Starting from Scratch
Part 4 of a holiday brunch. (See 3, 2, and 1)
As of today I'm starting my second quarter of college, and it feels exactly like my very first day 3 and a half months ago. For the past three weeks of winter break I spent all that time sitting on my ass doing nothing that was terribly productive. Now that I'm back in very sterile looking college housing, I realized that I have to go through both the joy and pain that was my first quarter of college. Hopefully this time I'll end up with a slightly higher GPA... And less all nighters... And less junk food sessions...
You get the drift. But no matter how sarcastically I phrase these resolutions of mine I really do plan on doing everything differently for the better.
the whip and rest stageI think there might be hundreds of cookie recipes out there claiming to be perfect or the best, and frankly they're all overwhelming. I probably have a dozen or so different recipes bookmarked in my browser, ranging from Jacque Torres's recipe to the famous Neiman Marcus cookie. So what better thing to do is combine all of them together! I just picked out what I thought stood out from each recipe, and as a result I did the following to my favorite "normal" chocolate chip cookie recipe.
- Use less butter --> chewier cookie
- Use melted butter --> same as above
- Use browned butter --> increase nutty flavor
- Toast the flour --> same as above
- 2 Tbs of peanut butter --> augment the nutty flavor
- Very scant amounts of cinnamon and instant coffee powder --> just for the heck of it
- Increase in coarse kosher salt --> just because I like it
- Chocolate chunks --> more intense chocolate flavor and variation in texture
- Overnight chill --> give time for the flour to be absorbed
<3 chocolate chunks
I drew from an article by the NY Times, and while 3 days would be ideal no sane person in my house would have the self control to leave cookie dough in the fridge for that long without baking and consuming it all, so I let it rest for 24 hours. The idea is that allowing time for the flour to be absorbed by the wet ingredients allows the cookie to brown more evenly and the aging process develops deeper and more complex flavors.
Furthermore, I referenced the idea for toasted flour from Not Without Salt, though I admit I didn't toast it nearly as dark in fear that it would be too overpowering. On hindsight, I probably would've toasted it more because I felt the effects were a bit unnoticeable.
And so where did all of this hard work lead up to? A disappointingly unremarkable cookie. Like almost everything I've been making lately, not bad by any means but not the mind-blowing experience I was dreaming of. Despite using only 2 tablespoons, the peanut butter was a bit too noticeable, and overall the cookie was slightly forgettable... and to be honest I'm not sure if the coffee and cinnamon did anything at all, although I'd like to think they did.
I don't know if toasting the flour changed anything, or if something was off with the proportion of wet to dry ingredients, but overall the cookie also wasn't as chewy and decadently moist as I wanted. A day later it turned slightly crumbly- not the ideal result (Maybe scooping it into bigger portions may solve that problem). Maybe less is more in the case of the perfect cookie...
However not all was that bad- the cookies browned beautifully in the oven, and frankly I loved the up front flavor of chocolate chunks and the fact that cookies had varying textures and amounts of chocolate. Furthermore the all of the nutty elements in the ingredients lead to a rich, almost toffee like flavor, though I think the amount of vanilla was a bit of an overkill.
But until next time, the quest for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie continues...
Chocolate Chunk Cookies
recipe adapted from McCormick;
MAKES APPROXIMATELY 60 COOKIES
3 1/4 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter
1/4 teaspoon of instant coffee powder
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups of firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 oz of chopped semi-sweet chocolate (high quality brand, please)
Okay, first toast the flour: you can either do this in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes tossing the flour every ten minutes, or putting the flour in a skillet over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, tossing constantly. The flour has a tendency to clump as you toast it, so sift it afterwards. Let cool to room temperature.
Next, it's time to brown the butter. In a skillet heat 1 1/2 sticks of the butter over medium high heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is a dark golden brown color and has a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the instant coffee and remaining 4 tablespoons and stir until completely melted.
Add the granulated sugar, dark brown sugar, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Add the eggs and peanut butter and mix on high for 30 seconds, and then allow the mixture to rest for 3 minutes. Repeat the process 2-3 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny.
Sift together the toasted flour cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together, and slowly mix into the dough on low speed until just absorbed. Allow the dough to rest for 24 hours in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 375. Portion the dough into rounded tablespoons and place on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Make sure not to overbake!
What I would do next time
-brown the butter more
-increase the amount of coffee?
-decrease amount of vanilla to 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon)-decrease peanut butter to 1 tablespoon
-toast the flour more
-let the dough rest for a full 36 hours
-portion it into larger sizes (maybe 3 tablespoons?)
-sprinkle sea salt on the top