Monday, March 28, 2011

E.L.Fudge: The Cookie Test

The Keebler Elves have always done cookies right.  I could always count on them.  Until last week.

I noticed this on the package.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I have not purchased anything from the elves in quite a while.  With all this Bettycrockerness going on the past few months, there's been no large need.  I've been particularly stressed lately and the kids have not been napping at the same time.  March's posts have been under par from what I have expected of my blogging.
I picked up some cookies on sale, just in case I wasn't able to get any baking in the next two weeks or so.  I unpacked my groceries from the store and went about my life until I took the package out one day to have a cookie. I read this line on the package and was taken aback.  Has it been that long since I've eaten an Elven cookie, have the Elves let me down and changed their product? All these questions ran through my mind.  I decided to eat one.  They taste exactly as I remember.  What is WITH this label?
TBHQ. What is this all about. Has it been there all along. All of my childhood favorites were laden with crazy things that are unhealthy. MSG, Red dye #40, BHT, TBHQ....

I must do something about this.

Now hear me out. I will not be on a crazy rampage to make sure my children never come in contact with these things. That is just foolish.  I grew up on all these things and I turned out just fine. [Betty Crocker actually asked me on the phone one day, if I was completely nuts for making the Goldfish.  I re-assured her that I only made it to challenge myself in the kitchen. I swear!  Plus I happen to have all said ingredients and the time to make them. I promise to continue to purchase Goldfish at the store. Scouts honor!]

Pause for self-reflection.

Ok so maybe I'm not fine and one day will die of some sort of cancer. But I have made a conscience effort to eat healthier now and start my kids out on a much better path.  I still love Captain Crunch and I hope one day my kids will try it and say "Eww mom that stuff is gross why don't you just have a nice bowl of Fiber One with us?"  Haha, yeah right.  I'm human. Hostess Cupcakes will always hold a special place in my heart.  I hope that the generations my girls grow up in will have a healthier outlook on things but still enjoy some unhealthy snacks from time to time. Life would just be boring without donuts or cookies and snack cakes!
So I scoured the internet for someone who has already encountered this snack food atrocity.  I did not come across anyone's blogs that noted this terrible thing.  What now?  Ok first I must find a shortbread recipe that does this cookie justice.  Here is my attempt.  I have combined several recipes I've found online and don't feel that I should credit any one for their recipe specifically.  My goal here is to re-create a cookie that does not need to be labeled "naturally flavored with other natural flavors."

Short Bread Cookies Recipe #1 Recipe #2  Makes 6-8 cookies

1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
one half of one third Cup powdered Sugar
1/2 Cup AP Flour
1/8 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Recipe #3
2 Tbs of browned Butter, unsalted
2 Tbs room temp butter, unsalted
3 tbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup ap flour
1/8 tsp vanilla

Quart size Freezer bag

To brown your butter: Heat frying pan on High. Drop in butter, it should sizzle immediately.  Wait it out until the 'boiling' subsides and it starts to brown.  Let it continue to brown for 30 seconds or so and immediately take it off the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl and allow it to cool to room temp.

Combine butter and sugar until there are no lumps.  Add Flour and stir until barely combined and add vanilla.  Completely combine all ingredients.  Transfer to freezer bag and seal without any extra air in bag.  Flatten on counter top.  Transfer to flat surface in freezer for 30 minutes.
  Here is Recipe #1. This failed so miserably that I won't even post what I did.  Ingredients were way off and we'll just say FAIL.
Preheat oven to 300.
Cut open  bag and slice cookies according to desired size. Transfer to cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool completely on cookie sheet.

Recipe #1 smelled awesome in the oven.  But that was about it. What the heck happened to these?!
Recipe #2 and #3 were 100% more betterer.
  Recipe #2 & Recipe #3
 Recipe #1 Had the color and taste fairly close but needed a slight more buttery flavor to match original.  They were also a little softer to chew on baking day but had a bit more crunch several days after baking. Obviously anything that I bake will be softer, they are fresh .  I just have to remember that the store bought will be more dry no matter what.
Recipe #2 Needed to bake maybe two more minutes. The tops were still a slightly gooey. They smelled like pure butter. I was a little disappointed by the lack of butter flavor. They smelled more of butter than they tasted.  But i suppose this is an entire sensory experience. Sight, flavor & smell.  This batch looked nothing like the original due to the browned butter specks.  The completely wrong shade.  They almost looked as if they wouldn't taste right.  They tasted great, but in this instance not the winner.  Hubs said #3 tasted more buttery but I know it was because they Smelled like butter. Again with the entire sensory experience. Makes a difference.
Even though Batch #3 needed another two minutes in the oven I don't know if they would have browned on the bottom the same as batch #2. They were both great cookies separately. I think overall Recipe #2 is definitely closer to the original.  Recipe #3 is a keeper for sure. These would make a great treat to share with company to go alongside a cup of coffee.  The browned butter gives them a really nice flavor.  Using a geometric cookie cutter of sorts would most likely do these cookies justice. Perhaps some large sugar crystals sprinkled on top before baking would do just the trick to make these a great stand alone cookie. They remind me of those tins of Dutch cookies we always got growing up. You know the ones that were all different shapes. The pretzel shaped ones were my favorite.

So I believe the winner is Recipe #2.  My next adventure, coming up with the filling. To be continued...

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