Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cookies of Doom!

I just made the worst batch of NYTCCCs ever. They came out too crunchy, grainy, and with air pockets like a meringue. The culprit: Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour. The recipe calls for 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour. I had been using the only cake flour I could find: Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour. But then I went to the Henry's Farmers Market in Yorba Linda (which is much less sketchy than the one in Fullerton), and they had a wide array of organic flour options and though none of them were billed as "cake flour" I did find a number of pastry flours which claimed to be, to quote the Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour bag, "perfect for flaky and delicate pastries and CAKES." [Emphasis Added] This implies, to the unwary, that it might be substituted for cake flour. This I have found to be A WEB OF LIES!

It wasn't just the claim of cake-appropriateness that led me down the primrose path to cookie doom. The bag also explained that the flour had a "finer texture," "lighter consistency," and "lower gluten" - all admirable traits in a cake flour. So how did this substitution go so wrong?

I didn't even use a whole 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour. I still had some Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour. So it was probably like 1/2 cup Pillsbury Softasilk Cake Flour and 1 1/2 cups minus 2 tablespoons Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour.

The dough was a little drier than usual. I noticed when I was cleaning up that there was some raw egg white on the counter - like when I cracked the egg some of the white didn't make it into the bowl. Could a 1/2 teaspoon of egg white contribute to this cookie tragedy?

Usually after I add the dry ingredients I only run the mixer on low and only until the dry ingredients are combined with the wet. Then when I add the chips I just run the mixer on low for maybe one or two rotations. This time, because the dough was a little drier than usual, I had to run the mixer a little longer after I added the dry ingredients just to get them to combine. And I think I ran the mixer a few more rotations than usual after adding the chips. Could this account for occasional air pockets like a meringue in some of the cookies?

Any thoughts on this tragedy?

Update: Dough of Doom Batch 2 was not nearly as horrible as Batch 1, but still not nearly as good as the usual dough. I baked them for 15 minutes instead of my usual 18. Extra crunchy edge, but soft enough in the middle. No air pockets like a meringue and slightly better texture, i.e. ever so slightly less grainy. Dough of Doom Batch 3, which had rested in the fridge for 48 hours, was even less grainy than Batch 2, which had only rested 24 hours. I bet between the advice in Rebecca's comment about sifting before measuring (or weighing) and letting the dough sit for a full 48 hours, this flour might totally redeem itself. I'll try that next time and let you know.

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Rebecca said...

I believe that the badness could be a result of measuring rather than weighing the flour. I know that you weren't weighing the flour before, but if your Pillsbury is like mine, it's in a box and not as compressible as flour in a bag. Two things to try: lazy method - stirring the flour with a spoon and then gently spooning flour into the measuring cup and using a scant cup; better method - sifting the flour first and then measuring it.
Don't know if that will fix it, but maybe it will help make it a little less dry.

michael said...

No, you're right about the flour. I just had the exact same experience, and that flour is terrible. Unbelievably bad.