I don’t think it was until I boxed up that first batch of treats to give to my neighbours that I baked from Sarah Kieffer’s latest book, 100 Cookies, that I realized what has been bothering me. Being a pandemic year notwithstanding, I missed being able to connect to people through food. When my daughter started school this year, I relished bringing treats for her teachers or baking for the morning coffee group, but when the lockdown happened all of this stopped. Not to mention, with our families living in other provinces, I wouldn’t be baking (or cooking) for my loved ones anytime soon. All of this to say that as I closed the lid on the box containing Cream Cheese Brownies, I felt the most like myself.
Cases here in Nova Scotia have been low, low enough that I’ve been able to bake into overload. As I would finish a batch of cookies or bars, I’d text my neighbour and (what seemed like) within moments her child was at my porch, ready to collect the treats I’d lovingly packaged for them. Can I just say (and I think my neighbour would be in total agreement with me) the resulting treats I baked from Kieffer’s book are spectacular! Each cookie or bar I made looked bakery-worthy and, in my experience, this type of result doesn’t happen without meticulous testing (and a good scale). Honestly, if you’re not weighing your ingredients with a scale, you won’t achieve as consistent results.
Kieffer’s newest book isn’t just cookies but a collection of cookies, novel treats, brownies, bars and other, as Kieffer said in a recent web conversation with Zoe Francois, “cookie adjacent” recipes such as no-churn ice cream and buttercream. The recipes are organized into 8 chapters: The Classics, Brownies + Blondies, Fruitextravaganza, The Next Level, Time to Play, Pan-Banging Cookies, Mix + Match, and Extras. As I’ve been sharing what I’ve made to my Instagram stories, I’ve had several questions from people wondering if there were gluten-free or vegan options given. There are not — this book is a celebration of flour, butter, and sugar. And, in my opinion, trying to add this level of testing to already well-tested recipes would have made this an entirely different book. To quote from Star Wars: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
Some of you may recognize the Pan-Banging cookie (what Kieffer now calls the “outer-edge ripple method”) that went viral from her last book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book (named for her Saveur award-winning blog, The Vanilla Bean Blog). The Pan-Banging technique, developed by Kieffer, is where after baking cookie dough for 8-9 minutes, the baker opens the oven and lifts the cookie sheet, then lets it go. As the sheet bangs down on the oven rack, the cookies spread out and begin to develop a beautifully rippled edge. This pan-banging goes another 2-3 rounds over the next 4-6 minutes resulting in a crispy, ruffled-edge cookie that has a chewy centre. Honestly, it’s the best of all possible worlds. And, with this cookbook she’s included 12
knockout bang-out different recipes for you to try. I chose the Toasted Sesame Cookies (following the option for adding in chopped chocolate) and the Snickerdoodles to try. I appreciate that she’s simplified the steps from her original recipe by not including directions to chill the dough first (although you can). Since I’m an instant gratification sort of baker, I like to get right to the baking part! Unlike many cookie recipes, the amount of dough you use is almost double what you would use in other recipes, so the resulting cookie is generously large in diameter (you’ll bake around a dozen cookies, 3-4 per pan just to give you an idea of their size).
Her recipes are fun too — one of the recipes that my daughter requested was the Neapolitan Cookies. For this recipe I had to order freeze-dried strawberries but the strawberry flavour it adds to the cookie is not to be missed! When I was younger, I adored Neapolitan ice cream with its equal parts of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. A triplex of flavours — I would carefully eat each flavor separately whereas my sister would mix all of them together. Nostalgia wins here and I was happy for the specialty ingredient and extra steps (you portion the dough, then carefully ball them together). There is the option to roll the cookies in sprinkles, which I did for some of them. The Neapolitan Cookies are one of the most satisfying sugar cookies I’ve had — which is to say that the other sugar cookie that I baked from the book — the Chocolate Sugar Cookie (w/ the double chocolate and cardamom variations) — ranks equally in my heart for sugar cookies.
Kieffer’s cookies are almost unparalleled and her bars are as wonderful and delicious. Recently, as we watched a kid’s cooking challenge on TV, I asked my daughter if she could choose what would she want to make. “Brownies!” was her answer, so I let her choose a recipe from 100 Cookies to try. She chose the Cream Cheese Brownies to make and, I was excited because cream cheese is the perfect savory ingredient to use in baking. It also ends up so beautifully marbled in the baking pan. This is a great recipe to make with a young baker because it lets them whisk and stir ingredients instead of using a hand- or stand mixer. This recipe uses the My Favourite Brownie recipe batter as a base for twirling and swirling the cream cheese filling.
Keeping with the marble vibes, I also wanted to make her Cinnamon Roll Blondies — using the Brown Butter Blondie batter as the base, Cream Cheese Filling along with a Cinnamon Sugar Swirl filling are swirled together to create another striking marble effect. Browning the butter for the blondies is an extra step but one that is worth the time to do. For those who’ve never browned butter, you melt butter in a saucepan and cook it until the milk solids in the butter begin to brown. Some people describe the scent as being “toasty” or “nutty” but each time I smell the goodness wafting from the pot, it always triggers images of shortbread cookies. So, imagine this flavour added to cookies or bars! How can that be bad? (for the record, it’s not, and once you’ve tried butter this way once, you’ll be putting it in/on everything!)
100 cookies is such a personal book — reading the carefully chosen quotes that start each chapter or the music guide Kieffer includes for anyone who wants music to bake to — I almost felt like Kieffer was baking along with us in the kitchen. This is such a tremendously good book — one that I’m glad to have on my cookbook shelf. I’m not the only one who feels this way about 100 Cookies. Last week I tuned in to listen to the conversation between Zoe Francois and Sarah Kieffer hosted by the well-know Seattle cookbook store, Book Larder. During their talk, Kieffer mentions how proud her father is of her books — to the point that he has extra copies of her book that he hands out to people. After spending time with 100 Cookies I completely understand those feelings. What this cookbook has given back to me over the past couple weeks is a sense of self that I had lost over these pandemic months and, a deliciously full cookie jar to my neighbours.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Chronicle Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
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