Monday, June 13, 2011

Running behind the wagon

Okay, so I’m a little bit behind the wagon with this recipe.  I have seen so many other food bloggers (and a fitness blogger) post about this recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  I thought I had a perfect recipe, so I didn’t really consider trying a different recipe for what is probably the most universally liked cookie.  But then one day, I thought “meh, why not?”  There is nothing wrong with trying something new.  If it didn’t work out, I could go back to my old standby.  If it ended up being as special as everyone thinks it is, then all the better.  Another recipe to add to my bag. 
What makes these cookies so different and special is the browned butter.  Instead of creaming softened butter with sugar like you normally would, you melt a little more than half of the butter in a pan, and continue to cook it until it is browned.  This gives the cookies a toffee-ish flavor.  It’s not overwhelming, just a little something more complex that you notice when you eat them.  I have to say, it’s nice.  Of course, I am a huge fan of toffee, and I frequently add toffee bits to my cookies, so this is no surprise.  However, I’m not sure if I only noticed it because I knew it was there, because none of my friends made any mention of the different flavor.  But the cookies sure did get eaten fast.
I will say that these cookies are a bit finicky for a chocolate chip cookie.  As I’m sure many of you know, making chocolate chip cookies is usually a dump and stir kind of thing.  This recipe is not like that.  I guess you could say it’s a more grown up version.  It requires browning butter, several mix-then-wait bits, and other little finicky parts.  I think that for this reason, it will not replace my old standby recipe.  But it’s nice to have in my back pocket for when I need it.
The recipe notes that you should try to avoid using a non-stick pan for browning the butter, as the dark coating on the pan makes it hard to see if the butter is browned.  Well, I only have non-stick pans, so I had to come up with another solution.  As the butter was melting, I would periodically scoop up some of it in a regular old table spoon to check the color.  This worked fine for me, but if you have a regular pan, go ahead and use that.
Don’t skip the step where you roll the cookie dough into balls.  This may seem like an unnecessary step, especially if you use a scooper, but when you do this, it makes the cookies come out more round, with nearly perfect edges.  I had people asking me if I bought the cookies somewhere, because they looked so pretty.  That makes it worth it to me.  When you do this, you may find it easier to do it with damp hands.

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
Makes about 18 cookies

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (fp note: I added white chocolate chips to this, because, well, I wanted to)

1.       Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (fp note: it will really be easier on you if you do use two baking sheets. Normally I don’t bother with two, but this time I did, and I was glad).  Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl.
2.       Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a large bowl and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until completely melted.
3.       Whisk the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla into the butter until incorporated. Whisk in the egg until the mixture is smooth with no lumps, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. Repeat this process of resting and whisking twice more until the mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  Stir in the flour mixture and 6 tablespoons of the chips until combined.
4.       Working with 1 heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 ½ inches apart. Press the remaining 2 tablespoons of chips into the tops of the cookies.
5.       Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft, puffy, and underdone, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
6.       Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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