November 26, 2002
Spice Cookies, Mark II
posted by Carl

Prompted by a comment, I did some research and discovered some tips to making cookies that don't spread out so much in the oven. Armed with this information (and a new recipe from the Cook's Illustrated cookbook), I tried again to make molasses spice cookies the way I wanted them. As per the recommendations in the link, I swapped the butter for crisco, refrigerated the dough before baking, and started each batch of cookies on a cold baking sheet. The new recipe also made a difference: while the first recipe has you melt the butter into the molasses and then add sugar, this one has you cream the shortening and sugar as you would in a standard cookie recipe.

But all of these technical details are irrelevant if they don't produce the cookie that I want. The cookies from this batch did achieve greater loft in the oven and didn't spread out so much. When they were finished, the outsides were light and airy with a network of cracks that revealed the dense, chewy middles. Immediately after baking, they were delicious (of course) and the perfect texture. The next morning, they had hardened considerably and I became discouraged. However, after sitting in a closed container for a few days, they had softened up significantly and were even better than the day after.

I'm still not completely satisfied though. While I was intrigued by the fluffy and airy exterior, I would have preferred something more dense overall. I did manage to make them flatten out less, but I'm not sure how well they would work if I tried to make them bigger. Perhaps I'm striving for an unattainable goal. My meter stick so far has been my recollection of the molasses spice cookies at Starbucks and I haven't actually eaten one of those in about six years. For all I know they could actually be quite different from what I've had in mind. I do know that giant, dense cookies are possible. There's a store in Providence, RI called Meeting St. Cafe that bakes these giant (six inches across, one inch high) chocolate chip cookies that are absolutely delicious. If anyone reading this is near Providence, I implore you to go get some, just make sure to get them straight from the oven.

Crispy fish with Herbed Butter and Balsamic Glaze
posted by Nadia

Sea trout looked good at the market again. We had very little energy today and decided to play it simple -- Carl pan-fried the sea trout (salt, pepper, butter) and made some rice pilaf. When the fish was done, we topped it with some leftover herbed butter I had used for garlic bread-style bruschetta a few nights ago, as well as some incredibly wonderful balsamic that I got while visiting my dad (he lives dangerously close to Dean and Deluca). The herbs, the fresh fish, the sweetness of the balsamic glaze -- it was simple and delicious.