"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Baking Adventure 14: "Quagmire" Cookies


Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as:

Pronunciation: \ˈkwag-ˌmī(-ə)r, ˈkwäg-\
Function: noun
1 : soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot
2 : a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position : predicament

The word quagmire sounds intriguing doesn't it? It's always been one of my favorite words. I love the way it sounds, the way it looks, and the way it feels. As someone who is a full-blown synesthete with the condition synesthesia, outside of the word's denotative meaning, I get my own associations and feelings from the word. I get a strong sensation of a custom blend of colors and shapes that the word triggers through its spelling and arrangement of letters. Dark blue-purple or deep indigo is one of the prominent colors or color overlays that the word conjures up for me.

Quagmire also sounds like it could be the perfect name for:
  • an epically intense, mysterious, medieval-fantasy film
  • an introspective, darkly-cerebral music track on a breakthrough album titled the same
  • an addictive and unique adventure-strategy console role playing game with complex quests and compelling characters
  • a high logic board game for serious thinkers with quirky and puckish imaginations
The name is also great for a sweet treat. So, I decided to use the name for a cookie recipe I concocted in the kitchen a couple of days ago because of the look and texture of the cookies, and because of their enslaving  complex flavor.

I haven't started on my mock Twix bar experiment because I've yet to purchase a new supply of quality chocolate to practice tempering with.  In the meantime, I wanted to come up with a tasty cookie recipe using some of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen...and share it here. :)

The cookies have a distinctive texture with circular streak patterns on the surface. This is because I piped the cookie dough using a large 2-inch star tip. The photo below shows the first batch of piped cookie dough. Later I manually placed small bittersweet chocolate chips within the swirled recesses to make a spiral pattern. Spiral as a shape, reminds me of addiction, entrapment, and complexity. Also note a modest appearance of the small plastic container of those chocolate chips in the upper right corner of the photo.

When I baked the cookies, they spread out very evenly into generously-sized, peculiar-looking circles with a definitive pattern and characteristic texture. The texture of the cookies is chewy, soft, highly moist (due to the heavy brown butter content), and lush against the tongue with each bite indulgently swooshed around in the mouth. You get layers or swirls of flavor. First you note vanilla-infused brown butter, then almond richness, next brown sugar enrapturement and last, curious, slight hints of bittersweet chocolate as they dissolve with the masticated medley of flavors.

These cookies contain egg yolks, golden brown sugar, flour, almond meal/flour, heavy cream, brown butter (beurre noisette), and vanilla bean essence. Rich, dense and decadent, they certainly are.

Here is my recipe for these cookies. It was an experiment but the results are very successful. I definitely took down notes and placed it in my culinary "book of shadows".

Quagmire Cookies

2 sticks (8 oz.) of butter (browned)
1 vanilla bean
1 and 1/4 cup of brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of almond meal/flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar

  1. Brown the butter in a saucepan. Halfway through the process, carefully slice open a vanilla bean and place it into the browning butter to infuse vanilla flavor.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300-350 degrees (ovens vary) and line 2-3 baking pans (depending on size of piped dough) with parchment paper
  3. While leaving in the vanilla bean and also retaining the butter solids, slightly chill the brown butter in the refrigerator in a small bowl, until it is near room temperature.
  4. Cream the vanilla brown butter and brown sugar in a bowl until smooth
  5. Add in the egg yolks and blend well
  6. Stir in the heavy cream
  7. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly: cream of tartar, baking soda, flour, almond flour
  8. Add the dry ingredient mixture into the wet ingredients (yolks, sugar, butter) and stir (manually or with paddle attachment on a stand mixer)
  9. Using a plastic pastry bag and a 1/2 inch - 2-inch star tip, evenly pipe out swirls of cookie dough onto  parchment-lined baking bans
  10. Bake each batch for 8-12 minutes depending on your oven settings or until light golden brown. (Watch cookies carefully)
  11. Use wide spatula to remove cookies from the baking pan onto a cookie rack for cooling.
  12. Cookies should be somewhat delicate but not flimsy when done, but firm up further as they cool, while retaining a chewy, softy, dense texture throughout.
These cookies are sweetened well by brown sugar, but they have a savory appeal, in a sense, due to the deep nutty, brown butter flavor and the almond flour inclusion. Think of just the amount of sweetness that Animal Crackers, well-known childhood cookies, have...or shortbread cookies. These are full-bodied cookies.

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