with adding any ingredients with water content. Both the flour and the sugar are hygroscopic. They compete with each other for the free water molecules. The only water is in the egg and butter (assuming a non-vegan recipe). And this is important for a cookie dough because you don’t want any other water in a cookie dough. Sugar is more hygroscopic than flour. It will absorb more water. Then during baking it will release it, creating steam. That helps the cookie rise.

    There is no gluten in flour until the introduction of water. And when that happens a process called autolyse begins. If there’s too many free water molecules, flour going to absorb it. Then autolyse will happen. That’s the natural formation of the gluten network. Even if you pour water and flour and do nothing with it, not stir it, not touch it, autolyse would still occur, and the flour and water would turn into a sheet of dough. So this is the reason why cookie dough has no added water, and no ingredients with water content. Water will turn the dough into a batter and completely change it.

    The ratio of flour to hydration is critical. You’ll destroy your cookie dough with hydration.

    Mace was once the darling spice Europeans. It still used in Queen cakes, small individual pound cakes studded with currants.

    It has a very unique flavor that I can only describe as an exotic nutmeg. You can read about it here. You’ll definitely have to buy a spice shop to buy it whole. Markets like Whole Foods only carries the ground Mace. But if you’re in the Pacific Northwest you should be able to find it at a spice shop. I’m in the wine country in California and I’m able to get it here at my local spice shop.

    I think the cereals would be great because we can be very nostalgic about our childhoods.

    Cardamom is an amazing spice. My late MIL who was full blooded Norwegian introduced me to cardamom. It translates beautifully from savory to sweet seamlessly. It’s widely used in Norwegian and Swedish baking.

    A bit about mace
    https://www.seriouseats.com/2011/09/spice-hunting-mace-nutmeg-substitute-spice.html
     
    Norcalbaker59, Aug 22, 2019
    #4
  5. ksamnic

    ksamnic New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Wow! No one has ever explained this to me before (the water thing). This would explain why we don't see a lot of cookies with raw fruits and berries - but do see them with dried fruits and berries.
    Of course I now have all sorts of other questions (I can't help it - always want to understand - sometimes I wish I could turn it off)...
    - if one wants to add a wetter ingredient to a cookie, for example zucchini, is there something one can do(technique) or add/remove(ingredient) to counteract the potential autolyse thing? (ie: to not wreck the cookies)
    - we make these 'ricotta cookies' at xmas time, and the ricotta must have moisture ... ?
    - I guess squares would be different than cookies because they are oftentimes more 'layered' and the bottom often a crust or a dough ... so not really a cookie ... does this sound correct?

    Anyhow, since the people in our cookie challenge are average bakers (ie: bake often but typically just follow recipes) I should probably stick with secret ingredients that are not likely to react too poorly. Hmm.
     
    ksamnic, Aug 22, 2019
    #5
    Norcalbaker59 likes this.
  6. ksamnic

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,146
    Location:
    Northern California
    Zucchini is about 95% water, so you have to remove the water whether you use it in cookies or any other baked goods. All recipes are formulated with baker’s percentages. The flour is always 100% by weigh. The ratio of all other ingredients are a percentage by weight to the flour. So it’s important to keep the ratios the same.


    The most common way to remove the water from the zucchini is to wrap it up in a very clean kitchen towel and squeeze it out. The video below will show you a couple of other methods.


    Regarding the ricotta cookie, it will have a very soft cake texture because of the added moisture from ricotta cheese.


    Regarding squares, these give you a bit more versatility. The dough forms a gluten network to form a single sheet. So a little extra free water molecules won’t cause too much problem.


    How to remove water from zucchini





    Little bit of extra baking info about cookies...baking soda will produce a more chewy cookie. Baking powder will produce a more puffy cake like texture. Some bakers like Stella Park disagrees. But in all my experiments I find this to be the case, and a lot of other pastry chefs also find this to be the case.


    Granulated sugar produces a crispy cookie; a thinner cookie that spreads more.


    Brown sugar produces a thicker cookie chewier cookie.


    Don’t be afraid to blend the two to get a balance.


    Cream butter at 65°F. Do not cream your butter at room temperature. That is the biggest lie in baking.


    This article/video is correct way to cream butter, this is how it’s taught in culinary school. Stella Park is a trained pastry chef. I don’t know why every recipe out there says room temperature butter. But room temperature butter is wrong.


    https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/12/cookie-science-creaming-butter-sugar.html


    Above all else have fun baking!! Baking is a joy!!! So great of you to host a great party for your family!!!
     
    Norcalbaker59, Aug 22, 2019
    #6
  7. ksamnic

    ksamnic New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2019
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    3
    Hi again. So we had our challenge and I thought I would just post an update. For secret ingredients I asked the teams to use:
    - cardamom
    - fruilano cheese (mild, soft, white - inexpensive from costco)
    - carrot

    I had them compete for a fourth ingredient (also mandatory) which was a breakfast cereal. Each team had a different cereal - one of: corn flakes, rice krispies, cherios, honey bunches, or some new kellogs chocolate crunch (horrid!).

    I also did not mention in the previous post that we were doing this at a campground. It was a large group site with lots of people - and there was a restriction that they had to cook on a camp stove or over the fire (ie: no oven). They could make cookies or squares. Two hour limit.

    It went very well. All the teams went for squares instead of cookies, and the winning team made 'Chai Inspired Carrot Squares'. They were amazing (there were other spices available to them, so they made a very nice Chai spice mix etc.. It worked really well with the cheese and the carrot. I believe they had the honey bunches cerial - but I cannot recall.

    Anyway it was tonnes of fun and I just wanted to thank you for the suggestions!
     
    ksamnic, Sep 6, 2019
    #7
    Ian and Norcalbaker59 like this.
  8. ksamnic

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2017
    Messages:
    2,010
    Likes Received:
    1,146
    Location:
    Northern California
    @ksamnic, OMG! You really created an extraordinary experience for everyone!! I love that it was at a campground with no ovens!!! That really made things a lot more challenging. That the winning team created an amazing bar cookie just goes to show you just how creative people can be when encouraged and inspired.

    But I have to hand it to you, it sounds like your cookie challenge was very well planned and executed. And I’m so happy to hear that you got a great cookie bar. BTW, cardamom is one of my favorite spices, and when I was a teen honey bunch of oats was my cereal :p
     
    Norcalbaker59, Sep 6, 2019
    #8
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.