When I was approached about participating in an opportunity to share a baking fantasy my first thought was simple. I fantasize that my cookies will not go flat; seriously that’s my ultimate baking goal. It is the lament of many bakers in this neck of the woods…or rather this giraffe’s neck of the woods. We are up in the air and that Mile High business can wreck havoc on baked goods. I could be the star player at cakewrecks.com with all of my years of issues but time and experience have taught me a couple of things. First. Don’t stop baking. Second. Roll with the punches. Third. Enjoy it no matter what. Sometimes easier said than done; all I want is a cookie that doesn’t look like someone let the air out of it’s tires…is that too much to ask?
Yes, probably so. The real truth is I can eventually get it right but the variants are many and my biggest accomplishment is to know how to fix’em, not how to fold’em. Still, I wanted a cookie that stood up. That didn’t look like Mike Tyson had pummeled it into the ground. With that in mind I was ever so careful with this treasure and even made them two ways. First I did my typical; taking a divot out of the baking powder with my pinkie; our baked goods typically rise too fast in the thinner air and they do not set fast enough…which results in that falling business during the second half of their bake. Cutting back on leavening can help but with cookies it’s not always a given that this method will be best; they are tricky little buggars. My second go round I use a simple method suggested to me by a local professional baker and that is to raise the oven temp by 10 degrees. This step doesn’t affect the rise but helps to cook the dough quicker; hoping to offset the ultimate fail, i.e. a flat cookie.
Which worked better? The difference was slight so I hesitate to declare a winner but if pushed I would have to opt for the higher temperature method. Of course opting to cover them with some decadent penuche (fudge made with brown sugar and no chocolate) and then drizzle them with chocolate is one disguise a high altitude girl could learn to love…who cares if they’re flat?!! By the way? My recipes are always published with ‘flatlanders’ in mind; I make adjustments from them from my kitchen in the sky!
I would be remiss if I left you thinking that my fantasies are just limited to scientific experiment. While not wanting to create a kitchen sink cookie (no Oreo center or salted anything and not even any booze!) I did want to try something that brought together several elements I’ve learned over the years that I love. Browned butter. OMG yes. Diamond Pecans that are toasted. How did I EVER enjoy them without that step? A Penuche AND Chocolate garnish? That too. OK, it might have seemed a bit kitchen sinkish but let me tell you…I loved, loved, LOVED them. Yes, a bit decadent, but they held their shape and their promise of goodness and delivered on my fantasy. Now if I can only remember exactly what I did to make them work for me here each and every time! Ah…the beauty of altitude…it really takes an attitude!
These turned out just perfectly and tasted like the divine decadence I was hoping for…I know what I’m making for friends and family for holiday treats!
Toasted Pecan and Penuche Cookies with Dark Chocolate
- 1/2 cup butter, browned (see Preparation steps below)
- 1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/4 cups chopped pecans, toasted
For Penuche (Caramel)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
For Chocolate Sauce
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 Tbsp butter
To Brown Butter:
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; whisking constantly until the solids start to brown.
- Watch carefully and remove from heat once the solids have turned a nice warm brown. Be careful; burned is not what you want!
- Refrigerate the butter until it firms up to a soft butter stage.
To Make the Cookies:
- In a large bowl, cream the browned butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat in thoroughly.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add gradually to the creamed mixture and mix well.
- Add the chopped pecans and mix until well incorporated.
- Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place at least 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass.
- Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and remove with a spatula to sheets of waxed paper on a separate cookie sheet.
To Drizzle with Penuche:
- Bring brown sugar and cream to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from the heat and whisk in confectioners' sugar, stirring until smooth.
- Using a fork, drizzle while warm over cookies; if mixture starts to firm up; return to heat and warm before continuing.
To Drizzle with Dark Chocolate:
- Combine chocolate and butter in a small pan over low heat. Melt chocolate and butter and whisk until smooth. Drizzle
- over cookies using a fork. Refrigerate briefly to firm up drizzled caramel and chocolate.
- Remove from waxed paper and store in an airtight container.