Let’s get back to food

Posted by laura on Aug 14 2008 | Tasty

Shall we? This is all about my quest for perfect chocolate chip cookies. Now, those who know me well are full aware that for me, chocolate chip cookies are like pizza – even the bad ones are still good. But.

It’s been bothering me for a while now that no matter what I did – different recipes, different butter temperatures, more and less sugar – my chocolate chip cookies just came out the same way every single time. Completely flat. Let me reiterate – that didn’t stop us from eating them. But it bothered me. What was the secret to cookies of substance? Would I ever make one that I felt was bake-sale worthy? 

Then in July, the New York Times ran a great article by David Leite, who gives a bit of history and talks to some chefs about what they think the secret is to truly spectacular cookies. The end result is a recipe – they daringly titled it Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Jacques Torres), but I think they should have called it the No Utensil Left Behind Cookie. Someone really didn’t want all those poor infrequently-used measuring utensils to waste away in the kitchen drawer any longer. Come out, 1/4 teaspoon! We still love you! You too, 1/3 cup – we see you in there!

I can’t tease, though, because this was the recipe I’d been waiting for. One of the most interesting techniques was chilling the dough for 36 hours, to fully incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. It also calls for a sprinkling of sea salt on top, and I’m crazy about salt on sweet. So it had to be done, and the other week I’d invited a few friends to come over for an arty/crafty night at our house, and I figured it was the perfect time to test a new recipe.

We had 9 adults and 11 kids test these cookies (I made them smaller than the recipe suggests, so instead of their 16 I had about 40 and they still seemed huge) – and they got a unanimous thumbs up. None of the kids disliked the sea salt, and some really loved it. And cue the Hallelujah chorus – they weren’t flat!!! They actually had integrity, beautiful flavor and superior texture. The next day, they were still chewy. The day after that… well they didn’t make it that far. 

Yay, New York Times! You should be getting a thank you note any day now from my friend Amy, since I’ve been whining to her about my lack of chocolate chip skillage for years now. She’ll be so relieved. 

6 comments for now

6 Responses to “Let’s get back to food”

  1. Debbie

    Hi Laura!

    Amy + Peter told me all about your fantastic blog and I’ve been having a great time catching up on it and reading all of your posts! Love it and am envious of all of your amazing projects! And…so glad to see that someone else is having the chocolate chip cookie dilemma (not that I want you to be having a dilemma, of course, but glad I’m not alone!)!!

    I, too, make a fair amount of chocolate chip cookies and no matter what recipe I use, they are f-l-a-t. And crunchy. I go to parties and other people bring perfectly shaped, fluffy-looking cookies and I wonder “how’d they do that?” I even recently opened up my Cooks Illustrated Baking book to see what advice they could offer (recipes with more granulated sugar = flatter; cool the dough) and so am excited to see your post and can’t wait to try this recipe! Love that Jacques Torres! And yes, thank you New York Times!

    After I try these, think I’ll try your scones…

    20 Aug 2008 at 6:10 am

  2. laura

    Debbie – Thank you so much for your message! You’re so kind to swing by. I really enjoyed Peter’s photos from your house on their trip! Sydney is so grown up now, it’s incredible. It looked like you guys had tons of fun.

    Very relieved to hear that I’m not the only one with the flat cookie dilemma – still not sure how so many of my friends don’t seem to have this problem! They just laugh and say they cut back the sugar, or they melt the butter, or they never ever melt the butter… I still believe there’s a secret cookie society and they’re just not telling!

    I hope you like this recipe – I was blown away by how tasty they were.

    21 Aug 2008 at 6:59 am

  3. Debbie

    I’ll let you know how they turn out — I think we’re at the hardest part now, looking at that big bowl of cookie dough, just sitting there in the fridge! I didn’t have bread flour so went with all-purpose, so if they don’t work I’ll blame it on that and try again!

    I even got one-upped a couple of weeks ago by a friend’s husband who made better looking M+M cookies for a party than I did…all the kids ate his…and he supposedly can’t cook! Great.

    21 Aug 2008 at 10:17 am

  4. laura

    Yep – staring at the bowl of dough in the fridge is a real test of fortitude, for sure. Please let us know what you think, though, once you finally get to cook them up! (Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they taste so good – you’ve been waiting for days just to try them!)

    I can’t believe that story about your friend’s husband. What a ringer. He’s all, “Oh, is this how you bake? I wasn’t sure how to turn the mixer on…” when he’s actually up until 3am every night turning out cupcakes for the local bakery. I’m so onto him.

    21 Aug 2008 at 9:00 pm

  5. Debbie

    So, the results are in and…very good! At first, they were coming out of the oven a bit brown (I wound up cooking them less time; I had made them smaller than recommended and my oven is old) and I was worried they’d be crunchy, but no! Just the right amount of crunch and softness. And, they were not flat! So exciting. Even with the all-purpose flour they seemed to turn out well. And I have since found the bread flour, so will do that for next time.

    Only complaint? The 2-3 days of waiting to bake them — not a cookie to take to a last minute BBQ. Although now I am wondering how the dough would freeze (I’m a big fan of frozen cookie dough for when the mood to bake strikes!), so I may try that next time, too, and see how it works out.

    I am still perplexed by the husband and the M+M cookies…there is no way he waited 48 hours with dough in his fridge and still turned out the perfect cookie…and you are so right, he claims to barely be able to make toast! Ha!

    27 Aug 2008 at 3:36 am

  6. laura

    Nice work, Debbie!! I agree that it’s frustrating to stare at the dough for a day and a half, and during the school year I barely have enough foresight to brush my teeth in the morning, never mind plan out my desserts days in advance. But after years of pancake-style cookies I’m so relieved that I’ll do whatever it takes!

    Let me know if you try freezing the dough – I was wondering whether it would be better to freeze in a log or in golf ball form? I usually do logs just because they fit in the freezer better. But I’m intrigued. I love having frozen dough too! A warm, just-baked cookie is so magnificent, and it’s nice to be able to make just a few at a time.

    Still absolutely convinced that M&M dad is hiding his true identity from everybody. You might need to do a stakeout.

    27 Aug 2008 at 7:40 am

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