Friday, May 22, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Week: Donovan's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


I've named this recipe "Donovan's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies" because they are very chewy and they are my husband's preferred chocolate chip cookie choice. Because they are made with butter, and call for equal parts brown and white sugar, their texture is beyond compare. You get buttery crispness and a gentle crust right on the surface, but then the center and bottom of the cookie is chewy, moist, and addicting.

You can tell from the slightly awful pictures that I've been wanting to blog about this for a long time, and that I always make them at night when the lighting is terrible.

Old and busted
I should explain that I always make this recipe into bars and not individual cookies because they turn out thicker. I used to not like chocolate chip cookie bars as a kid, but these are lovely! I used to use a cookie sheet, but I wouldn't push the dough out to all four corners so that the entire batch of dough fits onto about 3/4 of the cookie sheet, thus ensuring maximum chewing pleasure. I recently had an epiphany- use a 9x13 cake pan! Duh. Such a simple fix,

New hotness

I did debate a few other, equally descriptive titles for this recipe. Here they are in no particular order:

"Friday-Night-Bake-Right-as-the-Kids-are-Going- to-Bed-So-You-and-Your-Husband-Can-Eat-Half- the-Pan Chocolate Chip Cookies"- because this happens frequently.

"The Diet Breakers" - because so many times I've decided to go without sugar, but then I know these bad boys are in the freezer, just waiting for me. And I'm not alone in this!

"Eating Just One is Impossible, Even When They are Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookies" - because I thought I would get smart and freeze the rest of the pan so that the cookies were less accessible. What a serendipitous discovery! Which leads me to the next potential name for these cookies...

"Better When Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookies" - This is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever made which I actually prefer cold, barely thawed. So this makes them the perfect recipe for summer! Especially when you are pregnant all summer long, like I was last year. Here is the secret: I slightly underbake the cookies- 15 minutes only. I let them cool slightly, then put the entire cookie sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes. (Of course before I do this I cut a few pieces to eat piping hot!) Then I take the cookie sheet out of the freezer, slice the dough into bars, and put them in a freezer-friendly container i.e. Tupperware or just a zip-lock bag.

Warm or cold, these cookies are delectable! The perfect accompaniment for a movie night or a game of Settlers!

 

Donovan's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


(makes 1 9x13 pan)

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour, plus an additional 1/4 cup to flour your hands when you press the dough into the pan
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
  1. Cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and continue creaming until just combined.
  2. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just incorporated.
  3. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Using a spatula or floured hands, press the dough into an ungreased 9x13 pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 17 minutes. 15 minutes will be underdone and is preferred for the freezing method. 17 minutes is perfect for eating copious amounts while watching Doctor Who...and they still freeze well.


Make the dough. Share the cookies.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Week: Perfect Pillowy Chocolate Chip Cookies


This morning while finishing last night's dishes, contemplating why there are so many recipes for the chocolate chip cookie, I envisioned an event I call the Great Cookie Council of Heaven.

I imagine, before we came to earth all the baking, cookie minded people of the future world gathered together and our loving Heavenly Father says, "Ok, guys. You've enjoyed perfect baking conditions up here in the pre-existence. No adjustments for altitude, humidity, or screaming three-year-olds in the background."

We all chuckle knowingly, not really knowing what a screaming three-year-old was like.

He continues, "In all seriousness, I'm so pleased you have chosen to go down, but it is going to be rough. But, I love you and I know what you love- you love to bake, and to eat and share what you bake. I know some of you have been concerned about this in particular. So, it is all set up. There will be baking on earth."

There is much rejoicing. I do a silent fist pump in the air, Napoleon Dynamite style. Martha Stewart does a Toyota jump in the corner. Much rejoicing.

He smiles at us. "I knew that would make you happy. I mean, you'll have to use hot pads, and sometimes the cake will fall  and the cookies will end in a charred burning mess, and you'll forget the salt in the batch of Thanksgiving rolls, but you're going to be fine."

Again, we smile knowingly, not really knowing what Thanksgiving rolls are and how critical they are for the entire meal, let alone for the left overs.

"You are going to be fine. More than fine. You're going to learn about, have joy. So, before you all start leaving, I want to give you something."

We all gasp as before us appears the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It is perfectly golden, not under or over-baked, crisp, moist, dense, light, chewy, chocolatey, served on a perfectly warmed plate. It is perfect. We all munch appreciatively, while discussing how perfect this cookie is, and we all agree about the taste and texture and how we are going to re-create this beauty on earth...where there will be baking!

Then we get here and start baking! And I've kind of forgotten exactly what that perfect cookie tasted like. So I make one batch that reminds me that I love to bake. I try another batch which is awesome, but takes three days (!?!). And then I try this recipe which I LOVE because it is perfectly pillowy.

Pillowy, and not cakey, is the best adjective for this cookie because that is what they are. They are to your mouth what a nice down pillow is to your head at the end of a day filled with [insert preferred form of stress]. They aren't too heavy, which makes it dangerously easy to eat 2-6 in a day. And the pillowy-ness of the cookie tends to invite itself to my breakfast routine. I make them oversized, and slightly underbaked so you get a crisp ring of needed buttery crisp, followed by a middle of excellently light, but substantial cookie, and a center that is barely set up.

I love using coarse salt because it adds a surprising crunch and saltiness. My husband doesn't like that surprise, so sometimes I'll use just regular salt, but use less. Also, this dough is so versatile! I'm only posting chocolate chip cookies in their purest, unadulterated form this week, but I do love to take this dough, add almond extract, dried cherries and milk chocolate. Or, a patriotic mix of dried blueberries, white chocolate chunks, and dried cranberries. (God bless America!)

Back to my crazy cookie council. I think once we're all back together in heaven, ready to fully understand the mysteries of the universe, all of us bakers and cookie lovers will run past the workshop titled "Particle Physics and Me: What you didn't get on Earth," we'll slow slightly at "How Dinosaurs Really Fit into the Creation Story," but promise ourselves to catch the rebroadcast, and head directly to "Personal Legends Fulfilled: The Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie." There we will find those perfect cookies again, on perfectly warmed plates, and we'll eat them and there will be much rejoicing.

Emeril shouts, "BAM!"
Martha does another Toyota jump.
My fist pump is no longer silent.

And Heavenly Father will say, "You guys were so close!  Cort, I loved those blog posts, by the way. But you knew that, because you knew that cookies brought you joy, and that brought me joy."

And we'll all smile knowingly this time because we'll remember this perfect cookie we spent our lives trying to perfect on Earth, and this time we'll know what He means.

Perfect Pillowy Chocolate Chip Cookies

(makes 15-18 hefty sized cookies)

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour (if at high altitudes, add another couple tbs)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 14 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature (you can use salted, too)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt, or 1/2 tsp regular salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugars until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Add in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Scoop onto cookie sheet using a spoon, or my favorite method, an ice cream scoop, using about 1/4 cup dough per cookie. 
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are slightly brown. The longer you cook them, the more likely the cookies will go from "pillowy" to "cakey," which is still good, but less perfect. :)
  6. Cool on pan for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling. Best served warm!

These are about 1 1/2 minutes too long. So they were still great, but not as pillowy as the ones I made yesterday.
By the way, this dough freezes and then bakes phenomenally well!

Make the dough. Share the cookies! 



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Week: NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I started off with the oldest and simplest chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever made. Today I'm featuring the newest and most complicated chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever made. It is because of this recipe there is a Chocolate Chip Cookie Week at all. I wanted a new cookie recipe, and stumbled across this beautiful article by David Leite of the New York Times about the history (and quest for) the chocolate chip cookie. After reading it, I was inspired because not only was it about cookies, but it included a new recipe! Oh yeah. When I went to the store to get some special chocolate for the special cookies, I saw that Friday, May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day and...a stroke of brilliance! I spent 2 happy days baking my favorite cookie recipes.

So, this recipe isn't actually complicated, but it does require chilling the dough...for 24-72 hours.


What?! I know, what a turn off, right? Who sits around thinking, "Ooo! You know what I really could go for? Chocolate chip cookies...in 3 days!" When I see a cookie recipe that needs to be chilled I either a) skip that step and bake the cookies anyway because I like to live on the wild side or b) find another recipe. Why complicate things? Why wait that long for a cookie?

When I discussed this recipe with my best baking friend, Alicia, we agreed that it seems a little ridiculous to try to make chocolate chip cookies mature, and potentially trendy. Chocolate chip cookies are meant to be simple, quick and comforting. But, later as I was dining on chicken dinos while debating which Little Mermaid character is the best with my little lunch dates, I thought, "Why not?"

Why not try to take something we pretend is just for kids and make it mature? Just like why not cut up my 5 chicken dinos and put them in a fancy spinach asian salad with wontons and mandarin oranges? Live large, my cookie friends!

Ok, let's get down to what is important. These cookies taste great. Follow the recipe. Use a more mature, darker chocolate. I used some Chocolove Belgian Chocolate Chips and a bag Ghirardelli of dark chocolate melting discs. Both melted superbly, as you can see from my little buddy's happy face. Also, be sure to add the sea salt at the end! It totally sets off the richness of the chocolate and it adds a surprising texture to the cookies.

Most importantly, absolutely, positively refrigerate the dough for the full 72 hours. I did chill the dough and baked cookies after 36 hours and 72 hours. The 72 cookies had a better texture, the flavors were more balanced, and they just rocked. Period. Plus, the dough was even better. I was excited about how full the bowl was, and the dough looked gorgeous when it was first mixed. Still, after 72 hours the dough was magnificent! The recipe calls for cake flour, which I think has a "flavor," but after chilling the dough for 72 hours, I couldn't taste it at all.

Next time I make these, I think I'll play with the amount of flour a bit more just because I live at a high altitude, which can make baking with butter a little tricky. But all things considered, these cookies were worth the wait. Just don't wait to make them!

NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies



Ingredients:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 ⅔ cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
2 ½ sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

Directions:


  1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
  4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet.
    Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. 
 

Eat these puppies warm, ok?

Make the dough. Share the cookies...if you want to.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Week: Cort's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

In honor of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day last week, and National Baking Day, I have put together my 5  favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes-one for each day of the week- because, let's face it- who doesn't need to make 5 batches of chocolate chip cookies in one week.

This list is 23 years in the making, since I've been on the quest to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie since I was 9. True, they may not be perfect, but I've come consistently close to celestial cookie bliss with them.  

Chocolate chip cookies were the first thing my mom taught me to bake, or cook for that matter. I was in 3rd grade, living in Kingwood, Texas, and that single recipe shaped the course of this girl's life- emotionally, spiritually, as I get gracefully get older, physically. I might be exaggerating , but not really because I have a deep emotional attachment to cookies. I love them. I love baking them. I love eating them. I love sharing them, tweaking recipes, thinking about them, talking about them. I love them.


So, I'm kicking off the week with the Cort's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

This is the first chocolate chip cookie recipe I ever made, and it was the only one we made growing up. These are the cookies my dad used every Sunday to bribe his class of 16 and 17-year-olds to listen to the Sunday School lesson. They were affectionately called "Cortney Cookies" when I was in high school and I made them all the time. I can't tell you how many times I've created object lessons around these cookies, just so that I could bake them!

I firmly believe that cookies, or any baked goods for that matter, need to be eaten within 24-48 hours of baking. I think that began because these cookies just taste better within that time period. If they didn't get eaten within the first 24 hours, it was unlikely my family was going to eat the rest. But, I'm sure part of that was due to the fact that I always doubled the recipe below, leaving the 6 of us to eat 4 dozen cookies before my self-imposed expiration limit.

Plus, I have no willpower. I can't fathom how people can keep perfectly good cookies sitting in their kitchen for days or weeks at a time, and not eat them all. Often I justify polishing off a batch of goodies as a public service, so that they won't be there to tempt others later on. This placates my conscience, until my husband asks where all the cookies are because he's home with the kids and they want a treat. -sigh- Really, the ability to leave freshly baked homemade cookies alone is, in my opinion, a superpower, up there with x-ray vision and flying.

The key to this recipe is butter flavored Crisco. I am a totally converted butter baker now, but back in the day, I only used butter flavored Crisco for baking. The Crisco is critical to getting the Cort's Classic taste. Also, feel free to add a little bit more flour, make the balls of dough thick and high, and slightly under-bake these babies so they turn out fat and chewy. These aren't over-sized cookies. If you let them cool on the baking sheet they will flatten more, like the ones in the picture. My 10-year-old baked these, on her own. And so the legend continues....


Cort's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

(makes 20 nice sized cookies)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 cups chocolate chips



Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugars, egg, vanilla, and Crisco.
  3. Add the dry ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Form a log of dough. (see picture) Break off chunks, just under the size of a golf ball, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.   

  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until the tops are just turning golden brown.
  6. Let cool for 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet. Remove cookies from sheet and continue to cool on a cooling rack. 
These are best warm!

Make the dough. Share the cookies!