Blog Post 1: Cookies

Heyo!

I’m Jess. I (really) like mountains, and food is pretty good, too. I spend a lot of my time hiking, climbing, and munching down on calorie-dense granola bars. Every now and then, a cookie sneaks in there- but they usually taste like cardboard. So, naturally, I tried to incorporate something nutritious, delicious, and mountain-inspired in to my cookie creation.

My final and most successful design was my second iteration of my Peak Prisms. The idea was to make a three-dimensional cookie, inspired by my favorite aspects of nature, with a slightly unusual taste and a surprise inside. I started with a basic cutout-cookie base and went from there.

Viola! The final product! Cute, edible, and definitely not suitable for climbing.

The Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • .5 cups sugar
  • .5 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large egg
  • splash of vanilla
  • dollop of molasses- add more as needed
  • cinnamon to desired amount

Directions:

  • Mix dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon).
  • Cream butter (works best if room temperature) and sugar, then add egg and vanilla. Mix together until smooth and pale. I used a fork for this and it worked fine.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients (whichever bowl is bigger) and work together into a dough. *Add molasses at this point, but not too much to where the dough is too sticky. If the dough becomes too sticky, you can add more flour. I worked it with my hands when it became too hard to mix and formed it into a ball to refrigerate for an hour.
  • I tried not to incorporate the molasses too much- I wanted the dough to appear dark in some spots and light in the others, and overall to be uneven like a rock surface.
  • When dough is done chilling, take it out and start forming into prisms about the size of a ping pong ball. Should be uneven and unmatched, like mountains. Bake for about 8 minutes or until edges become golden brown and cookies are hard to the touch. Should remain slightly soft on the interior.
  • When cooled, dip tops into white chocolate. Let cool completely. Consume with a class of milk, watching your favorite mountain-inspired documentary. I recommend Into Thin Air or Valley Uprising.

But let’s rewind a bit…

Idea Generation:

My first thought when given this assignment was, what makes a cookie a cookie? I started from there and began listing elements that describe a cookie in my mind. I also made a point to list ingredients and qualities that I enjoy in a cookie, ignoring (at this point) if they were common or unusual. My main objective was just to get as many ideas on paper as possible.

My first ideation list/sketch. I broke things down by first trying to figure out what a cookie means to me.
A cookie web! This helped me sort through my ideas and narrow down. You can see that I came up with both ideas for my cookies here already, but slightly adjusted them as I went along. I really wanted to focus on form/shape rather than taste, because I feel like a innovative cookie would probably be more “different” in a shape sense than via a new flavor- there are so many wonky flavors of cookies out there already. The clear cookies idea would have been cool, but I didn’t have enough time to explore that concept.
Here I am doodling out a few more ideas during a quick brainstorm sesh. This is how I chose to procrastinate on my physics homework.

Idea №1: Cactus Cookies

The idea for this cookie came from another one of my passions- the desert, and the plants that inhabit them. The idea for a double cookie hybrid of sorts came about from thinking of a way to make them three dimensional. I finally settled on the idea of a dough-ball-esque cookie, colored in an earth-tone, and “planted” in a small pot of Oreo “soil”.

I decided I needed to go out to get a few basic ingredients that I didn’t have, but I put off buying the tiny little flower pots until what I assumed would be the final bake- just in case things went wrong (which they did).

Initially, I thought I would make these cactus cookies look as realistic and plant-like as possible. I had dreams of greens and browns (food coloring, perhaps), crushed-nut pebbles for the Oreo “dirt”, and much more. As I took stock of my pantry, however, I realized that I had a can of pumpkin hiding in the back that would be fun to use. Pumpkin is a great flavor to for baking and I thought it would be interesting to combine it with a couple other spices/ingredients to make a more savory cookie.

When I was finished getting groceries and taking stock of my pantry, I came up with these ingredients for my first test-run of the Cactus Cookies:

I added the banana last minute because it was going to go bad. How could you go wrong with pumpkin and banana? In clockwise order: molasses, pureed pumpkin, a ripe banana, one egg, chia seeds, brown sugar, and flour.

Afterwards, I started mixing things together. Along the way, I tossed in a few extra ingredients, as you can see in the photos. I didn’t follow any kind of recipe for this iteration; I just went off memory and the basic knowledge of making cookies. I first mixed the dry ingredients, added the wet together, and formed a dough. I soon ran into a problem, however…

Decided to add some coconut oil last minute to keep things on the slightly-tropical trend. Also, I didn’t add butter to these cookies, so I needed some sort of oil for a binding agent.
Things were getting pretty runny… but it smelled good and my roommates gave me the thumbs-up when I gave them a taste. Kind of tasted like a sweet pumpkin bread with a hint of banana. I like the flavor combination here.
I then added a BUNCH of flour (this is where I went wrong… the ratios were WAY off and the dough got, well, too doughy)… and threw in some chia seeds for texture. I’m aware at this point that the color here is nothing like a cactus. But it’s still pretty earthy, right?
This was the final project. At this point, the dough was just not working out for me. I wanted it to be more sugar-cookie like, but it had the consistency of really sticky bread dough. I knew this version/idea wasn’t going to work, so I just winged it and threw on some pretty toppings… and tried feeding the results to my roommates. Onto the next idea…

Idea №2: Peak Prisms

This idea was my favorite and what I hoped to land on initially. My original plan was to attach 4 triangularly shaped sugar-cookie cutouts, flavored and colored with molasses and some other spices, together to form a pyramid/prism of sorts. My plan was to attach them with icing. Then, I would dip the tops in white chocolate for a snowy effect, and then maybe add some nuts for a rocky effect on the bottom. I thought this was innovative because of the shape, and the fact that if possible, I could insert a small fortune (or even a smaller cookie!!) inside the prism as it dried.

For this recipe, I had most of the ingredients- the tricky part would be forming the cookie and making it look like a mountain.

Things went interestingly from the beginning. I pulled out my ingredients and realized, through some mistake of my own, that I didn’t have enough of the wet ingredients. I managed, however, to pull together some butter, an egg, vanilla, sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and a bit of molasses for the final product. I wrapped it up and stuck it in the freezer to chill quickly- the idea was that I would roll out the dough, cut it into triangles of equal shape, and then put them together.

Looks the same color as the last dough, but it’s just the lighting. This one had no pumpkin but tasted dark and spicy because of the molasses.

As you can see here, I didn’t have a lot of dough. So I was forced to abandon my original idea, as 12 cookies would take 48 individual triangles of equal size. I had a different idea as I was baking, however- why not form the cookies as pyramids BEFORE baking them, and then dipping them in chocolate? Unfortunately, this would eliminate my hide-something-in-the-cookie idea, but it would work.

Just a little burnt. They tasted pretty darn good, though! You can see that the pyramids worked, and this is when I switched over to the new idea entirely.
An army of pyramids! They were a little difficult to create uniformly, but I think I like it better that way. No two mountain is the same!

By the time they finished baking, I was able to cool them, dip them in melted white chocolate for a snowy effect, and try to cool them. I had my roommates taste-test the tiny mountains, and the verdict was in: pretty good!

Tiny peaks on a field of green… oven mitt!

Next time, I think I want to try going all out with the build-a-pyramid idea. I’ll put a little inspirational quote in there. Hopefully people won’t eat the paper. I may or may not have done that before.

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