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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Editor's Advice on Creating the Perfect Cookie (or Cookie Table)

Or, the Pittsburgh Cookie Table—Christmas Style, part 4

Today's gift to you is a delightful forest to wander in—Brooklyn Arden. It's a forest of words--the blog of Cheryl Klein, an editor at Arthur A. Levine Books.
Here's one of her newest books. Are there cookies on that cover? Everywhere Klein works, I spy cookies. I suspect she's almost as obsessed about cookies as I am.
Consider, as evidence, these two selections from Klein's writings.
Words, Wisdom, Art & Heart: Making A Picture-Book Cookie is a talk Klein gave at a 2007 Los Angeles SCBWI Speakers' Day. Read it at http://www.cherylklein.com/cookie.html
I do hope Klein's Picture-Book Cookie recipe will be included in her forthcoming book Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children or Young Adults. Alas, this book is still pre-published, so I can't give (or receive) a copy this year. But I'll announce it on this blog as soon as it's out of the oven.
Klein's an essayist as well as an editor. Her light take on how to design/select sweets gave me lots of . . . food for thought. Two years later, Klein's Hypothesis of Sweets still makes delectable reading: http://chavelaque.blogspot.com/2009/01/hypothesis-of-sweets.html.
Brooklyn Arden is found at http://chavelaque.blogspot.com; we offer a quick link at right. But before you leave Route 19, take a look at this recipe.

It follows Klein's hypothesis that the ideal sweet combines two (but no more than two) sweet tastes. In this case, the flaky pastry wrapper is the dry crisp, while the fudge filling is the creamy.
The first version of this recipe I ever made appeared in a 1980 Ladies Home Journal, under the name Auntie Mary's. I loved their unusual shape and their fudginess. But the pastry was a misery to handle. This version, found a few years back in a Taste of Home magazine collection, makes a dough that is still tender and flaky, but rolls and shapes easily. So that's the recipe I'm presenting here.

The recipe is officially named

But my family still calls them
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • Confectioners' sugar, optional
[In my view, the confectioners' sugar is essential.]
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add the flour. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide dough into [equal] fourths [I use a kitchen scale and shape the dough portions into rectangular patties]; cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until easy to handle.
In a heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips in milk. Stir in walnuts. Cool to room temperature.
On an ungreased baking sheet, roll out each portion of dough into an 11-inch x 6 ½ -inch rectangle. [I make a template on a piece of parchment, and roll on that.] Spread ¾ cup chocolate filling down the center of each rectangle. Fold long sides to the center; press to seal all edges. [Remove the parchment template.] Turn over so the seam sides are down.
Bake at 350 for 27-32 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. [Sift a generous amount of confectioners' sugar over them at this point.] Cut [while still a bit warm] into ½-inch slices. Makes about 3 dozen.

LIFE'S LESSONS LEARNED: Recipes often call for softened butter. But softened doesn't mean melted. Your butter is ready as soon as you can dent it with a gentle push of your finger. If your finger sinks all the way in, or if part of the butter is liquefied, the butter will not yield perfect results. Use it for a melted-butter recipe instead.

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