Monday, May 9, 2011

In which Sarah tries something new

If you've spent any amount of time with me in person (or, for that matter, on Twitter), you may have noted that "I saw this in Cook's Illustrated" is something of a refrain for me.

Which is my way of saying I don't think I'd be subjecting my cooking skills to public scrutiny for anything less cool than this contest, from CI parent America's Test Kitchen. Visit the test kitchen? Yes, please.

The challenge: Make the Cook's Illustrated Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe, and blog about it.

The bonus: This gave me an excuse to break out my brand new matryoskha doll measuring cups.1

The recipe starts off nice and easy -- mix the dry ingredients.2

Then we get to the first interesting bit: for flavor, CI says to brown the butter.3 This was a new one for me.

As with all new adventures, there was some guesswork. What about all the foam? (It ended up mixing in.) What exactly counts as brown? (About 30 seconds longer than I gave it. I left the pan on the burner while I grabbed a bowl, and when I turned around it was for-real brown.)

For future reference, I'll be judging by smell -- CI calls it "nutty," but it's a little closer to "overly sweet toffee."

See? Brown.

That stick of butter, by the way, is a recent fabulous-for-single-people discovery. Land O'Lakes calls them half-sticks. There will be far less hacking through frozen butter with these around.

What do you add to the butter?4 Sugar, of course -- both brown and white for this recipe.

Except. It's reasonable, isn't it, to assume that a never-opened package of brown sugar will be fresh when you open it? Even if it was purchased six (or more) months ago?

Yeah. So much for trying to stock my cabinets in advance.

Also, note to self: acquire a terra cotta bear.5

Further note: There are conversions for these things. Instead of chipping away at the block of brown sugar, I could have tried a white-sugar-and-molasses combo.

So after the sugar battle, it was time for the egg-and-a-half. The recipe called for one egg and one yolk. The easiest way to separate the yolk, I assumed, would be to use (for the first time) the egg separator that came with my non-matryoshka set of measuring cups.

You know where this is going, don't you?

Maybe it would have been easier if I had been just a little gentler in opening the egg. Because once you've broken the yolk, there's not much the separator can do to keep it from spilling out.

Perhaps that's what the pointy thing on the end is for. This bears further investigation.

Moving on. The wet ingredients finally ended up in the same bowl, and I dutifully followed the recipe, which ordered me to put them through a mix-and-rest cycle. Then they joined the flour.

In the same bowl, I mean.

And then the chocolate chips appeared, and suddenly they were cookies. Really big cookies (following orders again).6

They disappeared into the oven, and emerged (17 minutes later, rather than the recipe's 10-14):


Just one problem: There are, as of this writing, twelve and a half of these massive cookies remaining. And -- as per the "single people" reference above -- I live alone. Unless some friends drop by, I'm going to consume all of these myself.

By the end of the week.7

Next time: Make these. Eat one. Take the rest to book club. Bask in reflected glory.

1 Yes, for real. That head, for instance, is the one-cup measure.

2 Which I actually did this time. Usually my method is to dump everything into the same bowl and mix. And I don't care what anyone says; it works.

3 Of course, they say to brown it in a stainless pan so you can see the color change, but as the only stainless pot I have is a saucepan currently reposing in the dishwasher, that was a no. Not complaining, though -- it was one less thing I had to buy when I set up this kitchen!

4 When you're mixing ingredients properly, which we've already established is rare for me.

5 Which still wouldn't have helped when the sugar was in a plastic bag that hadn't been $^$&% opened.

6 More or less -- I ended up with 14 cookies instead of the recommended 16, so my idea of a 3-tbsp mound of dough and the real thing are in slight disagreement.

7 Although sooner is not out of the question.


Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Very fun post (1) -- and I know how tasty the results are!

You don't dare freeze these monsters, it might affect the taste ... better to put them out of their misery and eat them over the week (or sooner!)

(1) I love a post with footnotes!

Sarah Rettger said...

I thought the footnotes might be a change from my usual overenthusiastic parentheticals. And a chance to show off the HTML skills I keep talking about in interviews.

Kristen Painter said...

To soften hard brown sugar, just pop it in the microwave for a bit.

Sarah Rettger said...

No microwave in this kitchen -- which usually isn't a big deal, but there are times, like this, when it would be nice.

Shakila said...

I'm totally with you on the single-girl cookie problem. Love the footnotes - you're right, I use way too many parentheses in my posts.

david elzey said...

browning butter? that's a new one to me. the recipe i've been working with for decades came from a friend who was debbie fields (as in mrs.) assistant. maybe time for a change.

as a former single person, i would occasionally wrap individual amounts of dough in plastic, put them in the freezer, and bake myself one or two cookies at a time in a toaster oven. kept me from eating a batch within a day. but only occasionally.

Sarah Rettger said...

Cookies and the single girl - something Helen Gurley Brown probably didn't worry about much.

Megan said...

Your cookies look great!

To separate eggs, I crack an egg into my hand, held over a bowl, let the whites slip through into the bowl, and catch the yolk in my hand.

Sarah Rettger said...

I considered that! But alas, my egg-cracking skills are rather below par.