There are deep philosophical questions, like the title of this post, to be found throughout all aspects of cooking and baking. Is a Boston cream pie really a pie, or is it a cake? Is a hot dog a sandwich (yes - this is a real debate)? Do you fold your pizza or eat it with a knife and fork (ugh)? They may appear to be completely innocuous and unimportant points of discussion, and in the larger scope of the 21st Century they may be. But for right now this is the kind of surface level debate that distracts me from the 24-hour news cycle, and if I can't distract myself from stress with food than why do I eat?!
In an effort to harness some creative energy and introduce a regular level of mindfulness into my life on a more regular basis, I've joined an online baking club. One of my favorite food sites, Food52, has begun a Facebook baking group called the Food52 Baking Club that focuses on a different cookbook each month. Members pick recipes throughout the month from this book, dive in, and share the results and feedback on social media. It combines my love of being in the kitchen, eating, and photography. Listen - I had to turn in my official "man card" long before this moment, so I will bake as many cookies as I want and then post pictures of them all over the Internet without concern of judgement. And if you are in my physical vicinity at all during the week, you'll probably benefit too. I know that they don't make team jerseys for baking, but there are some pretty righteous aprons.
The first "cookies" I made from April's cookbook, Dorie's Cookies, were Smoky, Cheesy Cookies. Simple enough, right? I could have jumped in with something more traditional, a chocolate chip or peanut butter (those were next), but why do the same-old when you can try something different? And these are definitely different. They are indeed cheesy AND smoky. Smoked Gouda is one of my favorite cheeses, so I was all in as soon as I read about these. I've always been more of a free-form cookie guy, so building a dough that needs to be refrigerated and then cut out was new for me.
The possibilities for shapes and sizes are endless, and I really liked the subtle cheesiness of the end product. The only way I can think to describe them are like the love child of Cheez-Its and shortbread. Feel free to play around with other flavor profiles, as well. They're like a blank canvas and I am thinking of trying versions with garlic, bacon chive, and herbs de Provence. Over here they found themselves crumbled into tomato soup, but you do whatever speaks to you. Try them out, and let me know what you think. Or join the baking club, and tell all 4600+ members if they should try them out!
Dorie Greenspan's Smoky, cheesy cookies
Barely adapted from Dorie's Cookies
These savory little bites are pretty simple to bring together and work as a delicious, buttery component for both sweet and savory applications. Enjoy them with cream cheese and pepper jelly, slices of cheddar, or even by themselves. The possibilities are endless.
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into approx. 20 pieces
- 4 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded
- 2 ounces sharp cheddar, shreddeded
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- Put the cold butter, Gouda, cheddar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms small curds. Add the flour and pulse again, in long pulses, until the dough is moist and forms larger, popcorn-like curds.
- Turn the dough out a non-stick surface (parchment paper or a silicone baking mat), and knead it gently just until you can shape it into a ball. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a disk.
- Working with one disk at a time, place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll to a thickness of 1/4 - 1/2 inch (this will affect your total cookie output). Slide the dough onto a baking sheet - you can stack the slabs between parchment - and freeze for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Have a 1½-inch-diameter cookie cutter on hand (Of course, other sizes and shapes will work, but cooking time may be affected).
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, peel away the top and bottom papers and return the dough to one piece of paper. Cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined baking sheet an inch apart. Gather the scraps, combine them with the scraps you get from the second disk, re-roll, freeze, and bake.
- Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 9 minutes, or until they’re lightly golden on top and more golden on bottom. The cookies will puff up in the oven. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a rack and cool completely.
- Repeat with the remaining dough, using a cool baking sheet.
*Makes approximately 30-45 cookies (depending on the size of your cutter)
Storing: The rolled-out dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, cut and baked directly from the freezer. The baked cookies can be kept in a covered container for about 4 days at room temperature or, wrapped airtight, for up to 2 months in the freezer. I baked the cookies and froze them so it is super easy if someone drops in to pull them out of the freezer ready to go.