Friday, September 03, 2010

August 21, 2010: Compost cookies

These days it's rare that I prepare food for a group of unmitigated omnivores. But I was faced with this very situation on election night (a distant 10 days ago, and we still don't have a firm government; I wonder if, in the manner of cricket, it's about time we called a draw). Michael and I agreed that we wouldn't go to too much effort, so we all nibbled on bread and dips as Antony Green warmed up his electoral models and were gobbling down a Penang Affair delivery by the time Kerry O'Brien accidentally called a seat for the ABC.

I put more effort into a non-alcoholic beverage (mint-garnished Lebanese lemonade) and something sweet for the final call that never came. Free of dietary restrictions, I decided on a butter-laden and utterly glutenous recipe for 'compost cookies'. I just couldn't resist the prospect of stuffing cookie dough with chips of the potato as well as the chocolate variety.

Yes indeed, this recipe requires you to select one and a half cups each of your favourite sweet and savoury junk foods, chop them up, and bake them into cookies. I gleefully picked out plain potato chips, sesame pretzel sticks, mini M&Ms and Twix-flavoured Pods and with a twinge of irony added organic butter, free-range eggs and fair trade sugar to the same shopping basket. And just as I had hoped this cookie dough was sweet buttery heaven on a spatula, probably the most delicious unbaked dough I have ever tasted.

Unfortunately the fully-baked cookies didn't quite match up to my moment of bliss with the electric beaters. I was given due warning - Adam emphasised that the dough balls must be thoroughly refrigerated before baking and Penny recounted a case of over-baking. But limited to two trays and with a fridge full of election night drinks there was only so much I was willing to do. The dough balls were firm and cold but clearly not firm and cold enough, and when they hit the oven they rapidly flattened and turned a deep brown round the edges. The ones pictured above were the few most successful cookies and while they were certainly the tastiest, they were nothing on that sweet, sweet dough. While I'd be interested to taste compost cookies at their best, I'm not sure that I'm inclined to bake these ever again.

Compost cookies
(recipe sourced from the Amateur Gourmet)

250g butter
1 cup raw sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup (160g packet) mini M&Ms
3/4 cup finely chopped pods with Twix
3/4 cup plain crisps, crushed
3/4 cup sesame pretzel sticks, chopped finely

With an electric beater, cream together the butter, raw and brown sugars and corn syrup for several minutes, until fluffy. With the beater running at a lower speed, incorporate the vanilla and eggs. Once they're in, crank up the speed again and beat the mixture thoroughly for 10 minutes. Yes, really - the mixture will become much smoother and lighter.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. When the butter mixture is ready, gradually add the dry ingredients at a low beating speed until just combined. Stir the sweet and savoury snacks into the dough until they're just mixed through. Roll the mixture into balls and refrigerate them for between 1 hour and 1 week.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the dough balls on baking trays and bake them until just barely set. (AG says 9-11 minutes but some of my over-baked bikkies were in there for as little as 7 minutes.) Allow the cookies to cool completely on the tray before eating or storing them.


  1. Wow, those cookies sound (and look) fantastic. Thanks for the write-up!

    I'm on the way to the supermarket later this morning, so I'm very tempted to pick up some of those ingredients and give it a go myself.

    I'll have to look up my mother's 'special' recipe for choc-chip biscuits now, perhaps post it on my blog as well to share with others.

    Okay, she got it out of a microwave recipe book in the early 80's, but in my mind it's an ancient family recipe that's been passed down through the generations (i.e. two generations)!

  2. Aww that's a pity - they look so tasty as well!

    I have also been struggling with the concept of leaving cookie batter to chill. I keep reading about these 72 hour cookies from the New York Times (the 72 hours refers to the fridge time to chill the dough). I have gone to make them twice but just can't bear the thought of going to all the effort but not having the reward for several days! Hopefully I will get around to it!

  3. Wow, they sure do look awesome! I think I'll give 'em a try! Check out the cookies I made the other day, not as cool, but at least they look pretty!

  4. I read a lot of people talking about how disappointing the baked cookies were, but when I made compost cookies I had no such troubles - I almost had to squish some of mine down to make sure they didn't end up an inch-plus high in the middle.

    The chill really is important. I froze half of my dough, and those ones (baked straight from frozen at a slightly lower temperature) stayed very puffy, a bit more than my liking really (but it did mean they stayed gooey chewy in the middle.

    Also, it's not mentioned in the recipe but apparently the real ones have coffee grounds in them as well. I made myself a cup of plunger coffee then mixed the used-grounds into the dough. Not sure if you can really taste it much but it adds flecks of brown "grit" into the cookie and adds to the compost feel :) i would do it again just for novelty, and it probably does help cut a bit of the sweetness, subtly.

  5. Oh! YAY for baking compost cookies. It seems that many people have tried and will not try again. I, on the other hand, will love to try again. I do love the colouring from the M&Ms!

  6. I had the real thing from Momofuku a month or so ago (write-up buried somewhere in here). They were good, but not mind-blowing. To be honest, many of the ingredients I've read from food bloggers who've baked them have sounded way more exciting than the original (which is pretzels, potato chips, coffee grounds, oats, butterscotch chips and chocolate chips). I liked 'em well enough, but I think the hype is based more on the wacky concept than the end result. I liked their other (less crazy) cookies more.

  7. Welcome, Swanbridgevic! Plenty of my favourite family recipes come from Women's Weekly cookbooks. :-D

    Emily - I remember reading about that recipe when it came out! I am sure I read of someone staggering their baking (i.e. baking a tray with no dough resting, with 12 hours' resting etc) and deciding the difference was minimal... I thought it was Molly of Orangette but it looks like she gave it the full rest.

    Welcome, AmandaRose! This recipe could be right up your alley. :-)

    Hi Stru! Thanks for sharing those baking notes - if I make these again I'll definitely follow both tips. If I'd paid any attention to the amount of dough I had this time, I would have frozen half of it too. (Mind you, I'm desperately short of freezer space at the moment and I really really want to cram my icecream maker in there ASAP!) The contrast that the coffee grounds would supply appeals to me too. :-)

    Penny - M&Ms do have fun colour but they always seem to bleed into the dough during baking. :-/

    Ruth - thanks for reporting on the 'real' thing! I reckon they should probably be selling the unbaked dough - that shit is good.

  8. never heard of these before but they sound interesting - I have tried potato crisps in choc chip cookies and found them were quite flat and crisp - not my fave of the choc chip versions (sounds like there will be a result on the election today but from what is going on on the radio it sounds like my nightmare about abbot last night might not be so far off)

  9. Look yummy, but not so sure about the name XD
    My coworker just said "yeah I make compost cookies..." winkwink.