Why I Hate Cookies: Confessions of a Curmudgeon

I don’t really hate cookies. In fact of all the simple sweet treats I like cookies best. The bestest in fact. But cookies are potent symbols for everything that bugs me about Internet food writers. Especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. Do you know how many recipes there are on the web for “perfect” chocolate chip cookies? Quite a few it turns out– but nowhere near as many as the phrase “the best” chocolate chip cookies.

Of course we can’t blame food bloggers entirely for taking the phrase “the best” and editorially pissing all over it until it means absolutely nothing. Because the revered New York Times may have started this war of the superlatives back in 2008 when it dubbed one recipe the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie. In fact they suggested sainthood for Madame Toll House herself. Talk about effusive!

The recipe I refer to is by Jacques Torres. You can find it just about anywhere. Simply type in the phrase “the best chocolate chip cookies– EVER” and you’ll find it. So I won’t bother to reproduce it here. Besides I am not really talking about chocolate chip cookies. In fact cookies in general are just the metaphor I choose to use.

google cookies searchBecause it didn’t take long for every blogger on the planet to jump on board the New York Times Cookie Express. Each one trying to take the phrase “the best” and wiggle it into HTML gold. The irony is best illustrated by googling for the “best chocolate chip cookie”. Which now yields hundreds of examples of mediocre chocolate chip cookies. So the most faithful cookie monsters among us have taken the object of their esteem and editorially lambasted it into an Internet joke.

Because creating the best anything takes a helluva a lot more than a great recipe and limited vocabulary. See this is where the curmudgeon in this story gets introduced. He is of course me (disguised to be a lot less adorable than I really am…) and he is going to challenge us all to choose our words more carefully. Because Google is listening.

Now I know this attitude makes it seem like I am itching for a fight. Because dissing cookies on a food blog is a dangerous thing. So here are the caveats. The Jacques Torres cookie recipe can and does make winning cookies. But I am not quite sure why they turn out as great as they do. The recipe is rather banal and basic. Most cookie recipes use these techniques.

So why is this recipe “the best”? I suspect because the technique is clearly communicated. In other words, it’s written well. So in that sense baking and writing should be similar. But they aren’t are they? Lazy baking makes bad cookies. No matter how well written the recipe. Lazy writing on the other hand always, always ends up being “the best”. In fact lazy writing is so good that it usually has the phrase “the best” written all over it!

So with that I bring you Black Sesame Lace Cookies. They come from Joanne Chang the owner and pastry chef at Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. These cookies really are hum-dingers too! It’s a peerless recipe, far surpassing any other recipe in the world. It’s wonderfully simple. In fact they make themselves, you don’t even have to get out of bed. You probably have all the ingredients you need right in your pantry, because you are an outstanding shopper. Even the black sesame seeds probably grow on a tree in your own backyard!

What I am trying to say is this: These are are the best damn Black Sesame Lace Cookies- EVER!. And I am not just saying it because this post is getting long, pointless and in desperate need of a conclusion.

Black Sesame Lace Cookies makes 24 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • black sesame lace cookie100 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 100 g light brown sugar, packed
  • 75 g all-purpose flour
  • 80 g fresh orange juice
  • 3 T black sesame seeds

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream the butter until creamy and light, about 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until combined. Turn the speed down to low and add the flour and mix until well combined. Slowly drizzle in the orange juice and mix for about 30 seconds; the mixture will look a little broken, which is okay. Mix in the sesame seeds.

Transfer the batter to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 1 week.

When ready to bake cookies, position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees F for convection). Line a very flat baking sheet with parchment paper. (This batter spreads like crazy, so you have to use an extremely flat baking sheet in order for the cookies to bake in circles and not amoeba-like shapes.)

Pinch off rounded tablespoon-size balls of dough and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart to allow for spreading.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are completely golden brown throughout. Let cool completely (they must be firm to the touch) on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Gently remove the cookies from the parchment.

The cookies can be stored, in layers separated with sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


Greg Henry

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