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Baking is so NOT dumb

May 28, 2012

In my “Cooking is so DUMB” post (warning: pics of botched food within link), I showed some pictures of the progress that I’ve made with baking cookies. Nevertheless, I know that there’s a lot of improvement to be made…my baking competition cookies around the office only got 4th out of 9 offerings, after all.

One thing I’ve been working on is the basic chocolate chip cookie. Chocolate chip cookies generally just aren’t all that amazing to me…I would rather like to throw some butterscotch chip cookies in instead (even though other people don’t seem to share my love of butterscotch chips…perhaps that’s part of why I only got 4th?)

In the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, I’ve tried several different recipes. I started out with Alton Brown’s “The Chewy” (which is summarized here, and already is just a variation of the classic Nestle tollhouse recipe), but with some adjustments…whereas Alton Brown melted his butter, I quickly stopped doing that, as I was having problems with flat cookies.

I further modified the recipe with the idea of chilling the completed dough for 24 to 36 hours — this was an idea I got from the New York Times.

Eventually, I figured out how to cream butter and sugar properly so that cookies don’t completely flatten out (don’t know what I did differently…but they just stopped flattening out. I think this coincides to when I started making smaller cookies too.)

I’ve experimented with some recipes. A foremost baking friend gave me a recipe, but it was way too floury for my tastes (the cookies were more cakey, flavor more muted…the dough was pretty crumbly.)

Most recently, I’ve tried to take the best of several recipes. Ever since I found out about the culinary miracle that is brown butter, I’ve tried to incorporate brown butter into everything — including, of course, the cookies.

^That recipe is out of time, though. The first recipe I tried with brown butter was one from Cook’s Illustrated (as illustrated — pun intended — here). Just like Bridget, I wasn’t so amused with the recipe because it didn’t need a stand mixer — and I had recently upgraded to a KitchenAid, so I wasn’t too happy with the prospect of not needing to use it. Nevertheless, the results were pretty good.

But, as I mentioned above, since then I’ve tried to synthesize something that takes the best of multiple recipes. The 36 hour chilling from the NYTimes’ recipe is a must for every experiment (although I cheat by baking batches at 12 and 24 hours…not as good as the full 36 hours, but still tasty.) The brown butter from Cook’s Illustrated. And a new thing: chocolate chunks instead of chips.

Take another look at the cookies from the Blue Ridge Baker blog. See how the chocolate forms molten pools across the surface of the cookie? I was intrigued by that…I never had gotten that from chocolate chips.

So, I started chopping up chocolate bars (bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate baking bars — I understand there are better kinds of chocolate, both from an ethical production standpoint and from a taste standpoint, but I’m taking baby steps here…)

…the problem I discovered with the Blue Ridge Baker’s recipe (which, honestly, I should’ve anticipated…when I did a comparison later with the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, I knew exactly what had happened) was that it didn’t have enough liquid. There wasn’t enough butter and not enough eggs. So, creaming the brown butter and the sugar gave me sand, but never light and fluffy pale ivory. The final dough was unfortunately crumbly. When I was balling it up for the oven, I had to just crush piles of crumbs in my fist to bind them together.

My latest experiment to try to correct all the mishaps of the last batch was this weekend.

I used the Cook’s Illustrated as a recipe (with its additional egg yolk and four more tablespoons of butter). I added another teaspoon of vanilla extract just for the fun of it, and some milk as too (sometimes like a tablespoon of milk).

…The thing I like about baking chocolate chip cookies is that although there are many places for things to go wrong, I have found that baking cookies isn’t really as unforgiving as people seem to think (or maybe I’m just lucky and haven’t made any huge mistakes). Even if the cookie is a bit cakey, or flat, or whatever…it still tastes pretty good.

But the other thing I like about baking CCCs is that when you’ve done things right, you know each step of the way.

And this time, I was feeling quite optimistic. My creamed butter and sugar was looking like fluffy, pale ivory (yes!), and the final dough that went to be refrigerated was the right texture…not crumbly, but not too wet either.

Anyway, I guess this post wouldn’t be complete without pics.

Cookie dough batch

I should’ve taken pictures of the creamed butter and sugar, but the earliest pic I took was of the dough. This dough has been refrigerated for 12 hours.

Making the dough into balls was pretty easy with this dough.

Cookie dough balls

As with all pics, you can click for a larger pic

But the time of truth was pulling the batch out of the oven…

chocolate chip cookie batch

SO GOOD

And just as I always wanted, the chocolate chunks created a much nicer look for the cookies.

chocolate chip cookie closeup

While this isn’t the end-all, be-all of cookies, and I still have a ways to go, I can definitely see (and taste) progress.

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5 Comments
  1. Other than bread, I’ve given up on baking. But if these cookies tasted as good as they looked, I’m there.

  2. I’m actually thinking of moving to baking bread…I mean, as a challenge.

    • Bread is easy. I’ve never mastered sourdough, though: my starter never causes the bread to rise.

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