July 29, 2012

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I've been thinking about posting some recipes on here that I use frequently...but I don't know if anyone is even interested in reading about them.  Granted, I've never exactly asked what people are interested in reading about, and lately I hardly even take the time to post (gotta get with that one), but I do tend to post about things that I find interesting or that I am excited about.  I have to post about my kids since helloooo, the grandparents and other family members want to see those things all of the time.  They have been very kind in not asking me where in the world are the photos and why aren't you posting them!?!?!  So "Thanks!" to the family for that one!  I write about places we travel to because I love to travel.  I write about language/culture because that interests me as well.

I like to cook and as demonstrated this week, finding a new recipe to add to the rotation makes me all but giddy with excitement (relief?).  Therefore I am just throwing the topic out there.  I am not a fancy chef.  I am not some super-cook-extraordinaire.  I will not have more than about five recipes to add...well, maybe more...but anyway.

If anyone is even reading this thing anymore, wanna know about my cooking?

In addition, I had Anna tell me once that she wishes that I would post more about my daily life here in Russia.  You know, 'cause it is oh so different (or is it?) than your own.  I guess what happens is that it becomes the norm for me, so I don't consider it to be anything interesting when perhaps it is.

Any takers on that topic?






To begin my cooking showcase, I give you The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie:

**Disclaimer:  If you don't care about cookies, don't read this!**

Normally I just make the cookies on the back of the Nestle Semi-Sweet Morsels bag a la Phoebe's grandmother.  They vary in quality and I am never happy with the way they look (although they always taste fine).  I saw the link for "What's Wrong with Your Cookies?" on Pinterest and decided that I'd follow that recipe today.

One difference in the recipes is that the Nestle bag calls for all butter while the perfect cookie calls for half butter and half shortening.  Aside from that, most of what influences the end result has to do with execution rather than ingredients/ratios.

For starters, in the Nestle recipe you combine everything and at the very end add the chocolate chips.  This really does not work well and makes for a very uneven distribution of chips as well as some major over-mixing if you want to evenly-ish distribute them.  This is the part of that recipe that leaves me all unhappy every time.

Yes, I get unhappy about my chocolate chip cookies if they don'y turn out.  Let's all remember that I can't buy them in the store nor can I get the chocolate chips to make them with over here so if they're all icky it is ochen ploha (very bad).

In the Perfect recipe the chocolate chips are added at the end of the wet ingredients.  Then you add the dry stuff and mix until just incorporated.  I found this to be much easier than the Nestle way and it definitely allowed me to not overwork the dough.

Overworking the dough.  One major mistake that I for one am very prone to make.  Very.  When you cook you can mess around with so many things and it doesn't really matter all that much.  When you bake it is so much more scientific and stringent.

Moving along. 

One thing I also did this time is I weighed all of my ingredients.  That's right.  I got out the food scale and weighed everything.  While that sounds like a pain and a waste of time it actually was very quick, easy and as far as I can tell, it really was worth it.  When I did add the dry ingredients to the wet+chocolate the dough came together very quickly and looked pretty much exactly like the website tutorial said it should.  For me that means that it was worth it and I'll be doing it again!

Something else I've learned recently regarding baking (and I think from the same website) is that when your oven first beeps to tell you that it is heated to the right temperature it is usually full of hooey.  That's right.  Hooey.  Normally it is off by a bit and that is a big problem when you bake.  Again, speaking from experience. Remember: science, stringent.  I do not think this is as much of a problem with gas-heated ovens nor is it a problem with new ones so much but people, I have an electric so-not-new-it-isn't-even-funny oven over here, so to me it matters.  My solution?  Once it tells me it is ready I set a timer for 30 minutes to let it really get ready.

Back to the cookies.

When I rolled them into balls (um, yeah, I did that too...you don't have to, but you'd need a lot of refrigerator space not to mention cookie sheets to put in the fridge if you don't roll them.), the texture was mostly as it should be.  I found a couple of spots where the butter/shortening hadn't incorporated like it should and guess what?  Those cookies look a little like the mistake cookies on Pinterest.

Imagine that.

Overall my cookies turned out very good in my opinion.  Take a look:

I took a break between rolling the dough and refrigerating it and then finally baking it.  I thought this made it more manageable and the clean up was easier because I was doing it in two shifts.  Since you can keep the dough in the fridge for up to two days, I prefer preparing the dough at one time and waiting to bake them until later.  I've had good experiences with freezing dough as well, so whenever I can I try to make it all ahead and freeze it so that I can get it out whenever I need to make a quick dessert for friends.

Well, that is my cookie experience.  I prefer the Perfect recipe, that is for sure.  Maybe I'll post the cilantro-lime-quesadilla recipe I found this week sometime soon...or the lemon-cranberry scone recipe (I know, Mom and Bobbie, you're waiting for that one!).

If you read this whole thing, thanks for sticking with it!  If you have an opinion about my post topics, please leave a comment.