Anger Burger

For Science

Posted by Sunday on Feb 21, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I do a lot of recipe-trolling.  If recipes were hookers, I’d be the guy endlessly driving around at 10mph, creeping even the hookers out.  Someone recently asked me what I looked for when recipe-trolling, and I don’t have a clear answer for that.  Usually it has to be one of two things: just weird or The Best This Thing Ever.  Sometimes a recipe simply reminds me of something I haven’t had in a long time, like plain vanilla cupcakes.  Other times I see something just so unexpected I have to try it.  I will say that it takes some skill to read recipes, and skill that can only be learned with practice.  When you cook a lot, you start to see a recipe as a true formula and not just an unknowable, magical incantation that may or may not manifest a demon in your kitchen.

I try and give credit where credit is due here at Anger Burger, though I honestly believe that if you change more than two things in a recipe, you’re no longer following it.  Other times, well… It’s best if I don’t link to the original.  To wit: I encountered a recipe this week I had to try, both for it’s weird method and apparent fulfillment of a cookie category I rarely see contenders for: the chewy cookie.  However, immediately I knew something was askew.  The instructions were superficially clear, but technically vague.

Bring honey and butter to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes.  Clear, yes?  Except the honey and butter even at very low heat bubbles up quite foamy, nearly overflowing my small saucepan.  Is that normal?  Was I over-cooking it, even though it was on medium-low flame?  I don’t know.

Then, instructions to stir until mixture has “formed a dough”:

That’s no ‘dough’ by my standards, I don’t know about you.  Is it supposed to be an actual “dough” at this stage, or is it just bad wording on the part of the blogger?  After reading and re-reading the recipe I decided that because the “dough” was still warm from the cooked honey and butter liquid (and because the recipe says to let the “dough” cool before using) I didn’t add any more flour and just waited.  Eventually, at room temperature the “dough” became the texture and stickiness of taffy, and I decided to move on with the recipe, in no small part because the “dough” around the sides of the bowl was just drying up.  Also I’m starting to get pissed the fuck off at it, so it’s best to just keep moving.

It continues going weird.  The recipe instructs to briefly knead on a lightly floured board until smooth.  Well, I can tell you right away that “lightly floured” won’t work, and indeed heavily floured barely did.  I added this much flour two more times before I finally started to worry I was ruining the dough entirely, and it was still so sticky as to adhere to the floured board if I let it sit still for longer than a minute at a time.

The recipe never says how many pieces to cut the dough into, but instead advises a length.  A length.  This is profoundly useless information.  And to take it even further: there’s no reason to make this shape at all – all of this sticky kneading could have been avoided by just using a stand mixer, a little more flour and the willingness to make round cookies instead of roughly rectangular ones.  I CANNOT ANGRILY SIGH ENOUGH.

The recipe then says to bake for 10 minutes or until the tops cracked.  As you might guess, mine never cracked, but I removed them when they were done anyway.  At this point I’m not following the recipe at all, I’m just listening to the cookies.

Lastly, and most predictably: they are delicious.  They are chewy and spicy (of course I changed the spices to suit my taste, too), remind me a lot of lebkuchen and may have in fact been a recipe for them before the other blogger renamed them.

I suspect they’ll age very well, probably getting softer on the second and third days, and certainly developing a deeper and more complex spice flavor.  I mean, I’m just guessing, because half mine were gone within two hours, and I don’t have a favorable diagnosis for the other half living beyond tonight.

Infuriating Chewy Spice Cookies
you can change the spices to your liking – I happen to love cardamom, but if the flavor is too exotic for you, substitute it out with ground ginger and you’ll have a more traditional gingerbread flavor.  even just cinnamon would be tasty.  i also used a very mild honey, but I’m curious what a stronger, maltier honey would do for the final product.

3 Tbsp (1.5 ounces) butter
1/2 cup honey, overflowing
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 Tbsp. milk

  • In a small saucepan, bring the butter and honey to a bubble over medium heat, reduce to medium-low or until the mixture is simmering and maintain for 2 minutes.  It will foam and bubble up during this time, so never take your eyes off it.  Stir gently a few times with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon.  Remove from heat and set aside while you get everything else ready.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a free-standing bowl with a hand mixer, whatever), add the spices, flour, baking soda and salt.  Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the hot honey and butter mixture.  Add the milk and then turn mixer up to medium and let run for 1 minute.  The mix will be a thick batter.
  • Transfer the bowl to the fridge and let chill for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • When the dough is cool and very thick and sticky, using a cookie scoop or a spoon, form balls of dough and space evenly on two cookie sheets.  I prefer slightly larger cookies, of which 16 can be made from this recipe.  Smaller bite-size sizes will make closer to 24 cookies.
  • Immediately place the pans into the oven (if baking one sheet at a time, just make the balls for one sheet at a time) and bake for 7 – 8 minutes for small cookies, 10 for larger ones, or until they are just beginning to visibly brown along the underside.  When done, let rest for 1 minute and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • When totally cool, ice with citrus icing.

Citrus Icing
1 C. powdered (aka confectioner’s) sugar
1 Tbsp citrus juice (lemon for sweet-tart, orange for a milder flavor)
a drop or two of milk as needed

  • First whisk the sugar and citrus juice together.  It will seem like it’s not enough liquid at first, but it will slowly blend into a very thick white frosting.
  • Add literally a drop of milk at a time until the mixture is barely thin enough to ice the cookies with, but not so thin it’ll drip off.  Check this by icing a single cookie and then watching to see if the icing drips.  If it does, add 1 spoonful of sugar at a time to the bowl of icing and whisk until thickened to the desired consistency.  Making this kind of icing isn’t an exact science, and rest easy knowing that if it’s too runny, add more sugar, and if it’s too thick, add more liquid.  Go slow and you’ll do fine.
  • To ice the cookies, use a spoon to drop a spoonful of the icing onto the cookie, and then spread it out with the back of the spoon.  Don’t go too close to the edges, and don’t worry about getting it perfectly spread out, as it will ooze itself smooth.
  • Alternately, if you prefer to ice them in the more traditional German lebkuchen style, make the icing fairly thin, dip the whole cookie in the icing and then allow to drain and dry on a cooling rack with something underneath to catch all the icing drips.
February 21st, 2011 | Food Rant, Make It So

7 Responses to For Science

  1. Rose says:

    I like your theory of two tweaks making it your own recipe – I struggle with that too, but must of what I cook is such an amalgam of things I’ve read/heard/tasted that I couldn’t find the original source.

    • Sunday says:

      I am terrible about keeping the original source for something – for some reason I hate having cluttered bookmark folders and often just copy-and-paste recipes instead of keeping their links.

  2. Dana says:

    MMMM I love cardamom! Cookie recipes that involve melted butter never seem to turn out for me.

    • Sunday says:

      Usually I don’t have luck with melted butter recipes either, I’m still surprised this recipe worked at all let alone made cookies so delicious that we ate them all in under a day. Okay, I’m not surprised at the last part.

  3. Josh Bomb says:

    re: recipe trolling..

    do you have any experience with petit-fours? i’m torn between a light airy angelfood-style cake and a heavy poundcake-style. also, fondant or glaze? just throwing it out there.

    • Sunday says:

      You know, I tried to make petits fours when I was young because I had a Betty Crocker cookbook with a recipe in them and I LOVED the photos of them. Of course, mine were terrible and scarred me for life.

      I think with any cake-crafting the key is to go for a really sturdy recipe, no matter what the recipe is. Angelfood can be very sturdy, and that’s good. So can poundcakes. (The cold-oven poundcake recipe I use makes for a super-dense crumb and would work very well.) I’d avoid crumbly cakes like most red velvet, cakes like that. Also, the other big trick is to refrigerate or even briefly freeze the cake before cutting, in order to get tidier cuts. Also, since petits fours traditionally are actually layered (usually with apricot jelly, for some reason), you’ll be making a sheet of them with the filling, letting it rest for quite a while (overnight, even) and then cutting into bite-size piece, all of which is made easier with cold cake.

      Otherwise, I’d say avoid fondant at all costs. Fondant doesn’t taste good, and when making petits fours you’re in for a world of fussy hurt. I’d go for a thick glaze and lots of different decorations.

      • Josh Bomb says:

        good call, I’ve been leaning the same way towards glaze. No one likes fondant. NO ONE.

        refrigerating the cake is a great tip, thanks!

        we’re starting to make petit four test batches for summer wedding!

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