December 26, 2014
You are not likely to get a simpler recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum. It has only 8 ingredients, and you're likely to have most of them on hand. You use the food processor, so you can mix the dough in minutes. Yet just a few days into Week of the Almond Coffee Crisps, I started to hear rumblings of discontent.
Most of these comments came from Monica's very useful Facebook site, Rose's Alpha Bakers. (Membership is by invitation only, but all you have to do to be invited is to be an official Alpha Baker and be on Facebook. We heard first from Patricia: "Has anyone made the Coffee Almond Crisps yet? I just pulled my first batch from the oven and they're super thin ... almost as thin as a tuile. Anyone else have the same results?"
It turned out that lots of people had the same or similar results.
Kristina said that when she pulled the first batch from the oven, she said, "This can't be right."
Faithy chimed in that half of hers looked like they were probably right but half were flat, with holes. The funny thing was, she said, that she preferred the ones that looked like mistakes: they were more caramelized and crisper. "Addictive," she pronounced.
Rose and Woody to the rescue. They provided photos (with measurements) of their own test cookies. Not a ultra-flat cratered cookie in the bunch. What could be causing this snafu?
"Well," said Lois. "I used Silpat." True, the recipe says the cookie sheets should either be unprepared or parchment-lined, but could that really make a difference?
"Hmm," said Nicola. "I used bleached flour." Hanaa empathized. "Rose usually uses bleached flour so I had to look twice when I saw "unbleached." Well, yes, the recipe says unbleached flour, but could the kind of flour cause these odd holes?
Was it a too-long baking time? asked Glori. Because she noticed that her "first batch baked just a little too much and the bubbles actually popped, leaving holes in the cookies.""
Mendy added, "Ya know. Maybe that's it. I used double-acting baking powder. Maybe it puffed these cookies out and kept them from spreading out."
Alice had another theory: "I didn't chill any of the dough. Maybe I should have chilled all of it." Alice also tried a variation with chocolate instead of coffee, and concluded they were both good.
Michele was sure she made no mistakes, because she made these cookies while having an internal conversation with Rose, which pretty much consisted of Michele asking Rose if [fill in the blank] wouldn't be a good idea, and Rose saying, "No, Michele, it wouldn't."
But here's the funny thing. Although some of the cookies were a little, er, unconventional looking ("ugly" is a bit harsh), there was near unanimity in the final verdict:
Raymond: "Light and crispy and totally appealing."
Kim: "What a winner of a cookie!"
Jill: "The results are definitely worth it, and, hey, I don't even like coffee."
Katya: "A good return on a fairly low investment--the last-minute brush with espresso upped the game, and I will definitely be making these again."
Catherine: "Lovely biscuits, thin and crispy with a lovely coffee flavour."
Jenn: "I could not stop eating them."
Vicki: "Everyone likes these cookies!"
Nancy: "Really lovely.... I'm adding this cookie to the repeat pile."
So I don't know if the message we should take away from this is 1) follow the directions completely! or 2) don't worry about it--even if you screw up, it'll still taste good. I'm pretty sure I know which lesson Rose would want us to learn.
For next week, the last assignment of 2004: away from the cookie chapter and on to the Frozen Pecan Tart. You need a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Other special equipment that Rose uses, such as an 8-inch cake pan and a large coffee filter are nice (I used them both) but not essential. The cake pan is to help maneuver the dough into the tart pan, and the coffee filter holds your pie weights. Although, come to think of it, this may be the first tart I've made where the sides haven't fallen, so perhaps they are essential.
The dough is not a traditional pie crust, but a pate sucree, or a sweet cookie tart crust. It's not flaky, but, as the name suggests, it's a little crunchy and tasty enough to be eaten by itself.
I'm going to Mexico tomorrow, so there will probably be no roundup next week. Good luck with the pecan tart and happy new year!