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cookies, cookies

yesterday, i had a call from a friend of a friend asking me about baking cookies and how to produce them in large scale. i talked to this person for almost two hours, (without my knowledge) explaining to her the mechanics of what goes on in cookie production, from the choice of ingredients to the methods used, and most importantly how to standardize their prized recipes. she wanted to come over so that i could teach her exactly the steps to follow from weighing her recipes to mixing, molding and baking. the problem? i simply could not part with my recipe. over the years, the recipe i used evolved and it took me quite a while testing and retesting different flours to get the right consistency i wanted. so we had a problem there, she didn't want me to see her recipe, i didn't want her to see mine either.

i don't know about the others, but maybe because we use a different flour from the ones being used in most baking books, i seldom get a perfect cookie when i try them out. the number one most common problem with cookie baking is the spreading. the cookie flattens out as it bakes and becomes thin like a crepe. this happened to me often when i was just starting at the age of 18. that time, i didn't know anything about the flour's protein content, the moisture level, the ratio of dry to wet ingredients etc., so my only comfort is that at least even if the cookies were deformed, we still get to eat them. i admit i was very frustrated, and it took me quite sometime to get back to baking again. there was this article that i read once where a cookie company had patented a particular form of starch that prevented their cookies from spreading. i was able to substitute something else, used a combination of two flours, and believe me, it wasn't easy. my advise to people who want to come up with their own brand of cookie, be patient and have people around you who will test the cookies once they're baked. if the cookies turned out hard or soft, and does not seem fit to be eaten at all, crush the cookies and use it as a filling for sweet yeast doughs.

i was particularly drawn to the part where she had a problem with her cookie's consistency. she said sometimes her cookies are nice looking, sometimes they're flat and out of shape. when i asked her what method of measurement she uses, she wasn't too sure about it. to me, getting the right amount of ingredients is the most important part of the baking process. it is not after all like cooking where you can adjust the saltiness or sweetness of the dish even after the cooking is done. it just doesn't happen in baking. it looked like this client had a long way to go. i don't profess to be the utmost authority in baking, i am still learning my self. but that's what makes baking challenging, you can learn it as long as you have the diligence and will. it isn't rocket science, but if you think all you need to do is to follow the recipe and everything will be done with, well, i am not sure if that perfect cookie is ready to creep in the cookie jar.

fun, fun, fun. take down notes, write down everything from the brand of flour and butter you used to the color of brown sugar that you substituted with. be consistent and follow the same procedure once you get it right. use the correct temperature and baking time that you used before. do not complain why your cookie is crispy when you exceeded tha baking time. do not blame the weather if the cookie is bland when you use white sugar instead of brown sugar......
till next posting.


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