The Chocolate Chip Cookie

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*The Chocolate Chip Cookie*

I had several other post ideas lined up before this one, but this could not wait.

This is the best cookie ever.

And here is how you do it:

Recipe: From America’s test kitchen.

  • 14 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 oz. granulated sugar
  • 5 1/2 oz. brown sugar (I used a 50/50 combo of light and dark)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk
  • 8 3/4 oz. bleached or unbleached AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Equipment needed: Kitchen scale, pan, bowl & stand mixer/hand mixer/fork and a bowl

Directions:

1. Melt 10 tbsp of butter on medium low heat. Watch for the bubbles, which will start to pop very rapidly. After a few minutes, you’ll see the brownish solids. Remove from heat, and add remaining 4 tbsp butter, and mix in pan until dissolved.

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2. Put clarified butter in the fridge.

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3. Go eat dinner. Or go do something else. Forget you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies for a couple of hours. This step is important because most people on the quest to make chocolate chip cookies want them immediately. There is nothing that comes closer to knowing the feeling that you are slowly aging than having to wait to eat chocolate chip cookies because one of the ingredients needs to cool down. So go do something interesting and distracting.

4. Now that you’re back, scoop the cooled butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. (Or a hand mixer, or a perfectly good fork and bowl will do, too.)

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5. After weighing the sugars, add them to the butter, along with the salt. Mix for about a minute, and then let rest.

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6. In a separate bowl, weigh the flour, and whisk in the baking soda.

7. Add eggs to the mixer and mix for a minute or two until combined.

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8. Add the vanilla to the butter/sugar mixture, and mix until just combined.

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9. Remove the bowl from the stand attachment, and fold in the flour mixture.

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10. Pre-heat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

11. When the cookie dough is at a point where you can still see lots of flour and it looks under-mixed, add the chocolate chips.

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12. Fold the batter together only a few more times, you should still be able to see several streaks of unmixed flour in the batter.

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13. Place parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet, and with an ice cream scoop, scoop out the cookie dough onto the sheet, no more than 8 at a time. (Spread out in a three-two-three pattern.)

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14. Bake for about 12 minutes, until crisp golden brown edges, and soft and cakey in the middle.

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15.Wait until they are fully cooled to— Yeah, right.

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Halo of white light. All hail. Just kidding, something was wrong with the camera.

These are the best cookies in the entire freaking world.

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

*Oatmeal Raisin Cookies*

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie with its friend, Vanilla Ice Cream

*

People always have this way of organizing themselves into groups.

Starting from early developmental years, children tend to befriend other children who look like them, and then of course, they grow up into perfectly reasonable, rational adults who form into other kinds of groups, based on other kinds of similarities. These groups are many and multifaceted.

In the cookie group, for instance, people are divided into four major camps.

There are the Chocolate Chip Cookie people, the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie people, the Sugar Cookie people, and the Peanut Butter Cookie people.

Occasionally, there will be a Snickerdoodle person, but we don’t talk about them.

(Just kidding.)

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When it comes to fantasy book series, people in my generation are divided into Harry Potter people and Lord of the Rings people. I’ve always been a Harry Potter person, but I can make room in the world and in my heart for some Lord of the Rings people too.

After my “generation” (I guess that means after I stopped being a teenager), people started dividing into Twilight people and Hunger Game people, and as with everything that came after my “time”, like Justin Bieber and boys with skinny jeans, I regarded them with nothing but incensed ridicule inter-mixed with a thinly disguised sense of superiority. But I can live in a world with Twi-hards and Hunger-Bungers or whatever they call themselves. I can make room in my heart for people who prefer different books to me.

Except of course, the Fifty Shades of Grey people.

I will never understand Fifty Shades of Grey people.

But I guess they have their dungeons, so they don’t really need me to understand them.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

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In the technology world, there are the Mac people and the PC people. (There are divisions in my household over this. My sister is a Mac and I am a PC. Neither of us knows how to use the other’s computer.)

In my nerdy high school, there were the Casio people and the TI-89 people. I was a TI-89 person. Turning on a Casio was like an eight step pointless process.

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Across our seven continents, there live brown people, and white people, and black people and green people.

We love all of them equally, although we do politely inquire into the health of the green people.

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So when my soon to be brother-in-law popped in last week, I was giddy with both joy and anticipation.

“What kind of cookies does he like?” I asked my sister, bouncing excitedly. “What kind?”

I was waiting for the answer I thought I knew was coming.

Because you see, even though we all know the world is divided into many different people, with many different likes and many different dislikes, it always–remarkably–surprises us, to find out this fact, again and again, in different areas of our lives.

We seem to forget, at every conceivable opportunity, that given a choice between two things, another person might choose differently from us for no other reason other than that they have different preferences than we do.

And when those people are people we love, we understand it less.

The same basic principle applied here.

My sister, hesitating in response to my question, gave me a look. It was the look a doctor gives when diagnosing a patient with chicken pox. Grim, and firm. The you-aren’t-going-to-like-what-I-have-to-say-but-you-are-going-to-have-to come-to-terms-with-it look.

“He likes Oatmeal Raisin.” she said.

Oh dear. I thought.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

“Yeah” she shrugged, reading my expression, “I don’t get it either.”

So entrenched were we both in the Chocolate Chip Cookie camp, that coming out of that tent and peering across the creek at the distant, scantily populated Oatmeal Raisin Cookie camp seemed like star-gazing at a different planet with a strange alien race.

Peering across, and wondering if I could make the journey, I realized something.

If my soon-to-be brother-in-law (that is a lot of hyphens) lived in the same Chocolate Chip Cookie camp as me and my sister, I would never have had the opportunity–or reason–to bake Oatmeal Raisin cookies.

I would have been so happy to party in my own Chocolate Chip Cookie camp, recreating the Chocolate Chip cookie a hundred times, trying to find the perfect recipe, that my oven would never have known the subtle and rich flavors of the Oatmeal Raisin cookie.

Without the refreshing inclusion of people in life who are different from you, I realized, your existence would be reduced to a prolonged and tedious study of yourself. And if you only spend time thinking about what you like, what you want, and what you enjoy– and spending time with only those who agree with you–you turn into a human being who is about as interesting as a contaminated sack of rotting potatoes lying forgotten in a shed.

And so I resolved to take the first step, sniffed the air around me, and tiptoed towards the creek, venturing out to try something new.

“I’m going to do it.” I said excitedly, with a sense of purpose. I looked at my sister–so much insight had revealed itself to me in those moments, and I wondered if she knew the importance of the journey I was about to take. She grunted, eyes stuck to her i-phone. I knew she was masking a sense of awe and admiration.

The creek was not too far, not too wide, nor too deep for me to wade through it, to try a taste from the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie camp, and wonder whether I could alter the recipe, just so, so that it would be favorable to me.

I could, I thought. I very well could.

And after baking those Oatmeal Raisin cookies, I packaged a few and brought them back with me, into my own Chocolate Chip Cookie camp.

As I waited, bated breath, for the verdict, the tension could be felt heavy in the air.

“Damn, this makes me actually like Oatmeal Raisin.” My sister said, chomping.

“YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARS.” I roared triumphantly.

And the world felt like just a little bit better place.

*

Recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies adapted from here.

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins, soaked

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugars together. (I like to leave them together, sitting outside, so that the butter comes to room temperature while I prepare the dry ingredients.

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2.  Let the raisins soak in hot water. They start to look weird, but plump up nicely.IMG_4546

3. Prepare the dry ingredients. Add flour, salt, and baking soda. Then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom to taste. Mix thoroughly. Smiley face mug is watching you.IMG_4547

4. Watch the mixer do its thing with the butter and sugars. Be amused as your 8 month old mimics the noise of the mixer. “AAAAAAAAAAAA”IMG_4548

5. Add the eggs, and mix again. Then add the vanilla and almond extracts, and give it one more good mix, just a few seconds.

6. Add about half of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, and stir until well blended.

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7. Add remaining flour mixture, and stir until well blended. You can use the mixer for this step, but apparently these cookies can become over-blended easily, so I just did it by hand.
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8. Add the rolled oats…IMG_4554

9. And the raisins, and mix together, thoroughly.

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10. Scoop the batter onto a cookie tray lined with parchment paper using an ice cream scoop.

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11. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. The outer edges will be crispy, the inside will be chewy, the sweetness will be just right, and the blend of spices will add a subtle complexity of flavor impossible to resist. Enjoy!

The Coffee Macaron

*The Coffee Macaron*

one macaron

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman attempting a French macaron recipe must be in want of unnecessary frustration.

“It’s the only explanation…” I exclaimed the other day, standing over a tray of systematically arranged macaron shells, just as my sister skipped down the staircase.

“Are you quoting Shakespeare to yourself again, weirdo?” she asked, approaching the stove to see the baked pastries, fresh out of the oven.

I hadn’t realized I had been speaking out loud.

“It is the only explanation…” I continued, “for why an otherwise balanced and sane individual would embark upon such a seemingly fruitless journey.”

“Why do you stand in the kitchen making loud random proclamations, oh ‘balanced’ and ‘sane’ one?” She asked.

“How do you not know the difference between Jane Austen and Shakespeare, oh college graduate?” I asked in return.

“I know the difference! I was’t paying attention to what you were blabbering!” She responded, but I was too wrapped up in my train of thought to hear.

“A fact has dawned on me, dear sister,” I interrupted –she shot me a very familiar look of annoyance–“that after spending not one or two, but THREE days of massaging, sifting and aging every ingredient in these macarons, what I am left with are A)–” (I held up one finger for her) “bland cookie shells which completely rely on the flavor of the filling for their taste and B)–” (I held up a second finger) “–A very large– and perhaps misguided–sense of immense pride and accomplishment.”

“You? Proud?” She coughed, disbelievingly, her voice entering a high octave of concern as she removed my fingers, still hovering in mid-air, away from her face.

“Startling, isn’t it?!” I agreed. Her eyes narrowed.“Even one as humble as I must experience a dash of pride! Do you have any idea how hard it is to make these?!” I asked, as my sister gave one of them a poke.

“Yeah, you told me only eight hundred bajillion times.”

“But.” I looked at her.

“But what?”

“I don’t get it.”

“What” she enunciated quietly, like a teacher trying to extract a difficult answer from a particularly slow student, “–don’t you get?”

“Basically, if these were pre-packaged and sold next to twinkies at the grocery store instead of prettied up in a glass case, no one would bother paying a million dollars for them.”

“Well, duh.”

“I must enjoy frustration,” I said, pacing back and forth now, “because the more complicated I found out the process was, the more determined I became to make them… I spent weeks!” I said, turning towards my sister, who was now looking as though she regretted coming downstairs, “Weeks!! It would be constantly running in the back of my head, as I tried to figure out the best way to mix the ingredients, how I’d sift them–I could have spent the same amount of energy to learn rocket science, or a new language, but I chose this!”

My sister offered some words of what sounded like compassion intermixed with several pointed aspersions directed at the state of my mental health.

Wrapped up in my thoughts, I hardly noticed when she nudged me towards the couch, then went back to the kitchen to dig a spoon into the coffee-infused white chocolate ganache and dollop it onto a nearby macaron, twisting a second on top and taking a large bite.

“Do you realize what this means?!” I burst forth, getting up again. “I could have learned French in the time it took to make these little round pointless cookies! How many hours of my life have I wasted?!”

But then I heard a sound.

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm” my sister said, closing her eyes, almost reverently.

I hadn’t noticed that she had tried one.

“THIS IS THE BEST MACARON I’VE EVER HAD…OHRMGORD.”

Suddenly, it didn’t matter how much effort was expended after all.

“Is it good?”

“MMGGOOD SOO GOOD” she articulated, mouth full of macaron.

“Huh,” I said, a new realization dawning on me, “I guess some frustrations are worth it after all.”

“No.” She stated.

“What?”

“No, not worth it. Way too much work. But SO SO GOOD.”

“What’s going on?” My mom wandered into the kitchen.

“It turns out, dear mother,” I began, recovering, “that frustration is its own reward, and a woman wanting to make a French macaron recipe…must be in want of that rewarding frustration…”, and as my mother raised her eyebrows, my sister, with the freed air of an escaped zoo animal, tucked out of the room, three macarons in hand.

*

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In my opinion, the only macaron worth creating is the Colombian Coffee.

The first step of making macarons is to clear your mind of doubt, and exercise the same amount of resilience and focus as when embarking on a project that could go wrong at pretty much every moment. Good luck.

Day One

Step One: The Egg White… The Older, The Wiser, The Better.

The story begins with three egg whites.

You separate the egg yellows from the whites, and then measure them, by the gram. Specificity is a necessity in this adventure. Remember, making a macaron is like dating the most high-maintenance partner in the world. They will never be happy until you jump through all the hoops. And then they still probably won’t be happy. But don’t think about that.

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How many grams do you want? About 90g. But if you get 95g or 96g, then that’s okay too. The macaron will allow you some margin of error, but not too much.

Now that you’ve measured the egg whites, you can’t just use them.

You have to age them. (This is the part where my sister rolls her eyes. She spends a lot of time rolling her eyes when I explain the process going into this recipe.)

So stick some aluminum foil on top and put them in the fridge. The longer the better. But a day or so should be fine.

Day Two

Step Two: Almond Flour and Powdered Sugar…The Friends Who Are Sifted Together, Stay Together

Ah, the dry ingredients.

The second step begins with three pieces of equipment: The sifter, the weighing scale, and the food processor.

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Sift the almond flour onto a plate or bowl, and then measure about 110g.

Next, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, and measure about 200g.

Third, sift the ground coffee. I’d use about a tablespoon or two.

Put the three ingredients into a food processor, and pulse together until well blended.

Then, when you think you are done, you sift the ingredients again together.

Cover the dry ingredients with foil and put away in the fridge.

Day Three

Step ThreePreparing the special equipment

The day that you want to make the cookies, keep the aged egg whites outside on the counter.

Take two pieces of parchment paper, and trace circles onto them to ensure symmetry. I use the lid of my baby’s bottle. It makes the perfect-sized circles.

Place a large ziploc bag in a tall glass, with one corner at the bottom of the glass, and fold the ends of the ziploc bag over the edge of the glass.

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Step Four: Coffee White Chocolate Ganache

(This ganache is the best thing I’ve ever had. I could eat a bucket of this.)

Heat the heavy cream and coffee beans in a separate sauce pan until steaming, for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes to an hour.

Heat some water over the stove in a saucepan–it shouldn’t be steaming but not boiling. Place a heat proof bowl on top of the sauce pan, and break white chocolate pieces into the bowl and stir until melted.

Warm the coffee mixture again, and pour the strained mixture into the melted white chocolate. Throw away the coffee beans.

Mix the ganache together until a thicker consistency and set aside. You could place the ganache, once cooled, into a plastic bag to pipe onto the cookies later, but I find it easier to just spoon it on.

Step Five: It All Comes Together

In a bowl –preferably steel, but at this point, who cares– whisk, (on medium speed) the aged egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla and salt together until frothy. Once frothy, whisk on high speed and slowly pour in the granulated sugar.

When the egg whites form stiff peaks–this is when they stand on their own–fold them into the dry ingredients.

But, WAIT!

Do not over mix.

And do not under mix.

Because if you do, the cookie will grow angry.

Fold the mixture until it forms a lava like consistency–usually 37-40 folds–and place the batter into the plastic ziploc bag assembled earlier.

Cut off the tip of the bag. At this point, you can get a second ziploc bag and poke a round piping tip into it, then stick the bag with the batter inside to make the piping more “round” but you don’t have to.

Step Six: You’re not done yet.

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Preheat the oven to 350F.

Pipe cookies onto a parchment paper lining a cookie sheet until they fill out the circles. If after doing this for a while you find, like me, that you cannot draw circles with batter even when they are drawn onto the paper for you–make different shapes. I chose hearts.

When the batter is piped onto the parchment paper, tap the cookie sheet on the counter a few times. When members of your family look at you like you’re insane, explain that it’s all a part of the process.

Once tapped, take a little toothpick, and smooth out the air bubbles that will have risen to the top.

“Are you kidding me?” Well meaning loved ones might ask, incredulously, as they watch you hunch over your little circles of macaron batter, staring maniacally over the tops of them to see if they’re smooth and perfect. Ignore them and plow on. It is too late to turn back now.

Let sit outside for 20 minutes until the tops are dry, and batter doesn’t come off on your fingers when you poke them. Don’t let them sit for too long, because that causes them to crack.

“You don’t even bake them yet!?” They might interrupt.

They don’t know the half of it. It’s better they not know.

When the cookies are dry, use two cookie sheets underneath each parchment paper to bake. This distributes the heat better or something.

Bake cookies–until lightly golden brown, for about 25 minutes. If they under bake, they won’t scrape off the parchment paper, but they’ll still taste good. If they over bake, they get a little hard.

Step Seven: The Assembly

The cookies have to be completely cooled before the ganache can be scooped in the center. Assemble the cookies based on the shape. You won’t have too many problems unless like mine, your macarons are less circular and more amoeba shaped. Find the two amoebas that most closely resemble each other.

Scoop ganache into the center of one cookie and gently twist another on top of it.

Step Eight: You thought you were done.

Don’t eat them all right away. Store in the fridge; they are better the next day. The flavor of the ganache must have time to infuse into the macaron shell.

I wish I was kidding.

After writing all this down, I kind of feel like I deserve a cookie.

Maybe I’ll just go to the store and get a twinkie.

*

Recipe, with ingredients are included on a previous post.

Coffee Macaron Shells

  • 90g Aged Egg Whites
  • 110g Sifted Almond Flour
  • 200g Sifted Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Sifted Ground Coffee (I use Colombian decaff)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 25g Granulated Sugar
  • Pinch Salt

Coffee Infused White Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g White Chocolate
  • 150g Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup Whole Coffee Beans (I use Colombian decaff)

To make ganache, warm heavy cream with coffee beans in a sauce pan until simmering, then let steep together at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. Heat white chocolate pieces over a double boiler. Strain and re-heat heavy cream mixture. Pour the cream over the melted white chocolate, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken. Set aside or refrigerate.

For cookies, put the sifted coffee grounds, sifted almond flour and sifted powdered sugar into a food processor. Sift all the ingredients together again and place in a large bowl. Next, make a meringue by whisking egg whites, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until frothy. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar util stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the dry ingredients until a lava-like consistency, then pour into a piping bag. Pipe cookies in circular shape onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Once piped, tap the cookie sheet down on the table a few times to release air bubbles. Pop the air bubbles with a toothpick to smooth out the surface.

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let cookies dry at room temperature for 20-25 minutes until the surface is elastic when touched lightly and you don’t get batter on your finger.

Bake cookies with two cookie trays to one parchment sheet for about 25 minutes.

When cookies are completely cooled, make sandwiches with them by putting ganache in the center. Enjoy!