One of my most vivid childhood memories is the cookie trading I undertook regularly with my two older brothers. They would give me their two rations of oranges in exchange for my two marshmallow-filled cookies. Or I would get two apples in return for four Dare oatmeal cookies. The Social tea cookies were not as popular, though: I would just get a small box of currants if I'd let go eight of them. I kept arguing that with Jell-O or butterscotch pudding they made a fine dessert too. It was then I realized the power of cookies on human beings.
Nonetheless, I was never too fond of cookies until I realized that it was possible to make your own and to create an infinite array of treats: peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chip, ginger snaps, etc. So when I turned 13 or so I became the official baker of the family and I specialized in cookies. At the time, I was on the High School ski team and my new expertise made me widely popular among my schoolmates, and even if the cookies I brought them were identified as "health conscious"; they were good. And they were sturdy too. They would stick to our skinny skiers' ribs. They had to.
So 25 years later, I figure it's time to test my cookie recipes on the paddling community since they also need food that's easy to carry in precarious conditions and, at the same time, good quality fuel.
Making good cookies is easy. Forget shortening, margarine, artificial flavors and icing sugar. Replace with whole grain flour, top quality nuts, different types of grains and cereals, chocolate, dry fruits, and you're in for something that will take you much farther than the usual empty calorie type of cookie that can be found in the aisle of the grocery store. And these cookies can be frozen easily, raw or cooked, which allows for stocking up the freezer with either ready to go goodies or cookie dough, depending of your needs.
The word cookie comes from the dutch "koekje", meaning "little cake". The first cookies were invented accidentally when cooks were baking a small test of cake batter to test their oven temperature before baking a large cake. In America alone, cookies are consumed by 95 % of people, which comes to a grand total of more than two billion cookies munched a year, or 300 cookies per capita. Italians also love their "biscotti" as well as people from the Middle-East, who bake them with orange and rose water, lemon rinds and often fill them with dates, pistachios or figs. In Germany and Austria the Christmas cookie season is very popular, as are cookie exchanges. No English high tea would be complete without cookies either.
Basically, there are three types of consistencies for cookies: tender, crisp and filled. They come in a vast array of forms too: drop cookies, rolled cookies, molded cookies, etc. For a paddling excursion, it's better to forget the filled type-of-cookie and also to avoid chocolate chips cookies because chocolate melts too easily. Most cookies will keep easily for three days in an airtight container filled with wax paper. It's also a good idea to wrap them individually with wax paper. This helps keep the freshness at its best and can also be seen as a shock absorber. Certain cookies keep for up to two weeks, like ginger or molasses cookies.
For best results, it's also a good idea to buy the best quality ingredients. That's why I choose whole wheat or unbleached flour that's not been treated with chemicals and excellent chocolate that contains real cocoa butter (a proof of quality). Nuts also need to be at their freshest. So taste them before adding any to a recipe because they tend to become rancid quite easily. When you chose a cookie baking dish, also go for quality and pick one that's shiny (like aluminium) so it reflects heat and prevent the bottom of the cookies from burning.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until smooth. At low speed, add egg and milk and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in dry ingredients until soft dough forms.
Divide dough into three parts. Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm (1 to 4 hours).
Preheat the oven to 350? F. Coat 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. On a working surface dusted with whole wheat flour, roll out the first cookie dough to about 1 / 4 thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the cookie in the shape you want and place on the cookie sheets. Replace in the refrigerator until the rest of the dough has been rolled out and shaped into cookies and is ready to cook. Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until dry in centers. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Oatmeal, cranberries and pistachio cookies
Preheat the oven to 350? F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium-size bowl, sift flour, soda powder and salt. In a large bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. At low speed, add eggs, maple syrup and keep mixing. Then add flour, oatmeal, cranberries and pistachios.
Ladle out scoops of dough (about 1 / 4 cup) spacing them by about 3 inches.
Cook for about 18 minutes until lightly colored. Let cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer on a wire rack.
Peanut butter cookies
Preheat the oven to 325? F.
In a large bowl, using the electric mixer, mix honey and peanut butter at medium speed. Add safflower oil and keep mixing. Add eggs, vanilla and milk and beat until smooth. Add flour and mix well. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. For each cookie, drop 2 tbsp of the batter and press slightly with a fork to flatten. Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly browned around edges. Let cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer onto a wire rack.
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