Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Chocolate Chip Cookie Obsession

So I had a beer review all lined up for today and then I had an epic craving for chocolate chip cookies. Don't worry the beer review will make an appearance later in the week. But right now, let's talk about chocolate chip cookies!

So before I became more careful about what ingredients I use, my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe used pudding mix. Yes that's right, pudding mix, usually sugar-free Jello brand vanilla. The pudding mix somehow helps the cookies stay chewy and get just the right consistency like bakery cookies. But have you ever looked at what's in pudding mix? Preservatives, added salt, maltodextrin (a bulking agent often used to pad out artificial sweeteners like sucralose). Don't get me wrong, there's something to be said for the convenience of instant pudding, but if I'm going to invest the calories in a chocolate chip cookie, I want it to taste of butter and chocolate, not maltodextrin.

So I tried Alton Brown's notorious chocolate chip cookie recipe that uses bread flour. I had high hopes, the cookie dough was the best I'd ever tasted. I followed the directions exactly. I even went all OCD and whipped out my food scale to weigh the dough amounts for each cookie. I baked a small test batch and I was completely underwhelmed. The cookies didn't spread enough and they came out cakey! I am thoroughly in the chewy cookie camp. I like my cookies chewy in the center with a crisp golden brown edge. No brownie-like hockey puck cookies for me!






And then I remembered a New York Times article that I'd read a few years back that said the best chocolate chip cookies are aged more than a day. I also read several other highly rated cookie recipes and noticed that the ones that claimed to be chewy or bakery-style use a slightly lower than average baking temperature. And so for two days I became a woman obsessed. I tried different baking temps, dough shapes, dough amounts, cookie sheets, and smacking the cookie sheet after baking (supposedly to help kill any poofiness-complete b.s. I might add) all using Alton's dough. And I made several important discoveries.

The Discoveries

1. Aged cookies taste more complex, brown more evenly, and have a better crackly texture on top due  to the dough being more dried out. I think a 24-36 hour resting time is good (by 36 hours the edges of my dough had started to absorb some fridge food odors-not good).

2. For chewy cookies, a lower oven temperature is better. My final product is baked at 325.

3. Dough shape matters. My husband and I preferred the dough rolled into balls. Because of the way the ball shape 'melts' you get a thicker chewy center, and a crisp edge. If you want a more uniform thickness with chewier edges use a flatter hockey-puck shape.
 
4. Cookie sheets matter. My insulated cookie sheets produced the chewiest, non-cakey cookies.

5. Dough size matters. We liked the 1.5 ounce cookie. It's a good size with a good crispy edge to chewy center ratio. If you like even chewier, you can safely go up to 2 ounces, maybe more.

The Unknowns

1. Bread Flour vs. All-Purpose. I am not totally convinced the bread flour made a noticeable impact. Further experimentation needed! (My husband has already volunteered as the guinea pig.)

2. Butter: To Melt or Cream. I am also not convinced this makes a difference. Next time I want to try browning the melted butter to see if you get an even more complex cookie flavor.










These cookies stay chewy too. The whole 4 cookies that made it to day 2, were still moist and chewy!

Katelyn's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yields approx. 2 dozen cookies
adapted from Alton Brown's recipe

Ingredients

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 ounces (approx. 2 1/4 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces (approx. 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
8 ounces (approx. 1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ounce (approx. 2 tablespoons) whole milk (I used a mix of cream and water since I hardly ever buy milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces (approx. 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and pour it into a flour sifter.

3. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and sugars and stir till well combined. Mix in the egg, yolk, milk and vanilla and stir until well combined.

4. Sift in the flour a little at a time and continue to stir. Once the flour is all added, stir in the chocolate chips.

5. Refrigerate the dough for 24-36 hours. (If you want to make them sooner, refrigerate at least an hour.)

6. Line two insulated cookie sheets with parchment paper or cookie mats. Measure the dough into 1.5 ounce portions and roll them into balls. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes with 6 cookies to a sheet. Half way through the baking time swap the positions of the two cookie sheets so the cookies bake evenly. Cool on cookie sheets for at least 2 minutes before removing or inhaling. Make sure to let your cookie sheets cool down before doing the second batch (you could run cool water over the backs of the sheets to cool them faster.)

8 comments:

  1. I WAS supposed to be dieting. You have no idea what your pictures did to me.

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  2. @Samantha. This is why I run and lift weights. I have a slightly lighter baked good for next week: pumpkin bread that doesn't use any fat (no butter, no oil). It's really good.

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  3. I found this!!!:
    http://assets.simplifried.com/wp-content/uploads/cookie-science3.gif
    that explains why melted butter and all those things that you sort of questioned why but said you would just experiment with... I don't know if I'm making myself clear but... it's pretty interesting. :)

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  4. @Carola. That is a seriously nifty chart. I've been meaning to get my hands on a copy of this cookbook:

    http://www.amazon.com/Ratio-Simple-Behind-Everyday-Cooking/dp/1416566112

    to learn more about ratios in cooking since I tend to experiment and veer off recipe quite a bit.

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  5. Thank you for all your research and experimentation to bring us this recipe. I too am obsessed with finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. My problem has always been that they never turn out the same way twice, even though I never vary from the recipe. It drives me nuts, and I will throw away a whole batch if they do not meet my approval. This drives my housemates crazy because they will eat anything and everything I bake! I'm going to try these today and hope I succeed.

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  6. @MarkC I totally get that. I've been known to throw out baked goods that don't meet with my approval. I figure if I'm going to eat something butter and calorie-laden, I should LOVE it, not sorta like it. I hate waste though so my usual solution is to send the less-than-perfect baked good to work with my husband.

    Anyway, I hope you love (not like) the recipe :)

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  7. This really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Alcohol Training.

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