Chocolate chips, toffee pieces, raisins, walnuts — all very traditional cookie add-ins. I grew up slicing and baking cookies from logs of premade dough bought from the refrigerated case in my grocery store. You know, the “Dough-boy” brand.
Thinking outside the cookie log will set you apart from other cookie bakers. Have you ever thought about adding chai tea, potato chips, pretzel chunks, licorice or even bacon bits? Keep your mind open and read on.
In my Chocolate Chip Gingersnap Chai Cookie recipe, I use ground chai tea leaves along with Indian spices such as cloves, cardamom, mace and freshly grated ginger. Think of a classic gingersnap with a modern spin (or your favorite coffeehouse beverage).
Crushed potato chips along with peanut butter-filled pretzels make a cool, slightly salty statement. I love a little kosher salt with my chocolate. Junk in da Trunk cookies from my cookbook are my answer to the question, What can I do with small amounts of salty treats leftover from Sunday football games? On that same note about football treats, try substituting bacon fat for butter in your chocolate chip cookies. I’ve found that I can substitute up to 50 percent and still have a perfect cookie with a slightly smoky, salty flavor. And while you’re at it, go ahead and toss in the cooled crispy pieces of bacon — what the heck.
I also love to sprinkle the cookies with a little bit of sea salt before baking.
Once in a while I get a kooky idea to actually smoke something and add it to my cookies. I’ve been known to smoke sugar, chocolate, salt, flour, milk, corn and butter. Butter can be a little tricky. Before smoking, I cut the stick into chunks and place them in the freezer then set the smoker on the lowest temperature. (Household smoking guns or smoker boxes can be purchased online or at your kitchenware stores. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions.) Place the butter in a pan, set it in a larger pan of ice, place that on the top of the smoker and let it go. You want lots of smoke with very little heat. Smoking works so quickly that it needs only about 20 minutes. Taste it and pull it out when you really like the flavor, chill it and it’s ready for baking. The smoke flavor works really well with recipes that include nuts, chocolate, cornmeal or chipotle peppers. This may sound crazy, but it’s a great way to add a bit of zing. Try a dish using a chunk or two. If you like it, let it rip the next time.
Use your imagination: malted milk balls, caramel chunks, butterscotch morsels and salted peanuts.