Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"The Sweet Life" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every year, I get a cookbook for the holidays. And every year, I actually read it and usually try out recipes. This year I received "The Sweet Life," by Kate Zuckerman, the pastry chef at Chanterelle. Since I have been obsessed with candy recently, and even occasionally with cake, I was excited about this book. I usually try a recipe I can't screw up as a first pass on any cook book I buy, and this one was no exception: chocolate chip cookies.

Before continuing, I should point out that I have NO preconceived, mythical chocolate cookies to remember. I grew up kosher, and in a house where food was made to be frozen. So I feel I have a pure heart, having no memories of any of mythical cookie to which to compare all other cookies too. I have no axe to grind. Having said that, these cookies were way to sweet out of the oven. But, while I slept, a transformation occurred. Overnight, they became totally different cookies. Crisp, with a bit of chew, they were still a bit sweet, but had a truly excellent texture. The sweetness will be adjusted out with the next batch. It may have been the first batch of cookies I ever made that actually tasted better 5 days after baking than fresh out of the oven (and they were still good 5 days after baking)

Technique and professionalism seems to be the themes of this book. The cookie recipe reminded me that Ms. Zuckerman is a professional chef, creating dishes that are mostly prepared early in the day for use much later. She does give a large number of helpful tips, such as when to use warm eggs and how to brown butter. These may end up being more valuable to me as a home cook than the complicated (but beautiful) recipes. I have to admit being a bit scared of the more complicated recipes, but a dedicated dessert maker could do some damage to their friends and families waistline (do you hear me, Cindy?)

The themes of pre-preparation and technique are kept up in her section on souffles, where Ms. Zuckerman describes techniques for making the souffle' "batter" in such a way that it will sit in the fridge for hours until ready to be cooked at the last minute. Although I am terrified to try, as I do not respond well to kitchen failure, I actually have a desire to try the chocolate souffle', which she says will sit uncooked in the fridge for four hours (or the freezer for 24) prior to use. Although it would still be an all day affair to produce this dessert, at least I would have time in the middle to make the main course! I will serve it with commercial ice cream however. After reading her book, I do not feel it is worth it to try to compete with commercial ice cream producers with my home equipment. And, as for cookies, I'm sticking to Joy when eating them that night. But I will be making "The Sweet Life's" Milk Chocolate Crunch Candies as soon as I break my New Year's resolution diet.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (simplified a bit my me, and I cut the sugar a bit)


1 1/4 cups light brown sugar (she uses 1 1/2 cups)
2 Sticks butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1 egg white at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Mixer (she says standing mixer with flat blade, but I made with ancient hand held Black and Decker)
Cookie Sheets (3 or 4 as these cookies will spread when cooked)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease up cookie sheets.

Mix together flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together with mixer until fluffy and light. Add eggs and egg white and keep mixing until batter looks glossy. Add dry ingredients and fold together for one minute. Mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and mix 30 seconds. (MM note: it is really important to do this fast or the baking soda will lose all its fizz and your cookies will be to flat). Place onto cookie sheet in heaping teaspoon sized balls. They really flatten out so really try not to have more than 12 on a sheet or you will have a sheet of cookies. Quickly put in oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes until light brown with brown edges. I tried cooking them longer for a more caramelized look, but personally did not like them as much this way. Cool on racks.

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