Welcome to November, ladies and gentleman. It is the month where everyone's taste obsession shifts from pumpkin and maple to turkeys, and who doesn't look forward to the Day of Eating Yourself Stupid, aka Thanksgiving?
But let's not get ahead of ourselves! Before we run headfirst into turkey season, there is one last thing to take care of from October: using up the rest of the Halloween candy! File this one under "good problems to have". Sure, you could painstakingly eat that candy one... piece....at....a....time.
Or you could stuff it all into a compost cookie. Yes, I am promoting serious black belt gluttony here. How else are we going to fatten up for winter!?
Compost cookies represent a simple proposition really: The only thing better than your standard chocolate chipper is a sweet and salty explosion of chocolate, caramel, crunchy snacks and whatever else you have on hand in every bite.
These cookies used to be really daunting to me, because i have made them before, a long time ago, and they were a catastrophe (they still tasted good though). See exhibit A:
That is an actual picture of the first and only prior batch of compost cookies I made. I was shaking in my boots a bit nervous this time, perhaps understandably, but I decided it was time to face my irrational fear of compost cookies. We've all learned a lot since then, right, about the many ways to ensure the batter has enough structural support for its add-ins, and not overwhelming the batter with 939834 Rolos that will both weigh it down and stick mercilessly to the cookie sheet - right?? Right.
So, this time I started with my favorite Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie base, but I added oatmeal for structural support, to accommodate heavier add ins, and decreased the sugar and vanilla since I usually use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips and the add-ins I used are made of sweeter milk chocolate. Of course, I kept the magic cornstarch in the batter, which helps the batter hold shape and moisture for optimal thickness. This dough is specifically engineered to hold its shape in the face of up to 2 cups of add-ins. Yes, I am that nerd that uses words like "engineered" to describe cookie dough. #Sorrynotsorry
Anyway, nerding aside, cookie dough is like me at the gym: give me a 3-lb weight and I'm golden, a 7-lb weight and I'll be fine, but a 20-lb weight and holycrapsaveme. Dough has "muscles" too, and like mine, these "muscles" have limits to what they can, um, bench press....this metaphor is getting away from me. But I really cannot stress enough the importance of not overloading this dough. Need proof? See above cookietastrophe. In order to avoid this fate, it is important to resist the urge to include more than approximately 2 cups of add-ins.
You can use whatever you want, but I'd highly recommend a mix of salty and sweet, avoiding anything too delicate (for example, use thicker-cut Ruffles instead of thinner-cut Jay's potato chips, or equivalent), and going easy on caramel, which melts and adheres itself to the cookie sheet better than the best superglue. Also, I'd hope this goes without saying, but obviously, chocolate is really important here.
I used roasted peanuts, Snickers, pretzels, potato chips and M&Ms, and I really liked the outcome. But feel free to swap out anything you want, like Reese's or Kit-Kats for Snickers (in which case, please send me some) or, if the Ruffles freak you out, try coconut instead, or just increase the pretzels in the batter. This cookie is very flexible; for example the original recipe calls for coffee grounds. Yes, you read that right. I "accidentally" forgot to add that ingredient, so you won't see it in the below recipe. But if you're feeling particularly saucy, feel free to add a couple of teaspoons. Godspeed.
(Pardon the hastily-taken phone picture pleaseandthankyou.)
The flour-to-add-in ratio is important, but so is chilling the dough, which, in a nutshell, delays the dough from getting to its "spreading point" temperature until later in the cooking process, which gives it less time to, well, spread while cooking. Just make sure that you don't let the dough sit out and start getting back to room temperature before baking, which defeats the purpose of chilling it entirely. Take out only what you need for each round of baking, and leave the rest to stay cold. I find that taking chilled dough straight from the fridge to the oven produces a cookie that best holds its shape. Note that, because of the necessary chilling processed, you have to plan ahead a little bit for this recipe. I usually make the dough after dinner, pop it in the fridge before I go to sleep, and wake up to ready-to-bake cookie dough.
As long as you stick to about 2 cups of add-ins and thoroughly chill the dough (and keep it chilled until baking), you shouldn't have any issues. These cookies are a fun, easy and unexpected twist on the typical chocolate chip cookie!
Buttercream Fanatic (2013)
Dough adapted from Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar (dark brown is ok if that's all you have)
2 large eggs (preferably at room temp. Don't have time to warm it up? Tricks here!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt + more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (make sure you measure using the spoon-and-level method)
2 Tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped*
1/3 cup chopped Snickers (approximately 3 fun-sized bars)*
1/2 cup pretzels, chopped*
1/2 cup sturdy potato chips, broken up slightly*
1/2 cup M&Ms*
*A note about add-ins: Although this recipe is very flexible, it is best to avoid candies that are prone to melting like un-protected caramels (Snickers is ok because there isn't a lot of caramel to melt, and it is encased in chocolate and peanuts to control the melting somewhat), and sugar-syrup based candies like Starburst or Skittles. I honestly don't think fruit flavors would taste very good in a cookie like this anyway, so by skipping these candies, you won't be missing out on anything more than a weird-tasting cookie mess. If in doubt, use the same add-ins that I used.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together softened butter and sugar on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla extract and continue to mix on medium speed for about a minute until the consistency is even throughout. Then add baking soda, mix for about 20 seconds, add salt and cornstarch, mix again for another 20 seconds, and then stop the mixer and add all of the flour at once. Slowly mix the flour in until just combined. Do not overmix. Add your mix-ins all at once and gently mix at the lowest speed for about 5 seconds until thoroughly incorporated.
Divide the dough into heaping scoops and roll into approximately 2-3 inch balls and sprinkle each dough ball with a small pinch of salt. Lay dough balls on a plate and refrigerate overnight. If you're really in a hurry, you can freeze them for 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread six dough balls on a prepared (greased, or covered with parchment or a silpat) cookie sheet. Bake for 11-12 minutes, until the edges are golden. The tops will not brown very much; that's ok. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 18-20 cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.
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