When this assignment was received, I immediately recalled two cookie notions that have been floating in my head for years: 1) Drambuie cookies, and 2) Cream of Wheat (CoW) cookies. The latter is, I think, an attempt to recreate something I remember my grandmother making when I was a child. The idea of hot, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth CoW took the first round.
Base ingredients would have to be flour, butter, and sugar (type to be determined). I needed to figure out whether the CoW needed to be pre-cooked or was cooked during preparation and baking. I considered additional flavor ingredients of Vanilla, Almond Extract, Pecans, Almonds, Walnuts, Orange Zest, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Honey, Maple Syrup, and Cream Cheese. (Some of these components were suggested by my sister, who has never been so enthusiastic about a course assignment!)
I started with the basic cookie dough recipe found in Ratio (1 part sugar, 2 parts fat (butter), 3 parts flour). This is, as the author points out, a basic shortbread recipe. Preparation of this (in small quantity, 300 degrees for 30 minutes) yielded a cookie that was a bit sweeter that I like, but seemed a good starting point.
Photos below show batter and prepared cookies from this recipe.
Next, I wanted to determine what portion of the flour I would replace with CoW, and whether it needed to be pre-cooked or not. I felt there was a greater likelihood of success with cooked CoW. I prepared 1 serving according to package directions and a second batch of basic dough. After allowing 15 minutes for the CoW to cool so that the butter would not be completely melted, I began adding CoW. I blended in 1 tbsp. at a time, tasting a very small sample after each addition. At 4 tbsp. I thought the flavor balance was about where I wanted it, but the dough had become pretty moist due to both butter melting and the semi-liquid consistency of the CoW. I added 3 tbsp. of flour to stabilized and baked 4 of the cookies. These turned out very soft and chewy, a bit doughy but delicious.
I separated a bit of the dough and tried adding cream cheese for flavor. This proved to rich (at least as a dough) so I backed off and tried the sour cream. I added 3 tbsp. (one at a time) to find a good flavor balance. Another tbsp. of flour was needed to keep at what I judged to be a proper dough consistency. Baking these (30 minutes at 300 degrees) produced the results pictured below.
These cookies were flavorful, but a little too doughy in the center. As the picture shows, they browned nicely on the bottom, but acquired little color on the top. This is somewhat characteristic of my oven. I wanted to address the consistency in the next batch.
I cracked an egg, blended and added about 1/2 to the remaining batter.When I sampled this dough, I noticed that the settling time had allowed some flavor blending to occur. This resulted in the final recipe including a refrigeration period prior to baking. The results here were approaching the right texture and flavor.
I decided to try a full batch with the addition of a bit of Cream of Tartar. To address the browning issue, I tried increasing the oven temp. to 325 degrees and the baking time to 35 minutes. I also added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. The batter and resulting cookies are pictured below.
These cookies were a bit too dry, and too dark. They still did not brown nicely on top. Further experimentation was called for, but it was 4 am and each batch took 1/2 hour to bake. Based on acceptable appearance and flavor, I called it a good base for further improvement on another occasion.
I plan to try 325 degrees for 30 minutes and perhaps brushing the top with melted butter during baking to promote browning and attempt to preserve a little more moisture. My first flavor adjustment will likely be adding some cinnamon. I think there are numerous variations of this recipe in the future.
Final Recipe (to date):
Cream of Wheat/Sour Cream Shortbread
Preheat oven to 325°
Prepare 1 serving Cream of Wheat (3/4 to 1 cup)
Set aside to cool at room temperature
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
Cream together until fluffy
6 tbsp sour cream
Cream together until fluffy
Cream in 14 tbsp flour
8 tbsp Cream of Wheat (Warm to room temp. - NOT hot)
Mix (Butter should melt a little. Dough will be soft and sticky)
Add 2 - 4 tbsp additional flour gradually until dough thickens.
(Will form standing peaks)
Optional: Add ¼ to ½ cup chopped pecans
Chill dough for a minimum of 10 minutes
Drop onto cookie sheet in ¾ to 1" balls. Keep 2" apart
Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned.