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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Method to My (Cookie) Madness

There are things, in my cooking life, that I am extremely egotistical about. My chocolate cookies, or almost any variation thereof, are freaking good. Ridiculous. I've been told this by just about anyone who has ever tasted them, especially in the last few years. I send them as birthday gifts, I bake them for lots of events. They are just that good.

I haven't baked them in a long time, though. Probably since October. Between trying to lose the post-wedding weight, working like a fiend, and focusing my culinary efforts of new endeavors, I just lost the gusto for them, I guess. But this morning, I woke up, and was craving them. To be clear, I don't usually eat very many of them. For all those reasons above. J gets the majority, I give them to friends and spoil our bff's kids with lots of them! Making them is my therapy. I love it. Usually a very clean "cook," when it comes to cookie baking, all bets are off. My "cooking counter" is a mess with flour, spoons, eggshells...and I love every single minute of it. I I bake them in batches, eating the raw cookie dough in very small increments as I go along. (Probably why I have no idea just how many cookies this recipe actually yields.)

To be honest, cookie recipes are all basically the same, especially chocolate chip cookies. I didn't reinvent the wheel or anything here. What matters is not necessarily the standard ingredients. What matters, in my recipes anyway, is the little extra touches. Extra brown sugar to keep them chewy. Taking them out 1 minute too early so they stay nice and soft. Not using room temperature butter, much to Martha and Ina's chagrin. (They would probably lose their minds if they knew I also recommend using salted butter!) I vary up the amounts and types of chocolate used, or I add cocoa powder or peanut butter or use agave.

I've just washed the last cookie sheet, and the 36 or so cookies are resting on their cooling racks. 2 are missing--one in my belly (to check the salt content, I swear!) and one to J. After all, what kind of good baker doesn't taste their product every single step of the way?

But the real question: To dunk, or not to dunk? I know my answer...what's yours?

Salty Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks SALTED butter, cold
1 C brown sugar, packed
1/2 raw, unrefined, sugar (you could use plain granulated, but I don't)
2 TBSP vanilla extract (or 1 TBSP extract and 1 TBSP vanilla bean)
2 eggs
1 12oz bag white chocolate chips (I use Ghiardelli)
2 bars Ghiardelli (or similar) semi-sweet or dark chocolate bars, chopped
sea salt, for topping cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk together first four ingredients in bowl, set aside

In stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat together the sugars and the butter for 4-5 minutes, starting on low and increasing to high speed
When butter mixture is extremely well mixed and appears almost "fluffy" add vanilla. Beat 1 minute
Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between additions.
Turn mixer to low, and add flour mixture in 4, small batches. Only mix for 30 seconds or so, until flour is BARELY incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl in between additions.
Remove bowl from mixer, fold in chocolate and chips.

Prepare ONLY 2 baking sheets (or at least only put 1 in the oven at a time)
I use a silpat (a silicone baking mat) or parchment paper. Either works. Do not grease.

Spoon out cookies with a small (or large, if that's what you're going for) ice cream scoop. For real, this is the best way to do it. I have 3 different sizes, depending on just how much cookie I want J to eat!
Only put 6 or 8 on the baking sheet at a time. The cookies need room to groove!

Once cookies are scoooped, sprinkle with a tiny bit of coarse seal salt on top of each cookie.

Cook for between 10 and 12 minutes, depending on your oven. I would test at 10 on the first batch, and then see. If they look runny, give them another minute. If they look just a little smushy, take them out. They will carry over cook.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for about 3 minutes (while you prepare the other sheet, if you want.)
Place on a cooling rack covered in parchment.

Allow to cool completely. I only put one in the oven at a time to ensure perfect cooking. If you have an issue with time, go for more, but I know how my oven works. And it only likes 1 sheet at a time.

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