Tag Archives: comfort food

Cookie Monster

At the tail end of September, I had a hell of a sweet tooth. Halloween was looming in the distance in all its candy corn studded, fun-sized glory, but I had a hankering for a very specific kind of sweet: the tried and true chocolate chip cookie. I grew up eating my Dad’s chocolate chip cookies. They followed your basic “back of the Toll House bag” recipe cooked to a pleasant crispness that isn’t really my jam anymore. But even thinking of them now evokes fond memories of Sunday afternoons playing dress-up with my friends or painting with my dad. A big bowl of cookie dough and me, attempting to eat as much of the raw dough as I could get away with. And then that freshly baked cookie smell. Ahhh….

So maybe I was trying to capture a bit of that magic in the midst of this exhausting adulting project that has so many deadlines but no real end. My subconscious self seemed to be aware of this even before my conscious mind and, one day, I looked at my saved recipes and saw a half dozen iterations of the chocolate chip cookie, just begging to be explored. I didn’t have so much a plan as a general direction. I would start with the classic ingredients – chocolate, butter, sugar, listen to my gut and see where it took me.

TraderJoeschocochunks

My recommendation for chocolate chips. Chunks are always better than chips because they don’t have stabilizers and these are high quality and “pre-chunked” for convenience.

First, I wanted a gooey buttery, chocolate chip cookie, the kind reminiscent of the Mrs. Fields cookies at the mall. I wanted warm cookie dough baked to food safety standards, but just barely. No fancy bells and whistles, classic, timeless. For this I chose a recipe from the New York Times. You can find it on my Trello Board HERE.

This recipe is pretty similar to the Toll House of yore ingredient-wise, but is distinguished by the fact that you chill the dough for up to 72 hours before baking. 72 HOURS, you say?!? But I want my cookies when I want my cookies! I don’t want to have to wait for up to three days! It may seem like a long time, but with some planning and adjustment of expectations, it’s totally doable and worth it! I mean, you can still snack on the dough while you’re making it!

 

 

That time chilling in the fridge allows the wet and dry ingredients to really get to know each other and creates a delicious unified flavor throughout the cookie. The only thing I did differently from the recipe as written, was that I formed the dough into balls before chilling, on the recommendations of the some of the comments on the NYT website. Chilled dough tends to be crumbly, which can make it difficult to form into balls for baking.

Chilled chocolate chip cookie dough

Something that I learned from doing this recipe is that I don’t actually have to bake all the dough at once. In fact, I can do just two for me and the hubby, as an after dinner  treat, and throw the rest in the freezer for another day.

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This recipe turned out great! The cookies had great flavor and texture and, eaten warm from the oven with a glass of cold milk…perfection!

Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

Having satisfied my classic cookie craving, I looked abroad for some inspiration. There is a restaurant/bakery in Paris called Mokonuts. David Lebovitz has waxed poetic about it and more recently, the New York Times shared the recipe for their famous chocolate chip cookies. Find it on my Trello Board HERE. These cookies are inspired by the classic cookie but influenced by the chef owner’s middle eastern heritage, featuring not only dark chocolate chunks but also poppy seeds, dried cranberries and a mix of AP and Rye flour. “Sacrebleu! Sacrilege!” You may cry. How dare those French mess with MY classic All-American cookie! Well, I am happy to report that, not only is this version a tasty cookie, but it honors the original, while taking you on a flavor and texture journey that the humble Toll House could never hope to accomplish.

Mokonuts cookie dough

Now, I am not a fan of the oatmeal raisin cookie. To me, it is an impostor; disappointment masquerading as a tasty treat. It looks like a chocolate chip cookie but, where the delicious chocolate chunks should be, are instead shriveled up sadness. And the oatmeal is just too chewy…bleh. So I was loath at first to add rye and cranberries, let alone the inexplicable poppy seeds to what was already a good thing. However, I’ve gotta say, it worked. The rye played nicely with the AP to create a richer dough. The cranberries added a nice tartness to balance out the sweetness and complement the dark chocolate. And the poppy seeds added a surprising crunch without changing the flavor profile at all. This was an exciting cookie to eat, with each bite offering up a little adventure to spice up the familiar.

cookie dough, mokonut, baking

Another different aspect of this recipe is that the chilled dough is baked at a toasty 425 degrees for only 10 minutes. This results in a cookie that is just holds together, with a gooey center and slightly crisp edges. Not your grandma’s cookie but a delicious iteration nonetheless.

cookie, mokonut, baking

So far, we’ve gone old school and new French school and, for our final cookie, let’s go big or go home. This next cookie recipe has been making its way around the internet on various blogs for a couple years now. People are fascinated by both the cookie’s size and the seemingly fussy baking instructions that result in an entirely unique and delicious experience. Yes, this is a giant cookie. The recipe has us use a full 1/3 of a cup of cookie dough per cookie. This is a lot of cookie dough, when you consider most recipes ask for a heaping spoonful. I ended up using about 1/4 cup of dough per cookie and that was plenty big. Like the other two recipes here, chill the prepared dough. I ended up chilling my dough for a bit longer than recommended, mostly because I was a little intimidated by the sheer size of the things. This didn’t seem to negatively affect the end result.

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Salt and pepper gnome here for scale…not sure why I thought this would be helpful but he’s pretty cute isn’t he? Needless to say, these balls were big. This is all of the cookie dough, which in a normal recipe would make about 18-20 cookies. When I finally baked them about four days later, I followed the involved baking instructions which have you bake at 350 for 10 min, then bang the cookie sheet on the oven rack so the cookies collapse, then repeat the process every 2-3 minutes until they have been baking and banging for about 18 minutes total. This creates a ripple effect that is both Instagram worthy and delicious. The cookies are soft and velvety in the center and slightly crisp toward the edges. The hubs and I mowed down with a glass of milk right before bed and were a little wired, so I recommend eating them earlier in the night to avoid sugar dreams.

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Notice that two cookies take up nearly half of the baking sheet. These are not for the faint of heart and you can find the recipe on my Trello board HERE.

So what is the takeaway from this cookie adventure? Besides the fact that it is dangerous having ready to bake cookies in the house at all times, I learned that a beloved classic can be enjoyed in many forms and, just like in life, getting out of your comfort zone every once and a while can be a wonderful and eye-opening thing. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my Dad’s chocolate chip cookies but I look forward to making new memories with cherished recipes of my own.

Happy Baking!

Cookie monster

 

Of Comfort Food and Culture Wars

Two years ago France and Italy came to near blows over a recipe for spaghetti carbonara that was Frenchified with the addition of onions, creme, fraiche and, gasp…parsley!? It was a simpler time back then. One can argue that conflict over recipes is infinitely preferable to whatever shitstorm characterizes the political climate these days. International issue or not, spaghetti carbonara is my go-to comfort food. I always have eggs, pasta and parm/pecorino in the house and Trader Joe’s has these 4 oz packages of diced pancetta that are perfect for carbonara for two.

pancetta-from-Trader-Joes

If you can get it, buccatini, a hollow spaghetti, is great for the silky clingy carbonara sauce, which works its way deliciously both inside and outside each noodle. Carbonara is something I can make in just about any state: hangry, hungover, late at night drunk on tequila, you name it! I spent a lot of time trying different recipes for carbonara and finally settled on one that is simple and classic. You can see it HERE.

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A few carbonara commandments that I learned along the way:

  1. Don’t use milk or cream. Fat, starchy pasta water and cheese are all you need for an incredible sauce.
  2. Eggs are necessary and, if you want a richer sauce, use more yolks.
  3. Do not make your sauce in the pan you cooked the pancetta or bacon in. This can lead to scrambled eggs. Instead, fill a large bowl with hot water and let it sit while you are prepping your other ingredients. Then, when you are ready to mix everything together, dump out the water so you are left with a warm bowl that will gently nudge your sauce to silkiness rather than strong arm it.

Following these rules will result in a luscious, subtle sauce that is both rich and light, a far cry from the calorie bombs that can be found on some Italianesque restaurant menus, and on French food blogs apparently. However, I won’t judge if you prefer it creamy and/or parsleyed. I have a good friend who uses bacon bits and sour cream and I really enjoy her version as well. This is what is so great about comfort food. It is all about what makes YOU happy. We have enough to worry about in the world these days without drawing battle lines in our kitchens as well.