Pinkies Up!

Citrus Cooler Cookies

Citrus Cooler Cookies

Here’s a debate that has gone on for many years: Curly or Shemp? I speak of course of “The Three Stooges.” Some folks insist that they were never the same after Curly’s early demise. Others, like me, guffaw at the antics of both gentlemen.

Interestingly enough, “The Three Stooges” were responsible for some of the funniest food-related moments on screen. Yes, there was their famous pie throwing, but you can’t watch them cooking a turkey or inflating a fallen cake with gas without laughing out loud. Well, I can’t. When I have an extended wait for dinner, the quote, “Sorry folks, dinner’s postponed on account of rain” rings in my ears. I won’t go into detail about the latter, but trust me the Stooges were responsible for the delay.

The “Curly versus Shemp” debate is really one of style. It is really a lot like cookies. (Really? Yes, really.) Some years back when fresh-baked cookies became a specialty business, there were two major players: Mrs. Field’s and Famous Amos. Both sold chocolate chip cookies, but for all intents and purposes that’s all they had in common.

Mrs. Field’s Cookies were big, squishy, soft cookies. To me they always tasted like you needed to take them home and finish baking them. I found them a bit heavy and about as subtle as a sledgehammer. (Yes, you read that correctly, I was expecting subtlety in a chocolate chip cookie.)

Famous Amos Cookies were sold straight from the oven at Bloomingdales’. They were small, crunchy, slightly over-baked, and their heavy brown sugar infusion gave them an irresistible aroma as they baked. Those were my cup of tea.

Naturally I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion of cookies, even though I am right. But just like anything else, when you bake or cook you are bound to have a style. If there is a hallmark of my style, then thin, crunchy cookies would be it. Again, I admit this isn’t for everyone.

I’d venture to say that the principal reason why people enjoy soft baked cookies is “mouth feel.” They like that smooth, smooshy, mouth-coating blob. Hey, I get it. That’s how I like my ice cream: just north of melted.

A fact perhaps unacknowledged is that baking thin and crunchy cookies requires a bit of extra work. Drop cookies, i.e., those that you drop from a spoon onto a cookie sheet before baking are easy, yes, but tend to be cakey or chewy. To bake a thin cookie requires rolling and cutting, which requires a bit of patience, and a bit of practice, or a few simple changes in ingredients, or both.

Yes, you can slice and bake thin cookies from a log, but you are limited to some basic shapes, the cookies’ uniformity is tied to the sharpness of your knife, and there’s no guarantee that the cookies will be crispy.

Earth shattering problems, eh? But they’ve been on my mind of late because my friend, the artist Laura Loving, recently paid me a huge compliment: she asked me to make some cookies for an upcoming Bastille Day party. She even designated which shapes she wanted, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty. These icons, especially Lady Liberty, appear frequently in her work, and I had baked some cookies in those shapes for a previous party.

The previous party was held during the cold weeks that led up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The flavor of the cookies was dictated by the time of year and veered heavily toward spices and ginger. For Bastille Day, July 14th, a more summery touch seems called for. My little Eiffel Towers were and will remain chocolate, but the Lady Liberty cookies will celebrate summer with a twist of citrus. I had baked a Martha Stewart Lime Cookie recipe some years ago, and decided to adapt it slightly for Lady Liberty.

No drastic change here. I simply added lemon and extra vanilla to the recipe to give these tart cookies a slightly “rounder” flavor.

Here’s the other question: How thin is thin? I usually roll cookies to 1/8 inch, which makes them fairly delicate. It took some practice to learn how to handle dough that is that thin, and I have developed a recipe or two that seems to help. The Martha Stewart Lime Cookie recipe doesn’t really lend itself to being rolled that thin, but I think with a bit of patience all will be well.

In the meantime, you can see from the picture above that I have already had a practice run. Instead of Lady Liberty cookies I made little flowers. Very delicate. Very “afternoon tea.”

The real keys to this recipe are an abundance of lime and lemon zest, and mixing the zest with the sugar, which, like sand, acts as an abrasive to extract the citrus oils. Each cookie has a very juicy taste, yet they remain light and delicate.

So, pinkies up! As Moe said to Curly, “Hey! Where’s your Emily Post?” (Woo woo woo…)

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Click here for my recipe for Citrus Cooler Cookies

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For details about Laura Loving’s Bastille Day open studio, check out the July Promotions Calendar at Vogue Magazine’s website.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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