Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Climbing the Cookie Mountain

When you say 'cookie' I'd be willing to bet that 95% of Americans think of one thing ... right?  C'mon, be honest, what popped into your head?  This - right? 
A Chocolate Chip Cookie. 
Perhaps the other 5% is split between the Oreo and some off-beat concoction they remember from their childhood, but for the majority of us, 'cookie' is synonymous with 'chocolate chip,' and there's not a lot of folks who don't preface that with 'Toll House.'  If you've had a homemade chocolate chip cookie lately, then you know why they're so popular, simply put, they're delicious.  Not only are Chocolate Chip Cookies among the greatest things ever created, but so is the unbaked dough.  I don't know a lot of people who would forgo the risk of eating raw eggs when they're conveniently wrapped up in a big gob of raw cookie dough!  Ok, some might give pause these days, given the recent egg recall, but even that isn't reason enough to deter me. Maybe, just maybe, if I lived in Iowa, but beyond that? Well,I think we all know it's well worth the risk!

So if you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that up until now I've fiercely avoided baking a Chocolate Chip Cookie - and with good reason.  It's a no win situation.  My chances of making 'the best chocolate chip cookie you've ever had' is impossible. Why do you think I've sought out the obscure?  I mean I'm sure the Marathon Cookies were by far the best cookie you all had with Great Northern Beans!  Even the Root Beer Float cookies, which tasted nothing like a root beer float, was still probably the best Root Beer Float Cookie you've all ever had, right?  So now your onto me.  I make a cookie with zucchini in it and what could you possibly compare it too?  I spend weeks perfecting French Macarons when no one has ever even heard of them before (but they have now! :) and suddenly I'm a pro.  Yup, pick the right kind of cookie and it's pretty easy to impress ... who's to know any different?

But Chocolate Chip?  If you've EVER baked a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies, or ok, if you've ever eaten 'a batch' before they had a chance to bake, then please stand up - see? I thought so - you all can sit down now.  And I'd even venture to say that you take pride in your CCC - that you have a secret ingredient that makes it different from how your Mom or your neighbor makes them.  They're the 'snowflake' of the cookie world, all the same, but all just a little different - and everyone likes their own the best.  Considering this scenario, why would I possibly set myself up for such a fall?

Well, I knew early on that I this day would eventually come and I could only avoid it for so long.  Every week I'd find yet another 'Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie' recipe with rave reviews to add to my growing database of chocolate chip cookie recipes.  I was trying to cover all the bases, of course there was the traditional: Toll House, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury Bake Off; and the infamous: Neiman Marcus, Martha Stewart, Mrs Fields; then there's Alton Brown's The Chewy vs. The Thin vs. The Puffy and a few that are just ridiculous: Lexi's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies (no you read that right, 1 lb of butter for 30 cookies, yikes!) and let's not forget that in a pinch one can always just go buy a 'roll' of Toll House cookie dough at the grocery store - warm out of the oven, I'd think those might even pass the test.

The thing is, I'm sure they're all delicious, and I'm sure there's another 10 great recipes for every one I've listed above and likely another 100 variations of each.  (For the record though, I'm going with the "straight chocolate chip" variety - no nuts, no fillings, no dipping, no fruit - just chips and cookie dough).  How could I possibly choose a cookie that could impress, actually scratch that, sometimes in life we have to be realistic in our expectations, so for this go round, all I really want is for it to be 'good' ...ok, 'really good.'

So how does one go about finding the best, er uh, a 'really good' chocolate chip cookie recipe? We'll I guess I could've scoured the country sampling cookies or baking test batch upon test batch of these recipes - both have an element of fun that I envy, but unfortunately I have a job and could not possibly run or workout for enough hours in the day to justify the calories that would be involved, so instead ... I cheated.  I let a writer at the NY Times, David Leite, do my homework for me and then followed his lead.  Now, I wouldn't automatically trust the conclusions drawn by a NY Times food writer, after all, when it comes to taste it is often 'too each their own' and I'd prefer to judge for myself.  But when he determined the best chocolate chip cookie recipe was from someone referred to as 'Mr Chocolate' and is the renowned French Pastry Chef and Chocolatier Jacques Torres, who's hosted cooking shows such as: "Decadent Desserts," "Chocolate," "Passion for Chocolate," and one of my favorite cooking shows ever "Dessert Circus," well, I figured he was onto something.

(anyone remember this PBS series from when he was head Pastry Chef at Le Cirque?)

(Even the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe has a few different versions - for full disclosure:  The links to the cookie recipes represent two slightly different versions - the one in the blog is the original as presented in the NY Times, the one I used is in the recipe list from the Martha Stewart the proportions are all very similar, with the big difference being the Martha Stewart presented version used slightly more flour and did not require refrigeration - this version also made about 8 dz 3" cookies.)

1 comment:

  1. Mary Lou, My dear,
    it's been a week...I mean, A WEEK! I saw you'd dropped off toll house cookies, and I immediately thought, "ah, comfort food..." And they were, errrrrrr, "it" was (I swear I had only one) all I'd hoped it would be, and more.

    Thank you for the love, comfort, and sweetness that you continue to provide, to all of just cannot imagine...