I was doing a little browsing around over at Bakers Banter, the King Arthur Flours blog the other day. Just about anything with the word vanilla in the title will catch my attention. I love vanilla! I couldn’t wait to try these Vanilla Dreams.
When I starting reading this recipe for Vanilla Dreams I was intrigued. The recipe calls for something called Baker’s ammonia or ammonium carbonate. You use this in place of baking powder to create a tender yet crunchy texture in your cookie. I decided to do a little science experiment in my kitchen.
I found the ammonium carbonate at our local cake decorating shop but you could also try your pharmacy. When I asked for it they said, “Oh that stinky stuff.” They were right, it smells terrible, just like ammonia. It’s pretty powerful. I have to admit I was a little leary of putting something so stinky into my cookies but I’m glad I did.
Baker’s Banter was right, it did create a tender and crisp cookie – they were delicious. I was curious to see how different the cookie would be if I used baking powder instead. I made a second batch the next day (the first batch had quickly disappeared) using the baking powder. They were still yummy but there definitely was a difference in the texture of the cookie. The cookies were slightly thicker and not as crisp and tender. I have to say I liked the version with the ammonium carbonate the best.
So if you can find the ammonium carbonate definitely use it, if you can’t, this recipe is still great and definitely worth making with just regular baking powder.
I learned another fun trick with this recipe. I followed the directions and formed the dough into round balls and then I used the food pusher from my food processor to create a fun circular, ridged design on the cookies.
Just dip the pusher into some butter and then sugar and press down on the dough.
Your baked cookies will have a fun circular design on them.
I decided to leave half the cookies plain so I could enjoy their vanilla goodness and the other half I covered in some melted semi-sweet chocolate chips using my pastry brush and a sprinkle of toasted pecans – lovely!
- 2 to 3 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp baker's ammonia or 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1¼ C sugar
- 1 C unsalted butter
- 2 C King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- coarse or granulated sugar for topping, optional
- 1 C diced pecans or walnuts, crushed
- 1 C chocolate chips
- 1 ½ Tbsp vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 300°F
- Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets
- Combine the vanilla, baker's ammonia, and salt in a very small bowl
- Stir to dissolve the ammonia; the salt won't fully dissolve
- Combine the vanilla mixture with the butter and sugar, and beat till smooth
- Mix in the flour; the mixture will seem quite dry at first
- Continue beating until the dough comes together
- Break off pieces of dough about the size of a shelled chestnut (about ¾ ounce)
- Roll the pieces into balls
- Space them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2" between them
- For somewhat sweeter cookies with the added crunch of sugar topping, roll them in coarse or granulated sugar before placing them on the baking sheets
- Use the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar if necessary to prevent sticking, to flatten the balls to about ⅜" thick
- If you have it, use the end of the food pusher from a food processor; many of these have a circular, ridged pattern on their end, which imprints the cookies with a nice design
- Bake the cookies until they're a very light golden brown around the edges, about 25 minutes.
- Remove them from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool
- Crush the pecans finely, either by putting them in a zip-top plastic bag and pounding, or in a food processor
- Combine the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe cup
- Microwave till the chocolate softens, then stir till it melts completely
- Use a pastry brush to paint the bottom of each cookie with chocolate
- Dip in the crushed nuts
- Place cookies, chocolate-side up, on a piece of parchment or cookie sheet to set