Newsletter, "THE COOKIES" edition

Dear Reader, I can already tell I am setting myself up to be the Susan Miller of newsletters, consistently late, never skimping on the juicy details of why (Susan, I am glad you are feeling better!). Not that I plan on being late every week, just most weeks.
⚡️Susan Miller, my spiritual advisor ⚡️

Anyway, I wanted to do a COOKIE FOCUSED edition of this newsletter, answering questions and addressing issues you’ve had with the dough and baking (essentially why I started this newsletter in the first place). There have been...a LOT of questions, and in a perfect and less busy world, I’d respond to every Instagram message with personalized solutions, but that is not the world we are in.

So, let me start off by saying thank you for reading and baking. The response to these little guys has been INSANELY OVERWHELMING and I am full of love and gratitude for every cookie that’s been born.
🍪a very small fraction of the cookies that have been made 🍪

Below, you’ll find a list of FAQ followed by some troubleshooting tips to help you all achieve the cookies of your dreams. While it’s unlikely I will have addressed every specific question, I do hope that I’ve addressed most of them. Print this out. Frame it. Put it on your fridge. Sleep with it under your pillow. Absorb it. Go forth and make the best damn Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies of your life.

FAQ

Are they that good/worth the hype/life changing?

Well, I think they’re really, really good! I’d go so far as to say they’re GREAT (I tried to only put recipes in my book that are at the very least “really good”). Are they going to change your life? I think it’s important to remember that this is just a cookie, not a 7-day immersive yoga retreat in Mallorca.

What I’m trying to say is: It’s a cookie! Cookies are GREAT! Their only objective in life is to make people happy and be delicious. If you find yourself feeling upset that maybe these cookies “didn’t live up to the hype,” maybe, uh...have another cookie. But also, yeah, these cookies are really that good lol.

Are they worth it?

Worth the effort of dragging down your mixer? Yes. It’s not that heavy, and how often are you really using it anyway? Stop feeling guilty that you asked for it for your birthday/wedding/gradation and have literally only used it three times. Justify that purchase!

Worth the 15 minutes it takes to make the dough? Worth waiting 2 hours for the dough to chill? Worth the 12–15 minute they take to bake? The 4 minutes they take to cool to optimum temperature so you can eat one, maybe two or three? Time is a flat circle, my friends. Time is a social construct. Time is all we have. All we have is time.

Are the sugar edges necessary?

Can you make the cookies without it? Yes. Do I recommend it? No. I try not to add anything superfluous when developing a recipe, unless it makes the end result significantly better (or cuter/more attractive, in which case, then it’s generally listed as “optional”). The sugar on the outside of this cookie does both.

This particular dough is *just* sweet enough IMO, meaning not only does it benefit from the the sugar on the outside by giving it more texture and a gorgeous sparkly outer ring, but it definitely rounds out the sweetness that the dough itself is otherwise left wanting.

I can't find Demerara sugar, what else can I use?

Demerara sugar is an annoyingly fancy term, but “Sugar In The Raw” is actually Demerara sugar and you can find it at any grocery store (or for free in little packets at Starbucks).

Can I use something other than egg to brush edges?

Yes! If you are allergic to/can’t eat/don’t have an egg, you can use heavy cream or buttermilk. I haven’t tried regular/soy/nut/almond/oat milks, but they will probably work, too.

Can they be made gluten free?

Yes! I’ve seen a lot of GF versions of this cookie. Most people seem to have the greatest success with Bob’s Red Mill AP GF flour or Cup 4 Cup. Also, I’m sure that if you’re used to baking with GF flour, you know that it behaves differently than regular flour. I haven’t done this myself, but I would imagine the GF flour would make the dough more crumbly than usual (more on that later), and would likely benefit from an egg yolk in the dough to help it come together.

Can they be dairy-free/vegan?

Yes! I’ve seen many people make these with Earth Balance (“vegan buttery sticks” lol). Brush the outside with soy/nut/almond/oat milk if you’re also avoiding eggs.

Can you freeze dough?

Heck yes you can freeze the dough! Make the logs, wrap them, place the wrapped logs in a ziplock bag and then freeze them (unless your freezer looks like mine, in which case: wrap the log of dough in another ziplock and then wrap that ziplock in foil, and wrap that bag in a a North Face jacket, wrapped in goose down, and then put the whole thing in an airtight container because your freezer is so shitty and otherwise it’ll make the cookies taste like freezer). They will be good like this for at least a month, but I have it on good authority that they are still good after month 2.

What temp is butter?

First, let me say that it’s embarrassing that this information isn’t in the book. It should be. This is an important question. If you are using a stand mixer, which I do, I like to start with cold butter for this cookie. Controversial? Maybe. The cold butter creams spectacularly, beating air into the butter/sugar mixture without becoming too soft or greasy (= too soft/greasy = less air beat into the butter = denser cookie).

BUT: IF YOU ARE USING A HAND MIXER, USE SLIGHTLY SOFTENED BUTTER. The little hand mixers just don’t have the power a stand mixer does, so you need to give the butter a better chance of really properly creaming and getting as light and fluffy as possible (which is, let’s be honest, not all that light and fluffy because those machines kind of suck for creaming butter and sugar).

Can you do it by hand?

I’ve seen it done, although I can not recommend it. It’s a LOT of work, for what is probably a less good cookie than you’re expecting after all that work. “I mixed my cookie dough by hand and now my forearms look like something Ronnie from The Jersey Shore would covet. The cookies were good but a little bit...dense. But good. They are surprisingly resilient” –a friend of mine who mixed them by hand (I do NOT recommend mixing them by hand).

I have also seen them done in a food processor, which my source tells me “worked, I think.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but if you just GOTTA have the cookies and that’s all you have, I suppose you should know that's an option.

Can they be rolled out and cut instead?

You bet they can be! My co-conspirator Nikole Herriott (who is half the team who photographed Dining In) made them using her little cloud cutters, and I’ve seen these by @errsuz, which I assume is for GALENTINES DAY. Jk I would never earnestly reference GALENTINES DAY. Anyway, you can press the dough into a springform pan, bake and slice, you can roll them out anywhere between ½” - ¼” thick depending on your preference and bake as usual.

UPSIDE: No rolling or slicing

DOWNSIDE: No crunchy edges.
photo by @nikoleherriott

Can I use other chocolate?

Sure! Use whatever you want tbh. I’ve seen it all: M&Ms, butterscotch chips, white chocolate, milk chocolate, fancy red chocolate (?), nuts, DRIED FRUIT (which I do not condone) etc. photo by @kellyjankefood

For me personally, I like these Guittard baking bars (70%). I prefer bars because that’s where you get the nice large-ish chunks, some smaller bits, etc. not #sponsored, just #enthusiastic

✨TROUBLESHOOTING

I will say that without a photo, it’s challenging to exactly diagnose the problem, but here are the most commonly asked questions and my best guess as to what went wrong.

“My dough is too crumbly to roll into a log!”

You should know that the dough is pretty crumbly (see below). It’s a shortbread. This dough will never look like a creamy chocolate chip cookie dough, not ever. But is the dough crumbly or sandy? If it’s sandy, we have a problem. Either there is too much flour in the dough, or, more likely: the dough isn’t mixed well enough. Even when using a stand mixer, you should be making sure all the flour is getting to mingle with that creamed butter that’s stuck to the sides and bottom of the bowl. If it doesn’t, it’ll stay sandy and not properly roll into a log OR slice when the time comes. See! Kind of crumbly-- not smooth or creamy.

“My cookies crumble when I try to slice them!”

First, know that even mine crumble a little when I slice them sometimes, but I just kind of squish them back together and when they bake you’d never know.

But if the crumbling seems EXTREME, this could be because your chocolate is too large (if the chunks are too large, it will be more challenging to get nice, even slices), your knife is not sharp enough (I’ve also heard a serrated knife works well), or that your dough was too crumbly/not mixed properly (see above), which will make this step more challenging.

If you have the time, letting your log of dough rest on the counter for 10 or so minutes will also help to soften the log slightly, so it slices rather than shatters.

For chopping the chocolate, I like a mix of large and small bits, like this:
The irregularity here is *chef kisses fingertips*

“My cookies have spread into a thin lacy mess when I baked, what happened?”

This is a less frequently asked question, but I wanted to address it, because it brings up another good point about measuring flour.

If the cookies spread, it’s almost 100% because A. they weren’t mixed properly (meaning there are pockets of butter/sugar in the bowl with no flour and vice versa) or B. a measurement was off (too much butter or too little flour).

For butter: just double check your measurements. If I had a dime for every time I put in 1/2 stick of butter instead of 1/2 cup and vice versa, I’d be rich as hell. Just try again and if they are STILL too spready, come see me.

For flour: I scoop and level my flour. This means I dip the cup into he bag, scoop the flour into the cup, and level it (with my finger, but you could use a knife or offset spatula).

If you are using a scale, my cup of flour almost always weighs exactly 145g, so go by that measurement.

I hope this helps at least one person, and if I didn’t answer YOUR question, I’ll see you in the DM’s. 

And that’s all for this week! I hope that everyone is taking care of themselves, staying hydrated and using whatever technique they need to get through the worst month in the whole year. I like getting my aura read, going to the Russian baths, doing yoga and drinking a ton of moderately priced natural wine to undo all of that good stuff I just did for my body. 

Happy February!