It’s Complicated

January 20, 2011

Those two words sum up my relationship with my Baked cookbooks.  It’s complicated.

These books are like the almost perfect boyfriend from high school.  Handsome, smart, useful, interesting, even exciting.  But they can let you down when you least expect it.  And they are not reliable.  When they are good, they are very very good.  And when they are bad, well, sometimes there are tears.

Last weekend, I made the Grasshopper Cake from the first book for a friend’s birthday.  I love the Baked chocolate cake recipe.  It bakes up nice and tall and perfectly flat.  No domed top of slice off.  And it is moist with terrific chocolate flavor.  Adding a mint ganache and a mint buttercream frosting to that perfect cake seemed like a no-brainer.  Their buttercream recipe is not traditional and it did not turn out well for me at all.  I could not get the butter to incorporate no matter how long and how hard I whipped.  I was left with a frosting that tasted good but looked terrible.  There were flat pea sized pieces of butter throughout.  I only used about 1/3 of it – I just couldn’t pile it on – and I covered the cake with flat Dutch mints.  It ended up looking good and my husband and my friend Lauren, both of whom have eaten plenty of my cakes, said it was one of my best.  But throwing out about the equivalent of three sticks of butter made me mad.

Because I’m a girl and I had to come back for more, I decided to make Nutella scones from the new book.  How could you go wrong, right?  Wrong.  In spite of the authors’ warnings of not mixing the dough too much (a common warning with scones), I had to manhandle it and add much more cream than recommended to get anything even resembling a dough.  What came out of the oven did not look like the scones of my past.  They kind of toppled over on the themselves.  And they just didn’t taste good.  At first I thought it was because they weren’t sweet enough but no, they just weren’t good.  My kids were so excited – a chocolate scone! – but they didn’t like them either.  Rats.  And my brother Michael, the one who asks me to make the Nutella Pound Cake any time I offer dessert, he didn’t take a single one home with him.  That, my friends, is a failure.

Oh, but I went back for more.  Rather than break up with my books, I decided to make a cookie that sounded like a home run.  And it is, kind of.  There is almost too much chocolate for the dough (I never thought I would say that), and not quite enough pretzels for them to make sense being there.  If I’m going to have something salty in my cookie, I want to really notice it, not be like, “Huh?  What is a pretzel piece doing in my cookie?”.  But I will be back for more.  I just can’t quit you Baked.

One Year Ago:  Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Two Years Ago:  Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini

Cowboy Cookies
Baked Explorations
Makes about 24 large cookies

1¾ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 cups rolled oats
14 tbsp. (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks (about 12 ounces)
¾ cup thin salty pretzels (about 1½ ounces) broken into tiny pieces but not crushed into dust

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add the oats and stir to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy.  Add the egg and egg yolk, beating until the mixture looks light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat for 5 seconds.  Dissolve the espresso powder in ¼ cup hot water and add it to the bowl, mixing until combined.

Add half the dry ingredients and mix for 15 seconds.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the chocolate chunks and ½ cup of the pretzel pieces.  Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop dough in 2 tablespoon-size balls (or use a tablespoon measure) and place the dough balls onto the prepared sheets about 1 inch apart.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup pretzel pieces over the dough balls.  Use the palm of your hand to press the dough down lightly; don’t small the cookie – you just want to slightly flatten the ball and push the pretzel pieces into the dough.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown or just starting to darken.

Set the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool.  Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.  They can be store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


  1. That does indeed sound like that boyfriend from high school. Is the amount of pretzels in your recipe the amount from the book, ie do you recommend increasing it?

    Comment by Adele — January 20, 2011 @ 2:38 am

  2. I don’t own the BAKED cookbooks, because I like to treat myself to the real thing in their Brooklyn bakery. I am not a great baker, so when a recipe doesn’t turn out FABULOUS, I get very discouraged, wasting all that time and all those ingredients. I find that happens a lot w/ cookbooks.
    You have to add this or that, and the quantities are off.

    These cookies look FABULOUS! I love salt and sweet.
    I might make them!

    Comment by stacey snacks — January 20, 2011 @ 2:50 am

  3. damn girl! you are on a roll. i like that you never give up! With those cookbooks, really—how could you??

    Comment by tracy — January 20, 2011 @ 4:05 am

  4. My first time reading your blog and I totally get your likening Baked to a high school boyfriend who unexpectedly disappoints except I feel that way about Dorie Greenspan’s Baking! I’m sure I’ve thrown out more than enough failed batches of white chocolate whipped cream to see your tossed butter (just mentioning it makes me anxious!) I made the grasshopper cake last year for my daughter’s 14th birthday and it came out great, go figure!

    How interesting, we were going to try the scones next but now I’ll pick something else. Our favorite cake from Baked is the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake, I’ve made it many times–love it. Also my 12 year old’s favorite two cakes she makes are the Marble Bundt and Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Can’t wait to discover what else works for us from Explorations! I’m sure I’ll make up with Dorie some day.

    Comment by lfavreau — January 20, 2011 @ 4:27 am

  5. I have only the first baked book and I like it, but I’ve had a failure with it too. I’m definitely curious about the second one and I’d like to cook more from the first. Definitely the salty sweet cake that you’ve made me crave! Oh well, ’tis better to have tried and failed than never tried at all….right? right???

    Comment by kickpleat — January 20, 2011 @ 5:16 am

  6. Dana – I feel your pain. I hate it when things don’t turn out the way your mind had imagined. Even getting compliments on it doesn’t change the way you feel about it. Must have been a wierd buttercream not to incorporate the butter. (I just whipped up some tonight to frost my boy’s birthday cake – fortunately I used America’s Test Kitchen recipe which works like a charm).
    Better luck with the next recipe!

    Comment by Charlotte — January 20, 2011 @ 6:10 am

  7. Lovely post… I have a sort-of similar relationship with my Skye Gyngell books – I adore the recipes, but can never quite bring myself to make any of them. All just slightly too fussy… Actually that’s nothing like you were saying. Aaaanyway. I am MOST intrigued by the presence of pretzels in this recipe.

    Robyn x

    Comment by Koek! — January 20, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  8. Well this is kind of disheartening. Because after I made the grasshopper bars from baked: explorations (heavenly. You need to make them. ASAP.) I was under the impression that everything in that book with be that magical. Sigh. I guess even the Baked guys have kitchen fails sometimes.

    Comment by Joanne — January 20, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  9. I feel the same way about the Baked book! I’ve tried the pumpkin bread, which was good, but nothing terribly unique, and I just haven’t gotten around to trying any more of the recipes because they all sound so…involved. High maintenance, even. I mean, I enjoy foodie-isms like everyone else, but sometimes I feel like the Baked fellows are simply a bit TOO food snobbish. Oh well. It all just adds to the happiness when recipes do turn out fabulously! :)

    Comment by Larie — January 20, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  10. You are way more persistent than I am! I am impressed by your energy and commitment, I think I would never open that book again, I tend to hold cookbook grudges… ;-)

    Comment by SallyBR — January 20, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  11. I wonder if you’ve tried anything from the Grand Central Bakery book? I tried their oatmeal cookies but they spread. A lot. A lot a lot. :) I made it just as they instructed too, so it was sad. Still looking for the perfect oatmeal cookie.

    Comment by Chris — January 20, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

  12. I have the same problem with Baked! I haven’t even baked from the new book yet, out of fear probably. Some things have worked, and some things really have not worked at all. But, a cookie with chocolate, espresso, and pretzels is worth the risk. Those look great!

    Comment by lisaiscooking — January 20, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  13. What a fantastic post!! Isn’t it always the “no-brainer” baking projects that get us turned upside down…(am having a similar bout with Dorie’s double choc mousse cake – on my 4th and final try!) Your cookies look wonderful…even if you weren’t feeling the pretzels. I have the second “Baked” book but have not made anything from it yet. Love your blog!

    Comment by Nina — January 20, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

  14. i commend you, I don’t think I’d go back a third time since wasting food is my ultimate pet peeve. I have yet to try a pretzel in my cookie, but I am intrigued.

    Comment by Sara — January 20, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

  15. I think these sound delicious! We’re going on a snow shoe trip next weekend so I think these chocolate pretzel filled cookies will be a big hit!

    Comment by Emily — January 21, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

  16. You have one my heart over with these ;) Looks absolutely divine!

    Comment by Alexa @ Sohdalex — January 21, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  17. I borrowed Baked from the library and found a lot of the recipes rather daunting and didn’t end up trying anything.

    Comment by Luann — January 22, 2011 @ 2:17 am

  18. Love the boyfriend analogy :)

    I really want to make these. Ed’s been nagging me to bake something with chocolate so I think I’ll give these a whirl next week. (Perhaps with a bit less chocolate, as suggested.)

    Comment by Hilary — January 22, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  19. Do these have granulated sugar in them as well? The directions say beat the butter and sugars, but the ingredient list just has brown sugar.

    Comment by Emily — January 24, 2011 @ 2:12 am

  20. Emily – thank you for catching that! There is 3/4 cup granulated sugar in the recipe. I changed it in my post.

    Comment by dana — January 24, 2011 @ 5:49 am

  21. Aw fooey! I’ve been saving the scone recipe for months to make for a friend’s birthday in Feb. I was even planning to make my own choco-hazelnut spread. I would have been really upset if I took the time to do that and they didn’t turn out well. Think I’ll try my second choice, a gianduja triple layer cake from Sky High.

    As a fellow vegetarian who loves to bake (and desperately wants to move to the PNW), I always enjoy reading your posts! :)

    Comment by Amy — January 26, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  22. That sucks about the grasshopper cake. I’ve been eying that cake for a while now. These cookies look really good but I’m with you in that I’d want more pretzels in them!

    Comment by Ashley — March 21, 2011 @ 5:28 am

  23. I’m surprised about the buttercream – the first time I made it, I freaked out because it looked so curdled, but surprise! – it came together a few minutes later. It was the most heavenly buttercream I’ve ever tasted and I make it all the time now. Maybe your butter was too cold – if you had small bits of butter that never incorporated, that’s the only way I can see that happening. If you had a cold kitchen when you made it, that might do it. I wonder if heating it ever so slightly the way bakers suggest with other buttercreams might help.

    I haven’t had trouble with any of their recipes (yet), but I don’t think I’ll be making the Nutella scones anyway – not a fan of Nutella (I know, I know).

    Comment by Lissa Brooks from Tacoma — September 28, 2011 @ 3:11 am

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