Curried Sweet Potato Soup

curried sweet potato soup
curried sweet potato soup

Okay, I know that soup isn’t baked, and you may be wondering why I am posting a soup recipe here. Well, my last blog showed how to make homemade plant-milk and I wanted to offer a way to use that milk.

In the post “Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips,” I mention that you can get thicker milk by changing the nuts to water ratio. Denser plant-milks make wonderfully creamy soups, and this soup is a shining example of that.

A local restaurant makes a curry sweet potato soup that I adore so I sought to recreate it. I found a recipe using powdered curry, but I find that the concentrated paste has a more bold flavor. And I like bold flavor.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup adapted from Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

1 cup raw cashews (no need to soak)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, rough chopped *
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 garlic cloves, rough chopped *
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed *
1/2 cup butternut squash or carrots, peeled and cubed *
2-3 tablespoons green curry paste, depending on the strength of the brand used
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted, for garnish

Place the cashews and water into a high speed blender and blend until almost smooth. Set aside. (No need to clean the blender yet; you’ll use it again soon).

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the sweet potatoes, squash or carrots, and curry paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth and coconut milk. Stir in the cashew milk you set aside.

Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the Thai basil, if using. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Carefully transfer the soup to your high speed blender and puree to desired thickness. Put the mixture back in the pot and warm it over a low heat until heated through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

* You don’t need to finely chop any of the ingredients as you will be blending the cooked soup.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips

Chai Spiced Milk and DIY Plant-Milk Tips
chai spiced milk and DIY plant-milk tips

I’m still celebrating World Plant-Milk Day (or Week, as the case may be). If you’re new to the event, and wondering what I’m talking about, then catch my post from earlier this week. If you’re ready for some advice on making your own plant milk, then read on.

Tips for the best homemade plant-milk:

  • The ratio for making nut or seed milk is 1 part nuts/seeds to 3 parts water. Use less water if you desire a thicker, richer beverage.
  • Soaking the nuts or seeds beforehand makes them easier to digest and softens them for blending.
  • Storing pre-soaked nuts or seeds in the freezer allows you to make milk at a moment’s notice.
  • You can strain your blended nut/seed milk with a nut milk bag. (I’ve heard that paint strainer bags also work but I haven’t tried them). Alternatively, use cashews as your base because they blend in fully and don’t need to be strained out.
  • Homemade plant-milk stored in the fridge between 35 and 41ºF should last up to 5 days (according to VeganMilker).

You can make plant-milk as neutral-tasting as possible so it can be used in sweet or savory dishes. But it’s also fun to add flavorings to the blender for an instant, delicious beverage. Being a huge fan of chai lattes, I like adding chai spices to my milk and either heating it on the stove or adding ice for cool refreshment.

Chai Spiced Milk

3.5 cups water (filtered is best), divided
1 cup raw cashews
4-5 pitted dates
1/8 teaspoon clove powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

Boil 3 cups of water. Add the cashews to a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Add the dates to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Add the spice powders to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiled water. Let the three bowls sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

Strain the cashews and add them to the jug of a high-speed blender. Add the dates and their soaking water to the blender. Add the spiced water to the blender. Add the vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water to the blender. Blend on high until smooth and frothy.

Serve over ice, or gently heat in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until warm. Serves 2.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

World Plant Milk Day Celebrated with Easy Plant Milk Recipe

World Plant Milk Day and Easy Plant Milk Recipe
World Plant Milk Day and Easy Plant Milk Recipe

Happy World Plant Milk Day! So, what is World Plant Milk Day?

According to the website National Today, the day is “a worldwide campaign to transition from consuming whole fat milk to plant-based milk. Health experts, environmental activists, and some industry experts campaign and encourage people to learn about plant-based milk and how they won’t be missing out on taste or nutrition (because) plant-based milk is rich in nutrients.”

When the holiday was created in 2017, it was a chance to motivate people to switch from dairy milk to plant-based versions. At that time there were quite a few milks with plant ingredients, which was considerably more than when I ditched dairy in the 1990s.

Currently there is an abundance of plant-based milks to choose from in most markets, so using it instead of animal milk is easy. You will find plant-derived milks made from all manner of nuts and seeds, including hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. Milk alternatives are also based on oats, soy, rice, coconut, hemp, peas, and bananas (yes, I said bananas).

But, you don’t have to go out and buy milk just for today’s celebration. If you have a jar of nut or seed butter in your cupboard then you are on your way to enjoying the easiest milk ever. All it takes is 1 tablespoon of nut (or seed) butter to 1 cup of water. Blend the two ingredients in a high-speed blender for almost a minute until the mixture is creamy and well incorporated.

Some tips: use a creamy (not chunky) nut butter and filtered water for best results. You can also flavor your beverage by adding 1/2 teaspoon of liquid sweetener, a dash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt before blending. If you are daring, or live with a chocoholic like I do, then add 1/2 ounce of cocoa powder and a smidge more sweetener for a chocolate milk with no additives or strange sounding ingredients.

Not only is today, August 22, the opportunity to try plant-based milk. But on World Plant Milk Day’s website they encourage you to switch to plant-based milk for a week with their 7 day dairy-free challenge. So, come back to my blog throughout the week and I’ll offer tips and recipes involving plant-based milk to help make your challenge less challenging.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake
Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake

Argh! It’s still too darned hot to turn on the oven. But I won’t let that stop me from enjoying an indulgent treat. Rice crispy treats are a good one to turn to when the weather is a scorcher.

A quick online search pulled up a crispy rice treat from Soom Foods. The recipe was already vegan and no-bake, so the changes I made were based on what I had in the cupboard. I didn’t have their vanilla bean tahini, but I had the chocolate flavored one, so I used that and added vanilla extract. If you only have regular tahini, then add cocoa powder and liquid sweetener along with the vanilla.

Also, I have learned that most rice treat recipes have more cereal than I can stir in so I change the amount. A tip for you is to add the required amount in slowly and stop when you start crushing the cereal with your stirring. My recipe is 1/2 cup less than listed in the original because that is when I began smashing the cereal.

Another tip I can offer is for how to clean your dirty pot when you are done preparing the dessert. The marshmallow mixture is gooey when warm, but it will harden as it cools and stick with fierce determination. Try adding water to the pot and set it to boil for a few minutes on the stove. Let it cool just enough so that you won’t burn yourself. Proceed with your cleaning; the goo should have released making the job is easier.

As I have several rice cereal treat bar recipes on the blog, I decided to make this one more glamorous and decadent. Instead of a sheet of bars, I removed my treat as one piece and decorated it with frosting. Now you have a crispy rice treat cake that is suitable for any occasion.

Chocolate Crispy Rice Treat Cake adapted from Vegan Vanilla Tahini Crispy Rice Treats

for the cereal treat
3 tablespoons vegan butter, plus a little extra to grease the pan
1½ tablespoons Soom Chocolate Tahini
1 10-ounce bag vegan marshmallows
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt
4 ½ cups crispy brown rice cereal
for the frosting
1/4 cup vegan powdered sugar
1/4 cup Soom Chocolate Tahini
1/4 cup coconut cream (the thick stuff, not the liquid)

Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper, then grease the paper with a bit of vegan butter. Set aside.

Melt the 3 tablespoons vegan butter in a large pot over low heat. Once melted, stir in the tahini. Add the marshmallows, stirring constantly until the mixture is well blended. Add the water and stir until everything has melted together.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Add the rice cereal to the pot and stir to coat the cereal with the marshmallow mixture. Press the cereal mixture into the prepared pan, flattening out the top. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip together the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup Soom Chocolate Tahini, and coconut cream. Place the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes to allow the frosting to firm up. When firm, scoop the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip.

To assemble, flip the cake pan over onto a plate. Remove the pan then remove the parchment paper from the cereal treat. Pipe the frosting on as desired.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Experiments with Cookie Dough, Part 2: Freeze Then Bake

Experiments with Cookie Dough
Experiments with Cookie Dough

This post idea started out in the usual way — think of a tasty treat and make it. And I did start to make something yummy until I realized I was too full from dinner to enjoy dessert. In an effort to avoid wasting fresh-baked goodies, I decided to stop in the middle of my cookie preparations.

However, I stalled out wondering what I should do with my prepared cookie dough. Previously, I had worked with baking and then freezing cookies (see The Great Cookie Freezing Experiment.) Now I guess I needed to jump in and try my hand at freezing and then baking the dough itself.

To start, I grabbed my batch of cookie dough and a cookie scoop that made 1.5 tablespoon balls. I portioned the dough out onto small parchment paper lined baking pans. The pans were then placed in the freezer for over 1 hour for the dough balls to become firm. Once solid, the dough balls were put in a large zip-top freezer bag which went into the freezer.

The next day I was pondering again, but this time I had different questions. Did I need to defrost the dough balls? At what temperature should the oven be set? How long should I bake the cookies? Should I bake all the cookies now, or save some for later?

An internet searched came up with the answers, thanks to Handle the Heat. “You can bake from frozen. Here are the steps…

  1. Preheat the oven to about 20 degrees lower than the original recipe temperature. 
  2. Remove however many balls of dough you need from the freezer and place on a parchment-lined baking pan.
  3. Bake the cookies for 2 to 5 minutes longer than the original recipe instructions, or until the cookies are golden at the edges but still slightly ‘wet’ looking at the very center.”

Using the advice above, I did a test of six frozen cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet in an oven set to 355F instead of 375F. I baked them for 5 minutes more than the recipe stated because I felt my cookies were a little larger than those in the original recipe. My cookies were beautiful golden brown on the bottom and they flattened with minimal dough spread. They were gorgeous, and also delicious.

frozen cookie dough
frozen cookie dough

The tips above even helped answer the question on how many cookies to make. I learned that the dough could be frozen for up to 6 weeks, so I realized I should bake some now but save some for a future cookie craving.

By now are you wondering what cookie I baked? The pictures give a hint, but you will have to wait until next week for the recipe.

Until next time, happy baking!

Sweet Heart Chocolate Cupcakes for My Sweetheart

sweet heart chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling
sweet heart chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling

Ah, Valentine’s Day … a time when everything is made into the shape of a heart. I couldn’t resist the trend after watching a trick for making heart-shaped cupcakes without a special pan. All that is required is a muffin tin, paper liners, and a bit of foil.

Prepare your cupcake batter, such as the version of my favorite chocolate cupcakes below. Before you portion the batter into the lined muffin tin, take strips of foil and form them into small balls. Take one foil ball, place it in a cavity on the outside of a liner, then crease the liner against it to form a heart shape. Repeat to make 12 cute heart-shaped cupcakes!

My heart cupcakes were made using my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe, although this time I tried a new plant milk from sesame seeds. Because the milk is a bit thicker, it made a more dense batter that I easily remedied by adding more liquid. On the upside, the thicker milk did make the frosting creamy and more luxurious.

To make a Valentine-themed cupcake, I added strawberry jam to the filling because chocolate loves strawberry. Next I accented the heart shape with pink frosting then gave the sweet heart to my sweetheart.

Sweet Heart Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling

For the cupcakes
1 cup + 4 teaspoons Hope & Sesame Organic Sesamemilk
1.5 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
for the frosting
1/4 cup vegan shortening
3/4 cup Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter, salted
3 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 cup Hope & Sesame Organic Sesamemilk
for the filling
2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
decorations (optional)
red food coloring
red decorative sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 muffin pan with paper liners and set aside. Whisk together the 1 cup + 4 teaspoons milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add sugar, oil, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla to the milk mixture and beat until foamy.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat just until no large lumps remain. Place foil balls (described in post above) into the muffin pan alongside the paper liners. Pour batter into the liners, filling three-quarters of the way.

sweet heart cupcakes with foil in tin
baked sweet heart cupcakes with foil in muffin pan

Bake for 18-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then tip the cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting and filling. Place the shortening and vegan butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Beat until just combined. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl and beat again. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, adding the milk when the mixture get too dry. Once all frosting ingredients have been added, let the stand mixer run for several minutes until the frosting is light and creamy.

For the filling, place 1 cup of frosting in a bowl and mix it with the strawberry preserves. Using a knife or cupcake corer, remove a small portion of the center of each cooled cupcake. Using a spoon, add the filling to the holes. Don’t worry if it’s slightly messy as you will be frosting the tops of the cupcakes.

Divide the rest of the frosting as you wish, tinting some of it with red food coloring or leaving it all white. Decorate the tops of the frosted cupcakes with red sugar, if desired.

Until next time, happy Valentine’s Day and happy baking!

Cinnamon vs. Cassia: different types for a range of flavors

cinnamon chips and chai
cinnamon chips and chai

Did you know there are over 250 types of cinnamon? I didn’t until I researched it after having a rousing discussion on the topic of cinnamon with my favorite taster, my hubby. That’s when my deep dive into cinnamon began.

He mentioned that he thought the cinnamon we had was old because the flavor was weak. I knew that I had recently purchased that particular cinnamon because I buy in bulk due to our intense love of the sweet spice. When I buy bulk cinnamon I choose the Ceylon variety because I have noted that I like the flavor. The company I get cinnamon from was out of it for awhile so I had to break down and get a jar from the market.

The one from the grocery store noted that it was pure Cassia Cinnamon. An article from Bon Appetit explained that “there are three specific types of cassia cinnamon—Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon—all with different levels of flavor.”

The magazine’s post also mentioned that “Ceylon cinnamon, a variety sometimes referred to (as) ’true cinnamon’ … (has a) flavor and aroma (that) are extremely mild and delicate—it definitely reads as ‘cinnamon,’ but with subtle, almost floral notes.”

This could explain how hubby saw the fresh cinnamon as stale. The recent batch of cinnamon wasn’t stale but it did have a more mild scent. This was due to its variety, being the Ceylon type, and not its freshness. So, in comparison, the Cassia cinnamon we had before was perceived as fresher because it had a stronger smell. He was looking for the scent of Red Hots cinnamon candies.

Now I was onto something. I realized that not only did the flavors of the cinnamons change from mild to robust, but the aromas of the cinnamon varieties could be seen to range from subtle to powerful.

Okay, I know this is a baking blog, but this is important in baking. The type of cinnamon you purchase can have an effect on the outcome of the baked dish. The taste will still be essentially of cinnamon, but it may be more floral than in-your-face depending on the cinnamon you pick.

cinnamon vs cassia
cinnamon vs cassia

The recommendation from the Cinnamon Vogue spice shop says, “For fine desserts Ceylon Cinnamon is an absolute must because it is subtle, smells very mild and is slightly sweeter in taste. It never takes center stage in the recipe but adds a very complex flavor.”

Admittedly, I agree with these cinnamon purveyors, although they may be biased because that is the variety they specialize in. But I know that if you want pungency, then you should look to the Cassia varieties of Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon.

Furthermore, it dawned on me that when one of my recipes lists “1 teaspoon cinnamon” in the ingredients, that your experience may differ if you use the more robust Cassia. You should test the amount and see what works for you with your spice brand and selection.

Then there’s the matter of taste preference. I’ll keep my complex Ceylon and leave the hot Cassias to my hubby. Whew! All this talk of cinnamon has made me thirsty, so I’m headed to the kitchen to make a sweet spiced chai. And then maybe some cinnamon muffins.

A Look at Vegan Butter

a look at vegan butter
a look at vegan butter

When I first started adapting recipes to be vegan, there was only one option for substituting butter — margarine. Not being a margarine fan, I was disappointed because it can make baked goods greasy and oily tasting. These days more and more companies are introducing their versions of vegan butter, and some of them are absolutely amazing. Miyoko’s Creamery stepped into the limelight first with a “butter” so grand it could be eaten plain, on toast, without any complaints about it being vegan. Although I still have a great fondness for Miyoko’s dazzling array of vegan dairy products, I’ve looked into other choices.

One selection I have shared in recent recipes is Flora Plant Butter. This butter comes in salted and unsalted versions, like Miyoko’s. It works beautifully in baked goods, making tender cupcakes and delightfully chewy cookies, and it is moderately priced. It’s not as phenomenal on toast, as Miyoko’s is, but I often prefer the results it produces in baked goods.

Milkadamia is a brand of non-dairy milk I enjoy, but I have not sampled their Buttery Spread. An article on vegan butter from Veg News has piqued my curiosity and Milkadamia’s offering may soon be up for experimentation in my kitchen. The post goes through a run-down of 11 butter substitutes, with Miyoko’s and Earth Balance topping the list. Also mentioned are Melt Organic, Country Crock, Forager, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, The Cultured Kitchen Better Buttah, Califia Farms, New Barn Organics, and Kite Hill. I hope to explore these new “butters” one day.

While I don’t have the means or opportunity to try all of the vegan butters out there, I have baked with a few. King Arthur Baking also tested a couple of substitutes, and compared them to the same goods baked with butter (a test I won’t be doing). When using Land O Lakes butter as a control in recipes for biscuits, crust, cookies, cake, puff pastry, and frosting, they concluded:

“Miyoko’s European-Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks are both highly recommended substitutes for dairy butter. In recipes where they’re the only vegan substitute, both vegan butters will produce baked goods with texture similar to that of dairy butter, with flavor being the main difference.”

So, I go in search of new butters in an effort to make extraordinary decadent treats. And, no, I don’t work for any of these food companies. I just wish I did.

Learning New Things at The Bake Fest

Image by Anthea Chang @rainbownourishments
Image by Anthea Chang @rainbownourishments

When I first heard about The Bake Fest, the baking geek in me got so excited. Never having been to or even heard of a baking conference, I couldn’t wait to attend virtual lectures and hang out in chat rooms. It’s only been one day of The Bake Fest and already my head is filled with blog ideas for new creations, decorations, and scientific explanations.

The first half of the day I got warmed up by attending classes on cake and cookie decorating. It was inspiring to watch creative designers in their element, but then came the presentations most near and dear to my blog – Fundamentals of Baking Science by Kristin “Baker Bettie” Hoffman, and Introduction to Vegan Baking by Anthea Cheng. It’s impossible to quickly sum up Baker Bettie’s slides as she offered so much that my brain is still processing it. One quick bit to share concerns the differences between light and dark brown sugar. She says, “Light brown sugar has a small amount of molasses while dark brown sugar has larger amounts of molasses added. Molasses adds caramel notes to baked goods and also keeps baked goods very moist and chewy. Molasses is also acidic in nature which means that brown sugar can be used in recipes with baking soda in order to activate its chemical reaction.” However, she mentions that they can be used interchangeably, so I may stick with buying whichever is in sale.

Baker Bettie talking science
Baker Bettie talking science

Anthea Cheng’s segment started with a recipe for Vegan Brioche. Vegan brioche? And she made it look easy? I am not a bread baker, but I look forward to trying this out. We were also treated to a cake decorating demo that wowed me when she made frosting tinted with real food, not chemicals. The colorants included beet powder and blue spirulina. I must search online for these ingredients to add to my toolbox. (Literally … I keep my decorating items in a large toolbox).

Now, you may be disappointed that you missed out in this educational event. But, don’t worry! There is more going on today. You can register for The Bake Fest here and view tomorrow’s schedule here. If you see me in the Lounge, be sure to say hello.

The Magic of Crinkle Cookies

chocolate crinkle cookies
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

When I think back to childhood, one of my favorite cookies was the chocolate crinkle. The dense chocolate flavor and sugary coating was a hit, but I was also mesmerized by the cracks and ridges in the cookies. Where did they come from? And what magic made it possible? As a self-proclaimed baking researcher, I now had to dig into the subject and solve the mystery of the crinkle cookie.

There are many recipes for crinkles out there, but they differ in strategic ways. Some bakers put the dough in the refrigerator prior to baking, while others stand resolute in the idea that they should not be cooled first. Certain recipes use only one leavener but others use both baking soda and baking powder. I wondered why there was such a disparity of ideas, so I dove deeper to reveal the science behind the different recipe twists.

In the cookbook A Good Bake, we are told that crinkles are considered a rise-and-fall cookie. This moniker “refers to one that rises in the oven and then falls when you take it out. The rise-and-fall process is a result of the baking soda reacting with the cocoa powder and brown sugar before the cookie is set. When the cookies are removed from the oven, they fall, giving them that crackle top. How quickly the cookie rises before it sets up is the key to achieving that finish.” The authors recommend against putting the dough in the fridge, as this helps the cookie rise quicker. They also say to bake in batches, one tray at a time. This makes sense as it maximizes the oven heat that each tray receives.

Additional crinkle cookie information was found on the WonderHowTo website. “Crinkle cookies are meant to have gaps between wrinkles of powdered sugar. … Achieving this perfect appearance relies solely on the amount of spreading and expanding they do in the oven.” So, again, the recommendation is to keep the dough out of the fridge. The article also mentions how oven temperature affects cookie expansion. “If crinkle cookies are baked at 350°F, the outside bakes and hardens more quickly, which doesn’t give the dough enough time to spread. … Therefore, crinkle cookies are best baked at 325°F; this temperature allows the ingredients to spread and melt onto the sheet for a longer amount of time before they start to bake and harden.”

As oven temperature can play a role in high altitude baking, I tested both 325F and 350F. While the cookies baked, I peeked through the oven window to watch them rise and fall. It was interesting that the 350F cookies took longer to fall, so I kept them in the oven for the same amount of time as the 325F batch. You can see in the photos that the higher temp made cookies with cracks that were slightly wider. I ended up preferring the texture of those baked at 350F.

crinkle cookies at 325 F
crinkle cookies at 325 F
crinkle cookies at 350 F
crinkle cookies at 350 F

From Cook’s Illustrated I learned “a simple tweak (that) turned out to be key to producing a maximum number of fissures: rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar. Coating the cookies with either type of sugar draws out moisture from their surface, promoting cracks by drying out their tops before the interiors set. But granulated sugar does so more efficiently because of its coarse, crystalline structure.” I also noticed that if you swirled the cookies in powdered sugar only, then the white coating seemed to disappear as they cooked. When I rolled the dough in both I achieved the snowy look that is part of the signature the cookie.

A test baker at Cook’s Illustrated also did a thorough testing of leaveners. “Baking powder, as I already knew, did a decent job by itself, but a combination of baking powder and baking soda proved to be the winner. These cookies spread nicely, without any hump, and they had a more crackly surface (than baking soda alone).”

What did all of this prove? That I love chocolate crinkle cookies. Okay, I already knew that. However, I did discover that I was searching for the cookie from my childhood — a crinkle that was not overly sweet and had a dense but chewy texture. The crinkle cookie can achieve an ever-so-slight hump and have a thick layer of powdered sugar and be a success. But, for me, chocolate crinkle perfection is found in a cookie that is flat and has just a light dusting of sugar.

Until next time, happy testing!