Before I made the commitment to go to culinary school, I took a job at a local bakery. Though I longed to work with the cake decorators who spent their days twirling up buttercream roses and painting Sponge Bob on cakes, I spent most of my time at the counter, and occasionally at the flour-dusted pastry bench with the burly bakers. One of my favorite things to help make were the cookies. Using giant scales, huge scoops, and even bigger mixers, we'd mix up massive logs of vanilla cookie dough to be chilled and sliced into cookies the size of a small dessert plate. It was a shortbread style cookie dough, crisp and pleasantly sandy. We topped them with sprinkles, M&M's, and my favorite: mini chocolate chips.
If I could go back in time I would have stolen that recipe, but, that not being the case, I had to go on memory. To make this style cookie at home, I looked to quite a few shortbread recipes. As simple as this type of cookie is, the ingredients can vary quite a bit. Eggs versus no eggs, granulated sugar versus powdered sugar, cornstarch, leavener or nothing—these are all things that will alter the texture of the cookie.
After experimenting a bit and deciding that powdered sugar made the cookies too soft, and both eggs and leavener caused too much spread, I nailed it. The combination of butter, granulated sugar (to keep the cookie sandy), flour, and cornstarch (to contribute a tender texture) came as close as I could to that elusive bakery cookie. But what made mine even better (aside from the fact that the butter you use at home is probably better than at the commercial bakery), was that the dough could made in a single bowl—no mixer required. If the butter is good and soft, you can just stir it with a spoon. Though I made these cookies a smaller, more manageable size for home baking, feel free to make them big like the bakeries do.
About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of the new cookbook One Bowl Baking: Simple From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts (Running Press, October 2013), and available at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell's, The Book Depository. Watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. Follow her Chocoholic, Chicken Dinners, Singapore Stories and Let Them Eat Cake columns on Serious Eats. Follow Yvonne on Twitter as she explores Singapore.