If you’re someone who bakes a lot, or are the recipient of home baked goods, you’ll know what I mean when I say store-bought cookies just don’t cut it any more. No matter how nice the brand is, nothing compares to fresh cookies right out of the oven. Which is always a problem when cookie-craving-hour unexpectedly strikes. You know buying cookies for the moment is just going to lead to disappointment, but baking an entire batch of cookies seems like so much effort. If you manage to conjure up the energy, then you have to work out what to do with the rest once the craving is satiated. If you live in a full household baking an entire batch of cookies mightn’t be an issue. But if, like me, your household is tiny, you’re left with more cookies than anyone has the stomach for. It’s often not long before I decide the effort is just too much and wallow in cookie-craving-self-pity instead.
Lately I’ve spent so much time making fancy stuff that it had been months since having anything simple, like cookies. Increasingly so, a little voice kept popping into my head going, “Ooh, cookies. Must have cookies.” It was always defeated by the effort involved when I just wanted one or two. Eventually I decided I needed a solution to the dilemma and dedicated an afternoon to what I call Emergency Cookies at home.
“What are emergency cookies?” you might ask. They’re pre-prepared packages of cookie dough that can be stored long-term and baked on an as-needed basis. Any time someone in the household gets hit by the cookie cravings, I can throw as many cookies as required in the oven with minimal effort required. The best part is the amount of variety you can get out of one or two batches of dough: definitely everyone’s favourite part of emergency cookies.
There’s lots of different doughs that are suitable for emergency cookies. One of my favourites are log cookies. Their shape makes them really easy to find freezer space for, and you can simply cut off as many cookies as you need.
This recipe is one of my favourites. The dough is made with icing sugar, which makes the resultant cookie really short and buttery — very similar to shortbread.
It begins with creaming the butter and sugar, then folding in the flours until you end up with a giant batch of dough. This recipe yields a lot of cookies normally, but I doubled it for even more emergency cookie fun.
Once you have the plain dough, this is where the fun really starts. Now you get to invent all the flavour combinations. I usually start by raiding the pantry and seeing what odds and ends I have. The dough is really forgiving so you can add most anything. You do need to be careful to not make the dough too moist or too dry, but otherwise you can throw in anything: citrus, cocoa, booze, fruit, spices… anything that compliments a sweet cookie.
The first choice is obvious: chocolate chip cookies. No batch of emergency cookies is complete without adding chocolate chips.
I had caramel choc chips on hand, so I began with those. The choc chip portion is the easiest and only involves kneading a handful of chips into the dough. You don’t want to go too overboard with the chips for this recipe, as they can get in the way when slicing the dough later.
Once it’s complete you’ll roll it into a long log shape, as wide as you want your resultant cookies to be.
For the citrus flavour you have a number of options. You can use the rind and/or juice of an orange. I didn’t have any fresh oranges on hand so I used a flavouring essence.
I could have kneaded in the poppy seeds as well, but I went for something a little less conventional. If you want to border your cookies in any seeds, sprinkles or other decorations, simply place a heap of them on baking paper and roll the dough sausage in it until it’s well covered. Wrap it up and set it aside.
The third cookies I called cherry ripe flavoured: chocolate, cherry and coconut. I knew I wanted one of the batches to be chocolate, and once I found some glacé cherries in the cupboard the rest followed suit.
To make any of the batches chocolate, simply knead in a little cocoa at a time until the dough is as dark as you like. Try not to do too much at once because the cocoa does love to go flying if it gets a little puff of air during kneading.
To make the kneading process easier, and to avoid drying out the dough, you can mix it with a little milk first to form a thick paste. But because I was adding glace cherries, which pack a lot of moisture, I didn’t have to worry about it.
Last of all I went for another citrus flavour: lemon and cranberry. I has some dried cranberries left over from a chicken stuffing I made, and lemon just felt like the right accompaniment.
I used lemon flavouring essence again for this, then kneading in the chopped up cranberries.
Once your doughs are all wrapped up, place them on a tray or flat surface in your fridge, and chill for at least an hour.
The dough needs to be firm enough to slice without buckling.
When it’s cold enough, slice off as many cookies worth of dough as you want and place them on a baking tray.
20 minutes later you’ll have a batch of cookies that are as rich in variety as they are in freshness and flavour. I used about 1/8 of each log and got 28 cookies, so you can expect to get about 100 cookies out of the total batch of dough. To store the logs you can wrap them in foil and/or place them in an air tight container to keep them safe from freezer smells.
But the emergency baking doesn’t stop there. Because, there’s another favourite recipes of ours that I love to have on hand. These chocolate chip cookies are so light and fluffy, and when they’re fresh out of the oven with all their oozy melted chocolate chips no one can say no.
Storing cookies this way will work for any dough made using the creaming method. That is, one where you beat the butter and sugar together first, then add in the rest. You need a firm dough, so any cake-batter-like cookies (e.g. madeleines) won’t freeze well.
Again, because I need variety in my life, I divided this dough up again. This time in half. To one half I added cocoa and white chocolate chips, the other I left plain vanilla and added dark chocolate chips.
I roll tablespoons of dough into balls, place them on a tray and flatten slightly. This cookie recipe doesn’t necessitate refrigerating first, but I prefer to. I let them chill for about half an hour, then I bake as many as we want straight away. The rest I put in an airtight container and pop in the freezer for next time. You definitely need to chill the dough completely before transferring them into the container, as this stops them from sticking to one another. It then becomes as simple as taking out individual potions any time you want a few cookies. Though, once you taste these cookies you may be immediately digging in for more.
They’re one of our favourite chocolate chip cookies recipes ever, partially owing to the coconut in them, but mostly to how light and cake-ey they are.
Any butter-based cookie dough, like these, will store really well in the freezer. Most will last in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for 6 months to a year (if you somehow make it stretch that long). For accurate baking times, it’s best to let the frozen dough defrost in the fridge. But these are emergency cookies, and no one has time for that, right? You can bake these straight from the freezer, though you will need to adjust baking times. The chocolate chip cookies, for example, cook perfectly after exactly 15 minutes straight from the fridge, but took 17 minutes from the freezer (15 minutes left the inside a bit too moist, whereas 20 minutes made the inside a bit too dry).
You can also freeze cut out cookies, which I haven’t baked lately so I don’t have any examples. To store them in the freezer for one-by-one bakeability, you’ll want to roll it out and cut them into shapes as you usually do. Refrigerate them as we did with the chocolate chip cookies, then freeze them. If your dough is still sticky after being in the fridge, put a layer of baking paper between the cookies before freezing to ensure they don’t stick.
|Log Cookie Blank Canvas Recipes
|500g (17.6oz) unsalted butter, room temperature400g (14.1oz) icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
600g (21.2oz) plain flour
150g (5.3oz) rice flour
100g (3.5oz) cornflour (corn starch)
4 tbsp milk
NB: This recipe is enough to make around 100 cookies. For a smaller recipe, this recipe can be freely halved, quartered as needed
* flavourings I used:
Chocolate chip: Knead in about 50g (1.8oz) of chocolate chips into the plain dough
Orange and poppy seed: Knead in 1tsp of either orange flavouring essence or finely grated orange rind. You can knead in 3 tbsp of poppy seeds, or roll the dough long in them as shown above
Cherry Ripe: Knead in enough cocoa to make the dough a rich chocolate colour. I used around 1/3 of a cup. Knead in 100g (3.5oz) of chopped glacé cherries and about 1/3 cup of desiccated coconut
Lemon and cranberry: Knead in 1tsp of either lemon flavouring essence or finely grated lemon rind, then knead in 100g (3.5oz) of chopped dried cranberries.
|Chocolate Chip Cookies
|250g (8.8oz) unsalted butter, room temperature220g (7.7oz/1 cup) caster sugar
85g (2.8oz/1 cup) desiccated coconut
450g (15.9oz/3 cups) self-raising flour
2 tbsp dutch processed cocoa
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips