Features: Sweet City: Our Favorite Cookie

To find our favorite cookie, we asked more than 350 pastry chefs and bakers to send us samples of their favorites. We were in search of an impressive but easy recipe, one we would make at home. We tasted dozens and dozens of cookies before proclaiming a winner: the Ritz-Carlton’s flawless cranberry wreaths. We couldn’t get enough of executive pastry chef Tomas Ruiz’s chewy blend of vanilla and brown sugar, mixed with white chocolate chunks and just a hint of dried cranberry.

To find our favorite cookie, we asked more than 350 pastry chefs and bakers to send us samples of their favorites. We were in search of an impressive but easy recipe, one we would make at home. We tasted dozens and dozens of cookies before proclaiming a winner: the Ritz-Carlton’s flawless cranberry wreaths. We couldn’t get enough of executive pastry chef Tomas Ruiz’s chewy blend of vanilla and brown sugar, mixed with white chocolate chunks and just a hint of dried cranberry.

Cranberry Wreaths
Submitted by executive pastry chef Tomas Ruiz, the Ritz-Carlton.

Makes four dozen.

    2    c. cake flour
    1    c. bread flour
    1    tsp. salt
    1    tsp. baking soda
    2 1/2    c. unsalted butter, chilled
    3    large eggs
    2    Tbsp. acacia honey
    1    stick Tahitian vanilla
        (Cut stick in half and scrape
        the inside with a knife  to release vanilla)
    3    c. light muscovado sugar, plus more for sprinkling
    2    c. white chocolate chips
    1    c. sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 360˚. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift all dry ingredients except sugar and set aside. Cream together butter, eggs, honey and vanilla in a mixer on medium speed. With mixer still on medium, add sugar. Then, with mixer on low, add sifted dry ingredients half a cup at a time and mix until dough is of uniform consistency. Fold in white chocolate chips and cranberries, mixing gently.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets. Using your palm, flatten dough into three-inch circles. Use a one-inch circle cookie cutter to cut out center of each cookie to form wreath shape. Sprinkle the tops with muscovado sugar.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Using spatula, transfer to wire racks for cooling.

Note: It was the somewhat pricey, high-quality ingredients, especially the muscovado sugar, that made us love this cookie; buy them at Assouline & Ting (215-627-3000) and Foster’s Gourmet Cookware (215-925-0950). Or substitute light brown sugar for the light muscovado sugar, three cups all-purpose flour for two cups cake and one cup bread flour, and a vanilla bean for the stick of Tahitian vanilla.
Of course, we couldn’t pick just one! For our delicious runners-up, see the recipes on page 171.

More Great Cookies

These recipes — both classic and unusual — were crowd-pleasers in our cookie competition.

First Runner-Up

Ginger Cookies
Submitted by Alison Barshak and Eileen Talanian, Alison at Blue Bell.

A beautiful, simple cookie that slowly reveals its depth of ginger and cloves in every moist, chewy bite.
   
    Makes four dozen.

    1    c. unsalted butter, at cool
        room temperature
    2    c. granulated sugar
    2    tsp. ginger root, finely chopped
    2    Tbsp. ground ginger
    1    Tbsp. crystallized ginger,
        finely chopped
    1    Tbsp. ground cinnamon
    1    tsp. ground cloves
    4    tsp. baking soda
    1/2    tsp. salt
    2    large eggs
    1/2    c. light, unsulfured molasses
    2 3/4    c. all-purpose unbleached flour
    1 3/4    c. whole wheat flour
    1    c. dark or golden raisins (optional)
     2    tsp. crystallized ginger, chopped,
        for garnish

Preheat a conventional oven to 325˚ or a convection oven to 310˚. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place everything except the flour, raisins and ginger for garnish in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed for two minutes. Scrape the bowl, and add the flour and the raisins (if you’re using them). Beat on low speed just until the flour is mixed in. If you’re using a hand mixer, blend in half the flour with the mixer and the rest with a wooden spoon.

Portion the dough into slightly mounded two-tablespoon balls. (You can use a slightly mounded #40 dough scoop for this.) Place the dough balls two inches apart on the lined baking sheets, and garnish the centers with a few small bits of chopped crystallized ginger. Lightly press the dough down with the palm of your hand to a thickness of one-half inch.

Bake the cookies in a preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes, turning the pans halfway through the baking time. The cookies will still be soft when done, but the edges will be slightly firm. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack for a few minutes, then slide the parchment, with the cookies on it, off the sheet and onto the wire rack to finish cooling.

Note: You can replace the whole wheat flour with unbleached all-purpose, and some or all of the granulated sugar with brown sugar. The cookies will keep, in a zipper-top plastic bag, for several days, or can be wrapped, airtight, and frozen for up to two months.

Best Chocolate Cookie

Snow-Topped Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Submitted by Sonjia Spector, Matyson.

These brownie-like confections are decadent without being overly sweet.

    Makes about six dozen.

    1/2    c. unsalted butter
    6    oz. bittersweet baking chocolate
    4    large eggs
    1    Tbsp. vanilla extract
    2    c. granulated sugar
    2    c. all-purpose flour
    2    tsp. baking powder
    1/2    tsp. salt
    1    c. chocolate chips
        Granulated sugar for rolling
        Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325˚. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl over simmering water or in a double boiler, melt butter with the chocolate. Using an electric mixer, mix eggs, vanilla and sugar until ribbony. Add melted chocolate and butter and stir. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into one-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place two inches apart on pan. Bake cookies at 325˚ for 10 to 15 minutes, until just done in the middle. Remove from pan and place on cooling rack immediately. When cool, dust tops with confectioner’s sugar and place in airtight container.

Note: Good-quality chocolate is the key to this cookie. Spector recommends Valrhona.

Best Sugar Cookie

Sugar Cookies
Submitted by Blair Bleacher, Old Original Bookbinder’s.

Flaky and light, these cookies have just the right amount of sweetness.

    Makes two dozen.

    3/4    c. unsalted butter
    3/4    c. granulated sugar
    1    large egg
    1    Tbsp. lemon zest
    1    tsp. vanilla extract
    2 1/2    c. all-purpose flour
    1/4    tsp. salt
        Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten
        with 1 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat until blended. Sift together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture slowly, beating until incorporated. Form dough into two flat disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two to three hours.

Dust your work surface with flour. Roll dough to two-eighths-inch thickness. Cut to desired shape. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake at 350˚ for eight to 10 minutes.

Remove to wire racks. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Note: Cookies can be decorated with colored sugar (before baking) or melted chocolate (after baking).

Most Original Cookie

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
Submitted by Jimmy Flail, High Point Cafe.

Tea leaves lend this cookie a surprising, light flavor, a nice break from the heavier sweets of the season.

Makes two dozen.

    3 1/2    c. all-purpose flour
        Contents of 4 Earl Grey tea bags
    1 1/4    c. unsalted butter
    1    c. dark brown sugar
    2    large eggs
        Granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375˚. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour and tea and set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar with electric mixer for two and a half minutes. Beat in eggs. Beat in dry ingredients until well incorporated. Roll dough into three-fourth-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on baking sheet. (There is minimal spreading.) Press balls to about one-and-a-quarter-inch disks. Bake at 375˚ for 10 to 15 minutes, until just firm. Let cool on pan; store in airtight container for up to three weeks.

Most Kid-Friendly Cookie

Toasted Peanut Butter S’Mores
Submitted by Frank Urso, Barclay Prime.

The recipe for this candy-like cookie is daunting, but your guests will appreciate the effort.

    Makes four dozen.

Chocolate Cookie

    1    c. all-purpose flour
    6    Tbsp. Hershey’s Dutch-processed
        cocoa powder
    1/2    tsp. baking soda
    1/4    tsp. salt
    10    Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    1    c. granulated sugar
    1    large egg
    1    tsp. vanilla extract
    1    c. mini chocolate chips
    1    small jar marshmallow creme
        (put creme in zipper storage bag
        and set aside for later use)

Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl, using a mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla to the ­butter-sugar mixture. Beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips. Wrap bowl with plastic and set aside.

Graham Cracker Crust

    1    c. graham cracker crumbs
    3    Tbsp. granulated sugar
    1/2    c. unsalted butter, melted
    1/2    tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients until combined. Set aside.

Peanut Butter Filling

    1/2    c. creamy peanut butter
    1/4    c. unsalted butter, softened
    1/2    c. confectioner’s sugar
    1/4    tsp. salt
    1/2    tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients with a mixer until smooth and creamy. Fill a zipper storage bag with filling. Set aside for later use. (A pastry bag can also be used.)

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly spray two mini muffin tins with nonstick spray.
Place one rounded teaspoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each muffin cup. Press firmly. Divide chocolate cookie dough into teaspoon-sized balls. Place one ball of dough in each muffin cup and press lightly with moistened fingers to fill cup.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350˚, until set. Remove from oven. Immediately make an indentation in each cup with the back of a small spoon. Cool cookies completely in pans. Remove from pans with the aid of a paring knife. Place cooled cookies on a cookie sheet.

Preheat broiler. Squeeze a dime-sized dollop of the peanut butter filling in each cavity. Cut small corner off zipper bag of marshmallow creme. Squeeze a small amount of marshmallow onto each cookie to cover peanut butter filling. Place cookies under the broiler, watching very carefully, until marshmallow is lightly browned. (You can also use a brûlée torch.) Cool cookies completely and store, tightly covered, in a single layer.

Note: Cookies may be frozen without the marshmallow creme for up to three months. Just defrost, top with marshmallow, broil and serve.

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