Classic chocolate chip cookies

This is my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It’s a variation of a combination of  recipes from Martha Stewart and the back of a Tollhouse chips bag, but with my own tweaks that personalize it.  If you experiment with the amounts of sugar, flour, vanilla, butter, and chips, plus oven temp and time and placement, you can customize it nicely to your liking. I find everyone has a different idea of “the perfect cookie,” but I hope you enjoy mine!

I brought these in to work today, and my coworker Cassie was so effusive and inquisitive in her praise that she finally motivated me to stick them in a proper post with proper instructions. Here ya go, Cassie!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar*
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 large egg (NOT Omega-3), room temperature if possible**
  • Up to 2 sticks salted butter, room temperature (I use somewhere between one and two sticks depending what I’m after – more butter = less fluffy/cakey, more crispy/chewy. Lately I’m a Full 2 Sticks kinda gal)
  • 1/2 tbsp (or less, if you like) real vanilla – don’t use imitation, buy a good but cheap real vanilla.***
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 12-oz package chocolate chips****
  • Optional – if you’re going to add nuts or dried fruit (dried sour red cherries make a wonderful addition), make sure to remove some chocolate chips to make room for them.  My advice is 2 parts chips, 1 part fruit/nuts/both, for a total of 12 ounces of add-ins.
  • See my personal baking tips for more detailed ingredient advice and techniques.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350ish, and set out your baking sheets (but NOT on top of the oven). Cut up parchment or throw down the Silpat or whatever else you like to do to preserve your cookies’ asses.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar about two minutes, scraping sides and bottom well (especially if using a stand mixer).
  • Add molasses if you’re doing a brown sugar substitution, add vanilla and egg and keep beating.
  • Mix dry ingredients together lazily in a separate bowl, then add this mixture in about three parts, mixing after each addition. Don’t go overboard mixing once the flour is added, or your cookies will get all hard because you’ve teased the gluten out of the flour and accidentally started kneading the mixture like bread. Avoid that. Be lazy.
  • Stir in chips with a wooden spoon or paddle and try to make sure they’re evenly distributed.
  • For easy storage, use your hands to shape dough into balls or patties and keep loosely packed in Tupperware in the freezer for easy removal and baking of just one or two.
  • Chill dough if possible for at least 45 minutes, then bake at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes, depending *very much* on your oven – check at 10, 12, 15, etc. minutes and remove at the first hint of browning on top.
  • Allow cookies to cool for at least 30 minutes.  For cookies you want to eat immediately, cook a bit longer (but leaving the ones for later to cool even if they seem a bit undercooked will make for softer, chewier cookies even after cooling – salmonella, shmalmonella, I say!)

 

*Best is if you do the whole white sugar but add molasses at egg stage thang.
**Duck is definitely best here! The biggest one in the dozen; be extra careful with shells since they’re thicker and even more unpleasant to bite into.
***An easy way is to do “vanilla sugar” — whenever you use vanilla bean caviar in a recipe, stick the hulls in a spice jar and fill with sugar. Use that sugar to bake things like these cookies. You’re welcome. (Still use the normal amount of vanilla bean extract as well.)
****I just use Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chips, but obviously, fancier chocolate makes for fancier cookies.

My personal baking tips

They say there are two types of cooks — bakers and chefs. Bakers are generally thought to be methodical and rule-abiding, and they deal mainly in chemistry. Chefs are innovators and risk-takers, and they deal more in physics. I had always thought myself to be more of a chef than a baker (as evidenced by my complete inability to follow a recipe exactly) — but I believe one can learn to bake even if one’s heart sings a main-course song.

I’ve received lots of compliments and inquiries about my baked goods, and I think I’ve managed to put my finger on the specific chef-like risks that I’ve incorporated into my baking practices with great success. (This is not to say I haven’t had MANY failures — I just don’t blog about those!) So here’s a list of some of the specific tweaks I tend to apply to most baking recipes.

Continue reading “My personal baking tips”

The ducks are laying again

I started trying out duck eggs a couple years ago, since my favorite farmers’ market stand would always sell out of chicken eggs by 8:30 AM. At first I was freaked out (largely because I can’t stand goats’ milk, so I’ve been paranoid to switch animals all willy-nilly!) but I soon discovered that duck eggs are delicious. And they’re also more nutritious in many ways, and they hold up better in baked goods.

So I was extra-thrilled to find out that Madison Market sells duck eggs — I thought I had to get myself to the farmers’ market to enjoy them. Sure, they’re kinda misshapen and weirdly colored, and they don’t even come close to fitting in those cardboard egg trays. But that’s part of their charm!

I think hard-boiled duck eggs are much more flavorful than chicken eggs. (Initially I was worried because the lying, mean Internet made me think they would change color. But, as you’ll note from my photo, hard-boiled duck eggs are just as white and yellow as ever.) And for some reason, chicken egg yolks sometimes gross me out, but duck egg yolks are creamy and rich and wonderful. I also think duck eggs work better in dishes like potato salad.

I’m thrilled that the ducks are back in action — I can finally start incorporating duck eggs into my cooking again! I just enjoyed a lovely snack of a hard-boiled duck egg with Barrique Chardonnay finishing salt — delish!