If you've spent any time on Instagram since 2017, you've seen baker and blogger Sarah Kieffer's cookies — or, at least, people attempting to recreate her cookies. They're incredibly distinct. Round and flat, ringed like a tree trunk and layered with chunks of chocolate that rippled out from the soft center to the crispy edges.
Kieffer called them the Pan-banging Cookie because, as the name suggests, it requires bakers to pull half-risen cookies from a hot oven, bang them on the counter so they fall, then stick back in and repeat. This results in the cookies' trademark sugary crinkles. And they went absolutely viral. Search #panbang and you'll find thousands of recreations, from homecooks to Martha Stewart's test kitchen. (The cookies also have the seal of approval from domestic goddess Ina Garten).
Now, Kieffer is back with 99 more cookie recipes for home bakers to try in her new cookbook "100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen, with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More," which is now available for purchase.
Kieffer spoke with Salon about what it was like creating a viral cookie, where she looks for baking inspiration and shared a recipe from "100 Cookies" — a colorful Neapolitan cookie (no pan-banging required).
I think a lot of people know you from your pan-banging chocolate chip cookies. I feel like for several months, they just dominated Instagram. How did it feel to be the creator of a viral cookie?
I still can't believe it – both that the recipe went viral, and that people are still baking them and posting about them on a daily basis. I hesitated to put the Pan-Banging Cookie recipe in my first book; the recipe involves a little more attention than most chocolate chip cookie recipes, and I assumed people would pass by it because it is more time-consuming. But a lot of people ended up loving it, and I am so grateful they did!
In your view, what makes the "perfect" cookie?
I love crisp edges and a tender center, and the salt and sugar balanced just right so you don't notice either; it's not too sweet, it's not too salty — it's just a delicious cookie.
Where were some of the places you gained inspiration for the cookies in this book?
When I started writing this cookbook, I ordered every cookie book I could find and went through them all, making notes on what was the same in all the books, and what was uniquely different. Books that highly inspired me were "Cookie Love" by Mindy Segal and "Dorie's Cookies" by Dorie Greenspan; they are both very unique and different from each other, but capture the author's personal cookie preferences perfectly. I wanted my book to have recipes for everyone, but also highlight my favorites in a unique way.
Did putting together this book of 100 cookies change how you think about them as a food item, or how you think of yourself as a baker?
I have been making cookies for decades, both leisurely at home and also by the hundreds for various bakeries I worked in, so I knew going in that I could bake more cookies per day, for recipe testing, than I could with other baked goods: cakes, pies, et cetera. But I had a lot of work cut out for me because all the cookies would need to be different from each other. For example, in regards to cake, you could have a few solid cake recipes that you build off of for each chapter — the same base but different buttercreams and fillings and whatnot, but I couldn't really do that in the same way with cookies.
If you were tasked with making another book of 100 baked goods, what would you choose?
Swirl buns. My second favorite thing to make — after cookies, of course — is cinnamon rolls, and I think I could fill a whole book with different kinds of yeasted swirly bun treats.
Sarah Kieffer's Neapolitan Cookie
Makes about 20 cookies
2½ cups plus 1 tablespoon [364 g] all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup [8 g] freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup [2 sticks or 227 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups [350 g] granulated sugar
1 large egg plus
1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 or 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
White, pink, and brown sprinkles, for rolling (optional)
1) Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line three sheet pans with parchment paper.
2) In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, pulverize the strawberries into a powder.
4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
5) Dump the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into three equal portions. Put one-third of the dough back into the mixer and add the powdered strawberries and food coloring, if using. Mix on low speed until totally combined, then remove the dough and quickly wipe out the bowl of the mixer.
6) Add another third of dough to the mixer. Add the cocoa powder and mix on low speed until totally combined.
7) Pinch a small portion (about ½ oz [15 g]) of each of the three doughs, and press them gently together, so they adhere to each other, but keep their unique colors. Press the piece into a cookie scoop or roll it into a ball, then roll the ball into sprinkles (if using). Place 6 or 7 cookies on each sheet pan. Bake the cookies one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the cookies are puffed, 10 to 11 minutes.
8) Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.
NOTES Use black cocoa powder for a darker color. The powdered strawberries on their own won't give a bright pink hue, so I like to add a little food coloring. I also like to roll each individual color of dough into the same color of sprinkles, but you can mix and match however your heart desires.