Friday, June 27, 2014

Carry On My Wayward Son AND Better Chocolate Chip Cookies

While there are tons of things that need to be done around here, I decided a much neglected activity must take precedence: baking cookies. Chocolate chip cookies, to be more precise. Why? Because when asked what treat my children had a hankering for, they freaked out, hollering "homemade cookies and watermelon!" Interesting choices.

The watermelon only needed slicing. The cookies? Well, let's just say that I was on a quest: how to bake a better chocolate chip cookie. I didn't go insane and create my own version of an Alton Brown episode, but I did do a tiny bit of reading. I can't believe how much is on the internet on this subject. Well, yes, I can, considering that these are one of the most popular cookies in America.

I decided not to brown and then chill the butter or bother with mixing ratios of bread flour to cake flour. I stuck to my tried and true recipe: the one on the Nestle Toll House chocolate chips bag. Instead of spending hours experimenting with baking soda vs. baking powder and pouring over all the amateur and professional research painstakingly recorded on blogs, I mixed up the ingredients as instructed.

Supernatural Fandom Princess
Then, when I was ready to start the experiment, I blasted Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, because, well, my daughter asked me to. She's a huge Supernatural fan. So am I, but a twelve year-old takes fandom to a level I ain't got time for. But I digress. Back to the better cookie experiment...

Because this isn't my first cookie rodeo, I realized the batter was too smooth for the kind of cookie I was looking for: thicker and chewier on the inside with crispy edges. The batter should be more, um, rough looking.  Here. Like this------------->

But, just to be sure, I baked a few test cookies with the batter as-is, and that includes letting it sit on the counter on a warm, June evening.

This was the result of test batch #1.

Notice the cookie is smooth and flat, and a wee bit over brown. According to the advice of several blogs, in order to achieve my better cookie ideal I needed to add a couple tablespoons of flour to "lift" or "leaven" the cookies. So I added two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and carefully folded it into the dough. Apparently, over working the batter created the too-smooth effect in the first place.

                                         This was the result of test batch #2.
Almost perfect.

I added a minute to the baking time and Eureka!

A better chocolate chip cookie. And the taste? Fabulous, darling! Just the right amount of salt to sweet and that great chewy texture highlighted by the wee bit of crunch around the edges.

Oy. My stomach hurts from taste testing.

A few more tips for baking your own better chocolate chip cookie:

1. I noticed the last batch was smoother and flatter than the first, so I recommend putting the dough in the fridge between batches rather than adding more flour. If you keep adding more flour, at some point your cookie will *cough* crumble. That's one dry cookie.

2. Cool your baking sheets between batches. I use two, large air bake sheets, so one is chilling on the back deck with a Margarita while the other is in the oven. That way, your dough doesn't start to melt as soon as it hits the hot metal, which will lead to flat, over-browned cookies. And nobody wants that.

3. Call for taste-testing volunteers or don't eat an entire cookie each time you need to taste. Save your tummy and the bicarbonate.

That's it. Just wanted to share my cookie baking evening. I forgot how much I enjoy baking. I don't bake as much as I used to; watching my carb intake and all, but its still a relaxing hobbie. Grant it, I'm no Betty Crocker. I tend to use simple recipes and forgo all the lavish steps that more accomplished pastry chefs or Susie Homemakers use. Frankly, I just don't have the time or inclination.

But I do appreciate a better chocolate chip cookie. And Kansas. And Supernatural.

Carry on my wayward sons.

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