I'm sooo guilty of procrastination right now, it's not even funny. I hope you don't feel too used. I've got this one thing I have to do. And I just can't bring myself to do it.
It's not laundry. Though usually it is.
So instead, let's just think about cookies. What is there to think about? Making them.. eating them... eating them....
Actually maybe I do have something to say. It's about butter. And how important the temperature of the butter is to making a perfect cookie. It's so important, that my man Alton Brown has dedicated an entire episode of the best show ever (Good Eats) to the cause.
Cue the adorable monster's explanation of the importance of fat in P.1 at 4:17.
To continue watching the tutorial, follow this link. Highly recommended. Shockingly enough, you will find that for "chewy" cookies, the optimal fat is melted butter. Along with some other tweaks of course. Using bread flour allows the recipe to absorb the additional liquid (it contains more proteins than regular flour) and brown sugar for the molasses content will also aid in making a chewy cookie.
For most standard cookie recipes, butter should be just at or just below room temperature. If it's too warm or parts of it are melty, the cookies will spread very thin. If it's too cold, you can't cream it as easily and you could end up with cookies that don't spread at all.
This is what Betty Crocker has to say on the subject:
"Why use softened butter?Temperature is everything when working with butter. Cold, hard butter will not work as well for creaming ingredients. Neither will melted butter. When a recipe calls for softened butter, you want butter that is soft, yet slightly firm. Touch it lightly with your finger. It should leave a slight indentation."
It might seem obvious then, that it's important to not allow the butter to melt at all before the cookies enter the oven, but there is one mistake that I've made a few times and I know is pretty common. It's really important to use room temperature cookie sheets. This means don't leave them on top of the oven while it preheats. Don't put them on top of the oven while you spoon out your dough (guilty...). AND if you're going to reuse the sheet for a 2nd round of cookies, you can cool it first by rinsing the back side with cold water, then drying it off.
And this is why baking is so much fun! It's as close to science as I get nowadays. Well, I guess it really is science. The fun part. Not the physics formula memorizing part. Honestly if we had done more of this in high school, I might have dreaded science class a whole lot less. Someone should install ovens in high schools across the country. Bad idea? Maybe. Best idea ever? Definitely.
I hope you are as interested in butter temperature as I am. It's important to cookies, so it should be important to you!
And now, I'll finally get to the point and share a recipe for a delicious oatmeal cookie with decadent dark chocolate and chewy dried apricots. Butter just at room temperature is ideal here. The original recipe says that you could use quick oats, but I think it's important for the best texture to use old fashioned oats. I also used all butter for flavor. If you'd like to know more about why shortening would be used in a recipe this page weighs the pros and cons.
Dark Chocolate & Dried Apricot Oatmeal Cookies
Yield 3 dozen cookies (or a little less if you are as heavy handed as I am)
Adapted from Betty Crocker
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1 c butter, just below room temperature
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 c old-fashioned oats
1 c ap flour
1 c dried apricots, chopped
1/2 dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined (start on low speed and increase temperature to medium as things work together). Add baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder, salt and eggs. Mix together.
Add oats and flour and mix again, starting on low and gradually increasing. Add apricot pieces and chocolate chips and now mix on low until combined.
Spoon teaspoonful sized scoops onto an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between each. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until cookies are browning on the outside, but look slightly just under done in the center. Cool on the cookie sheet for ~3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.