Friday, March 20, 2015

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week

    This past week was National Chocolate Cookie Week. I would have been oblivious to this wonderful event but for the fact of having recently visited the King Arthur Flour website.  Now I have not done much cookie baking in my life. That is Linda's special area of expertise. There hasn't been much need for me to bake cookies, being married to one of the best cookie bakers on the planet. I have made shortbread cookies a time or two.  Other than that, my involvement in cookie baking has been limited to an occasional request by my sweetie for me to take the cookies out of the oven when she was briefly otherwise engaged.  However, over the course of 40 years of marriage I have learned a few things from Linda about baking cookies.

     The most important thing I learned that it is very important not to over bake cookies. I frequently marveled how Linda achieved the perfect combination of chewiness and crispness.  Other people's cookies were often too hard and not chewy at all.  Linda has told me on several occasions how important it was to remove the cookies from the oven before it seemed like they were completely done. That way the cookies would still be chewy after they had cooled.  I also learned that cookies have to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes after they are removed from the oven before they are removed from the cookie sheet. Armed with this little bit of information I set out to make my very first batch of chocolate chip cookies.

   There are several blogs associated with the King Arthur Flour website.  It was on one of these blogs that I found a recipe for Joy's Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans. Linda's middle name is Joye, spelled with an "e".  It seemed that I had found a recipe worthy of the occasion. I set out to make the cookies this past Saturday, the last day of National Chocolate chip cookie Week.

    I made a special trip to the store to buy a new bag of good quality chocolate chips. Linda had advised me that she thought our supply of chocolate chips were tasting a bit stale.  Who am I to argue with the best cookie baker on the planet about any thing related to cookies. I would have bought pecans at the same time, but for the fact that I thought we already had a bag of pecans at home. As it turned out, when I got to the part of the recipe requiring the addition of coarsely chopped pecans I discovered that we had no pecans.  Rather than make a second trip to the store, I decided to substitute chopped hazelnuts. We have a serious stash of hazelnuts and they are one of my favorite nuts.  There was a quart jar of hazelnuts in the pantry that I had roasted just a week ago. Another substitution was that I had inadvertently bought semi-sweet chocolate chips when the recipe called for bittersweet chocolate chips.  I wasn't going to make a second trip to the store so I just used what I had bought. I also forgot to sprinkle the sea salt on top of the balls of cookie dough just before baking.

Life is better with a tangerine Kitchen Aid
    The process of browning the butter made the recipe a little more complicated than most chocolate chip cookie recipes.  I used my new tangerine Kitchen Aid to blend the ingredients. I carefully followed the instructions as to the order the ingredients were to be added. I am certain that the Kitchen Aid did a much better job blending the ingredients than I probably would have done with a hand mixer.  I was very careful to avoid over baking the cookies.  I let them cool for a few minutes after removing them from the oven, then took a cookie to Linda to get her opinion.  She said that it was one of the best chocolate chip cookies she had ever eaten and that it was the perfect combination of chewy while still crisp on the outside. She even went so far as to call them "dangerously good". I felt I had done justice to National Chocolate Chip Cookie Week. I was even sufficiently motivated to return to the King Arthur Flour Website and rate the recipe as 5 stars.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Perfection
     So now comes the important part, the recipe. I will type in the instructions in their entirety as I am not sufficiently schooled in cookie baking to risk paraphrasing or abbreviating. This recipe is so wonderful that King Arthur Flour richly deserves to have their product promoted.

   1 cup unsalted butter (16 tablespoons), softened to room temperature
   1 cup light brown sugar, packed
   2 tablespoons vanilla extract
   1 teaspoon molasses
   1/2 cup granulated sugar
   1 large egg
   1 egg yolk
   2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
   1 teaspoon salt
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
   1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
   coarse sea salt to sprinkle on top


   1. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

   2. Place half the butter (8 tablespoons) in a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat, swirling it in the pan occasionally.  It'll foam and froth as it cooks, and start to crackle and pop. Once the crackling stops, keep a close eye on the melted butter, continuing to swirl the pan at intervals. The butter will become fragrant and brown bits will form in the bottom. Once the bits are amber brown (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or so after the sizzling stops), remove the butter from the burner and pour it into a small bowl, bits and all. Allow it to cool for twenty minutes.

   3. Beat the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the brown sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth.

   4. Beat in the vanilla and molasses.

   5. Pour the cooled brown butter into the bowl, along with the granulated sugar. Beat for 2 minutes, until smooth; the mixture will lighten in color and become fluffy.

   6. Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat for another minute.

   7. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, beating at low speed just until everything is incorporated.

   8. Use a spatula to fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

   9. Scoop the dough onto a piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Flatten it slightly into a thick disk, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before you are ready to begin baking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, with the racks in t he center/upper third.

  10. Scoop the dough in 2 tablespoon-sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Each will weigh about 1 ounce (28 grams). Leave about 2" between the cookies. They'll spread as they bake.

  11. Sprinkle the cookies with sea salt to taste - as much or as little as you like.

  12. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to rest on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before moving them.

  13. Serve warm, or cool completely, and store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Yield:  about 24 large (3") cookies

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