There’s a well-known cookie expert in town, and she goes by the name of Karen. Karen’s Cookies is run by the husband-wife team, Karen and Mike, and it is the ultimate one stop shop for cookie recipes, tips on cookie decorating, and cookie making tools that you never could have imagined. Karen was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about how she became a cookie professional, the best cookie she has ever had, and the age-old cookie divide: crispy versus soft.
What were your first experiences with baking, and when did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts?
I think I was born wanting to bake! I remember going to the elementary school library when I was in first grade and checking out a Sesame Street cookbook. I took it home and had my mom copy down the recipes onto recipe cards for me (because I couldn’t write very well yet!). I still have those cards written out in my mom’s beautiful handwriting. I received the first cookbook of my very own for my 7th birthday, and I have collected more than a few since then!
I started out my college years as an elementary education major, and my roommate was a culinary arts student. As I struggled through my kindergarten classroom visits, I was watching her do all the things I really wanted to be doing! It only took me one semester to switch career paths, and I’ve never looked back! (Incidentally, my sister ended up taking the elementary education route and is an AMAZING kindergarten and first grade teacher! I never could have done what she does. Hooray for our teachers!)
You are the expert on all things related to cookies. What is the best cookie you have ever had?
Hmm… that is a tough question! I know I’m a decorated sugar cookie person, but I have to say that my Grandpa’s Gingersnap cookies are the BEST ever. I make 12 batches of them every Christmas for my neighbors, and I think there might be a revolt if I ever quit! My Grandpa loved to cook and bake. I think that’s where I got my baking gene, and I think about him every time I make his Gingersnaps.
There seems to be two schools of preference for cookie texture: well-done and crispy or soft-baked with a gooey center. Which camp are you in?
Oh, definitely well-done and crispy. In fact, last night I over-baked a tray of cookies. It was a bummer because they were too crispy for their purpose, but they were awesome for me. I’ve managed to make a few of them disappear.
I have a special recipe for chocolate chip cookies that is delicious, but even when I think I am doing the same thing every time, sometimes my cookies come out flat and sometimes they stay nice and puffy–what causes the difference?
I think it could be one of a few things. First is flour. I think some brands perform better than others, so if you changed brands recently that might be the culprit. Also, if your flour is out of date, it gets tired and stops working well, so check the date. Another thing is egg size. Make sure you’re not accidentally using extra-large eggs. Check the egg carton before you bring them home because too much egg can definitely cause spreading. Last but not least, some brands of butter have more water content than others. The super-ultra-premium butters have the very least, and the cheaper brands will have a little more. If you can’t afford the super-ultra-premium (and I’m right there with you!), add an extra tablespoon of flour to your recipe and see if that helps.
What is the most elaborate cookie design you have ever executed?
I did a really fancy gingerbread girl one time, complete with gum paste ribbons and bows and gold-painted accents. It was for a cookie decorating contest more than a decade ago, and I didn’t even come close to placing! I’ve stuck with “cute and simple” ever since!
Your site provides readers with tons of great tips and tricks for creating unique and delicious cookies. What would be your number one piece of advice when it comes to cookie decorating?
Practice and patience! I can’t count how many times I’ve heard new decorators say “I can’t do this” after only trying one time! There are very few (if any) decorating prodigies. For most of us, it takes a lot of practice and patience to get it right, but anyone can do it with enough patience! Keep trying and have fun with it!
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