By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
Over at The Slow Cook blog, I recently described trying to decode my grandmother's recipe for butter chew cookies and my readers have been on pins and needles waiting to learn the final formula we used in our baking appreciation classes this week. Here goes...
This is a two-step baking process. First you make a dough that will form an underlying crust for the cookie. Then you cover the crust with a chewy topping of brown sugar, coconut, nuts and egg whites.
Start by creaming 1 1/2 sticks room-temperature butter and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. We did this by hand, beating the butter and sugar together until it was a soft, creamy texture. But you could also do it in an electric mixer. Then stir in 1 1/2 cups flour, completely incorporating the butter mixture. Use your hands to gather and squeeze the mix together into a ball. Place the dough in a greased, 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan and press the dough toward the edges of the pan with your fingers until the pan is completely covered. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake 15 minutes. The dough should be cooked through and turning a little brown around the edges. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, separate three eggs into two mixing bowls. Set the egg whites aside. Into the three yolks mix 2 1/4 packed cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup flaked coconut and 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts. Stir well until egg is completely incorporated.
Beat egg whites until they begin to form soft peaks. Fold into the brown sugar mixture, then spread the mix evenly over the cooked dough. Return pan to the oven and bake another 30 minutes. The topping should be firmly set and mahogany brown. Place on a wire rack to cool at least 45 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
The trickiest part about these cookies is the cutting. The topping is tender and easily crushed. Use a sharp knife to cut the finished sheet of cookie away from the edges of the baking pan. When loose, invert onto the back of baking sheet, then flip again onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to score the topping through to the crust underneath, forming the outlines of individual rectangular pieces about 1 1/4 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Follow the scoring with a chef's knife, pressing down to cut through the crust. I did this with four rows of cookies at a time.
When the cookies have all been cut, arrange them on a decorative plate and dust with confectioner's sugar. Kids have a great time making it "snow" on the cookies, pouring the sugar into a small sieve, then "spanking" the sieve with their other hand. Or you can dust them with sugar and store in a cookie tin, using parchment paper between layers of cookies.
Warning: these are incredibly sweet and addictive.