Leslie Glover Pendleton wrote a marvelous book a few years ago, One Dough, Fifty Cookies: Baking Favorite and Festive Cookies in a Snap. It’s a small, $13 book ($10.40 on Amazon), and perhaps the best value in a cookbook you will ever see. Actually, given the pricing on cookbooks these days, I guarantee you it is the best value in a cookbook you will ever see.
Leslie’s cookies are absolutely fabulous. Today, she brought me the Rugelach Spirals, a crisp cookie version of the Jewish pastry, and her unadorned Classic Spritz Cookies, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth rings formed with a cookie press. By the way, Leslie, who spent years testing recipes in the kitchens of Gourmet magazine, says to avoid the electric presses and to teach yourself how to use an old-fashioned hand press.
The book has more elaborate cookies as well, both sophisticated confections and ones that are fun to make with or for children, of which Leslie has two that she bakes with, a 6-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. There are recipes for Benne Seed Honey Wafers, Chocolate Marzipan Pinwheels, Pine Nut Almond Cookies , Walnut Maple Syrup Cookies, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, and Granola Bars.
While writing the book, Leslie, test-cook professional that she is, spent time experimenting with different bakeware. Indeed, it was to talk about bakeware that I invited her on the show this week. She is appalled at some of the products out there. Because people seem to want to spend more and more money on their equipment, some manufacturers are “over-building” products. That’s my word, not hers. For instance, not only is there no need to have four sides to a cookie sheet, but the sides are detrimental. The cookies nearest the sides bake faster than the center ones because of the heat reflected from the sides. A pan with four sides is not good for cookies. Dark metal pans, steel or steel coated, because dark absorbs heat, burn the bottoms of pastry and cookies, or at least speeds up the browning so that the cookies don’t bake evenly. Insulated pans …well, all these new-fangled pans have problems. Leslie found that old-fashioned aluminum pans work best. Aluminum is a great conductor of heat, the best after copper. It is light in color, and light in weight. Leslie discovered a new product that is designed after an old-fashioned product. The company is called Doughmakers. Truth be told, Leslie is now a spokesperson for Doughmakers and she sent me a set of pans nearly a year ago. I swear by them. They have a textured surface that allows for a tiny bit of air circulation around the baked good and also makes them “easy release,” although they do not have a non-stick coating and they are not non-stick pans. But I have tried using them “as is” with cookies that I would normally bake on a greased pan, or a greased and floured pan, or on parchment paper, and I have had no sticking problems at all.
In our part of the world, Doughmakers are available at Zabar’s in Manhattan, at Chef Central, in Paramus, New Jersey, and at Food Emporium supermarkets. If you go to the Doughmakers website you will find everything you want to know about the products, including a Find-A-Store section that may help you find a source near you. You will also find a section where you can Ask Leslie baking questions.
Leslie also contributes to the website Bake With Love that is sponsored by the company that makes Clabber Girl and Rumford baking powders and cornstarch packaged handily in a can with a plastic lid. These are not brands easily found in the New York metro area, but I like the site. Among its features are Leslie’s Culinary Café and, from my friend in Montreal who has the site called Better Baking, Kosher Cuisine with Marcy Goldman.
This is a recipe that is not in Leslie’s cookie book. I loved them at first because they were so chocolately, but then, as you eat more, the pepper flavor grows in your mouth and you realize that the cayenne actually boosts the chocolate. They’ll leave a warm, but not fiery sensation in your mouth.
Hot Chocolate Earthquake Cookies
Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (plus 1/3 cup for rolling the cookies)
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon hot red cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Heat the butter in a large saucepan until just melted. Remove from heat
Whisk in the cocoa, sugars, cayenne and salt until smooth, and stir in the eggs.
Sift the flour and baking soda into the pan and stir until completely blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
If the dough is too soft to work with, cover and chill it until firm. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the additional sugar. Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until the tops are cracked (The cookies will be very soft). Do not bake the cookies longer or they will lose their chewy texture. Let the cookies cool completely on the sheets and transfer them to airtight containers.