Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back to Basics

I am all about efficiency in the kitchen. Sure, I like to cook and bake, but I don't have unlimited time (what with important things like blogging and such!)

Plus, baking is hard on the waistline. I do fine resisting the finished product. It's just that dough. Yes, as a home economist I got the memo about raw eggs. (You shouldn't consume them - just in case you didn't know.) But cookie dough is darn near irresistible.

So, if I need to create a cookie tray or need to make a large amount of cookies, I try to get the job done with one baking session. That's why I often use a basic cookie recipe. But instead of adding chocolate chips to the whole batch, I divide the dough and use other add-ins.

I triple this basic dough recipe. CAUTION: If you don't have a large Kitchen Aid (or similar) mixer, don't try this at home. This was my mother-in-law Marie's mixer, which I inherited after she died. Before that, I didn't have a heavy-duty mixer. After using this mixer for hundreds of cookies and yeast bread recipes, I've told Randy that I will be driving to Hutchinson to replace this immediately if it ever quits on me.

Anyway, tripling this recipe just about causes a large mixer to overflow. And I can never get it done without showering at least a little flour on the counter. I never said I wasn't a messy cook.

If I need cookies or assorted cookie trays for several events, I may even do a triple recipe two times and choose six different add-ins. I make it easy (and use less measuring cups) by measuring out the dry ingredients and setting them aside. I always do this before the United Methodist Women's fall bazaar, when I make dozens of cookies to sell.

Here's the basic recipe (This is just 1 recipe of the dough. You can choose to double or triple it).

Basic Cookie Dough
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Add ins (see ideas below)

Recipe Notes:
  • Some of you new brides may have cooling racks made for cookies. I don't. So I use the same method I've been using since I was a little girl. I put newspaper on the kitchen counter and top it with waxed paper. I cool the baked cookies on the wax-covered paper. (I usually get this set up before I get the first cookies in the oven.)
  • I always use shortening in these cookies rather than margarine or butter. The shortening helps the cookie retain it shape. Butter or margarine makes the cookies spread out.
  • I always use Hudson Cream flour in baking, proudly supporting the Stafford County Flour Mills product from Hudson, Kansas.
Instructions: Cream together sugars and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt (If you're baking for a fair or competition, sift the ingredients. I skip that step if I'm not getting judged or baking with 4-Hers.) Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix well. If you've doubled or tripled your recipe, divide the dough into two or three equal parts.

Stir in add-ins of your choice (see ideas below).

Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray. Using a cookie scoop, place dough on prepared cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (I always check before the initial time because I don't like overbaked cookies. It will depend on your oven. I have a double wall oven. The top oven bakes much slower than the bottom oven. So, in other words, use your own judgment and get to know your oven).

I usually let the cookies cool briefly on the cookie sheet (about 2 minutes) before I remove to the waxed paper for further cooling.


This part will probably be annoying. But I don't necessarily measure the add-ins. I just add until it looks right. But here's a rule of thumb: This basic recipe is supposed to include 2 cups of chocolate chips. So, use that as an indicator of how much to add.

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
(baked cookie pictured center front at the top of the blog)

M & M Cookies
(obviously, to the left in the photo at the top)

Chocolate Caramel Cookies
(Pictured in the top right in photo at the top of this post)

Yes, these are done with the same basic recipe. I stir in cocoa powder (probably around 3-4 tablespoons, then add the caramel pieces pictured in the photo. If it seems too dry, add a teaspoon or two of milk.

Another note about these cookies. They are really good, but the caramel makes it difficult to handle. If you are making three different kinds of cookies, do these last. This past time, I used parchment paper in an attempt to prevent them from sticking. I will do that again. Plus, let them cool longer before attempting to remove them from the cookie sheet.

The following are not pictured as completed cookies. But I have used them all as add-ins:

Oatmeal Raisin

When I use raisins in recipes, I always soak them in warm liquid to plump them up before adding. You can use water, or you can try orange juice if you want that hint of flavor. Drain well before adding to your cookie dough (but the little bit of extra liquid clinging to the raisins is OK since you're adding more dry ingredients through the oatmeal. Add in about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and then 1 to 1 1/2 cups quick cook oats. If you feel like you need a little more liquid, add in a couple teaspoons of orange juice or milk.

Coconut Orange Slice Cookies

I usually use kitchen shears to cut up the candy orange slices. Dip the shears in flour. You will need to repeat this step as the shears become sticky. You may want to toss the cut-up candy in a little flour to keep them separated. This will make it easier to incorporate into the dough. I usually use coconut and the cut-up orange slices in these.

Date-Nut Cookies

I like the combination of chopped walnuts and chopped dates, but you can use another kind of nut. I use a hand chopper for chopping nuts. I usually have cut-up dates on hand that I've purchased from a bulk food store. But you can use your kitchen shears to do this with whole dates.

Others ideas:
Chocolate Chips
Chocolate Chips & Pecans (or other nuts)
Heath bits
Oatmeal and Butterscotch Chips
Chocolate Chocolate Mint (Put in the cocoa as described above and then use the chopped Andes mints you find in the baking aisle)
Peanut Chips & Chocolate Chips combined

Another option: Don't have a lot of time? Need cookies quickly? You can use the Basic Cookie Recipe and add 2 cups of chocolate chips or mini M & Ms. Then, instead of dropping individually, spread into a prepared jelly roll pan (15- by 10-inch). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into about 4 dozen bars.

The options are endless. Have fun experimenting! Let me know if you come up with a great new combination!


  1. Great to see mom's mixer!! Your cookies are always great! Somehow I missed this blog last week. Must not have scrolled far enough!

  2. Kim,
    I love this recipe. I use these as slice and bake. I shape these into a 15-in. x 2-in. roll; wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill 2 hours or up to 1 week. To bake, cut into 1/2-in. slices. These are great to have in the fridge during harvest and I just bake fresh cookies every morning, I also always try to have some in the fridge this time of year for the kids to take to track meets and field trips. Thanks for sharing the bar cookies, never thought of that.

    1. Thanks for sharing the idea for homemade slice and bake cookies, Anita. What's better than fresh cookies?!