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Posts Tagged ‘The Chocolate Chip Cookie Project’

Subject #15: Giant Cookies from How Sweet It Is

Apparently the last time I wrote about a new cookie recipe was over a year ago. How is this possible?? Did I really go a full year without trying a new (chocolate chip) cookie recipe?? Not quite: I made this recipe in November just before leaving for Russia so that I’d have something delicious and comforting to nibble on when I arrived in the strange land. Then came December and the holidays and I never got around to posting it, but a polite request from a dedicated reader for another cookie recipe reminded me ;).

What interested me about this recipe was the technique used to form the cookies: roll the dough into a ball, then tear the ball into two pieces and stick the rounded sides together, forming an oddly-shaped cookie stack. Place it on the cookie sheet with one of the torn sides facing down. (I didn’t take any pictures of this, but there are photos demonstrating the technique along with the recipe). The cookies that result should have an attractive craggy surface after baking.

The author used mini M&M’s to make colorful cookies while I used my regular chopped chocolate. I also didn’t make mine quite as giant as hers. Some commenters on the post stated that the recipe is the same as the Cooks Illustrated chocolate chip cookie, which I’ve tried before. However, it’s not identical– Cook’s Illustrated has you brown the butter, and and browned butter has characteristics that make it different from regular melted butter. Plus CI had the interesting step of whisking the eggs with the sugar and butter several times until the mixture is thick and shiny, while the How Sweet recipe just says to combine until mixed. That’s different enough for me!

So how did my cookie stacks turn out? To be honest, some of them melted together in an odd way while baking and came out looking like lumpy alien cookies.

But putting aesthetics aside, these cookies were wonderful! Even fully baked these were sort of like cookie-dough cookies, soft and rich and buttery. I think the stacking method helps to make the center of the cookie thicker and therefore it stays softer while the edges brown and become nicely crispy. The cookies also maintained their texture for several days after baking, which made me happy (I hate it when cookies become harder and dry within a day or two!). The tear-and-stack technique is something I’ll try again with other recipes since it does seem to help with texture. In the future I’d probably choose this recipe over the CI one, since without having to brown the butter it’s much quicker and more simple.

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Subject #14: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eat Live Run

A week ago a friend of ours in Tallinn hosted a Christmas open house and asked guests to bring cookies to share or dough so we could do some baking during the party. Although they’re not really Christmas cookies, I decided to go with my old standby, chocolate chip (they’re good at any time of year!). I chose a recipe I’d been curious to try: the favorite chocolate chip cookies of Jenna at the blog Eat Live Run. Her recipe is a little different in that it uses only brown sugar instead of a combination of brown and white sugars like most cookies. Brown sugar gives moisture and chewiness, so I was pretty sure this cookie would be a winner.

The baking conditions weren’t ideal– the temperature of the oven wasn’t quite high enough when I put them in and was reluctant to rise so I baked them for slightly longer, which probably affected the texture a bit. Fresh out of the oven they had crisp edges and soft middles, but I think as they cooled the centers got crisper too (I honestly don’t think I had one once they were completely cooled– too busy eating other goodies at the party! :-)). The cookies were also a darker color than most chocolate chip cookies due to all the brown sugar.

The other guests at the party raved about them (always music to a baker’s ears!) and somebody even asked me for the recipe. Another sign that people loved them– the second batch I stuck in the oven was nearly ruined because the oven had been put on the broiler setting, so the extreme heat from above started to burn the outside of the cookies in a matter of minutes while the insides were still raw. A few cookies were totally burned and had to be tossed, but some were just a toasty brown on the outside and everyone encouraged me to put them out for guests. I was worried that people wouldn’t enjoy the fact that the cookies were pretty raw in the center, but nope– the cookies that were both toasty and gooey were very well-received. If there is anybody in the world who doesn’t like gooey, barely baked chocolate chip cookies, I haven’t met them. :-)

My chocolate chip lovelies in the background and a pan of coffee cookies, a holiday favorite of our hostess that I’ll be making soon at home!

 

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Subject #13: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

This recipe has been all the rage on food blogs over the past few weeks. There’s a woman in California called Annie the Baker who makes and sells fat little cookies that remain soft and dough-like in the center even after being baked. A cookie with the texture of dough? That sounds perfect to me, as I am always guilty of stealing many bites of cookie dough from the mixing bowl, raw eggs be damned. Many bloggers that have sampled these cookies set out to re-create the recipe at home, and I chose to follow the recipe formulated by Diana at The Chic Life. I made one substitution that also violates my usual code as a chocolate chip cookie purist– instead of chocolate chunks, I opted to chop up 2 generic Snickers-type bars. I thought this kind of fun cookie needed a fun mix-in! I hope you all forgive me for still filing these under chocolate chip ;-).

Choco Nut– generic Snickers-like candy bars

One key step in achieving the proper texture in these cookies (and ensuring they don’t spread too much while baking) is refrigerating the dough before scooping it out. Our fridge was a little crowded today, so I put the bowl of cookie dough by the open window in our bedroom instead.

I scooped out the chilled and very stiff dough with my measuring tablespoon, as it has a nice round shape. Then I rolled the balls with my hands to make them even rounder.

With the first batch I discovered that the bits of candy bar close to the surface began to melt rapidly and molten caramel and nougat flowed out of the cookies. Not a tragedy, it just made them a little ugly. With the second batch I tried to make sure the candy pieces were all covered with a layer of dough so they wouldn’t have opportunity to leak out in the hot oven.

This is a pretty cookie, but you can see some of his leaky companions around him.

The finished result was definitely addictive. The texture was spot-on– they really do feel like thick, chewy cookie dough in a crispy cookie shell. However, the taste of the cookie itself falls a little flat. It’s like a plain sugar cookie without much butteriness or complexity. Next time I would add some more vanilla and probably a bit more salt as well. That being said, I definitely will be making these again, since they’re fun and something a little different from the usual large, flat chocolate chip cookies.

Hey, remember the other when I mentioned we’ve gotten a bunch of snow already? For your viewing pleasure, here are a a few pix I snapped while walking home from the gym today.

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In my post about how I wanted to sample as many delicious chocolate chip cookies on vacation as possible, I also said I’d blog about them “in a timely manner”. Haha… does a month and a half after returning from vacation count as “timely”?

I must admit I didn’t do the most fantastic job with the tour. Most of the time we didn’t have the time or energy to go out of our way for bakeries, so I sampled cookies where they were convenient for people on the road, places like convenience stores and rest stops. Not very foodie-like, I know, but now I can give some recommendations as to where a road-tripper in America should go for a chocolate chip cookie fix.

Brioche Doree: This was a coffee place with baked goods at a rest stop in Pennsylvania. The selection of treats was pretty diverse and they all looked wonderful, but their cookie was not the best. The texture was pretty great– soft and just past the point of doughy– but the flavor was just vanilla and sweetness, and there were too few chips. (For some reason I don’t have a picture of this one– I think I was driving and forgot to take one).

Wawa: Wawa is a convenience store chain on the east coast. I love, love, love going there for a freshly made sub, but their cookie was sub-par. Although most it was also crumbly, which made it hard to eat, and the flavor was boring. I didn’t even finish it.

AmPm: As we were leaving the baseball game we attended in Columbus, Ohio, somebody was standing outside the stadium handing out coupons for a free cookie from AmPm. I was excited, even after my friend said, “AmPm is a gas station, you know.” I did, but when it comes to free cookies, I don’t discriminate. The next morning I went and redeemed my coupon, and you know what? The cookie was actually really good.

The texture was dense and soft with just a little bit of crunch from the sugar. The cookie itself had a nice toasty flavor that balanced the sweetness and the huge chocolate chunks were rich and delicious. Sure, it was a gas station cookie, but I liked it.

For my birthday Siret baked me a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies. I failed to photograph them but I did freeze half the batch so they’d stay fresh and I could take them back to Estonia with me. They had an interesting texture– dense and sandy– and tasted buttery although there was no butter in them. She gave me the recipe for those cookies as well as an entire book (The Baker’s Field Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies) filled with delicious variations on the traditional chocolate chip cookie. So while I may not have tried all the best cookies America has to offer, at least I returned with plenty of inspirations for making more amazing cookies of my own.

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I created my Chocolate Chip Cookie Project to discover which, if any, chocolate chip cookies available in Estonia were suitable for consumption. This being the case, chocolate chip cookies eaten in other countries don’t count in my project. But as I am about to depart for the United States– a country whose all-time favorite cookie is the chocolate chip, a country where people do these cookies RIGHT– I can’t resist doing a little testing there too. Enter the Chocolate Chip Cookie Project Tour, during which I will try as many warm, fresh, alluring cookies as time, my wallet and my waistline will allow (and hopefully blog about them in a timely manner). I gotta admit, I’m pretty excited. Being on vacation, getting to see friends, being home, AND eating cookies? Doesn’t get much better than that.

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Subject #12: Alton Brown’s The Chewy

I was walking home from the gym one evening when my phone rang. “When are you going to be home?” was the first thing J said to me. “I need cookies.” That was all I needed to hear! After a quick trip to the store I was set to bake, and fueled by post-gym adrenaline (and stolen bits of dough from the bowl) I had these cookies made before dinner.

This is a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while, since I think Alton Brown is brilliant and his show “Good Eats” is informative and entertaining (albeit corny). He has three different recipes for chocolate chip cookies: the Chewy, the Thin, and the Puffy. Each recipe utilizes slightly different quantities and techniques in order to achieve the specific texture. The Chewy recipe calls for melted butter and an ingredient I don’t usually add to cookie dough, milk. The instructions say to chill the dough, and in this step I cheated a bit and only kept the dough in the fridge for about ten minutes before baking off the first batch. That’s not nearly long enough for the dough to actually be chilled, but what can I say– my man needed cookies.

The results were just OK. The edges were crisp and the middles soft, which was nice, but I don’t know if I’d say they were actually very chewy. They possessed the buttery sweetness expected of cookies, but lacked more complexity of flavor.¬† Both the texture and flavor shortcomings may have had to do with my own shortcut. There was a visible difference between a cookie from the first batch (which only chilled for 10 minutes) and a cookie from the last batch (which had 20 additional minutes in the fridge):

Cookie from properly chilled dough on the left: more rise, less spread.

Unfortunately I did not do a taste comparison with the cookies from different batches, so I don’t know whether chilling allowed for more flavors to develop in addition to affecting the texture. I may try this recipe again some day and take the time to do it correctly, but as of right now this one doesn’t rank among my favorites. Sorry, Alton!

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Subject #11: David Lebovitz’s Great Chocolate Chip Cookies

My latest recipe was mentioned recently on Serious Eats, but I used the recipe found here because she included weights so it was easy for me to get precise measurements using my kitchen scale. The recipe is from David Lebovitz, an American pastry chef who now lives in Paris. If you’ve never checked out his blog, you should. He seriously knows food but talks about it in a non-pretentious way, and his stories about learning to deal with the way of life in France are hilarious. Anyway, since David is a man who knows his desserts, I figured his recipe would be well worth a try.

While some other cookie recipes I’ve tried started with melted butter, David’s cookies start with cold butter cut into cubes (which quickly softened up as the weather was incredibly warm and beautiful on Saturday!). The ingredients are typical. I omitted the nuts and used my usual chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips (which is actually something David recommends!). In this recipe, the baking is the interesting step– the oven is cooler than usual (150 C instead of 180 C) and the cookies are baked in the top third of the oven for 15-18 minutes (the recipe dictated 18, but I only left mine in for 15 because my dough balls were slightly smaller than directed). I wonder what effect the lower, slower baking would have. The cookies spread and became quite flat, with yummy-looking golden edges.

Then I found out how cookies baked with this method turn out– chewy and bendy, with a crispy edge but no crispiness to the top. I know this comparison won’t speak to everyone, but they reminded me of the large chocolate chip cookies you buy in clear plastic containers from the bakery section of a grocery store like Giant. But better and fresher. Even a day later the cookies could easily be bent, no crumbling or snapping. Also, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel that the cookie needed more salt. The balance seemed right. I really liked these cookies, and they came together so quickly. When I want a quick, chewy cookie that bakes up flat but pretty, I’ll turn to this recipe.

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