Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cloudy Days, Happy Baking

It started on a lovely Sunday afternoon: after lazily making brunch (scrambled eggs, lovely farmer's market country potatoes, freshly baked cracked wheat bread from this amazing bakery that I can't get enough of , and my summer strawberry jam), puttering around the Co-op for the rest of the groceries and cleaning-up said brunch, I preceded to curl up in bed and watch cooking shows. And what else is better on a slightly rainy, cool september Sunday?

I came to a Nigella Lawson show, where she generously comforts a friend with amazingly huge and dark double chocolate chip cookies. And it was then when I declared to my boyfriend: "today I shall make cookies!".

So I did just that, and I even walked to the grocery to get the butter, chocolate "buttons", brown sugar and eggs. The walk in itself warranted a freshly baked cookie. At any rate, cookies should be enjoyed no matter what occasion: life is too sweet to not enjoy pastries, cookies, pies, quiches, cheeses. And most importantly, sharing the sweet things is equally important too. Which reminds me: I should really get on my "cookie care packages" for some dear friends who are not-so-near (physically). To be continued-this may be a perfect opportunity for the upcoming holiday season.

The biggest dilemma I always face when making chocolate chip cookies is what recipe to use. I have nearly perfected my own, but as usual, was feeling adventurous. I ended up choosing between two recipes: Alice Medrich's recipe and David Lebovitz's salted butter chocolate chip cookies. Both really intrigued me, however, since Alice's recipe involves melting the butter, the overnight chilling period is essential, I decided to try David's.

Salty, crunchy and chewy, I am pleased with the results. For extra umph, I added a sprinkling of sea salt on the top right before baking.

I also cheated, and after forming the walnut-size balls, I placed them into the freezer for a quick-chill...often my short-cut for the chilling step (I know it does not acheive the same results, and flavor of the cookies are not as developed as they would be if aged overnight in the fridge). But really, let us not over think this: this is a chocolate chip cookie. It is not a food science project.

Speaking of food science projects, and update on The Adventures of Getting a Masters in Food Science: I am finishing up reading a thesis to help form the foundation of preliminary experiments, and am gearing up for a 4 day NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) course in Texas next week. Confectionary lab was fun and sticky: the undergrads made fondants of varying formulas, cream fillings with a myriad of colors and flavors, and also observed 3 different agitation methods for crystal nucleation and formation. I clearly remember this lab when I took it, and how much I wanted to first eat a bag of salty potato chips after, and then brush my teeth!

Sea Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from this recipe)
Makes approximately 4 dozen (48 cookies, 1 1/2" to 2" diameter) 

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted high quality butter at room temperature (look at the ingredients, it should say "cream" only)
2 eggs
1 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 1/3 cups (220 grams) tightly packed brown (light or dark) sugar
1 heaping teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling on cookie dough balls if desired (don't use table salt, much too harsh here)
2 2/3 cups (400 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon high quality vanilla, or cognac
2 2/3 cups (400 grams) chocolate buttons or chips, or chopped bittersweet (70% or more) chocolate

2 to 4 cookie sheets, light aluminum
Optional: parchment paper
2 large bowls
Hand or stand mixer, or wooden spoon and elbow grease
2 teaspoons or regular spoons
measuring cups and spoons
rubber spatula
Optional: scale

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment, if desired. No need to grease cookie sheets if not using parchment.

Sift the flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon into a bowl. In a large bowl, add the sugar and the butter. Beat with a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer. Alternatively, do it grandma-style with a wooden spoon. Beat until light the fluffy, like a sugary cloud of deliciousness. Add in the eggs, and then the vanilla or cognac. Beat to incorporate.

Add in the dry ingredients, and mix in until thoroughly incorporated. Last, add the chocolate, and mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides once to make sure all the ingredients are happily (and homogenously) mixed. Taste the batter-and judge if you wish to sprinkle additional salt on the cookie dough balls prior to baking.

At this point, you may return the dough, covered, into the fridge for aging (2 hours, up to overnight). Alternatively, you can bake the cookies right away, utilizing my freezer trick noted above. If you choose to bake the cookies right away, without chilling the baking sheets, you may have cookies that spread quite a bit-nothing wrong with that-just be aware.

Using two teaspoons, form balls that are the size of unshelled walnuts, or slightly smaller than a golfball. If you want larger cookies, make larger balls. It is that simple. Place on cookie sheets in the standard 3-2-3-2-3 pattern (note: if you are using fresh dough, consider only placing 3-2-3-2 on a sheet due to increased spreading). Place cookies on sheets in freezer as you generate them, or form all the balls at once, place on a sheet, and shove in the freezer. As you take warm cookies off, place cooled cookie balls on sheets for baking. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. If you want gooey cookies, take out closer to 10 minutes. However, I have noted that these cookies crisp-up quite reliably, regardless of how "gooey" they appear.

Remove from sheets and place on a tea towel or drying rack. Enjoy warm, or package once cool and share, or freeze for a another rainy day.


  1. 4 days of NMR in Texas?! Any chance you'll be in Houston?!

    1. YES! Actually, I fly into Houston, and the course is in The Woodlands, which is approximately 30 miles outside of Houston! What says you?! We should grab dinner! :)

  2. Replies
    1. Miss you too...owe you a phone! I love your blogger name: Boozecakes. I feel that it could also be a fitting pole dancer name :)