Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's in this cookie?

I don't know if you're like me or not, but I love to take fun treats to take with me when I go places--like to a dentist appointment or a church meeting. It's always nice to surprise a group of people with an unexpected goodie! And nothing brings a smile to some one's face quicker than a plate of cookies. Brownies? Sometimes. Chocolate? Oh baby! But still, there is something about a plate of cookies that warms the heart, fills the belly, and feeds the soul.

Several years ago a friend of mine shared some cookies with me that I had never enjoyed the likes of before. I loved them, but couldn't pinpoint the flavor. I finally had to ask, "What is in this cookie?" When she told me the special ingredient, I recognized it right away and kicked myself for not realizing it sooner. Since that day, I've made this cookie recipe countless times. (It was one of the first things I taught in a cooking class!) When I wanted to take a couple containers of treats to a church meeting a couple weeks ago, this cookies seemed a perfect choice. As I watched those at the meeting munch and smile and munch and smile, I was a happy gal. But, as it always happens with this recipe, I didn't leave that night without someone saying to me, "What's in this cookie?"

(Once again, please pardon the odd blue tint that comes from the so called "natural sunlight" bulbs in my kitchen.)

This recipe came from my friend Cheryl who got it directly from the cafeteria at the Jordan River Temple. She and her husband always enjoyed the cookie there, so she asked for the recipe. What is the secret ingredient in this ever-popular goodie you may be asking? The secret, my friends, is ROOT BEER!'re not talking a can of soda here. We are talking extract or concentrate. You know, the stuff that's on sale at your local grocery store during the summer because everyone is making homemade root beer!

In all the times I've made this recipe, I've always used root beer concentrate from the grocery store. I'd heard of root beer extract, but I'd never seen it. Never, that is, until I entered kitchen heaven a few months ago. (If you live in the Salt Lake area, or anywhere within driving distance, I suggest you get in your car and drive there immediately.) I decided to buy the extract and give it a try. The cost was more than the concentrate, but I bought it hoping the flavor would be stronger than the concentrate and worth the extra dollars.

It wasn't...on either account. The flavor level was exactly the same. Want my advice? Don't pay the extra for the extract. Just stock up on the concentrate during the summer when it's on sale and you'll be fine. (As a side note, contrary to popular belief there is no cocoa in this recipe. The color comes from the concentrate.)

Let's take a look at the recipe and we'll chat about it on the flip side.

Root Beer Cookies (makes 6 dozen)
1 c butter
2 c brown sugar
1 c buttermilk (I always use powdered)
2 1/2 (3) t root beer extract or concentrate
2 eggs
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
4 c flour (you may need more)
1/3-1/2 c butter
3 c powdered sugar
3 T water
2 1/2 (4) t root beer extract or concentrate
Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk, extract, and eggs. Mix. Add the salt, baking soda, and flour. Mix well. If the dough is sticky, add more flour. Drop by rounded tablespoons on to a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. For frosting, mix all ingredients together until you get the consistency you want. Frost cookies when they are cool.

OK, now that you know what's in the recipe, let's talk about a few things.

First, the flour. You will, most likely, have to add extra. I've added up to 3/4 c. extra before. The dough should not be overly sticky. If you find your in the sticky zone, add extra bit by bit until you get a texture that is a lot like what you'd get with a basic drop/chocolate chip type dough.

The cookies should bake up puffy and soft. Try baking one or two alone. If they don't puff up, consider adding a bit more flour.

Second, the buttermilk. Basically, DO NOT leave it out and DO NOT try to substitute regular milk. I have accidentally done the former and the cookies were flat as pancakes. My sister tried the latter and the cookies were a miserable failure. I always cook with powdered buttermilk simply from a money-saving consumer aspect. It works great in this recipe. Whether you use fresh or powdered, it doesn't matter. Just use it!

Third, the concentrate. I've given you the amount called for in the original recipe and my own personal preference in parenthesis. I find that the lesser amounts of concentrate are just not enough. I want to be able to taste the root beer. I don't need to feel like I'm guzzling a cold frosty mug of it, but I want to taste the flavor of it. I suggest tasting the frosting before you top the cookies and making sure you're comfortable with the flavor level. Start small so you can add more if you're not happy. But, I'd be surprised if you didn't end up at the higher amount. I don't ever taste the dough. I'd just add the extra to the batter.

Speaking of batter, that leads us to number four. The actual cookie in and of itself is surprisingly low on flavor. (This is why I do not hesitate to add the extra concentrate to the batter.) The frosting really makes this cookie so DO NOT LEAVE IT OFF. My sister tried that too and won't do it again.

How about one more glance at this tasty treat!

Isn't it pretty! This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so it's great for sharing at work, church, or just brightening the day of your friends and neighbors. Make a batch. Eat some and then pass some around. And don't worry, it won't be long until you'll be hearing that ever popular inquiry, "What's in this cookie?"!

P.S. Is it just me or did you also not reazlize "root beer" is two words not one? Thank you spell check!