Eggless cookie dough recipe is intended to be eaten with a spoon, not baked

Sunday, November 25, 2012
This eggless cookie dough recipe, adapted from “The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook,” is intended to be eaten before being baked. (Tom Harte)

Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is on the horizon, I've started my annual holiday cookie baking. I've been doing this for years and it gives me great satisfaction to see how my family and friends enjoy the results of my efforts. But the truth is I really do it for the dough.

Let's face it. It's hard enough to keep your hands out of the cookie jar, but what's really difficult is keeping your fingers out of the mixing bowl. In fact, the practice of eating raw cookie dough has become so popular that many people buy packaged cookie dough from the grocery store with absolutely no intention of ever baking it.

This situation, of course, can be dangerous. The obvious risk is salmonella (named after Daniel E. Salmon in whose lab it was first discovered) found in eggs, a principal ingredient of cookie dough. Even though there is only a 1-in-20,000 chance that an egg will be contaminated with the bacteria, there are nonetheless more than 40,000 cases of salmonella reported in the U.S. each year, some of them, no doubt, attributable to raw cookie dough. Yet people keep on eating it.

No one can be sure just when people discovered that cookie dough could be just as good as -- or better than -- cookies themselves. Perhaps it goes back to the very invention of cookie dough, which likely predated the invention of the cookie by only a few minutes.

We can't be precise about the date of the invention of the cookie, but it was mostly likely one of those great culinary accidents. Centuries before the development of the modern oven, cooks about to bake a cake would use a small amount of the batter to test their oven temperature. The Dutch called these "little cakes" or "koekje," (the source of the word "cookie" in English) and they became an end in themselves.

Still there is little evidence that there was much interest in eating the cake batter raw. That's probably because initially such batter was rather plain. But then in 1930 along came Ruth Wakefield who invented the chocolate chip cookie, another great culinary accident. Her dough was a far cry from ordinary white or yellow or even chocolate cake batter, containing as it did butter, brown sugar, nuts, and hunks of chocolate. Who could resist scooping out a blob or two and eating it on the spot?

For a long time afterwards eating cookie dough was more or less a clandestine activity. Then in 1984, following an anonymous suggestion by a customer, Ben & Jerry, the premium ice cream manufacturer in Vermont, introduced cookie dough ice cream. Soon the flavor was outselling every other Ben & Jerry concoction by a margin of four to one and every other ice cream maker got into the act.

Cookie dough reached its zenith as a free standing food this year with the publication of the Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook by Lindsay Landis. In it she offers a recipe for an eggless cookie dough that is safe to eat with abandon. It's the basis for dozens of her tempting recipes ranging from cookie dough truffles to cookie dough fritters to cookie dough creme brulee. But why go to all that bother when the stuff is so good -- and safe -- to eat straight?

Tom Harte's book, "Stirring Words," is available at local bookstores. A Harte Appetite airs Fridays 8:49 a.m. on KRCU, 90.9 FM. Contact Tom at semissourian.com or at the Southeast Missourian, P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699.

*** Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

This recipe, adapted from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, is not only safe to eat raw, it's designed to be eaten without baking. In fact, it doesn't make a very good cookie at all, so just grab a spoon and eat it right out of the bowl.

1 stick butter at room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 and 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add flour and salt and mix until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

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