Can you imagine mean bakers? I can’t – I hate the very thought of it. Luckily this isn’t even a fleeting thought in the meeting of Cheryl and Griffith Day, two of the nicest people in the world, and two of the world’s best bakers. Don’t you love when it all falls into place like that? They own the amazing Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, GA which lives up to its name in that it’s a place to get simple, delicious, nostalgia-inducing baked goods and other savory items, which will tickle you from the inside out.
You can get old-fashioned sandwiches, like the Farmwich with butter bean spread, sharp cheddar, carrot, radish, cucumber, red onion, lettuce, olive oil, or the Pimento and the Pig with house-made pimento cheese & apple smoked bacon. But that’s of course not the main draw. The main event are the baked goods, including breads, cupcakes like Cupcakes in classic flavors such as Red Velvet and Milk Chocolate, Miss Hanna’s Cookies, Coconut Cream Pie, Star Brownies, Bourbon Bread pudding and whatever fits Cheryl and Griff’s fancy that day. I haven’t been yet, though I am dying to take the kids, but my younger son and I did the next best thing, which was to mix up a batch of the Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies from their most recent cookbook Back in the Day Bakery: Made with Love, and share them with friends. I adapted the recipe slightly by using finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate instead of the chips.
Cheryl and Griff point out that shortbread cookies are great time-savers. You can make the dough up to a month in advance—because it has a hefty amount of butter, it stays tender longer than most doughs. You can scoop it into cookies and let them set in the fridge for 30 minutes, then wrap them and freeze in an airtight container, ready to bake whenever the mood strikes.
If you have kids, you can make cookie baking even more productive— check out www.chocolatechipcookieschool.com and The Chocolate Chip Cookie School Book to make the cookie baking experience a fun way to introduce critical thinking for middle schoolers. In the Chocolate Chip Cookie School, kids 8 and older travel in time and space to discover the invention stories, happy accidents, hard work and history behind what made our favorite cookie possible. And as most of us parents know, learning is always a bit sweeter when there is chocolate involved.
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet chocolate or semisweet mini chocolate chips
- Optional: 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for dusting if using a cookie stamp)
1. Position the racks in the middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream together the butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed for 5 to 7 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Don’t rush this step.
3. Add the flour in thirds, beating until incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined. Use a small ice cream scoop to form the cookies, about 1 rounded tablespoon each, and place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between them to allow for spreading. Flatten each cookie with a decorative cookie stamp dusted with granulated sugar, or lightly spray the bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup with nonstick spray and flatten the tops slightly.
4. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until they are golden brown. (If you are baking cookies from the freezer, they will take a couple of minutes longer.) Let cool completely on a wire rack.
5. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Angie Mosier.