Smart Cookie

Smart Cookie

Fresh baked cookies continue to be best sellers in the bakery case, according to operators who spoke with FM. And their optimism for continued growth is echoed in the trade press.

In Modern Baking's 2007 Retail Bakery survey "cookies posted the largest gains of all bakery categories, 12% of total sales up from 9 percent in 2003." (Grocery store sales of bagged cookies, however, have had a modest decline.)

And according to Packaged Facts, the manufactured cookie market in the U.S. will reach $6.1 billion in 2010. Growth, they note, will be fueled by demand for premium ingredients, indulgent products and healthier versions—all the cookie trends onsite operators shared with us!

Drop Cookies
Quick and uncomplicated, follow these tips for simple dropped cookies.

1. Make sure the dough is slightly firm before dropping. If it's too soft or sticky, briefly refrigerate it.
2. For consistent size, use an ice cream scoop. If you're not sure it's the size specified in the recipe, measure the scoop capacity with water first. Also, dip the scoop into cold water between scoopings to ensure the dough releases every time.
3.To prevent cookies from spreading into each other, space them about 2 inches apart. Dough heavy with butter and those with little leavener may need more space. (Occasionally you may want the cookie to spread, as in pecan or oat lace or Tuile (French almond wafer) cookies. In this case, test bake a few. If the cookie is too thick, add a little liquid for more spreading. If too thin, add in a bit of flour to stiffen the dough.)
4. To prevent cookies from sticking together in storage, be sure to thoroughly cool them on wire racks (and better yet, separate them with parchment or waxed paper).

All cookies should be thoroughly cooled prior to packaging. If you store them warm, the steam from the cookies will condense inside the packaging, making them soggy, sticky, and encourage faster spoiling!

To keep cooled soft cookies moist, place a small piece of bread along with the cookies in zipper-lock bag. For dry, crisp cookies, store them in an air-tight container.

Rolled (cut-out) Cookies
More demanding than the drop cookie, rolled cookies can provide beautiful and whimsical results that are well worth the effort!

1. It is crucial to work with chilled dough. Mix the dough, chill it, then roll it out flat, chill again, then cut and bake. Decorate.
2. In order to avoid drying out the cookies, consider rolling out the dough between two sheets of very lightly floured parchment paper on a baking sheet—you will use less flour. Chill the dough at least 30 minutes before cutting or shaping. If you can easily press a finger into the dough, then it isn't chilled enough (there should barely be an imprint in perfectly chilled dough).
3. Cut out the shapes as close together as possible to avoid re-rolling scraps. This tends to toughen the dough.
4. Keep the cookie shape by transferring cookies with a spatula that is larger than the cutout cookie.

Sliced Cookies
Perfect for preplanned holiday events, rolled logs of cookie dough can be kept in the freezer, then sliced and baked as needed.

1. For uniform logs, use cold hands to form the dough into a rough log, then center it on parchment paper. Fold the paper over the dough. Using a ruler or bench scraper, firmly press the parchment against the dough (the side facing you) to form a uniform cylinder and to squeeze out air. Roll the parchment and twist the ends together to form a tight seal, then wrap in plastic wrap. Chill.
2.To keep the shape in a cramped refrigerator or freezer, slide the log into an empty cardboard paper towel tube before chilling. Log too thick? Cut along the length of the cardboard tube and wrap around larger dough logs.
3. For even slicing and uniform size, chill logs until very firm. Resist the temptation of slicing too early or the slices will be different sizes and rough edged. Use a sharp heavy knife to make clean cuts, wiping the blade between slices.
4. For logs with coatings on the sides (sanding sugar, nuts, coconut) brush the perimeter with water. This will help the coatings to adhere.

Piped, Pressed and Molded Cookies
A pastry bag and piping tube can be used to shape a variety of cookies (especially meringue) as the dough only needs to be soft enough to flow through the tip easily. Pressed cookies, like spritz made with a short (butter) dough, must be chilled to just the right degree of firmness in order to be squeezed neatly into shape.

Molded cookie dough, like Springerle, must be fairly firm to facilitate shaping. This dough contains little or no butter or leavening because too much of either causes the cookies to puff up and spread during baking blurring the beautiful designs.

Hand-Shaped Cookies
These cookies begin with balls of dough that are then baked as is, formed into crescent or pretzel shapes, flattened into rounds with the bottom of a glass or hands, pressed down with the tines of a fork, or formed into logs, baked, cut, then baked again (biscotti).

The most important tip for these types of cookies is to handle the dough as little as possible. Warm hands can affect the texture of the cookies, particularly those with a high butter content.

A Healthier Cookie
Oats and oat-based products in general conjure up the idea of wholesomeness. Here's a recipe that takes this idea a step further.

Toothsome oats are combined with soybean oil (no trans fats here) for mouthfeel, prune puree for lowfat moistness, and brown rice syrup for natural sweetness!

Bar Cookies
Perhaps the easiest cookie to bake for large production, bar cookies can also be packaged quite nicely for retail sales and special events.

1.Use the pan specified in the recipe. Bar cookies baked in a pan larger than the size called for will overbake, be thin and have poor texture. If baked in a pan smaller than indicated it will take longer for the bars to cook through and/or result in either gummy or too "cakey" centers, and the edges may burn.
2. For easy removal, line the baking pan with foil or parchment paper. Place two sheets perpendicular to each other in the pan. Add the batter pushing it into the corners. After the bars have cooled, use the foil or paper to transfer them to a cutting board for easy slicing.

It's all in the details
Couple fresh cookie promotions with consumer trends and you have a recipe for future cookie success. However, don't let the humble nature of the cookie fool you. This seemingly simple baked treat requires some dedicated focus.

"No matter how simple or complicated the recipe, what I've learned over all these years is to be thorough," says Chef George Higgins, professor of baking and pastry at the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

A certified master baker, Chef Higgins recommends that bakers, whether professional or novice, follow these basic yet crucial cookie baking rules:

First, pay special attention to the type and quality of ingredients. "As with any recipe, use only the best and freshest ingredients."

Second, make sure the recipe is inherently good and accurate. "Careful measurement is critical," says Higgins. "I always recommend weighing ingredients rather than using volume measurements because you can get wildly erratic results depending on who is doing the mixing."

For example some people scoop flour (and other dry ingrdients), some people spoon it into the measuring cup, and still others round the top, instead of leveling it. "Weighing standardizes the recipe, particularly for large batch baking. This results in a more consistent product day to day, week to week, regardless of who is baking," says Higgins.

Have a favorite small-batch (family) recipe you'd like to add to your repertoire? Measure out the ingredients (by cups, teaspoons, etc.), then weigh each one of those measures to get a precise amount. Bake the cookie. Do you love it? If so, "then you have a recipe you can infinitely scale up," says Higgins. If not, go back and tweak it, re-measure and re-weigh any changes. Then rebake for your next bakery case star!

Third, use the proper mixing technique—creaming the fat and sugar. It's as simple as making sure the butter is at room temperature. Butter that is too cold may result in a flat cookie because not enough air can be whipped into the butter during creaming. And please,"Don't walk away from the mixer!"stresses Higgins.

And Fourth, become familiar with the dependability of the oven, because even a good oven can have hot spots. To compensate for uneven heat, rotate the cookies for even browning. Reverse the top and bottom baking sheets and rotate each sheet from front to back at the halfway point of baking to promote even baking.

Guaranteed to sell, the recipe for enticing fresh baked cookies is attention to detail—high quality ingredients, precise measurement and a nod to homespun ingenuity. Check out some of the other tips that follow.

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photo by: J&J Snack Foods
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Cookie Capers
Cookies lend themselves to numerous applications, from unique snacking ideas to fundraising. Here are just a few ideas to keep cookie sales rising.

Special Occasion: Valentines, easter, Christmas, Birthday, Halloween, Fourth of July, St. Patrick's Day, Mardi Gras.

Promote/advertise a company or department logo on a cookie or shape the cookie into the design.

Sweet sandwich applications such as Double Peanut Butter & Jelly (above middle), sugar cookies with orange marmalade, or oatmeal cookies with chocolate ganache centers.

Dip in fondue for a catered event or simple desk treat.

Send flowers or lollipops to VIP's or for employee-of-the -month recognition.

Deliver care baskets for home-sick college students. Offer cookie "bugs" (above) for kids of all ages!

Offer special snacking "events" like Cookies and Milk, Italian biscotti and espresso, or a High english tea with shortbread (sweet and savory recipes).

Fundraise or promote a cause. Fighting hunger or raising money for any charitable foundation can be a breeze if it's accomplished through a bake sale. For example, a portion of proceeds from the sale of The Pink Cookie (top right) will be donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation from Otis Spunkmeyer Inc. The cookie is available to operators from Sept. 1 - October 31.

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photos by: Otis Spunkmeyer Inc.

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Hazelnut Florentine Ice Cream Sandwich [3]

Chewy Chocolate Drop Cookies [4]

Strawberry Shortbread Tiers [5]

Beehive Cookies [6]

Golden Raisin, Lemon, Pistachio and Butterscotch Cookies [7]

Large Batch Oatmeal Cookie [8]

Hermit Bars [9]