Recently, I feel like I keep writing about cooking that doesn’t go as planned. I hope it inspires people to make the best of most situations in the kitchen. It’s when things go awry that I learn how much I know in the kitchen. Like a little pop quiz. I had two recently during the holidays.
The first was dried beans that may have been older and drier than I expected. After over an hour of simmering on the stove, they still refused to fully soften. Luckily, I had time before my guests were coming — and happily they are very kind, forgiving people — so I put the whole mess into the crockpot and cooked it ON HIGH for several hours until everyone arrived. It was edible. Barely. I hadn’t put in the tomatoes (acid) too early. I hadn’t used salt. The only thing I can think is the beans were SUPER old. Oops.
You put a stick (or whatever amount you want) in a shallow saute pan and set it to melting on medium-ish heat. After the butter melts, it’ll start to bubble and spurt. Just as it starts to quiet, you’ll notice that the milk solids are settling and browning on the bottom of the pan. That’s when you have to be careful. You want nutty and delicious, not burnt. I got the butter off the heat in time and all appeared well. If you want to see photos of the process, see this post.
My mistake was not having patience. I didn’t let the brown butter cool enough. When I went to mix it into the creamed butter (the other stick) and the sugar, it melted the butter in the bowl. Once I got the batter mixed, I was a bit worried about adding in the chocolate chips and having them melt, too, so once I had everything in, I put it in the fridge to set up again.
My second mistake was not having time to have made the first mistake, so the dough sat in the fridge for a couple of days. If you believe some blogs, cookie dough should “age” at least 24 hours, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have been refrigerated for this time. My mistake was that by being in the fridge, when I took it out for my second attempt, it was rock hard. I’m guessing it was even harder than it would have been due to my melted butter. I just didn’t have enough time to be able to let it come to a temperature where I could work with it, so back into the fridge it went.
And then my work got busy. I had an evening meeting the next day. I went home quickly before the meeting to put the bowl on the counter, but when I got home after the meeting, it was too later to start baking cookies.
What do do?
I see folks all the time freezing cookie dough. The concept is basically that if you can roll it into a log, you can cut off discs, put them on to a baking sheet, and then just bake the cookies more or less the same way as you would if they weren’t frozen. Maybe you need an extra minute, but not always.
I dug out waxed paper and stuffed the dough on it in a rough log form and then used the wax paper to roll and press it into a better looking log. After it was wrapped up in the shape I wanted, I wrapped that in aluminum foil and then put the whole log into the freezer and forgot about it for weeks.
I had two gatherings around New Year’s to attend so I decide to break out and bake my frozen cookie dough log. Using a sharp knife, I sliced off lovely discs of dough, put them on a cookie sheet, and sprinkled half with some coarse sea salt. Into the oven as normal, they baked up beautifully and they were pretty uniform in shape so no raw or burnt cookies in either pan.
I was pleased with myself. No wasted dough. Cooking challenge met and mastered. The only passing thought I had during the process was “Hmm, that’s interesting. My cookies are flatter than what a typical homemade cookie looks like and the knife cuts through some of the chips. That’s interesting.”
Interesting is right. At the first gathering, they were left untouched for a long time. Part of that might have had to do with all of the other food at the party. I think, however, that they looked too perfect in their roundness and people either thought they were bought or made from a break-and-bake packaged dough. When I said out loud that I had brought homemade cookies, folks who know I cook were fast to eat them. Until I said something, nothing much was happening on the plate.
At the second gathering, I learned my lesson and said early on that they were homemade and explained the “some are salted, some are normal” way I had arranged the container. Much more successful, probably in part because we had kids in attendance as well!
I’m not sure I’d do chocolate chip cookies this way again because of the chips getting cut off and the pleasing lumps and bumps of a homemade cookie not being present. For a smooth cookie, however, this freezer idea would be genius, especially if you knew you had company coming and you needed a fast dessert.
Onward in the kitchen.