Quick, what was the first cookie you ever made? If it wasn't a sugar cookie, I bet it was a Toll House chocolate-chip cookie. The famous recipe is printed on the back of the bags of chocolate chips and contains no weird ingredients or odd techniques.
I've made the standard recipe so many times, I can recite it without stopping to think about it: sift two and a quarter cups of flour with a teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt, then cream half a pound of sweet butter with three-quarters cup each white and brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Whip in two eggs, then the flour mixture, then a bag of semisweet morsels and bake on a greased sheet at 375ºF for 15 minutes.
Easy, great to do with kids, makes tasty cookies and--for those doughburglars who roam our houses waiting for unbaked cookie ooze to sit unattended--tasty dough. The problem is that I never, ever have brown sugar on hand. We use just enough of it that I always think we have some, and then we never have any.
Unfortunately, the market I frequent didn't have any tonight, either, which means I had to get creative--and since the name of the market is El Metate, I went for the original brown sugar, piloncillo. You know, the random sticky brown cones sold from the bin near the frijoles peruanos and the assorted dried chiles.
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It takes some doing to disassemble one of those cones; I microwaved mine for 15 seconds, then used a knife to shave the entire cone, by which point I had slightly more than the required 3/4 cup. I whipped it into the butter and white sugar, and it made an unorthodox sound, since it hadn't dissolved.
Undaunted, I finished the recipe and baked the cookies--and they were outstanding. Seriously, they're the best version of these cookies I've ever made in thirty years of doing it. The piloncillo didn't dissolve fully, which left little bits of shiny, slightly crackly sugar throughout the cookies. The molasses-y flavor of the piloncillo worked perfectly.
Do it. Even Albertsons carries piloncillo; it shouldn't cost more than about eighty cents or so a cone.