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《Cookies for Halloween》__ David Wong (64)

Cookies 

I spent 2 years in a bakery because I knew nothing about baking.

There was this coffee shop in Kensington Market that had a coffee roasting machines right at the front of the store. The aroma of the roasted beans mixed with the fresh brewed coffee inside the store interchanged into a one two punch that stunned you and dragged you into the store for that sip of liquid. Later on, the store owner installed a counter top oven and he started doing his fresh baked cookies and muffins.

As soon as you walked into the store, you are entirely enveloped by this beautiful scent of fresh baked goods followed by smell of coffee. You do not need to purchase anything. Just sit on the waiting bench and let this entire warmth attack you and there is calling for complete surrender to this world of aroma.   

My mentor at the bakery was an Austrian whose specialty was dessert. He graduated from a culinary school in Lucerne and he received his journeyman in France. Journeyman is the equivalent of an apprenticeship which you have to join after your graduation from a recognized culinary institute. You would consider joining a reputable restaurant and follow a reputable chef and get your practical from him. European cooking also stresses the importance of pedigree. It is just like a blood line, an ancestry.  

My mentor was a wonderful baker, a connoisseur of food and he walked with this stance of grace and authority. He was also old fashioned. That year by Christmas he had this idea of making shortbread cookies as Christmas presents for his customers. Short bread is just butter and flour and eggs. If you get the formula right, you can throw everything into the mixer and your dough would come out in no time. If you have to do it the old fashioned way, then it takes some time and effort. If you are making 50 lb batches of dough with hand, it will be a pain. Your arms will fall off after the 3 batches, and your chest muscles would refuse to take this abuse. They will be protesting violently while you are asleep. The mentor insisted the cookie dough had to be made by hand. Choosing his famous words, “Machines bruise the cookie dough” . 

The many shapes of shortbread cookies:

   

This chore continued for 2 weeks and I continued making shortbread cookies everyday for 2 weeks. My arms did not look normal any more. They were over stretched. I developed a strong obsession towards the rolling pin and I gained weight by eating all the broken pieces of cookies.  

Here we have a recipe for shortbread cookies:- 

It is a 1:2:3 ratio of sugar: butter: flour. 

Ingredients 

1 cup butter (225 g)
½ cup icing sugar (70 g)

2 cups all-purpose flour (280 g)
¼ tsp. salt

Optional: 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract 

Directions 

Beat the butter until smooth and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat until completely smooth.

Add vanilla extract or if you prefer use whole vanilla bean seeds inside the pod. Save the pods for another day.
 
Mix together the flour and salt and mix it into the butter mixture until just incorporated. Do not over mix, as this will toughen up the dough. 

Cream butter > add sugar > whip to soft peak > + vanilla

Add flour mixture by batches 

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm. 

Once the dough is firm, you can roll it and cut it into different shapes. Prick the surface the cookie dough with a fork. This should prevent the dough from puffing up during baking. 

Once you cut out all your cookies, transfer onto parchment paper and freeze for 10 – 15 minutes. This should slow down the burning on edge of the cookies.

Bake in low temperature of 275 F = 135 C 

Butter has a low boiling point and cookies need to be cook in low temperate. Still you have to watch the cookies from burning. 

Bake 8-10 min at 350 F (175 C) or until lightly golden.

Pay attention to the base of the cookie sitting on the cookie sheet. Shortbread cookies can by easily over-baked. If you see the edge of the cookies changing into a golden rod color, you should consider taking the cookies out of the oven. See the cookie image from above.  

****Don’t forget the salt. This would keep the taste balanced.

Score the cookie batch so it would be easier to cut.

There are other recipes that ask for eggs. Nuts can be added to the dough to make it more attractive 

There are no bad recipes but just bad cooks – Aristotle.  

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