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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Research Project: CCCs No. 3

You can find others in the Choc Chip Cookie Research Series at your ABC shop! ....sorry, here and here.
I thought I'd cracked it. I really did. I even answered the phone with a squeal:
"I've done it! I've made the perfect choc chip cookie!"
Bah. I should know by now that any biscuit straight out of the oven is gonna taste good; chewy, crispy, warm, melty... It's when they cool down that the dark reality hits, and you realise you have another sub-par batch. And you hang your head and your heart sinks a little in acknowledgment of the many more batches of choc chip cookies yet to be baked to achieve the perfection for which you are searching; a perfection that seems so intangible. Can anybody achieve perfection? Maybe I'm not destined for its masterly power, but will remain a mere acolyte of mediocrity.

Anyway, maudlin navel-gazing out of the way! For this batch I tried Alton Brown's CCC recipe called "The Chewy". Sounds promising. It read well too. I liked the idea of chilling the dough before baking, and the method of melting the butter, rather than creaming it with the sugar suggested a reduction in puffy cakiness. All good.
All went well during the dough making and dough dolloping. But the cooking time seemed wrong; 14 minutes seemed a rather long time, so instead I set the time for 10 minutes and went to check on them then. At 10 minutes they were the colour you see above; pretty dark, yes? And that darkness equalled the exact crispiness I am trying to avoid. Mr Brown, your chewy cookies were crispy! So, if that was 10 minutes, at 14 I would have had charcoal! On reflection, the oven temperature he specifies seems rather high. Thus, if making this recipe, keep a close eye on your cookies' browning progress and possibly reduce the temperature.

Another rather odd thing that occured was a distinct lack of flavour. There was no lingering chocolatiness or butteriness or a fill-the-mouth fullness you get with other CCCs. This is partly my fault for buying cheap-arse Home Brand dark chocolate. Chocolate is expensive, you know! And I wasn't holding out hopes for creating a masterpiece that night, based on previous experience (a premontion?), so standing in front of the awful yellow wrapper, $1.50 for 375 grams, I thought "how bad could it be?"
The answer is very bad. Bloody awful. Home Brand dark chocolate tastes like brown crayons. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Another tip, kids; do not fall for the laws of false economy. Choc chip biscuits have few ingredients. All should be of good quality. I have learnt this lesson painfully.

However, the chocolate wasn't the only culprit. The whole flavour of these tasted flat. It was crying out for some salt to lift the flavour. I think an extra teaspoon of salt would have really improved things. This was an interesting observation for me, becuase I specifically bought the unsalted butter that Alton Brown specified. I don't usually bake with unsalted butter; in Australia salted butter is all the go, and I still add the teaspoon-or-so of salt specified in recipes in addition. 'Hello flavour? Where are you?' was the general consensus by all who tried these.... my friends emailed me to state that "they weren't very exciting". So, I wonder if we have become so accustomed to the taste of salted butter in our cakes and biscuits that using the unsalted stuff sends our tastebuds into hibernation? An interesting theory, and one I hope to explore further.

So, it's onward and upward. I still have about 8 recipes to go; a combination of ones I've compiled myself, and some emailed to me by enthusiastic readers. I do have to say though that I hope I crack the code soone rather than later. It'd be a shame to discover the perfect recipe only to never want to see a choc chip cookie ever again.
Read on for the recipe:

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The Chewy – Alton Brown
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter
280 g (2 1/4 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
250g (1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 190 degrees C / 375F
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.


  • Bummer, Niki.
    I'm going to offer up one more suggestion. This works in other, very chewy cookies that I make: use only brown sugar or add some honey. The extra moisture will keep the cookies soft (and chewy) once they have been stored. I think that most cookies, once cooled but if kept out, will maintain a certain level of crispness because moisture is allowed to escape.
    Hopefully you'll get your perfect cookie soon! And to add yet another recipe to the suggestions, this one says it's chewy and has almost 1000 reviews!

    By Blogger Nic, at 10/11/2005 01:31:00 am  

  • Oops - I didn't realise that these did only use brown sugar. This actually makes me think that the brown sugar in Aus. might be different than the brown sugar in the US? It stand by my honey statement, though. I think a tbsp into these will lead to long term chewiness.

    By Blogger Nic, at 10/11/2005 01:40:00 am  

  • Hi Niki - You're right - most cookies are great just out of the oven. Why can't they stay that way?

    Keep up the hunt, even if you never find the perfect CCC, we'll all enjoy the journey!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 10/11/2005 04:58:00 am  

  • Hi Niki,
    I made a batch of white choc chip and macadamia cookies on the weekend loosely based around the double-tree recipe that you posted about here a while back but I forgot to add the 3/4 cup of white sugar and the cookies came out beautifully soft just like out of the oven (even the next day when I took them to work).

    If you want to take a look at my recipe its over here, and I used good old Aussie CSR brown sugar and other standard Aussie ingredients. My oven is a bit unreliable though so I had to time them by smell as you'll see in my recipe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/11/2005 10:20:00 am  

  • Niki, you take me back to being 9 years old, when I wandered into a supermarket and realised that for some tiny amount I could buy a whole block of homebrand chocolate. I was with some friends and we eagerly shared it out on our walk home.

    I don't think I've ever seen chocolate spat out before. Or since. As soon as I read "tastes like brown crayons" I remembered exactly what it was like to have that stuff masquerading as chocolate in my mouth. Yuck! And I wasn't that fussy about chocolate in those days!!

    By Blogger plum, at 10/11/2005 12:43:00 pm  

  • Nic - I think the honey tip is a great idea. I'll remember that.

    Cathy - If we could only have warm from the oven cookies we'd....have very high cholesterol ;-)

    Michelle - Timing by smell; that's dedication and confidence! Good on you. I checked them out; nice work. Yes,I think it's all about the brown sugar, really.

    Plum - I was the same as a kid, somehow despite my young, untrained taste buds I knew that home brand chocolate just tasted BAD. It was the same with stuff made with home brand cocoa; the cakes were always light in colour and flavour. Now as an adult, I have acquired an expensive dark chocoalte habit!

    ln - Yes, it does mean generic, but 'Home Brand' is actually a brand of generic goods (does that make sense??) that are sold in a number of different supermarket chains. They always have very basic packaging with no graphics; just a banana yellow background and black writing. Some home brand stuff, like flour, sugar, tinned fruit etc. is good, and just made up of excess from the big names companies. But other stuff, like the chocolate is NASTY!

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/13/2005 10:00:00 am  

  • Hi Nikki,
    I agree that Alton's "chewy" recipe disappointed. Sure, it smelled great, but the flavor was lacking. I went back to my old tried-and-true recipe. Well, I have altered my old standard somewhat and the changes are a secret...but here's the old recipe that I've had for 10 years! I've given these away as gifts and have had several requests for the recipe. They're not like the standard Toll House cookie because of the whole wheat flour, but they're delicious and stay chewy for days. There's a picture and description of the cookies on my blog.

    Chocolate chip cookies
    ½ c sugar
    ½ c brown sugar
    2/3 c butter, softened
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 ½ c whole wheat flour
    ½ c chopped nuts
    6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

    Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugars, butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bake for 7-8 min, or just until edges begin to brown.

    By Blogger Jessica "Su Good Sweets", at 10/14/2005 01:15:00 pm  

  • Wow - thanks so much for this recipe and the tips. I actually have some wholemeal flour, leftover from my wholemeal coffee/choc/hazelnut cake, that I want to use up soon, so this is perfect. I also like that it has less butter than other recipes too! And if the pictures on your blog are anything to go by, I'll have very happy tasters.

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/14/2005 02:13:00 pm  

  • Oh, I forgot to say that the dough should be dropped by rounded teaspoons. One batch makes 2.5-3 dozen cookies. I hope they work for you.

    By Blogger Jessica "Su Good Sweets", at 10/16/2005 05:19:00 am  

  • Based on the dates of these posts, I don't know that you'll see this. Unless there is a large difference in ingredients from US to Aus, your oven may run hot. Atlon's is by far the softest and chewiest cookie I've ever made. I also cut the time down a minute or two but they were close to perfection.

    Dark in place of Semi-sweet chocolate is a major difference too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/05/2008 05:57:00 am  

  • The other critical part is using a #24 or #30 scoop to achieve uniform size and baking.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/05/2008 05:58:00 am  

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