Blogging is going to be light this month, because I have more pressing matters to attend to. I’m still baking for the coworkers every Sunday because they’ve made it clear it’s no longer optional to bring in treats on Monday morning, so there will be things to blog, but it’s bound to be more hit-and-run in nature than I’d normally like.
So, since I have a daily word quota hanging over my head, here’s a very quick write-up of the perfect cookie for the November insanity. Not only are they the kind of yummy calories your brain needs for heavy thinking, but they are practically instantaneous to make because there’s no creaming of butter and they go straight from bowl to oven.
Interestingly, making these cookies last night for a lunch with students today also kicked me out of what had been a pretty weak start to this year’s NaNoWriMo. I was really organized about preparing for it last week, but I was also still pretty tired from a very busy October so the words weren’t coming as fast as they should have. Having fixed fifteen-minute windows between batches actually made me more productive than I had been with unstructured evenings on Monday and Tuesday, and since then I’ve been much more enthusiastic about the whole thing.
These cookies are adapted from the recipe for chewy sugar cookies in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated. Normally, I am no fan of sugar cookies, because almost every one I’ve ever had has been the equivalent of a white canvas — not in a stripped-down-to-essentials, purity of ingredients way like a good shortbread, but in a bland, bland, boring, nothing but flavorless-fat-and-sugar way. I gave this recipe a try, though, because His Lordship loves a chewy cookie, and the recipe relied on the same liquid-fat-ratio math that recently produced the first batch of brownies to really meet his chewiness requirement. I made changes to inject some interest, though, because I still wasn’t buying the whole plain sugar cookie idea.
The texture of these cookies was everything that was promised: crackly on the outside and beautifully chewy on the inside. With my additions of toasted coconut and macadamia nuts, they also have rich coconutty flavor and tender crunch, enough to inspire at least a couple of hundred words.
Since I now have cookies and an awesome new caffeine delivery vehicle, I have no excuses. Back to work!
Coconut-Macadamia Sugar Cookies
(Adapted from Chewy Sugar Cookies, Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2010)
Makes 4 dozen cookies
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, in 8 pieces
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon coconut milk (or regular milk)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
Additional sugar for rolling
In a small nonstick skillet, toast the coconut on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F and line multiple baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the sugar in a large bowl and scatter the cream cheese cubes over the surface. Melt the butter and pour it over the sugar and cream cheese while still warm, stirring and folding with a spatula until most of the cream cheese has melted (streaks and a few small lumps are OK). Switch to a whisk and mix in the oil, then the egg, coconut milk and vanilla until smooth.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt, and add to the wet ingredients. Whisk until almost incorporated, then stir in the toasted coconut and macadamia nuts.
Fill a shallow bowl with about half a cup of sugar. Scoop up heaping tablespoon-sized bits of dough and roll into balls, dropping them into the sugar and rolling to coat. Set the balls on the baking sheets, two inches apart.
Bake on the middle rack for 12-13 minutes, until turning golden at the edges. Allow to cool to room temperature on the sheets. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
This makes a very soft, oily, weird-looking dough, but it will come out fine, I promise!