Monday, July 9, 2012

If You Give a Baketress a Cookie

My dad got married this weekend! Congratulations! Hip hip hooray! I'm so happy for my dad and new stepmom, and so excited about my oodles of new family members. It was a fantastic weekend of meeting and seeing people. (And selfishly… it was really fun to get all made up on someone else's dime (I had never had a gel manicure or gotten my makeup done before! Snazzy!)).

Today, we're going back to basics. I would love to tell you that this is in part to honor a man who helped instill in me a love of reading (he read to me when I was little, and I'll never forget it) and loves chocolate more than anything (except his children and new wife), but really it's because I had a simple craving this week for chocolate chip cookies, and an intense desire to perfect my method.

Do any of you watch Food Network? I love it, but I am irresponsible with that channel. In the days before I could (would?) cook and bake, I would watch and immediately develop a craving for whatever I was seeing. It didn't matter who was making it or if I even knew what half those words meant (mascarpone? quinoa? gratin? What are those?), I just wanted to eat whatever they were making, right that second.

Recently, I've gotten better. Sadly, only half of that is because I now know my way around a kitchen, while the other half is simply my lack of cable. Sigh. Maybe someday.

But back to the point I was slowly making my way to. If you watch Food Network, I hope you watch Alton Brown, especially on Good Eats. That man is a genius, and I'm almost certain I would be friends with him if given the opportunity.

This man enjoys science, puns, sci-fi, food, and travel. And those are only the things I can come up with without ending up on his Wikipedia page… again. Basically, he's absolutely and completely my favorite person on that heavenly channel.

A while back, he did an episode on the science of chocolate chip cookies. Do you like yours puffy, thin, or chewy? He explains what causes each of these variations (with science!), and so my recipe is based on my favorite of the three- the chewy cookie.

To me, a perfect chocolate chip cookie has a just-barely-crisp outer edge, a chewy middle, and is a satisfying balance of salty and sweet. Too much salt and you've ruined it, too little and the cookie is too sweet to devour more than one or two, and lacks substance. Just enough, and you may find yourself and your roommate with spoons, cleaning out the bowl of cookie dough.

With a recipe as basic and filled with happy childhood memories as this, what better book to choose than If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? It's simple. genius, and whimsical, just like Alton Brown is and how I aspire to be.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter (I definitely prefer to use unsalted, but I've also accidentally made these with salted butter and they were still good. As long as you have a love of salt and a full glass of liquid, salted is fine.)
1½ c flour
1 t salt (I actually used a heaping teaspoon, to get that extra savoriness I crave)
1 t baking soda
¼ c white sugar
1 c brown sugar (this is part of what makes it chewy!)
1 egg
2 T heavy cream (or 1 T milk and 1 egg yolk)
1½ t vanilla extract
1½ c chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet, and I didn't actually measure them. This amount is actually up to you.)

1. Melt the butter. This is the other part of what makes these cookies so meltingly chewy.

2. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda. If you don't have a sifter, just mix it up with a fork or whisk to get some air into it. A sieve works just as well as a sifter, by the way.

3. Beat the sugars and the melted butter for about two minutes.

4. Slowly beat in the egg, the cream (or milk and yolk), and the extract. My grandma bought me this beautiful, thick vanilla bean paste that I've been using lately in place of extract. It's magical, and it leaves the beautiful little vanilla beans behind.

5. Beat for another 30 seconds or so.

6. Slowly add the flour mixture (just a bit at the time) and beat until thoroughly mixed.

7. Stir in the chocolate chips. This is also where you can add other ingredients! Walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, etc etc etc…

8. Let chill for at least half an hour, preferably an hour or more.

9. Prepare your cookie sheet. I tried parchment paper for the first time this week! I loved it. I should buy some. It was glorious.

10. Preheat oven to 375°F (190.6 C).

10. Scoop evenly sized chunks of dough onto the sheet and make sure they're spaced out! I used a normal dinner spoon for this. I often have cookies stuck together, but then it's easier to convince yourself you're only eating one cookie, and not two. That's why I haven't fixed that yet.

11. Put the cookies near the bottom third of the oven and bake for 7-15 minutes. If your oven is unreliable, rotate the pan after about five minutes.

These cookies are best enjoyed with a glass of milk. And a straw. And a napkin. And a mirror (to check for milk mustaches!).


  1. i tasted a puffy chocolate chip cookie once (it was actually made with a boxed cake mix instead of flour and i really preferred them that way. anyway, i will have to make you my eggplant gratin (by Wolfgang Puck) delicious. by the way i am going to write a letter to Alton and tell him the correct way to pronounce jalapeno. :) i love you. nani j.

  2. I am going to try this asap! Also, I love the connection to the book! :-)

    1. Thank you! These are the cookies we were eating while we Skyped with you. :)

  3. Haha! Cookies stuck together... Lol :)

  4. Baketress,

    I was so hoping you would do not just a classic but THE classic. Chocolate chip cookies represent something more than just a sweet thing to munch on with mice, they are an iconic dessert that is part of pretty much any normal American child's upbringing. You recipe seems delicous and I too have a bit of a love affair with Alton Brown and the Food Network. Have you tried making your cookies with shorting? I have, and I have found that the texture is very similar to what you said is your preferred texture in a cookie. If you try it please tell me what you think.

    Your humble servant,

    Dorian Gray