day 10: the great debate

>> December 10, 2009

tonight was an experiment. there's been much bloodshed (not really) over the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. everyone claims that their grandmother is the only one who does it right. or the nytimes.

for reasons unknown, i've convinced myself that tollhouse cookies were the only way to go. its not like we every really made chocolate chip cookies when i was little... at least not from scratch. i have one fleeting memory of eating globs of raw dough from the bowl while my grandma wasn't looking, which sticks more for the fact that she yelled at me about getting salmonella than about the actual recipe. i also used to just eat the little frozen balls from the market day orders in elementary school. wooo. pop a few of those in the microwave on a paper plate for 30 seconds, and, to an 8 year old, it solved mom's problem of the "raw" eggs, and was a gooey, sticky wonder from heaven.

now that my culinary skills have advanced beyond the microwave and my palate beyond lucky charms and cocoa puffs, i'm going to work this out. i know that creaming butter and sugar will make my cookies flatter, and that the ratio of butter to flour to eggs matters. i also know that liquid butter makes them more fluffy. i do not approve of nuts. i also do not approve of milk chocolate. sea salt is a must.

and so it began. i entered the kitchen armed with 1 bag of chocolate chips, 2 recipes, and recipients in mind.

up first, deb's favorite chocolate chip cookies, as posted on smitten kitchen. she cites david leibowitz, and since i trust them both (in a weird, "i've-never-met-you" type of way), i have faith.

it's a pretty standard recipe:
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (this is where i get excited -- something new!)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (i choose the latter)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
(i remove the 1 cup of toasted, chopped nuts)

she advises baking them in a 300*F oven with racks at the top-third. i also line my sheets with parchment, as prescribed.
i beat the butter and sugars until smooth, mix in my egg, vanilla, and baking soda (not with the dry? interesting!). in a separate bowl, i combine the flour and salt and mix them slowly into the batter. i then stir in the chocolate chips.
i use my handy cookie scoop and drop 16 (twice what she said) balls on one sheet, and then 16 smaller-sized balls on the other half-sheet pan. i need more mileage out of these than the recipe calls for.
i set the timer for 18 minutes, but because my oven is insane, fickle, and completely unreliable (oh, yes, college apartments!), i have to open the door a lot and check them. i air on the side of under-done, which is better in my opinon.

while they cool, i start on the second batch.

for this to be a true experiment, i feel that i have to go in a completely different direction, not just a different ratio. i opt for the olive oil chocolate chip cookies from sydney of crepes of wrath. it's been on the "try this!" pile for quite some time, and i finally had an excuse. (i halve this recipe, since i only have 1/2 cup of chocolate chips left, but i'll post the full recipe because halved yields odd measurements.)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil (the light flavor is key)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (i assume light and packed, as above)
2 eggs
1 or 2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup chocolate chips

i turn up the oven to 375 with some hesitance... will the initial higher heat make a difference? i mix my flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set them aside (as always). i then beat the sugars, vanilla, and olive oil with my mixer, and then add the egg (remember, i halved this). i slowly add the flour, and only need half of a tablespoon of milk to firm the dough. i planned on using the trusty spoon-ball-rolling method this time (like my mom does for snicker doodles and thumbprints), since the directions call for little balls, but the dough was too sticky for that. i opted for the spoon glob again onto parchment-lined baking sheets. she urged 10 and a half minutes, so i set the timer for 8 and checked them repeatedly.

the jury is out (literally -- i'm home alone), and i want a non-biased taster, unaware of the internal differences of the cookies. you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out!


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