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Twin Cities Mom Creates Instagram Famous 'PanBanging' Cookie

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Inside a modest Twin Cities home, in a very modest kitchen, Sarah Kieffer has created a chocolate chip cookie sensation.

"The Kenmore oven came with the house," she laughed.

No fancy equipment, just desire, imagination, and the passion to create the perfect cookie. Kieffer's recipe is creating a lot of noise. Literally, a lot of noise.

"I've been banging pans since high school, I like to say," said Kieffer, author of a popular baking blog and cookbook, "The Vanilla Bean Baking Book."

Sarah's road to becoming the pan-banger began while she was a young baker working at a Dinkytown coffee shop.

"It was just me, 60-70 hours a week, cranking out baked goods," she said.

Bordertown Coffee is where she perfected the technique she was playing with as a high schooler baking at home.

"I started hitting the pan and found that the cookies would kind of collapse, and with some of the recipes I'd get these really pretty crinkles on top," she explained.

Her technique creates a cookie that's crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Delicious and catnip to her 100,000 followers on Instagram.

"I've stopped posting pictures of my kids and it's just mostly cookies now," she said.

The unique size, texture and that wrinkly-looking skin kept getting more and more likes. The ripples spread from Columbia Heights, to thousands of Instagrammers, to the food writer for The New York Times.

Julia Moskin wrote: "It is, I can attest, a leap forward in cookie technology."

Kieffer said, "I was flabbergasted. It was amazing. Dream bucket list. I never thought it would happen."

The recipe is in Sarah's Vanilla Bean Cookbook: 2 cups flour; 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 3/4 teaspoon salt; 2 sticks unsalted butter; 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; 1/4 cup packed brown sugar; 1 large egg; 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla; 2 tablespoons water; 6 ounces chopped chocolate.

"Chopped chocolate is important. It helps the cookies to lay flatter and it builds texture in the cookies," Kieffer said.

The water helps her cookie rise. But to make the cookie work, she has to make it fall. That's where the pan-bang comes in.

After Kieffer mixes her batter, she puts four scoops on a cookie sheet and freezes the dough for 15 minutes. That slows down the rising process, which helps keep the cookies flat.

"The first bang isn't that exciting," she said.

She bakes the cookies for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, and then lifts up a corner of the cookie sheet about four inches, and drops it.

The sound echoes throughout her kitchen.

"It is satisfying," she laughed.

Two more minutes of baking, then, BANG. Two more minutes, bang again. A total of four to six pan-bangs, and then cookie is done.

"It's not difficult but it is a little tedious, because you have to babysit the cookies, but it's worth it," she said.

Thousands of Instagrammers agree, tagging Sarah and using the hashtag "PanBanging" to show off their own creations.

"It's so fun to see people making them," she said. "I did have someone complain that the recipe is too loud, which was my favorite complaint ever."

The edges turn out crispy and caramelized. The inside is super-gooey with glorious chunks of chocolate.

Seventy years of chocolate chip cookies and it took a mom in Columbia Heights to really make some noise.

"You don't have to have high tech equipment and ingredients to make good food," she said. "You just don't."

RECIPE: Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies

As seen in the NYTimes and Star Tribune.

Originally I thought to include a different chocolate chip cookie recipe in this book. It was my go-to cookie, one I had made for years at Bordertown Coffee. I began working on a thin and crispy version, and along the way it evolved into this recipe. The cookie falls somewhere in the middle of gooey and crispy, with edges that shatter in your mouth and a center that is soft and full of chocolate. My family loved it so much that my original recipe hasn't seen the light of day since. Meet our new house cookie. Makes 10 cookies.

2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (297 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50 g) packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bite-size pieces averaging ½ inch with some
smaller and some larger

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil, dull side up.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and water and mix on low to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate and mix on low into the batter.

Form the dough into 3½-ounce (100g) balls (a heaping 1/3 cup each). Place 4 balls an equal distance apart on a prepared pan and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. After you put the first baking sheet in the oven, put the second one in the freezer.

Place the chilled baking sheet in the oven and bake 10 minutes, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the center. Lift the side of the baking sheet up about 4 inches and gently let it drop down against the oven rack, so the edges of the cookies set and the inside falls back down (this will feel wrong, but trust me). After the cookies puff up again in 2 minutes, repeat lifting and dropping the pan. Repeat a few more times to create ridges around the edge of the cookie. Bake 16 to 18 minutes total, until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden brown but the centers are much lighter and not fully cooked.

Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack; let cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

NOTES: These cookies are rather large, but to get the edges to spread out and crinkle, they need to be on the big side. If you want to make the cookies smaller, you won't get as many ridges on the outer layer, and your center won't be quite as gooey. They will still be delicious, but not quite what I intended for you.

If you skip freezing the cookies, they will spread too much on the pan and will not form the crinkly outer layer.

Chocolate chips are not a good substitution for the chopped chocolate; the cookies will not turn out the same with chips. If you do still want to use chocolate chips, you will need to use 8 ounces chips and make the cookies 2½ ounces big.

Using the dull side of aluminum foil to bake these cookies is a little trick I learned after hearing Alice Medrich speak. The foil helps make for an extra-crisp, golden brown bottom. Parchment paper can also be used with good results.

The cookies are delicious warm, but I've found I love them a couple of days later just as much. I usually store them in the fridge and sneak pieces of them cold.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Sarah Kieffer, 2016.

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