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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies...the big questions asked

I'm not happy. Oh sure, they look good. And the taste was great. But the texture...too crispy! Not chewy enough. I seem to have a hex on me which prevents me ever making a really good chocolate chip cookie; one that is crispy without and chewy within. And it's not for lack of reader suggestions and comments from the last time I aired my woes. I pulled these out after 12 minutes, when they looked done, but still gooey in the middle...but just a few minutes of cooling sent them crisp and crunchy. Hmmm.

There seem to be so many variables which can affect the texture of a chocolate chip cookie and make it crispy; oven temperature too high; baked for too long; too much butter; too much sugar; rolled oats instead of quick oats; plain flour instead of cake flour.....I'm sure the list could go on.
I got this recipe from Nic at Baking Sheet, and I would like to stress that it is a great recipe; I just seem to have problems with all choc chip cookie recipes. The taste is fabulous, and they are very addictive. In fact, when my tasters had a go this evening the majority said they loved the texture and wouldn't want them any chewier.

But I do.
I want to make my perfect chocolate chip cookie, and with the same vigour and passion for research displayed by Jeffrey Steingarten, I want to have an ongoing chocolate chip cookie baking project in which I change the variables. Next time I try this recipe I want to reduce the amount of white sugar and butter a little. The white sugar added to the crispiness in my opinion, as well as making them just a tad too sweet for my taste. And the butter seemed a bit excessive, leaving scary-looking wet, greasy UFOs on the paper in my biscuit tin. I think a smaller amount of butter may reduce crispiness, but hopefully not create too much cakiness.
Also, I don't know about the type of oats I used. I used the bog standard ones we get here; "rolled oats", but I think what they use in American recipes is a more broken-up, finer textures oat; perhaps giving my oats a quick whizz in the food processor might help? Nic did suggest this if you don't have 'quick cooking oats'. But how do you know if your oats are quick cooking or not?
I also lowered the oven temperature by 10 degrees C, but I think I might lower it even more to about 150C. I've heard that fan forced ovens should be lowered by about 10C anyway for any baking recipe, and I've heard rumous that our oven (a Gaggenau) can be lowered even further - up to 20C. But that does seem a lot, and I worry about pulling them out too early and having wet, soggy cookies (the other problem I often have....).

What a complaining Nancy I sound! These biscuits were good, and I've just come back from dropping them off to A. for him to take to work tomorrow (yes, these were the second installment of "Baked Goods For The Mystery Workplace) where his father sampled one and declared it really good. I've just become a bit too obsessed with this 'issue'.

You know, I have no doubt that if I didn't have this blog and have become so interested in cooking I wouldn't have nearly the same amount of passion about this! In many ways this blog has been excellent for experience and how I strive for new heights, but it sure it can be damn annoying at times. I get the feeling that some people tonight just wanted to tell me to get over it! :-) It could just be an overactive imagination...but I know I can do better!
Read on for the recipe:

Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies
Adapted and converted to metric measurements from Baking Sheet

Makes 40 cookies

250g flour
50g quick cooking oats
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
165g white sugar
175g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon

-Preheat oven to 175C and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
-In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars.
-Blend in vanilla extract and egg.
-Slowly add in the flour mixture until nearly combined. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts and stir until dough is uniform in color and distribution.
-Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets.
-Bake at 175C for 11-13 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.


  • Oh, I'm sorry, Niki. Quick cooking oats are whole, rolled oats that have been whizzed in the food processor to roughly chop them. They sell them under the "quick cooking" label because they only take about 1/2 the time to cook this way.
    I have heard really good things about Alton Brown's chewy chocolate chip cookies. People on egullet and chowhound rave about them.

    By Blogger Nic, at 9/07/2005 01:38:00 am  

  • Hi Niki - I have a little tip sheet from King Arthur Flour, and it suggests adding a tablespoon of corn syrup to cookie batter to get a chewier cookie. It says that will help them to retain water. Good luck!!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 9/07/2005 02:38:00 am  

  • I'm in love with my current chocolate chip cookie recipe...I adapted it from a cookbook by adding about a half cup extra flour...to achieve that perfect texture.

    And an extra 1 1/2 Tbl. vanilla!

    Hope it works out for you, I know what it's like to search for the perfect recipe...

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 9/07/2005 02:58:00 am  

  • All I can say is that I take out my cookies before ANY of the cookie starts to look done. It all looks gooey...then it continues to bake ever so much while cooling on the pan. Works for me every time! Good luck in the future! :)

    By Blogger Ziz, at 9/07/2005 03:47:00 am  

  • They look gorgeous, no matter what! But I can fully relate to the: well, they might, but they're not exactly how I want them to be! I have no suggestions I'm afraid, just wanted to let you know that they're really pretty!

    By Blogger Cerebrum, at 9/07/2005 05:44:00 am  

  • Hi Niki, I think that your cookie project sounds like a great idea! By the sounds of things you won't rest until you've found the solution! Looking forward to following your progress :)

    By Blogger Kelly, at 9/07/2005 09:37:00 am  

  • PS> I admire your passion for baking. Phooey to those people who give you the "get over it" vibe! We all understand where you're coming from :)

    By Blogger Kelly, at 9/07/2005 09:48:00 am  

  • Niki, Debbie over at Words to Eat By found "cookie perfection" and she likes them chewy on the inside too! Have you seen http://wordstoeatby.blogspot.com/2004/12/best-homemade-chocolate-chip-cookies.html this post?

    Good luck with your endeavours!

    By Blogger plum, at 9/07/2005 10:40:00 am  

  • Nic - no, please don't apologise. This *is* a really good recipe...that I couldn't make work for me. It happens (to me a lot!). Thanks for the info about the oats; I was wondering if there were different grades in the US that we don't (?) have.
    And thanks SO MUCH for the Alton Brown recipe; I was actually thinking of looking for one by him bc I've caught his show a few times and noticed how he strives for the 'perfect' recipe - with the same passion for research as Jeffrey Steingarten. So it's a definite that I'm going to try this.

    Cathy - Interesting tip. Corn syrup is a speciality item here; I've seen it in some supermarkets, but not many. I might get a bottle next time I see it; it would come in handy for making a pecan pie as well, if I ever do that. Do you recommend the light or the dark syrup?

    Stephanie - The Perfect Recipe....it sounds like a scary omen, doesn't it? But I would like to find a fairly fail-safe one, and learn to recognise when they cookies look cooked enough to take out of the oven etc.
    And I'm always interested in new choc chip cookie recipes that work well for people now....! (hint?)

    Alicat - Yes, that's something a few people have mentioned, but I've had bad experiences before taking them out before they're cooked, only to have them become so soggy they fall apart and taste raw. It's striking that perfect balance that I haven't yet achieved. But I do know that I did leave them in a bit too long with this recipe this time. I just wasn't confident enough to whip them out!

    Zarah Maria - Thank you - yes, I thought they were pretty too. And the chocolate inside was excellent. Yes, I though a few bloggers might be able to relate to the 'I'm not happy enough with this, even though it's quite good' thing!

    Kelly - I like all this support! Yes, there are people out there who are not as into food and eating as we are, and they are the ones who will settle for less. Sometimes I wonder if we can become a bit pretentious about it all, but I remind myself that there is really nothing wrong with aiming as high as you can and not lowering your standards - which applies for everything, not just baking!

    Cin - I totally understand about analysis mode; I do exactly the same thing! I think my A. sometimes thinks the only thing I think about is cooking and food...but it's a topic I find so interesting, and there are so many variables that can alter what you do that it turns into an almost scientific personal research interest. It keeps your mind active and questioning, which can only be a very good thing.

    Plum - thanks for the link! I'm going to check it right now. I haven't been to her site for a while, so I'll use it to catch up as well!

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/07/2005 11:02:00 am  

  • Hi Niki - I usually use the light corn syrup, but if you're thinking about making a pecan pie, you might want to buy the dark. Apparently the light corn syrup has very little flavor (other than sweet) and the dark has caramel flavoring and molasses added. Something I read said that they could be used interchangeably. I'll bet golden syrup would accomplish the same thing if added to cookie dough.

    By Blogger Cathy, at 9/07/2005 12:54:00 pm  

  • One of the big debates, crunchy or chewy. I am with you in the chewy camp.. especially if the chocolate is a little gooey.

    That's another trick I'd like to learn, how to keep the chocolate pieces from going too hard!

    Could you mix these in with ice cream to make cookies and cream?

    By Blogger deborah, at 9/07/2005 01:06:00 pm  

  • Niki, sorry to hear you're not happy with the cookies. I'm not a cookie baker so I can only offer understanding. Have no tips whatsoever.

    By Blogger Ana, at 9/07/2005 03:47:00 pm  

  • I have found that I do need to tweak US recipes to adjust for NZ/Australian flours. Australian flour to me seems to work better with US recipes.

    I've subbed golden syrup for corn syrup in the past and not seen much if any difference. Except in my wallet ;).

    Talking of obsessiveness, are you familiar with Rose Berenbaum's Cake Bible? It's a wonderful resource and she should do one on cookies/biscuits.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/07/2005 08:18:00 pm  

  • I also use Golden Syrup instead of Corn syrup now - love that stuff! AB's Chewy CCC's are very good! The cookies do look wonderful - sorry they are no the texture you like!

    By Blogger Joe, at 9/08/2005 02:24:00 am  

  • Hmmm, brown sugar is hygroscopic enough to keep cookies soft. Try adding honey to replace some of the white sugar. More hygroscopy!

    I generally let cookies rest on the sheet for one minute (to make sure they don't fall apart when I lift them), cool for a bit on a rack, and then put them in closed (but not airtight) containers. This way, they don't dry out too much, and can still stay soft.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/08/2005 12:49:00 pm  

  • Cathy - Golden syrup has a pretty strong taste, but I guess a spoonful or so wouldn't affect the flavour too much. I might give that a try.

    Saffron - It's funny. In cakes, my choc chips stay wonderfully gooey, but not so in biscuits!

    Anna - I've heard things about the difference between Australia and US cake flour (can't remember what they are now, though).
    Yes, I've heard of the cake bible, but until now I've shied away from American baking books, because of their use of measurements by volume rather than weight (ie cups of flour versus grams), and I believe baking needs to be very specific and done by weight measurements. However, when a book is famous for its description of techniques etc. then I think that transcends that mesurement issue!

    Joe - Ok, I reckon golden syrup is the way to go. Interestingly, my bf left the lid not properly sealed overnight, and when he took them to work they had softened slightly and everybody raved about the texture. It was the main reason they liked them so much!!!

    Gopi - I'm thinking of cutting down on the white sugar drastically - maybe to a 1/4 cup. I'm not sure about using honey; I think the taste would be too strong, but I understand where you're getting at re atmospheric humidity!!

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/08/2005 08:03:00 pm  

  • Hey Niki- I totally understand what you're going through. I tested so many recipes before landing on the perfect recipe which met my requirements. Ill have to post about that, but in the meantime, good luck with your quest!

    By Blogger tanvi, at 9/09/2005 06:32:00 am  

  • Niki, Rose Levy Beranbaum is a woman obsessed with measurements.

    A typical ingredient such as eggs is given thusly

    6 egg, size 2, 112 grams, 4 ounces, 3 1/2 fliud ounces.

    She converts everything. She's hysterically precise. She rocks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/09/2005 07:43:00 pm  

  • Anna - She sounds amazing!! I love it! It's now high on my list of desired books!

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/11/2005 08:28:00 pm  

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