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High Country Baking: Simple and easy muffin pan cookies that taste like self-indulgence

By Vera Dawson
Special to the Daily
These chocolate chip cookies taste like a better version of packaged cookies.
Special to the Daily

High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

No question about it…staying home and social distancing are critical right now. But it’s not easy. To counter the inevitable cabin fever, I try to find projects to keep myself occupied. Creating these Muffin Pan Chocolate Chippers was a recent one.

If you’re looking for ways to pass the time while stuck inside, it’s a good choice. The ingredients are common ones that may already be in your pantry, requiring no extra trips to the grocery store. It’s easy enough that kids can make it with very little supervision so it can be a family activity. Success is just about guaranteed because the dough is spooned into the cups of a muffin pan rather than mounded on a baking sheet, so there’s no chance the cookies will spread, which is a major problem at high elevations. And, perhaps best of all, your reward is the contentment that comes when nibbling sweet, warm homemade cookies. After all, these times call for a little self-indulgence.

Testers report that the cookies remind them of good commercial chocolate chip cookies. If you want to change the taste a bit and make the recipe your own, feel free to add other ingredients. You could replace half of the chocolate chips with peanut butter or butterscotch chips for extra sweetness, or use chopped nuts, dried cranberries, cherries or raisins for some sneaky health food. Anything goes, just as long as the full amount of add-ins remains at five ounces.

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Muffin Pan Chocolate Chippers

Make in two 12-cup muffin pans

Yields 24 cookies

Adjusted for altitudes of 7,800 feet and above

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour, spoon and level

A little less than ¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

5 ounces dark chocolate chips or other add-ins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the upper and lower third of the oven if you’re using two muffin pans. Use the center position if you’ll use only one muffin pan and will fill it twice. Line the pans with paper cupcake liners and grease the liners with a baking spray that contains flour.

2. Cut the butter into eight pieces, place them in a microwave-safe mixing bowl and melt the butter at a medium-low temperature in a microwave oven. Remove the bowl from the oven, add the brown sugar and stir/whisk to blend. If the mixture is hot, let it cool for 3-5 minutes so the egg won’t cook when you add it. Add the egg and vanilla extract and stir/whisk until combined.

3. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and stir only until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Don’t overwork the dough. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough into each of the prepared paper-lined muffin cups and smooth the top. If you’re using only one pan and will re-fill it, cover the remaining dough and refrigerate it.

4. Bake until the cookies are set and turn light golden with darker edges, from 8-12 minutes. Remove the pan(s) to a rack, cool about 5 minutes, then lift the paper liners, with the cookies in them, out of the pan(s). Slip the cookies out of the liners and let them cool completely. If you’re baking more cookies in the same pan, let it cool before you line it with more paper liners and grease them.

5. Store the cooled cookies in a covered container for three days or freeze them, well-wrapped, for a month. If frozen, thaw and then refresh them on a cookie sheet in a 325-degree oven until they’re warm to the touch to restore their flavor.

This recipe is a variation of one published on the I Heart Eating blog.

Dr. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). She became a full-time Frisco resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.


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