3 Common Baking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, Plus the Only Cookie Guide You Need
Cookie lovers, rejoice! Mindy Segal’s new cookbook, Cookie Love, is here to fill your life and your kitchen with crunchy, chewy, salty-sweet four-bite treats. Whether you’re craving the crispy, caramelized goodness of Oatmeal Scotchies or the deep chocolate and sweet minty notes of the Black Sabbath sandwich cookies, you’ll find your new favorite cookie bite in the pages of this book. The variety of cookies you'll find in Cookie Love runs the gamut from classic drop cookies with bold flavors all the way to sweet and salty bar cookies ( like the Honey Walnut Bars, which you can make home with the recipe below) and back again. Meringues? It has them. Rugelach? You're set. Spritz cookies? Look no further. Segal has you covered with fun, innovative flavors and textures no matter what kind of cookie you're looking to make.
When it comes to baking, it’s no secret that getting it right is all in the details. According to Segal, these are the top three reasons many home cooks struggle with cookie baking. Learn from these notes:
1. They do not read the recipe through and follow the writer’s techniques.
2. They do not use correct room-temperature ingredients.
3. They think they can alter the recipe before they have even made it.
Segal’s advice for fixing these mistakes is simple: Don’t make them in the first place! Of course, cookie perfection doesn’t happen immediately. “I didn’t become a cookie nerd overnight,” Segal admits in the book’s introduction. “This obsession has built up gradually over the years, unfolding into a lifelong commitment to perfecting one of my favorite things to bake — and eat.”
And if it’s cookie perfection you’re seeking, Cookie Love is the place to find it. The book digs deeper into cookie variety than a lot of its peers, showcasing everything from your favorite drop cookies to sandwich cookies, bar cookies, rugelach, thumbprints, spritz cookies, shortbread and more. The flavors are inventive, and even Segal admits to being surprised and delighted by the end result of her Goat Butter Lemon Tea Cakes. “The goat butter is such a unique ingredient and gives it a unique tang,” she explained in an interview with FN Dish. Another favorite? The Dream Bars, which her friends and family can’t stop requesting because of the heady balance between texture (they have a meringue layer) and taste (they also have a chilled chocolate layer). When it comes to Segal’s favorite cookies to make, you’ll find her in the chapter about kolaches and rugelach. “They take the most skill, if you’re making everything from scratch,” Segal explained in her interview. “They also represent the seasons.”
Seasonality is also the key to success when it comes to balancing a cookie plate, something Segal knows a thing or two about. “What makes the ideal cookie plate? First and foremost is a seasonal element,” she told FN Dish. “Then choose one to two cookies from each chapter of the book. They are all delicious!”
“Even with years of cookie baking behind me, I am still on a quest to discover new ideas, more efficient processes, and better outcomes,” Segal said in the book’s introduction. “I love cookies.” You can order your copy of Cookie Love here.
This is my official barter recipe. If I ask anyone for a recipe, I hand over this one in exchange. Everyone needs a good nut bar, and this one comes together quickly. The shortbread base is baked all the way through while the nut caramel is cooked on the stove and then poured onto the cooled base. After it has cooled, it’s ready to be cut. (Do not refrigerate before cutting or else the nut caramel becomes rock-hard.) While using a knife to cut the bars is best for yield, sometimes I punch the bars out using a rectangular cookie cutter to get a cleaner edge. Any kind of nut can be used for these bars, but honey and walnuts are naturals together.
To make the shortbread: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a quarter sheet (9-by-13-inch) pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving 1 inch of overhang on the long sides.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, flour and salt on low speed until the dough starts to resemble pebbles, approximately 6 minutes. Put the shortbread dough into the prepared pan. Using your fingers, press the shortbread into the pan, being sure not to ignore the corners. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Using a pastry roller, roll the dough into submission to even out the surface. Refrigerate until chilled, 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap. Bake the shortbread, rotating the pan halfway through the baking process, until golden brown and baked through, 25 to 28 minutes. If you notice it puffing up as it bakes, press it down gently with a clean kitchen towel and continue baking it. Cool to room temperature.
To make the walnut caramel: Attach a candy thermometer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the honey, sugars, vanilla and salts. Heat the mixture, stirring often, to 220 degrees F, approximately 3 minutes. Pour in the cream and cook, stirring often, to 238 degrees F, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in all the nuts and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Pour the nut caramel over the shortbread and spread with an offset spatula. Let the nut caramel cool completely.
Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 4 strips lengthwise and 6 strips crosswise.
The bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Reprinted with permission from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Dan Goldberg © 2015