Thursday, September 27, 2007

What's New about Chocolate Chip Cookies

I come from the school of taste that says cookies are supposed to be crisp. I suppose I should qualify that - most cookies are meant to be crisp. Surely there are some that simply can't be crisp by their very nature. My mother loved persimmons, and every year she made persimmon cookies. More like little bite-sized cakes than cookies to me. I like persimmons, but not that kind of soft cookie. My preference, always, is for crisp. Some years ago I read a very in-depth article in Gourmet Magazine about cookie standards, and exactly what makes a cookie come out crisp vs. soft, vs. crisp outside, soft inside. That kind of thing. It was fascinating reading the chemistry of it all. I still have the article, although I rarely refer to it.

One thing I know for sure is that using butter makes for a crisp cookie. I haven't used margarine for anything in many, many years. I used to use Plugra unsalted for all my baking, but have found that it's too HIGH in butterfat, if you can believe that! So I use grocery store types at the high price end because I don't want butter that is watered down. Grocery store brands usually contain less butterfat and added water. So I use Danish Creamery, or something similar. I always keep a pound of butter in the refrigerator and usually one in the freezer. Just in case I feel inspired.

Last night after I'd gone upstairs to go to bed, my DH's blood sugar went a little low, so he rooted in the freezer hoping to find a frozen cookie somewhere. No luck whatsoever. We ate the last of the homemade cookies about 3 months ago. Since my broken foot on July 6th, there's been zip-zero-nada baking going on in this kitchen unless he did it. He's never made cookies in his entire life, so that wasn't about to happen! But, now that I have my walking papers, he said, please make some cookies. As a Type I diabetic, my DH doesn't eat many desserts. Or at least, he's very careful about when and why he eats anything sweet. But he does enjoy an occasional cookie. Some sweets I'm able to incorporate Splenda, so he can have all he wants. I have yet to try chocolate chip cookies using all Splenda. They might be just fine.

Over the years I've collected plenty of cookie recipes and make a variety throughout the year, and enjoy having something stashed in the freezer for the occasional afternoon cup of tea, or a snack now and then. My first choice, though, is always chocolate chip. It used to be the usual back-of-the-bag Nestle's recipe. But, because I've had trouble a time or two with the recipe (the cookies would come out too flat) I've made one significant change to the master recipe: I add approximately one tablespoon of additional flour to the mixing bowl. If I happen to use Plugra butter (remember, more butterfat) I add 2 tablespoons. I'm also a fan of chocolate chip cookies WITH nuts. Any nuts could be okay, but walnuts just float my boat, as they say. So, these cookies are chocolate chocolate chip walnut cookies.

This time I wanted to do something different, so I added 2 heaping tablespoons of Dutch process cocoa to the batter too. And, I used Nestle's relatively new "Chcolatier" chips that are made with bittersweet chocolate, rather than the usual milk chocolate chips in the yellow bag. So these are really chocolate bittersweet chocolate-chip cookies with walnuts, with 1 T. of added flour.

A few months ago I had trouble finding Dutch Process cocoa when I ran out, so since I needed some new spices and herbs anyway, I ordered it through Penzey's. If you don't know about Penzey's, you're missing a real treat. I buy nearly all my herbs and spices from them now. Even though I live in a busy urban area teeming with grocery stores, and my local markets carry just about everything. But nobody had Dutch Process cocoa. This cocoa from Penzey's is fragrant and dark. The label says it has twice as much cocoa in it as grocery store varieties. Good!

I don't know about you, but I always make one pan of cookies to make sure the batter is right. That's what I did here, and they came out just fine. And if you don't have one of these scoops shown above, you should. If you're a cookie baker, this scoop makes short work of putting the dough onto sheets. I use large sheet pans with a Silpat on each one. There are three sizes of scoops - they're made in Britain. This one is the tablespoon size. The larger is more for muffin sized scoops. The smallest, the teaspoon size, I don't know what I'd use for. My scoop came from the Baker's Catalog (the one associated with King Arthur Flour). Click here if you're interested.

If you want the recipe, click here for the original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie from Nestle's site. If you use rich butter, just add a T. of extra flour, and about 2 T. of Dutch Process cocoa. Dutched cocoa is processed differently than regular cocoa, a very fine smooth powder that easily dissolves in liquid and disperses in baked goods.

So, DH, these are for you. Look in the freezer in the Ziploc bags in the door. So, excuse me, I need to make a cup of tea.


Kate said...

I know I am but one home cook, but my cookies need to be soft. And without nuts.

My mother loved to bake; she LOVED it, often getting up before dawn in the summer to bake cookies in the cool air. She loved giving us homemade treats and I loved them but they were always crisp. And often stuffed with walnuts. When I would gripe, as a child only can, about the state of her cookies, she would tell me clearly 'When you bake your own cookies, you can make them any way you want.'

So I do. Chewy, soft and completely nut free. God knows I love cookies, but if they snap in my mouth I can't hide my tiny shred of disappointment. However, I am likely to still eat them because, after all, it's a cookie.

Carolyn T said...

Isn't it funny how two people can think SO differently about the "right" texture of something as simple as a COOKIE? All I can do it chuckle.