Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dueling Chocolate Chip Cookies

It. Is. On.

(NOTE: Elizabeth will write in black. Ann will make commentary in green.)

Before I get to reporting The Hitting and The Biting and The Slapping, let me explain how our duel began. This being the Year of Cookies, we wanted to start off with the quintessential cookie. America's favorite: the chocolate chip cookie. We thought it would be fun to make different recipes on the same day, and compare them for deliciousness.


We decided NOT to use nuts (gasp!) so that we could taste the purity of the classic CCC (that's what experts call chocolate chip cookies. You didn't know? Non-expert.)

We found CCCs in nearly every baking cookbook I own. Here are just a few that we looked at:

(Spoiler alert: we chose the top two cookbooks on the right.)

We read through many, many recipes. Both of us wanted a classic taste, but we wanted to use different ingredients and mixing techniques from what the other sister was using. After all, what good is a duel if you're going to end up with the exact same cookie?

In the end, I chose a CCC recipe that I found in Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes, by Joanne Chang (she calls it a "Chocolate Chunk Cookie." Show off). Flour is a bakery and cafe in Boston. No, I have not been. Yes, I am angry about it.

I loved Chang's decision to stick with a classic---the cookie is based on the Nestle Toll House bag version, which she describes as "an amazingly swell cookie." She changed it up a bit by using bread flour (for extra chewiness) and by using dark chocolate and milk chocolate chunks. Still, the method and technique are classic, and the ingredients are ones that I have on hand any day of the week. And that's what I wanted: classic and easy. I didn't want cayenne-spiced specialty chocolate in a cinnamon dough. Dipped in white chocolate. Served by an owl monkey. Okay, yes to the owl monkey. No to the rest.

(Here I leave room for Ann's stupid choice and even stupider reasons)

Okay, first off, I have to state how difficult it was for us to take our angry face pictures, not because it's hard for us to make angry faces, but because we had to get so close to each other. Being that close to someone is weird!

I picked a recipe from Alton Brown's baking cookbook, I'm Just Here for More Food. Why did I pick this one? Honestly, I can't remember. Listle took forever to post this because she's "busy" and "has four kids" and her "husband" is an "emergency doctor" and has a weird "schedule" and she's the Young "Women's" President. Blah blah blah. Some of us are in SCHOOL, Elizabeth. Some of us are in school. Anyway, I think I picked it because I knew that melted butter would result in a different kind of cookie. According to people on the internet, melted butter results in a more tender, moister (sorry, Mrs. H-B), and less chewy cookie. I like chewy cookies, but this seemed like the easiest way to see a difference from cookies that use the creaming method, which requires softened butter and sugar. Alton calls the method on this "The Muffin Method", since you're supposed to just barely mix everything together. Alton seems to be pretty reliable in his recipes, so I went with him.


My dough being mixed. Light and fluffy and gorgeous.

Melted butter for Ann's dough.
This was probably the most fundamental difference in the two recipes.

Ann and I tried several times to get that egg dripping just perfectly. We should work for National Geographic!
(Don't tell Listle, but I already do.)

Dueling dough

Showdown at high noon. These dough balls clearly hate each other.

BAHAHA! Ann loses a dough ball due to her antics.


My cookies worked. Ann's were lousy. What more is there to say?

My cookies: Excellent chew. Delicious flavor.

Ann's cookies: Sad. Crumbly.
To be fair, my cookies were also overbaked - the recipe called for a much longer baking time than was required, so these were way way way crisp. A lot of stuff I'd read online said that melted butter cookies are thinner and crispier than softened butter, so I have no idea what happened with this. Sad sad Ann.


Chang recommends that the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. She writes, "This allows all of the liquid from the egg and butter to absorb fully into the flour, creating a cookie with better flavor and a nicer texture." I didn't do a side by side taste test of fresh cookies (the day-old cookies were, of course, a day old), but they did seem to taste better. I was mostly shocked by the color difference. Can you spot the day-old cookie in this pile?

If you can't, you are blind. (Actually, it's a lot more clear on the original high-resolution photo.) It's the one that is so much lighter than the others. This did not have to do with bake time. The darker color of the cookies that were made from refrigerated dough was due to the flour fully absorbing the other liquids. Here's another shot:

Cookie baked after 12+ hour refrigeration on the right.

Ann's dough didn't fair so well after refrigeration:

Ann's dough, with my kids' hands in it ("Look mom! It's sand!")

We weren't able to make dough balls with it. We used it as an ice cream topping.

Elizabeth. As expected before the recipes were even chosen. Yep.
Boo hoo hoo!!!! She's right....she's right!!!!!!

Post script:
So I wanted to try the cookies again to see if there was some fluke that made them not work at all the first time. I made them the next weekend, and I had the exact same result. Although I didn't overbake them at all (I think I may have even taken them out after ten minutes), they still held their dough ball shape and were crumbly. However, the flavor of the cookies was so great - they had plenty of salt, which I will swear is the key to a good CCC!!!! Much like calling CCC's by their full names, non-experts also put too little salt in their cookies, and they're just substandard. These were salty and delicious, even if they didn't have the texture I was going for. So Listle still wins, but I will live to beat her another day!


Chocolate Chunk Cookies
from Flour by Joanne Chang

1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (165 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (150 grams) bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
9 ounces (255 grams) semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) milk chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon) cream together the butter , granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This step will take 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon.) Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scraped down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Add the semisweet and milk chocolates and toss to combine. On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly add the flour-chocolate mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking. When you are ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drop the dough in 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center. Don’t let them get brown through and through. Part of their appeal is the chewiness of the slightly underbaked centers. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yield: 24 cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie #10
I’m Just Here for More Food by Alton Brown
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees*.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the melted and cooled butter, sugars, egg yolks and vanilla until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in the butter mixture and fold the ingredients together just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and fold to combine. Do not overmix.
For individual cookies, use a spoon or a disher and dish out your cookies, 2 inches apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. *
Bake for 12-15 minutes (Start checking at 10).
Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or paper towel-lined counter top.
*As soon as you put the cookies or cookie cake into the oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees.


SeƱora H-B said...

So I've only ever had success with one melted butter recipe - ATK's browned butter chocolate chip cookies. They were, in a word (fine, a phrase), to die for. Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips and browned better. I die.

Anyway, I'm sorry to hear that Alton failed you, Ann. What a disappointment.

As for Elizabeth - hurrah for creaming being successful. I also love my cookies after chilling them. I think they're delicious.

Here's my dirty secret. I use my mom's (it was my grandma's) chocolate chip recipe and it calls for...dun dun dun...SHORTENING. I know. Blasphemy. But they are so good. They also have less sugar than a Toll House cookie recipe, so I can eat so many more of them.

And now I've derailed your blog post.

Thank you. And good night.

Jules said...

This post is awesome for so many reason, starting with the first picture. But as far as the cookie business goes, I'm really surprised at how different they turned out! My perspective on CCCs has changed forever! That's probably what you wanted all along, isn't it?

otto said...

A slaughter.