Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finding the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

This past week I was craving chocolate chip cookies- a craving that strikes me often... This craving got me thinking about chocolate chip cookie recipes, and how I've never made one that I've been in love with- most likely because I just haven't tried that many recipes out.  Usually I want immediate gratification and so instead of actually looking up a recipe, I just go with the one on the back of the chocolate chip bag- usually Nestle Tollhouse...  and while it's decent, it could stand for much improvement.  I mean, it makes great cookie dough (for eating before baking), and they are of course good when warm from the oven, but as they sit they become underwhelming.  Everyone has different standards they hold their perfect chocolate chip cookie to, and my idea of a perfect chocolate chip cookie is one that's big and chewy, and stays chewy even after it cools..... and so I've decided to embark on a quest to find my personal favorite chocolate chip cookie.  I've done some research and have a preliminary list of recipes I will try... and I'm sure I'll find more.  I expect this to be a delicious journey, and at the end, I will hopefully find the best chocolate chip cookie known to man.

Here's a list of some of the recipes I'll be trying... If you have a favorite, let me know, and I'll add it to the list!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Illustrated
Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted by The New York Times
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cook's Illustrated
Alice's Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sweet Savory Life
Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies from Martha Stewart
Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Martha Stewart
Alton Brown's The Chewy
Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies

.... This should be a fun experiment!

Brown Sugar Cookies

My recommendation is that you make these cookies right now.  Just drop whatever you're doing and bake up a batch.  You most likely have all the ingredients in your pantry and it won't be long before you are enjoying one of the most wonderfully delicious cookie recipes ever.  Seriously, these are one of my new favorite cookies- like a cross between sugar cookies and molasses crinkles, they are chewy, buttery, and unbelievably tasty... especially when still warm... not that I would know that or anything- I mean I'd never, ever eat 4 straight off the cookie sheet....

Brown Sugar Cookies
from Joy the Baker, originally from Epicurious
Makes 2 1/2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger in a medium bowl, and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer mix together the brown sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for one more minute.
3. Add the dry ingredients all at once to the sugar mixture, and beat on low speed just until the dough comes together and the flour disappears.  Stop the mixer, and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Dollop tablespoon balls of dough on the baking sheets, and couple of inches apart from each other.
5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.
6. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • The cookies will last about 5 days if stored in an airtight container.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Potato and Leek Soup

For about a week now I've been sick with a energy-sapping, tastebud destroying, cold.  One of the worst things to someone who loves food is not being able to taste fully, and so I've desperately been trying to make myself well.  I'm thinking some old-fashioned chicken soup might be just the thing I need to make so look for that post soon (I have a quick chicken and wild rice soup that is delicious).  But before I lost my sense of taste completely I decided that since I was in need of a comforting, soul-warming soup, I'd try Julia Child's recipe for Potage Parmentier.  Since fall began I've been in the mood to delve deeper into Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and so lately it's been my nightly reading.  The first chapter is on soups, and the very first soup in the book is this potato and leek soup, and it sounded like it couldn't be easier.  Simmer some potatoes and leeks in water, then blend and add a little butter or cream for richness? That's pretty much the easiest recipe ever, and easy sounded especially good to me this week in the midst of my cold.

Potato and Leek Soup
Potage Parmentier
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Makes about 2 quarts (6 to 8 servings)

1 lb (3 to 4 cups) peeled potatoes, sliced or diced (3 to 4 cups)
1 lb leeks (3 cups), thinly sliced including the tender green; or 3 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 quarts water
1 tbsp salt
4 to 6 tbsp whipping cream; or 2 to 3 tbsp softened butter
2 to 3 tbsp parsley or chives, minced

1. Place a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, or dutch oven over medium heat and add potatoes, leeks, water, and salt. Simmer together for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
2. Mash the vegetables together with a fork, transfer to a food processor, blend (in small batches) in a blender, pass through a food mill, or blend together with a stick blender until the soup is smooth.
3. Season to taste with salt (and pepper if desired)
4. Remove the soup from the heat, and add the cream or butter just before serving. Pour into a soup tureen, or individual bowls, and garnish with the fresh herbs.

  • I used my stick blender to blend the soup and it worked perfectly to give it a beautiful, smooth consistency.  Julia Child says that she is partial to a food mill for this soup, but since I don't have a food mill, I couldn't try it her way.  
  • I was right in my assessment that this would be an easy recipe- it came together extremely quickly (other than the longish simmering time), and would be a great starter for an elegant meal, when you want it to look fancy, but don't want to cook something extremely involved.