While recipe testing for Clabber Girl, I made The Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies ever, so far. You know what I mean. I haven’t made every vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe out there; that would be insane. When would I have time to commute to school, marathon Homeland, or stare off dreamily as I eat peanut butter straight from the jar? Read More…
I used to work in a bakery.
Actually, I worked in two, simultaneously: one franchise and one local. Working at the local bakery was awful (you can read all about it here, if you like). I would only do it again, if: 1) I owned the bakery, or 2) see #1.
It wasn’t all for naught. I really learned a lot (forgive my faux rhyming skills).
Just a few lessons I learned while working at the franchise bakery
1) First impressions are a real thing. Don’t be that person who didn’t immediately wash her dishes the first time around. The stigma will stick and spread like wildfire. Further attempts to be a fastidious dishwasher will be unanimously ignored.
2) Always wear the long oven mitts. Burning you forearm on a super hot baking sheet may be a rite of passage, but that shit hurts…and bulbous scar tissue is about as sexy as an adult wearing a onesie.
3) Quality is key. I don’t care if your business is “circling the drain”, baking with imitation vanilla is not only gross, it’s deceitful. Plus, if you do, you will lose the respect of your employees which is
just almost as important as the quality of your product.
Perhaps, my experience would’ve been pleasant if baking orange chocolate chip shortbread were part of my duties. This shortbread is simple, but heightened by the addition of orange zest.
To obtain the most flavor from the orange zest you must grind it with the sugar, until it’s moist and fragrant. The result is a light, crispy cookie with a smooth, citrus finish. It pairs nicely with your afternoon tea or have it alone, as a bedtime snack.
And if you break one or two, don’t worry about it. I promise they’ll still be just as good.
Recipe for Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- zest of 2 large oranges, ~5 tsp
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
- Combine flour and salt in small bowl.
- Gather orange zest and set aside.
- Place sugar in mixer bowl. Add zest.
- Use back of spoon to mash zest and sugar together.
- Continue to mash until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
- Add butter and vanilla. Mix on low for 1 minute.
- Add the flour with salt and mix until just combined.
- Fold in mini chocolate chips.
- Form dough into a flat disc and chill for 30 minutes.
- preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll dough into until ½ inch thick.
- Use 2 inch cutter to make cookies.
- Put cookies on a sheet pan and chill for another 10 minutes in the freezer(this reduces spreading while baking).
- Bake for 25-28 minutes or until bottom of cookies are golden brown.
- Cool completely and serve.
Did you know about Chex Scotcheroos?
Yeah? Well, I didn’t.
Apparently, they’re similar to rice crispies and made with peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch chips? Wtf? Why didn’t I know about this?
I saw the recipe on Pinterest and that was it. Right then and there, I knew they were going to be my next thing.
Here’s what happened…
Sprinkles are adorable.
I’m not gonna lie. They’re cute as hell, but they’re totally not my thing.
You see, I’m a drop cookie fan. They’re easy, unfussy and if we’re talking about baking, those are two words I can get behind. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to decorate. I try and keep it simple, but I thought maybe, just maybe…I’d get a bit crazy with this one. And when I write ‘crazy’ I mean sprinkles galore! My goal was to make sugar cookies: simple, sweet and delectable. I kicked it up a bit with the sprinkles. As you can see from the first pic those things got away from me.
I read somewhere that bakers use honey or corn syrup to get the sprinkles to adhere to the cookie. I chose honey. That’s where it all went wrong. Honey is fantastic in my tea but most certainly not for decorating purposes. It was a nightmare. One I would never subject myself to again. In the future, I will use a simple icing made of powdered sugar and water. I’ve worked with that before and it’s a bit more manageable.
The upside of my minor dilemma is this is the best sugar cookie I’ve ever tasted. It comes together easily and keeps its shape, if rolled and chilled. It has the perfect amount of sweetness and is lovely with a cup of tea. Honestly, I prefer them unadorned…naked, if you will. It’s fun to dress things up but sometimes plain is just as adorable.
Sugar Cookies Photo Notes
I now have a lot more respect for Jackson Pollock. This was supposed to be a quick shoot, but minutes turned into hours when we introduced chaos into the mix.
Mondo and I had high hopes for this shoot. With the bright colors and cool design, we thought these sugar cookies would look amazing on a pink or yellow surface.
Unfortunately, these looked awful on pink and yellow. In fact, the variety of colors clashed with everything. With my technicolor dreams quickly fading, I decided to move on to a neutral white acrylic.
Everything went well with the first setup, but the second shot with the sprinkles was a mess. As Mondo was setting up, I told her to leave the half empty cup on the table and took a quick test shot. The shot looked great, but I wanted a better composition and asked her to rearrange the sprinkles. This is when things took a turn for the worse.
No matter what Mondo did, the rearrangement never looked as good as the test shot. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but trying to get a bunch of chaotic sprinkles into an organized design is friendship ending nightmare. After an hour or so of Mondo giving me the stinkeye, we finally got the shot with our friendship intact.
This one was pretty simple. For the main light, I used a large light panel placed 45 degrees behind the sugar cookies to create texture and shape. The shadows were filled in with a white bounce card. To create a bit more specularity, I also added light from a silver umbrella for on-axis fill. Here is a lighting diagram with all the details:
Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Focal Length: 48mm
Sugar Cookies Recipe
Recipe slightly adapted from CakeWalk
- ½ c + 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature, 200g
- 3 c + 3 T all purpose flour, 400g
- 1 c superfine sugar, 200g (place regular sugar in food processor for about 1 min)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 t vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
- Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until creamy. Don’t over mix.
- Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
- Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
- Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of ⅓ inch. (I used seran wrap)
- Refrigerate dough for 1 hr or place in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
- Once chilled, peel off parchment and cut out shapes with preferred cookie cutters.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Arrange cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and freeze for 5 minutes. (It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.)
- Re-roll scraps and repeat process.
- Bake until golden around the edges. Rotate sheets halfway through for even baking.
- Cool completely before decorating.