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The gastronomic and oenological guide to biscuits

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There is a sort of irony in Australian cookie writing.

We don’t even have one in my country. Where I come from, “cookies” are what are called cookies. We eat round, chewy things that look like cookies, but we call them “scones” (like the queen). And no, we don’t have triangle shaped scones. Are you still confused? I was on. As a perplexed transplant but fascinated by these differences, I decided to get to the bottom of the American biscuit tradition. What I found was even more nuanced than I could have imagined.

There are as many opinions about cookies as there are ways to bake them. Do you use butter, lard or shortening? Buttermilk, cream or sour cream? White Lily or King Arthur? (Or, as celebrity chef Kelly Fields does in The good book of southern pastry, 00 pasta flour?) Do you cut them square or round? I have come to learn that there is no one correct way; the many variables in cookie making are the beauty of the genre.

“You must be wondering, what do you want from a cookie?” Says chef, author and TV star Carla Hall. “Do you want to enjoy it as is? As a carrier? As a sandwich? The answer will determine which method and ingredients you use.” What Hall wants from her cookie is the lightest, fluffiest interior, with a crisp base and golden top, which she serves without any ornamentation. Her cookies are so tender and chewy that they are soft enough to eat the next day. “No hard cookies on my watch! She jokes. Humility aside, Hall turns cookies that have seen better days into Crispy Biscuit Crackers, perfect for dipping into his favorite side, chili cheese.

Hall has been baking cookies for decades and is an avid teacher, even taking her wisdom on the road on a “Biscuit Time” tour. Launched in 2018 by Hall and his friend and fellow biscuit maker Chadwick Boyd, the tour’s goal is to “build community through cookies” in cities like Chicago, Charleston, New York and Atlanta. In February 2020, they even took him to Germany to cook with members of the US military and their families.

It’s Boyd, an entrepreneur, food writer and TV host, who is responsible for my continuing education in cookies. He made tens of thousands (“if not hundreds of thousands”) of cookies in kitchens around the world, and for a time he helped organize the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he made me has already invited as a guest judge. . There I was exposed to many incarnations of cookies, each unique, each delicious in its own way. Boyd agrees that there isn’t just one way to make a cookie. “Cookies are like pie crust – they take practice and trial and error. You don’t have to live in the South to be good at making them. And you don’t need to have grew up with a grandmother who taught you, ”he said. said. His specialty is flavored cookies; he is a master of the art of adding cooked fruits or vegetables to create creative interpretations of a classic.

Another cookie boss with flair is 2021 Food and wine Best New Chef Thessa Diadem, who oversees the pastry program at All Day Baby in LA. She and her team bake nearly 1,000 cookies a week for the restaurant’s cookie sandwiches, the accidental star of the menu. “Cookies are an item we didn’t think would work; I thought I would do one platter a day! She exclaims. Diadem went through months of research to perfect the cookie before finally nailing a version she was happy with a week before opening. And although she’s not from the South, Diadem insists on one constant in her corn cookies with savory herb streusel: white lily flour. “There’s a reason White Lily is a staple in baking in the South: it’s forgiving and it works. Why fix what is not broken?

This Australian, who comes as far as he can get, says amen to that.

Carla Hall Wisdom Cookie

“I’m specifically asking for King Arthur flour; I like that it is partly malted barley flour and partly winter wheat and has a bit of nutty. It gives me the crunch that it is. I want at the bottom and the color I want at the top. “

“I use baking powder and baking soda: the powder gives it a boost; the baking soda is activated by the buttermilk and gives it heat. I use sugar to balance the acidity a bit. . “

“There is vegetable shortening in my cookies; it makes them soft and forgiving. Stir it into the flour until you have a coarse cornmeal texture. I pick it up and rub it between my thumb and my thumb. index finger, drop it and start over. “

“Turn the dough at the end before cutting it so that the smooth side of the dough is up, this gives the cookies more height.”

Chadwick Boyd Wisdom Cookie

“I combine cream of tartar with baking soda to make my own baking powder; it is a pure baking powder. “

“It’s the grandmother’s method; it’s the tactile way of merging butter and flour — with your hands. You literally snap it between your fingers and your thumb. First run your hands under cold water! “

“If in doubt, relax! If the butter feels like it’s melting quickly, place the mixture in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. People prepare for flat cookies if the butter gets too hot.”

“Rather than folding the dough like a letter to laminate it and create layers, I squeeze it and stack the layers. It’s an easier way to achieve the same effect.”

Wisdom Biscuit by Thessa Diadem

“White Lily All-Purpose is a great low protein flour, and protein is what develops gluten; [the flour] is very forgiving. If you can’t find it, replace it with cake flour. “

“Labneh mimics whole buttermilk, and the acid helps it rise. Since it’s a thick yogurt cheese and doesn’t hold in as much moisture as regular yogurt, it works great. “

Frozen for fresh

“Freeze-dried corn works better than fresh corn, which has too much moisture. Plus, freeze-dried corn is more intense and concentrated in flavor.”

“I highly recommend looking for European butter, which is higher in fat. Butter that is not high in fat can overdevelop the dough, resulting in a hard cookie.”


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