Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sugar Cookies from Blue Duck Tavern

I have told you already that my family doesn't really do sugar cookies. I don't really do sugar cookies. I've always been prejudiced against them because they seemed so... simple, so one-dimensional. I wasn’t going to waste my time making them when I could make cobblers or lemon bars or tarts. And the idea of going out to a nice restaurant and ordering sugar cookies? Absolutely absurd. Why would anyone do such a thing?

Well now, I would like to issue my sincere apologies. I am sorry, sugar cookie. I underestimated you.

After the deliciousness that was Blue Duck Tavern, I decided that for the better part of two decades, I was wrong about the sugar cookie. It was time to give the poor thing a chance. I didn’t want to just try my hand at any old sugar cookie recipe though; I wanted Blue Duck Tavern’s recipe. Luckily enough, I am not the first to have been smitten by those darlings, so with just a little bit of research, I found the recipe online.

Of course, being me, I couldn’t follow it. I wanted to, I tried to, but old habits die hard, and I’m just one of those people who can’t follow a recipe even if their life depended on it. I can’t even follow my own recipes. I can never make the exact same thing twice. Perhaps the problem is that I really never use measuring spoons. And I enjoy substituting things with whatever I have on hand.

As such, I replaced the unsalted butter in the original recipe with salted butter. I always use salted butter when baking. I think it provides more depth of flavor and helps balance the sweetness of a dessert. I also noticed that the original recipe called for 1 1/3 cups sifted flour. Feeling a little lazy, I decided to cut down the things I would need to wash afterwards by not sifting the flour. Instead, I used my normal measuring method, which means I used my measuring scoop to “fluff” the flour first (this can also be accomplished with a fork or spoon), and then I gently scooped up the flour I needed and I leveled it off by shaking side-to-side. This method works 99% of the time when baking. In this case though, I probably should have paid heed to the fact that recipe specifically asked for sifted flour. In the future, since I am still too lazy to sift my flour, I will edit the recipe to 1 ¼ cups flour, not sifted. Lastly, I also used vanilla sugar in place of vanilla extract. I did this because 1) I had no vanilla extract on hand and 2) the vanilla sugar I have is excellent.

We buy this in France and it is deeply scented with vanilla, not like the timid vanilla sugars that you get from at-home experiments. I use it most of the time when I am baking and things require vanilla, since I like the flavor it imparts more than the flavor you get from vanilla extract.

Ultimately, the cookies were not the same as the ones we had at Blue Duck Tavern, but this was to be expected. I think the next time I try this recipe, I use a decreased amount of flour (look above) and then refrigerate the dough overnight to allow the flavors to deepen and meld, and for the moisture of the egg to really set in.

The final cookie was a little sandy and crumbly, like shortbread cookies. I attribute this to the fact that I may have added a little too much flour. I think next time I will use a scale to measure how much flour I use so I can scale up or down more precisely. The taste of the cookies was good though. Obviously, not restaurant level, but good enough for me to save this recipe for future experiments. I will report back when I redo this recipe and tell you if it's improved.

Sugar Cookies
adapted from Blue Duck Tavern’s recipe

1 1⁄3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1⁄3 teaspoon baking powder
1½ sticks (6 ounces) salted butter
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
7.5 grams vanilla sugar (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
1 egg

For rolling: 2 tbsp white sugar + 1 tbsp demerra sugar (if you have it on hand)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter with 2 tablespoons white sugar and the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat in the egg. Mix in the dry ingredients.

Place the 2 tbsp white sugar and 1 tbsp demerra sugar in a clean bowl. Using a small ice-cream scoop, shape little balls of cookie dough and roll each in the sugar. Bake 11-12 minutes on the top rack, until the cookies are just browning at the edges. Remove from the pan and cool. Transfer to an airtight container, or your belly.

These cookies will keep about 4-5 days at room temperature in an air tight container.

Yield: approximately three dozen small cookies

The cookies, rolled in sugar, before going into the oven

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