Catharsis Cookies

You ever have a week where all you want to do is break things down to their smallest possible version, smash them flat, and bake them into submission?

Yeah. These are your cookies.

These cookies have other good qualities! They taste like summer. They are ridiculously thin and crisp. You can eat them by the fistful, the flavor profile only deepens over time and they stay good for weeks. But to be completely honest, the main attraction is shredding the shit out of some aromatics and then smashing stuff with a rolling pin.

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I’ve made this recipe about 6 times now, but I am only 55% certain that I have discovered all the possible ways to fuck them up. I do not understand cookies. Cakes, I get. Cakes, I can diagnose like a human pastry tricorder. Cookies? I have never known what is going on in those flat bastards. I may never know. So I did some things, and they worked, but I can’t really guess why. These are catharsis cookies, not Greek Theater 302: The Cookies Of Emotional Completion. Proceed with caution.

The original recipe and technique comes from this Martha Stewart video. There’s some wiggle room on the sweetener here: I replaced the molasses with a combination of honey, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in various configurations. The more honey you use, the easier the dough will be to mix and roll. But honey is expensive, and the flavor is pretty strong in the finished cookies, so it can also be replaced with corn syrup, or foregone altogether in favor of dry sugars and upper body strength.

Yields: A fuckton. Depends on the size of your cookie cutters. Somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty inch-wide circles?

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups flour, divided into ½ cup and 2 cups
Extra flour for dusting
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt (yes, it needs to be kosher)
1 ¼ cup sweetener—my preferred proportion is 2/3 cup honey, 1/3 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, but you do you
Fresh ginger (about 2 inches of fresh ginger root)
1 tbsp lemon zest (approx. 1 lemon)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening

(Note: in the header image, I have a chocolate-mint version mixed with the ginger-lemon, but that is still under development)

 Equipment:
At least one baking sheet, preferably 3
Parchment paper/silpat
Biscuit cutter/cookie cutter of your choosing
Rolling pin
Stand mixer/electric hand mixer
Mixing bowl
Microwave safe container
Scrapey spatula
Sifter
Zester/grater
Vegetable peeler or small knife
Cellophane

Put your butter and shortening together in the microwave for 30 seconds. Ignore until called for later. Grab the ginger, lemon, and zester. Peel the ginger, then break it down with the grater. How much ginger? This much ginger!

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The ginger should break down to a little more than a tablespoon once grated. Throw that in the mixing bowl. Wash the lemon in hot water until the surface no longer feels waxy, then zest that sucker.

Throw all your sweeteners and aromatics into the mixing bowl and cream together. Then add the butter/shortening mixture and mix it all up. Sift together half a cup of flour and the baking soda over the mixing bowl. Throw the salt in on top. If you try to sift kosher salt with the flour, it will just get caught in the holes of the sifter and jump around like a small crystalline child in a bounce house, mocking you for your lack of foresight.

Mix everything together until it’s smooth. Now I have a present for you. See the rest of that flour? You don’t have to sift it! Go team, ra ra ra, etc. Set the mixer on low and add the flour slowly. After every half cup, stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom.

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Your dough is done. Lay out way more cellophane than you think you could ever need. Divide the dough into four quadrants and smack one onto the cellophane. Put some flour on your rolling pin, and roll out the dough. (Roll out the dough is, as far as I can tell, Martha Stewart talk for “squish it with the rolling pin until you’re bored and it’s approximately brick-shaped.)

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Wrap up each quadrant in cellophane and throw it in the fridge.

Here is a place where it is very easy to fuck up! I would love to tell you that you can leave the dough in for days and days before baking the cookies. But that would be a damn lie. I’ve made this recipe four times, and the only time I had trouble was when I was baking for my actual sick grandpa, and let the mixture chill for three days. Then the dough started pulling this crumbly continental plate bullshit:

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I salvaged that batch by brushing it with vegetable oil and tears and then letting it warm up on the counter, but the final cookies had a weird bubbly texture to them. It’s better just to bake the cookies quickly.The dough needs to chill for at least two hours, but no more than a day.

When you’re ready to start baking, assemble all your materials before starting. Things are going to go fast once you start working. You will need:

-parchment paper cut to the size of the baking tray(s)—yes, it needs to be precisely the right size and lay flat.

-baking sheet(s). I like to have two to bake with and one on the counter for flattening cookies, but not everyone hoards baking sheets.

-cookie cutter(s). I like round fluted cutters for these—easy to cut, easy to pack into tins or whatever later. A mix of large and small cutters are best.

-rolling pin

-some cellophane

If you try to cut out these cookies and then bake them, the dough will tear when being transferred to the baking sheet. So instead, we’re going to roll them flat, bake them in a massive sheet, and then cut them out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take one dough brick out of the fridge. I use very small baking sheets to accommodate my very small oven, so I could only roll out about 1/3 of each brick at a time. If you can use standard cookie sheets, you can probably roll out half a brick at a go, and also fuck you for your reasonably sized kitchen appliances.

Lay your cut parchment paper out on a flat surface. Slap down the brick segment in the middle. Put a sheet of cellophane on top, and roll. Roll that fucker down. Squish it thinner. If it breaks, push the edges back together and keep rolling. Try and get the dough so thin that it will be translucent if you hold the parchment paper up to the light.

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How many fingers am I holding up?

Lay the dough’d parchment paper down on a sheet. (I like to prep two baking sheets before starting to bake.) Throw one baking sheet in. Take a deep breath. Three minutes later, rotate it and bake for two more minutes.

You can only cut out the cookies while the cookie sheet is soft, and there’s some tricky special reasoning involved in efficiently squeezing round cookies out of a rectangular mass. Stamp out a cookie, drop it on the third baking sheet, squish it flat, and continue. You have thirty seconds. Run.

Just kidding. I couldn’t move fast enough, and you probably can’t either. It’s okay! When the cookie flat starts getting too hard to cut easily, throw it back in the oven for thirty seconds. If you’re using a thin metal cookie cutter, keep in mind that heat will transfer up from the cookie sheet, through the cutter, and into your hand. That’s some bullshit! It helps to have two cutters involved. This also lets you squeeze more cookies out, especially if one cutter is large and the other is small.

Once you have the hang of things, you can get a nice rhythm going. I rolled out two sheets worth, put one in the oven, pulled it out, put the next one in, stamped out cookies, pulled the next one out, stamped out cookies, reheated the remnants of the first tray, pulled that out and put in the remnants of the second tray, stamped out the remnants of the first tray, and pulled out the second tray, and then stamped out the remnants of the second tray. The whole process takes about 20 minutes once the cycle is set.

As soon as the cookies are cooled on the flattening tray, put them in an airtight container—a Tupperware or plastic bag works fine. Humidity is death to these cookies. If you live somewhere sensible, you probably won’t have to rush them into a container so quickly. But I lived in a reclaimed swamp city while developing this recipe. If I didn’t protect the cookies right away, I wouldn’t have anything suitable to offer the Great Mudlord when it required sacrifice.

Develop your routine and repeat until you’re out of dough. These cookies make excellent gifts for queasy people (ginger!), people who like impossibly thin baked goods, and bloodthirsty swamp lords. Or your face. Probably honestly your face.

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THE SACRIFICE IS READY

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