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Cookies!

February 3, 2011

D texted me last night and asked if I had any cookies recipes that I’d been meaning to try.

He knows that I frequently read food blogs, and in the past I would bookmark interesting-looking recipes on my home computer. Lately, I’ve been entering the recipes into Excel spreadsheets – recipe title, URL from the blogs/cooking websites, and a list of the ingredients so that I can use the Find feature to look up specific ingredients … for example, if I need to buy a quart of buttermilk to use in a recipe, I can look up other recipes that call for buttermilk so that I don’t waste most of the container.

Anyway, we some nasty weather yesterday and much of the area was covered in ice. D had a delayed opening at work, so I had to walk (or slide, rather) to the train station instead of getting a ride with him, so I was at my office in New York by the time he started heading off to work. He started his car (his new lease, so he’s not really used to the auto-unlock yet, I guess), scraped the ice from his windows, and then discovered that he’d somehow locked his keys inside. With the car running. AND his house keys were on that keychain, so he had no way to get back into the house. Luckily, our downstairs neighbor was home and let D into the house.

D thinks he woke him up and he felt pretty bad about it. Plus, of course, he’s grateful that our neighbor let him into the house in the first place. So D texted me and asked if I would please make a batch of cookies to give him as a token of thanks.

No problem, I love to bake. I had a few cookie recipes in the hopper, but classic chocolate chip cookies immediately came to mind. Chocolate chips are my nemesis … it’s an insanely simple recipe, and yet there’s been only one time where I got the moist, chewy result I was searching for (and yet for some reason I was unable to recreate that result, even when I followed the same recipe to the letter).

I was reading a cooking blog called “The Way the Cookie Crumbles” recently, and the author had two particular posts that caught my eye … a comparison of various chocolate chip cookie recipes, and a comparison of different types of flour for the cookies. The former suggested Alton Brown’s chocolate chip cookie recipe called “The Chewy,” and the latter suggested using bread flour in lieu of all-purpose flour. I decided to give this a try.

There’s a supermarket right across the street from my job, but I decided to have a little adventure. Instead of taking my usual subway train directly to the World Trade Center downtown, I took a different subway uptown to Trader Joe’s. The subway actually let me off right across the street from the store, which was quite convenient. The only Trader Joe’s anywhere near us in New Jersey is over 30 minutes away, so we’ve only been there one time and that was to look for a bottle of their Two-Buck Chuck wine (which, thanks to Bergen County liquor laws, they didn’t even have). We managed to get the wine during a trip to Boston, but that was only after I was carded and they spent about 10 minutes comparing my New Jersey driver’s license to a big binder with every state’s license. I understand that they need to follow the rules, but it seemed a little excessive for a three-dollar bottle of wine. Whatever.

Trader Joe’s didn’t have a ton of stuff, but what they DID have was very interesting, and the prices were pretty good to boot. Different kinds of cheese and soy/goat milks, nice cuts of meat, all different sorts of snacks and chocolates, spices and sauces, frozen appetizers and entrees, quirky sodas and juices … if I had more money and a car to transport everything home, I would’ve bought a lot more than I did. But about $20 and one large paper bag later, I walked out with two packages of chocolate chips, a small container of mini peanut butter cups, a bag of chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels, a package of smoked apple chicken sausage (they were out of the roasted garlic kind, otherwise I would’ve gotten that) and a block of cream cheese. I also picked up a bottle of Mission Street Brown Ale for D, which was only $1.99 (!) … he apparently had a crummy day, between getting locked out the car/house and just a lousy day at work, so he was quite grateful to come home and find a new bottle of beer plus fresh-baked cookies waiting for him.

Notice what’s missing from my shopping list? The bread flour. Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry it … just all-purpose flour, wheat flour and some kind of peanut flour. Bummer. I figured I’d just take the train back downtown and hoped I’d see another grocery store along the way, and if not (since I don’t have a car at home to go to the store, and D had his car for his night job) I’d just make the best of it with all-purpose flour. But that pissed me off because the whole POINT of making these cookies was to experiment with the bread flour.

The 2 train let me off at Chambers Street, only a few blocks from the World Trade Center PATH station. I walked up the station’s stairs to the street and started looking for the under-construction Freedom Tower, or the existing WTC complex, to guide me, but I couldn’t see anything. Eeep. I took an educated guess and started walking down the street. Turns out I was right, because not only did I see the PATH station, but I also spotted an “Amish Market.” I ducked inside and found several different kinds of flour and grains, including a rather large bag of Pillsbury Bread Flour. Then I caught the PATH train, which was pleasant because it was 7 p.m. and the huge crowd of financial district commuters was already gone for the day, took my other train home and lugged the bag back to the house. The ice had melted by that point, so walking home was a lot easier than the walk to the train that morning.

I got started on the cookies and nearly had the first batch out of the oven by the time D came home from work. I noticed right away that the bread flour made them look different than cookies with regular flour look. They were a little plumper and they didn’t have that little bit of grease (butter?) in the middle that my cookies normally have.

And the taste test? I think we have a winner! They were soft and moist and tasted great. I was SO pleased with the outcome. I made the rest of the batch and threw a few of the mini peanut butter cups in the mixing bowl near the end … D loved those, although I kind of regret doing that because the cups melted and it didn’t look too pretty. Plus I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to classics like chocolate chip cookies.

So, this will definitely be my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies from now on. I’ll have to make sure that we always have some bread flour on hand (and I need to remember to pick up some brown sugar, since I had *just enough* last night for the cookies, thank goodness)!

Here’s a copy of the recipe from Alton Brown, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles … please note, I didn’t use parchment paper since we didn’t have any (I considered wax paper, since we DID have that, but a quick Google search confirmed that it’d just burn in the oven). I just greased my cookie sheets with the wrappers from the sticks of butter (which were salted, not unsalted … and I didn’t melt the butter, because TWTTC blog added in another post that melted butter made her cookies greasy – I just softened the sticks and cut little pats and dropped them into the mixing bowl). I used a spoon and my clean hands to form the dough balls:

The Chewy (from Alton Brown, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog)
2 sticks unsalted butter
2¼ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sugar
1¼ cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Hardware:
Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
Parchment paper
Baking sheets
Mixer
Heat oven to 375F.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
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