Christmas

Magical, Marvelous, Memorable Cookies

by:
January  1, 2011
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

Shakespeare proclaimed music the food of love, but in our family, it’s cookies. From the time my daughter could climb up on a stool and stir chocolate chips into batter, we baked. We created baking experiments for her science projects, and baked cookies and cakes for dinner parties and school functions. My stepsons married women who are both accomplished bakers. Blended families can be...complicated... but baking is the language of our family connection–chocolate chip cookies, apple pie, brownies, meringues–a connection that often feels like a miracle.

I am the oldest of four children, and we—my two sisters, my brother and I—are as close as people who live in four separate US states can be. We were all together for the Christmas holidays, and my sister Linda and I decided to (what else?) bake cookies.

Linda is a first grade teacher. For Christmas every year, her students give her boxes of candy, bags of pretzels, tins of popcorn. One of her good friends made delicious homemade granola, which we thought would make a great cookie. We decided to make our version of “compost cookies" by adapting a recipe for crispy oatmeal cookies and using some of her leftover snacks and candies. These cookies are fun, flexible, not fancy but really delicious—qualities I try to bring to all my cooking. My brother-in-law David (Linda’s husband) couldn't get enough of them, and my husband proclaimed them “best cookies ever.”

This weekend, at my daughter-in-law’s request, I’ll be making them for my grandson’s first birthday party. In our family, cookies make miracles. —drbabs

Test Kitchen Notes

"There is a lot to love about this recipe. First of all, it is not bossy. DrBabs gives us the ratios, and then she tells us to pick a salty snack, some candies, some cereal, some sort of nut, and cinnamon or other spices if we are so inclined. I like that. I like that these are pantry cookies because you are sure to have enough this and that to be able to make cookies without a trip to the store. My version had the following; crushed pretzel dipping sticks, a handful of leftover Reeses Pieces, some Ghiardelli semi sweet chips, two granola sample boxes from our last race expo (we don’t really eat granola but they were free!), cinnamon and walnuts. Out of the oven they are chewy with a great sweet and salt combination. After they cool they become the perfect crispy friend to an ice cold glass of milk. The only direction that I flat ignored is in step 3: Restrain yourself from eating the raw cookie dough—that’s just crazy talk." –aargersi

"I’m just going to come right out and admit that when I first looked over Magical Marvelous Memorable Cookies I was skeptical, because I did not believe the world was in need of a cookie that involved granola.

But the recipe’s author–the ever reliable drbabs–a certain Food52 staffer hectoring me with the determination of a hunger crazed Killdeer to “MAKE THE COOKIES!!!!!!!!!” and the realization that I had signed up to provide the pre-worship feed snack for our congregation on a Friday night three hours before I had to be there combined to inspire me to give these cookies a whirl.

As you can see, a lot of this recipe is left to whim and fancy. Want some nuts? Go for it. No? Okay never mind. Feeling spicy? Add some cinnamon. Got some pretzels lying about? Toss them in. Do not, as I didn’t? Find something else. (I had a cup of slightly stale toffee pieces. In they went as the substitute for nuts and pretzels both. I added no spices.)

What is deceiving about this cookie, which I figured would be mostly a newfangled chocolate chip thing, is that it’s actually quite delicate, more tuile than Tollhouse, with lots of crisp and snap. I am guessing this is due to its fairly high sugar content, made all the more so by granola and in my case the toffee bits.

This is a fairly standard cookie method, with butter creamed and eggs and vanilla added next, your dry ingredients following behind, with a good amount of scraping down. Your mix ins come last. Our author tells us to form these and then fridge them but I don’t have room in my fridge for such falderal so I just chilled the dough right in the mixing bowl for 20 minutes. I used a small sized scoop to get these guys on the pan, which is faster than hand rolling.

Drbabs wants you to cook these one sheet at a time, and I assume this is to prevent uneven cooking or burning. I was in a hurry so I did two sheets at a time and rotated them after seven minutes. You really need to watch these because they will burn if you are not careful, though I repeat, my toffee chips may be to blame. Please let them cool before moving them.

The taste? Delicious. Sweet, delightfully crunchy, complex in this really sort of best-bakery-in-the-neighborhood sort of way. I placed them on the table at my temple and watched the grown men and women go crazy. One older congregant ate three. 'That really is enough for me,' she chuckled as I looked on with delight. I am sure she doesn’t think I saw her stuff another into her pocket." –Jestei

—The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes 24-30 cookies
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granola (or other cereal)
  • 1/2 cup crushed salted pretzel pieces (or other salty snack food)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped chocolate candies, or a small bar of good dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts, optional
  • (If you don't use nuts, you may want to add more cereal, snacks or chocolate to compensate.)
  • You may want to add a little cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, or whatever you fancy. We didn't because we wanted the taste of the granola to come through.
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
  2. In another bowl, beat butter and sugars at medium-low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute longer. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl again.
  3. (For this step you can use a wooden spoon or your mixer on slow speed.) Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated and smooth. Gradually add granola, pretzels, chocolate and nuts, and mix until well incorporated, ensuring that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed. Restrain yourself from eating the raw cookie dough.
  4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  5. Scoop dough into balls, each about 1 1/2 tablespoons, then roll between palms into balls. Place cookies on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart, 8-12 per sheet. Freeze at least 20 minutes, or refrigerate at least one hour before baking. (They will still spread a lot.)
  6. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are deep golden brown, 13 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Let cool completely before gently moving cookies to wire rack. They will be fragile, especially on the edges.
  7. If cookies be the food of love, bake on!

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