A few months ago I started following the blog hosted by Helen Fletcher, a fantastic baker who has this to say about her site:
With 25 years experience owning and operating a wholesale specialty bakery servicing hotels, restaurants and caterers, I am going to share a wealth of information I’ve gained over those years with you.
That would definitely be enough to capture my attention, but once I started browsing her site one more thing became clear: Helen not only has tremendous experience in baking, but she is also a natural teacher. You know how some people have a special talent to explain things clearly, to emphasize what really matters? That is exactly what she does. She is also the author of three cookbooks: The New Pastry Cookbook, European Tarts, and Baking as a Business (available in PDF format).
Just to give you a glimpse of the recipes (actually they are more like tutorials) available on her site, here are some of the ones that tempt me: 27 Layer Tuille Torte, Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Torte, A Trio of Angel Food Cakes, Orange Almond Madeleines, and even the show-stopping Hungarian Dobos Torte calls my name, as her instructions are so detailed. Now, don’t hold your breath, I am not attempting that one… yet. Taking baby steps, I started with harmless cookies.
(recipe reprinted with permission from Helen S. Fletcher – Pastries like a Pro)
3 cups old-fashioned Quaker Oats (do not use the quick cooking type!)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (160 grams or 5 2/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1 cup sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/2 cup shortening (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound total chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit or nuts in any combination (454 grams)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.
Cream the sugars, butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla. If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.
Add the flour mixture half at a time, beating on low until completely combined. Lastly, add the nuts, chips or whatever you are adding in.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the cookies using a #40 disher or 2 tablespoons spacing them apart. Double pan and bake for 9 minutes, turn and bake 8 to 9 more. They should still be puffy when you pull them out. They will drop and finish baking on the baking sheet as they cool. Cool for about 8 to 10 minutes and remove to a cooling rack with a spatula. Cool completely.
Yield: Approximately 50 – 3 inch cookies.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: What made me want to make this recipe right away was this statement by Helen: “I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me how much they loved this oatmeal cookie. It is not your usual oatmeal cookie… This is a chocolate chip version that is not shy on spices.” Oatmeal, chocolate, and spices. Cannot go wrong with those. As the recipe says, you can add any combination of nuts, dried fruits, and the type of chocolate you like, as long as you keep the high proportion of add-ons. That is important to give the cookies their unique texture. I used white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Finally, how could I skip a recipe that includes this line in the instructions?
If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it…
If only cake baking could work smoothly like that! I would be making genoises as if they were going out of style… I exchanged a few emails with Helen, to get her opinion on halving the recipe: 50 cookies seemed like too many. She was very nice, and gently tried to convince me to make the full batch. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that she was right, and I should have followed her advice. My batch made 20 cookies, as I tend to follow Phil’s preferences, and make cookies a little larger than average. The cookies vanished too fast, a full batch would have been better. Oh, well. When a pro speaks, you should listen. That’s what I keep trying to convey to our graduate students, but sometimes my shockingly wise words fall into deaf ears. Which explains 57% of my gray hair.
If a pro speaks, pay attention. If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.
(free advice given to you by your bewitching hostess)
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