The Layman’s Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies
Happy almost-February, friends of Darby O’Shea! As promised, we’re kicking off the Year of the Cookie around here with a very exciting contribution from a very special Guest Blogger. Dan (aliases The Brit, my hubby, the extremely reluctant gourmet, Mr. Darby O’Shea; mugshot at right) doesn’t generally go in for all the kitchen business – he prefers serenading me on his guitar, herding small dogs, and writing really great stories, but somehow he recently got bitten by the baking bug and began baking cookies. Repeatedly. This is his story. [click here for Law & Order-style DUH DUH sound]
As a reminder, last year was the Year of the Cake – this year’s Cookie Craze posts will happen at least once a month (maybe more? depends how busy we get around here) and will all be tagged with the unambiguous tag COOOKIE. If you’d like to share your own cookie recipes, tag your blog posts with this tag or send us an email or post in the comments.
This past Christmas, I was newly initiated into a Darby O’Shea family tradition. Every holiday I have spent with the Joneses, Mr. Jones puts together some of his famous fudge. Yes, it’s so famous that it has an alliterative name. But 2010 was the year when he was kind enough to divulge his secret recipe to his son-in-law, and after a lot of stirring, melting and mixing, we came up with two chunks o’ white chocolate fudge. It was delicious, creamy, smooth. Everything that you would want in a chunk o’ fudge.
But I’m not going to tell you the recipe. It is a Jones (and Le Ray) family secret. Keep your eager, fudge-hungry paws to yourself!
Instead, I’m going to tell you the two most important lessons that I took away from my initiation. Firstly, that I ought to focus on baking one thing really well, so that I don’t have to worry about being inept at baking anything else; and secondly, that white chocolate is perhaps my favourite of all the chocolates. As you can imagine, this second point wasn’t exactly a huge revelation.
Sometime before Christmas, Darby O’Shea found a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that, according to Chris Kimball, made Perfect-with-a-capital-P chocolate chip cookies. Thinking that this was an overstatement, we tried out the recipe and found that they were indeed delicious and, at the very least, striving for perfection. If I were a terrible food writer, I would call them “toothsome” or “flavorful”.
Now, I don’t really like cooking or baking. In theory, it’s interesting; but actually doing it I find dull. Maybe it’s an inescapable British gene. I would really rather prefer someone else to do the tiresome motions of cooking while I await the feast in my drawing room. But back to the cookies: I took the cue from Mr. Jones and decided that chocolate chip cookies were a safe bet. Everyone likes them, and they’re not difficult. So I went to work.
The most interesting aspects of the recipe (apparently) are that the wet ingredients are mixed by hand, and that the base for those ingredients is browned butter. On top of this, the mixing happens at intervals: after all of the wet ingredients are combined, you mix them three or four times, each time for 30 seconds, and each time leaving an interval of 3 minutes to allow all those confusing chemical reactions to happen in the bowl. As one fan points out, these little intervals appeal to the neat-freak baker who likes to clean things up while their ingredients combine.
After several batches, the recipe was near-memorised, and the cookies were turning out as I imagined they ought to: large, crisp, very tasty and not too sweet.
So for the next batch, we decided to throw in some white chocolate. Is it heathenism, I wonder, to make sweet, white chocolate chip cookies? If so, heathens must be very content.
To counter the extra sweet taste of the white chocolate, we altered the measurements of brown and white sugar so that the sweeter white sugar didn’t make the cookies too sickly. The batch that came out of the oven were slightly lighter in colour and softer in texture than our earlier attempts, but even more delicious. If you have a sweet tooth, then these are the cookies for you. Or, if you’re feeling even more adventurous you can, as we did, make a batch of mixed dark and white chocolate cookies. (pictured below) But I’d call the white ones perfect-with-a-lower-case-p.
So although there is no white chocolate fudge recipe for you today, we do have the Jones-Le Ray perfect white chocolate chip cookie recipe. And for my fellow laymen, I have annotated the recipe so that you don’t feel left out by all the foodie-speak.
Layman’s White Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
- 1 3/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 1/4 c granulated sugar [originally 1/2 c]
- 1 c packed dark brown sugar [originally 3/4 c]
- 1 t kosher salt
- 2 t vanilla extract [Or, you know, more. You know you want to.]
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 6 oz (half package) white/semisweet chocolate chips
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with
parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. [Remember to whisk them together. Apparently it matters. Who knew?]
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly [Constantly?] until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. [Also, remember to get the bowl sizes the right way round. You have to mix the flour and baking soda into the wet stuff.] Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon [Yes, don’t use the whisk you were using before. DON’T USE THE WHISK!], stir in
flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop) [This sounds like a dental tool.]. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.) [No shit, Sherlock.]
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time [Or, all at the same time.] until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving. [No, don’t. Eat the delicious, warm, sweet cookies. Mmm.]