- By Addie Broyles American-Statesman Staff
Cookies are pretty perfect as they are, except when the only thing wrong with them is that there are so many.
Of course, one of the best things about cookies is that they are individually sized treats that we don’t have to share or refrigerate or eat with a fork, but sometimes the baker doesn’t want to scoop so much dough or carry a plastic container of cookies into a party, especially if it doesn’t quite feel like cookie season yet.
That’s where skillet cookies come in. I enjoyed many slices of chocolate chip cookie from Great American Cookies at the mall when I was a kid, but I hadn’t tried baking them at home until this summer.
The internet is full of skillet cake recipes — the bakers at America’s Test Kitchen identified it as an internet trend in their latest book, “The Perfect Cookie,” where they advise reducing the amount of butter and chocolate chips so that the cookie will actually bake all the way through in the oven and won’t be too gooey to handle.
The best skillet cookie recipes call for heating the butter in the pan over the stove and then mixing the rest of the ingredients right there in the skillet. It’s one-dish baking at its finest, so you’ll have little cleanup, but the heat of the pan also helps the dough cook while in the oven.
Even though I like the recipes where you melt the butter in the pan first, plenty of others call for a traditional cookie dough simply spread in a skillet instead of scooped onto a cookie sheet. Some bakers find that they can use most cookie recipes as is, while others adapt them slightly to cut down on the quantity.
A recipe that yields several dozen cookies will be too much for a 10- or 12-inch skillet, so keep an eye on the flour. If the recipe calls for 2 cups or flour or more, you’ll need to reduce it to fit into a regular skillet. (Extra-large cast-iron skillets would be fun to experiment with, but I’ve been working with a 10-inch Lodge cast-iron workhorse.)
The nonstick surface of a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, paired with the butter or fat in most recipes, means you don’t have to line the skillet with aluminum foil unless you’re making a stickier baked good, such as a brownie or a layered bar.
My favorite skillet cookie that I’ve made on this adventure was an oatmeal maple cookie inspired by a recipe on bakerbettie.com. I tweaked the ingredients to get just the right ratio of oatmeal, raisins, dates and pecans, and I found that with the addition of the dates, I could cut back on the sugar.
I made an even healthier bar a few weeks ago with whole wheat, flaxseed and other nutrient-dense ingredients, and it was more like a breakfast bar than a cookie. The kids’ favorite was a s’mores brownie with a graham cracker crust. This one needed to be cut into squares so you could eat it by hand, but slices work for other cookies that don’t have a sticky marshmallow topping that sticks to a fork.
Maple Oatmeal Raisin Skillet Cookie
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cups chopped dates
1/2 cup pecans
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and stir frequently until the butter browns. Stir in the brown sugar and maple extract. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 8 minutes. (You want the pan to be warm but not hot.)
Crack an egg into the skillet and whisk into the mixture. Add the cinnamon, salt and baking soda and stir until combined. Add flour to the skillet and stir slowly until incorporated.
Add your mix-ins: oatmeal, raisins, dates and pecans. Combine and pat evenly into the skillet with a spatula or your hands.
Top with raw sugar if desired. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 14 to 18 minutes, until set. Serve warm with yogurt if desired.
— Adapted from a recipe by Baker Bettie, bakerbettie.com
S’mores Skillet Brownie
For the crust:
6 whole graham crackers, crushed into crumbs (3/4 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
For the brownies:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups marshmallows
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cast-iron skillet with aluminum foil. (You can use an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan lined with two sheets of aluminum foil so you can lift the bars out of the pan when they are finished.) Spray the foil with cooking oil.
Using your fingers, mix together the crushed graham crackers, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. While the crust bakes, melt the butter and chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Heat the mixture for about 30 seconds and then stir, repeating for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla, and then add the chocolate mixture to combine the wet ingredients. Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Pour the batter on top of the graham cracker crust and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 22 to 27 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven and turn on broiler. Sprinkle brownies with marshmallows and place under the broiler to toast lightly, about 1 to 3 minutes. As soon as they are just a little brown on top, remove pan from oven and let cool for at least two hours before slicing. Spray a knife with cooking oil before using to keep the marshmallow from sticking to it.
— Adapted from a recipe in “The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $35)
Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
We cut back on butter and chocolate chips from our usual cookie dough recipe to ensure that the skillet cookie remained crisp on the edges and baked through in the middle while staying perfectly chewy. We also increased the baking time to accommodate the giant size, but otherwise this recipe was simpler and faster than baking regular cookies. Top with ice cream for an extra-decadent treat.
— America’s Test Kitchen
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour and baking soda together in bowl.
Melt 9 tablespoons butter in 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Transfer browned butter to large bowl and stir in remaining 3 tablespoons butter until melted. Whisk in brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt until incorporated. Whisk in egg and yolk until smooth with no lumps, about 30 seconds.
Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips.
Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Transfer dough to now-empty skillet and press into even layer with spatula. Bake until cookie is golden brown and edges are set, about 20 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Using potholders, transfer skillet to wire rack and let cookie cool for 30 minutes. Slice cookie into wedges and serve. Makes 8-10 slices of cookie.
— From a recipe in “The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies & Bars” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $35)
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies
I adapted this recipe from Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s “Brown Eggs and Jam Jars” and then adapted it even more from this version by using white chocolate instead of dark and adding a handful of cranberries to the dough. This is a large quantity of cookie dough for a 10-inch skillet, but it will fit. You can halve the recipe for smaller pans or a thinner cookie, which will cook faster.
— Addie Broyles
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup raw cane sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and the sugar with a handheld mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add honey and mix in.
Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Fold the chocolate into the dough and then press into a cast-iron skillet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown around the edges and the center of the cookie doesn’t jiggle when you shake the pan. Remove from pan and cool before slicing.
— Adapted from a recipe in “Brown Eggs and Jam Jars” by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque