Monday, December 14, 2009

The secret to stay-soft cookies

You know, I grew up in, let's say, a lower-middle-class household. In the 70s. So my diet consisted of 10% ground beef, 15% whatever-helper, 25% canned stuff, 10% basic fresh veggies and fruits (featuring iceberg lettuce and those mealy red apples),** 15% sugary snacks, 5% cheddar or colby cheese, 5% white bread, and 15% sauces and unguents (usually mayonnaise-based).

Yeah. Some of you know where I'm coming from.

But, believe it or not, the non-elite diet does have one major secret ingredient that's actually good, and I'm about to share it with you. No, it's not marshmallow fluff, though that's an important part of any diet, too. It is, in fact, the secret to chocolate-chip cookies that will not turn into hard little pucks within 3 hours after baking. Are you ready?

Instant mashed potato flakes.

I poo you not. Replace 1/3 of the flour in your recipe with an equal volume of instant mashed potato flakes (flakes, people, not buds). Since the flakes are less dense per volume than your flour, you may have to toss in an extra tablespoon or two of flour to compensate. Then do up the recipe as normal. If you don't go over a third (and sometimes you can push it to almost half) you will not smell potatoes, you will not taste potatoes. But you will have a wonderful, soft cookie that will stay soft for days. If you can make your cookies last that long.

Oh, and if the humble chocolate chip is too pedestrian for you, and you want to get all uptown with it, substitute dried cranberries for your chocolate chips, and throw in some chopped pecans. That's some yummy stuff.

**To be fair, there wasn't the produce variety in the 70s that there is today. And to be even more fair, my mom, for several years, desperately tried to get us into growing a vegetable garden. But we lacked the proper moral fiber, and mom couldn't do it by herself, so she gave up.***

***The urge to go back and make that right is one of the many reasons that I wish I had a time machine.

****That, and investing in Microsoft in 1986.


Anonymous said...

I haven't tried your version but this recipe

calls for bread flour and slightly different proportions of sugar and egg, compared with Alton Brown's "thin" and "puffy" variants (al-purpose and cake flour, respectively.) Maybe the instant spud flakes are high-protein, like bread flour? Or high-gluten, maybe?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Actually, I think that the reason they work is that they're designed to absorb liquid and transform into soft, mooshy goodness. What you end up with by mixing flour and flakes is a middle ground between the crumbly texture of the flour-based cookie and the soft texture of mashed potatoes.

Bavardess said...

Awesome tip! My Irish mother makes a wicked potato bread, but I hadn't considered putting potato in other recipes. With cranberries, alongside a generous portion of dark chocolate chips. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

ER Doc said...

Wonderful suggestion! I stand in awe of your domesticity!

squadratomagico said...

That was my childhood diet, too! Only: no cheese at all; only 5% sauces instead of 15%; frozen veggies instead of canned (ALWAYS cooked for way too long, too); and 15% pasta to make up the remainder.

Oh, how I hate that diet! Despite the absence of fresh food, I was quite thin as a youngster because I thought food was terribly uninteresting. Once I discovered that food could actually have flavor... well, I had a few pudgy years after that before rebalancing.

The History Enthusiast said...

That sounds like my childhood! Did you all eat spam? We would have spam with frozen or canned veggies and canned cranberry sauce.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I am going to propose that crispy chocolate chip cookies are a GOOD thing!!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Goodness, yes: spam. And corned beef hash (though I got out of this one when it was determined that my gagging was real).

Did I mention that I've been a vegetarian since age 16?

Actually, though, I had no problem with canned vegetables. Except canned green beans. I was almost 20 before I realized that a green bean could taste good.

@ Squadrato: Yes to the pudgy years. But for me, it's because if there's one thing that our people can whip up right, it's a a batch of butter & sugar.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

New Kid: I won't turn my nose up to a chocolate chip cookie just because it's not soft. No, indeed. But I really like them this way.

medieval woman said...

fo'shizzle! This is a great idea!!

Gonna make me some chocolate chip spud cookies tonight...

I ate spam too

Historiann said...

I'm with New Kid: cookies are all about the butter, so I likes the crunchy and crispy.

I had your diet growing up, too. It all sounds very 1970s. We are spoiled with the availability and variety of fresh foods year 'round. (Although I'm glad not to ever serve canned vegetables.)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Oh, not to worry, H. -- these cookies have plenty of butter -- a whole stick for three dozen cookies. My people do *not* skimp on the saturated fats, fer sure.

I will still use canned tomatoes for cooking when the fresh are out of season.

Rosebud, PhD said...

Have you tried substituting Butter-flavored Crisco for butter? Crisco was a staple in my grandmothers' baking (I am sure they weren't the only ones doing that).

The butter-flavored Crisco makes the cookies less flat. When I make cookies, I under cook them a tad (maybe a minute less than the recipe says). That keeps them soft too. I also store them in the freezer. Then take them out when I want them. My cookies go stale otherwise, even in a sealed container.