As mentioned in my September 30th post, a new project I created for myself this year was to create cookies based on books. Which I have done! Ta da! In the story collection I am writing baking/cooking plays a strong role in some family dynamics and in a YA book I've outlined, centering around one of the characters in my anthology, the main character is a teen preparing to go to culinary school and uses cooking/baking as an outlet for her feelings. So if my writing was inspired by cooking why couldn't it also be the other way around?
As mentioned in my earlier post the two books I created cookies for were Amy Garvey's Cold Kiss and Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Both books were published in late September and I had the chance to snag ARCs for both at Book Expo this past May.
Via Twitter and her blog I found out that Amy is an avid baked goody lover! That endeared her to me as much as her lovely book did. Cold Kiss is the story of a teenage girl named Wren who has special powers, of the Wiccan persuasion, and uses them to resurrect her first love and recently deceased boyfriend Danny. The results are not what she expects and it's a tale of a lot of internal conflict in dealing with the decisions she's made and the growing selfishness she feels for what she's done. What's beautiful about Cold Kiss is the way that Amy toggles with Wren wanting to consume herself with memories of Danny while also wanting to move on. It's a tough thing to do but she makes Wren both sympathetic and relatable. I mean, if any of us were in the same situation and had the capabilities would we not think about doing the same thing? Also stay tuned for a sequel to Cold Kiss that I believe is due out next year from HarperTeen.
My first thought for the Cold Kiss cookie was lemon (because I love it). I had suggested lemon or coconut to Amy and she said she had a preference for coconut. This worked because coconut could also represent snow hence cold.
My goal was to create a cakey-type cookie that had a coconut flavor but not too heavy since I am not a huge fan of the stuff. I also knew I wanted to use sour cream because it helps to retain moisture in the cookie and give it that fluffed up texture I like. Ricotta has a similar effect in cookie dough, but is also quite thick (see my fave Lemon Ricotta Cookies a la Giada DeLaurentiis).
Here's the result and the recipe:
¼ cup butter (softened)
¾ white sugar (superfine)
1 egg (can use 2 egg yolks for a lighter consistency)
½ cup sour cream
½ tsp coconut extract
1 1/3 cup flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3-1/2 cup of shredded coconut (dependant on your enjoyment of coconut or you could eyeball it)
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbs milk (or coconut milk for extra coconut flavor)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or coconut extract for, again, extra coconut flavor)
Shredded coconut (optional for ‘snow’ effect)
Cream together softened butter, egg, and sugar. Once mixed add sour cream and extract.
Then combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda & powder and salt, suggest mixing these together beforehand).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees or higher (dependent on oven as mine is SUPER hot).
As dough will be kind of liquidy you should refrigerate for an hour or longer. Could even do overnight.
Drop 1 tablespoon or smaller bits of dough on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (a fave of mine). Cookie cookies for 10-15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Try to make sure the tops are a bit firm.
Cool completely on a rack before making glaze. After drizzling glaze atop cookie sprinkle shredded coconut.
The simple glaze can be made with coconut extract but I think vanilla extract adds a nice complement since you have coconut extract and flakes within the cookie and the glaze adds a nice stickiness to have coconut flakes (representing snow) on top which gives it a nice balance. Putting vanilla extract inside the cookie probably would overwhelm any coconut flavor you have so it's best to use coconut extract but not be too heavy handed.
I sent the cookies to Amy and was glad they got to her in two days time. I saran wrapped the heck out of that Tupperware to make sure to retain moisture.
She said and I quote: "They came! And oh my GOD, are they delicious. Like a tiny coconut cake in my mouth! Thank you so much!" And quote: "And Sara, seven and very picky, calls them the 'best cookies ever.' SCORE!" Score indeed. :-)
The next cookie was one I got a quick idea for which was the Karou Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie in honor of the protagonist of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I knew I wanted to do chocolate because Karou and her best friend Zuzana are fans of the stuff and pastries galore as they study in Prague when the story begins. Hazelnut seemed perfect because this is a huge flavor for coffee and with the story taking place in the colder months and winter approaching here in NYC it seemed like it'd be a perfect pairing. And then I thought cinnamon! So that's a bounty of flavors right there.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is most often referenced as the story of an angel who fell in love with a devil and it not ending well. Which is true. To say too much more would give away the crux of the story of Karou and her mission for the next two books as Smoke and Bone is the first in a trilogy. Karou has a nice life living with said devils who are very humane and kind in raising her like a daughter. But mayhem happens and Karou learns more about her origins realizing she was right in feeling something was missing. Laini is a master of words. Her writing is fluid and engaging and fun and I am in awe. She's also quite sweet and has an awesome artist husband in Jim who's a major talent himself and the most adorable little girl!
So in creating this cooking I knew I didn't necessarily want it to be cakey per se, just chewy.
Here's the result and the recipe:
1/2 cup of butter (softened or near melting)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup nutella
blue sugar for sprinkling
Mix dry ingredients together and set aside (may want to sift if you have clumps in cocoa powder). Cream together butter and dark brown sugar then add egg then nutella. Mix together well but make sure not to overmix. Fold in dry ingredients in two portions until mixed well.
Scoop out 1 inch balls with your hands or spoons onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (I'm all about parchment! Less cleaning!) Sprinkle blue sugar atop dough.
Depending on your oven these can bake pretty quickly. At least 10 minutes or at most 15. For my oven at 350 degrees these were done within 10 minutes. You can tell they're done by how brown they get around the edges and if they are somewhat firm to be scooped up with a spatula. Try not to overbake as they will get hard on the exterior.
Cool on a rack and enjoy. And watch out for the sugar! I suggest putting a towel or paper towels under cooling rack to catch rogue blue sugar bits.
(Also depending on how big or small your scoops are these can make a little less than two dozen cookies or a little more. Size will also affect baking time.)
As you can see I added blue sugar on top in honor of Karou's blue hair which is a signature physical trait in this book. I was thinking of adding a blue colored frosting or glaze but the blue sugar seems to work well and adds a nice boost of sweetness. Also, the beads in the picture are meant to poke fun at the small trinkets she makes wishes on from her adopted father of sorts, Brimstone.
This is a work in progress for me. My landlord and her husband enjoyed it. I like the cookie but feel like I may have overdone it. I was struggling with whether to use hazelnut spread (nutella) or crushed hazelnuts. In the end I used hazelnut spread and I like the flavor but feel the cinnamon got a bit lost in the mix and that perhaps it should come out more with the chocolate. I could also add chocolate chips because the unsweetened cocoa powder doesn't necessarily give you a high octane chocolate flavor if you're a chocoholic. Again, a good cookie, but I aim for greatness, people.
I brought these to work and got overly positive results. Mainly because people are nutella lovers and since the flavor is there it became a fast fave. But I'll see, since baking/cooking is all about experimentation right?
So those are my two cookie/book creations so far. Any further suggestions? Should I make one based around Libba Bray's Beauty Queens or my fave YA series The Hunger Games? Maybe Eugenides' new title The Marriage Plot or Bonnie Jo Campbell's latest? We'll see.
[Recipes © Jennifer Baker-Henry, 2011]